Tuesday, August 22, 2017

the kindness of strangers ...

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” 
Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)

Girlie and I watch Speechless from time to time. Okay, well, it is just me. But, I love the characters. They are just adorable – witty humor in the face of obstacles. This weekend I was doing a little binge watching some of the last season episodes while the boys went to see a movie at the theater. Theaters are just not Girlie's thing, especially loud films, and being in her wheelchair the whole time is not her favorite.  

I found this episode about the family’s experience in a grocery store, all the people they encounter, and the interactions with both the strangers and their own family (all 3 children are teenagers – Lord help them). 

Kindness was the theme, what kindness looks like and does not look like both in the family and with strangers. Kindness was not extended to the mom by her middle son. Kindness was not extended to JJ (son in a wheelchair) by a stranger. Kindness was not extended to the father and daughter by the employees.

Each group responded differently. The mom’s response was to put on an elaborate hoax to “trick” her middle son in to kindness. The dad and daughter tried to take what the employee would not sell them. And JJ, let’s just say he took revenge on the guy for treating him like an object to be moved out of the way, by becoming an object in the guy's way through the entire store.

In the end, JJ’s aide for school/home (who happened to work as the store manager on the weekends for extra money and could see all the interactions on in store cameras), showed them some amount of truth in each of the situations and assisted in some kindness between them all. 

At the end the mom pleads with the middle son to “treat her like a stranger” because he shows strangers more kindness than his family.

Sometimes strangers are actually much kinder because they don’t know my personality, my flaws, my fears, my failures, my family background. The stranger who offers a smile on a hard day, the stranger who offers to let me go ahead in the grocery line, the stranger who compliments my child, the stranger who offers a gesture of grace, going out of the way to show kindness.

The truth is we all need to extend grace and give kindness, regardless of whether we are extended kindness or not. Kindness should be my FIRST response to unkindness.

  My first response should be to extend grace, not assume the worst.

The visible extend grace to the invisible.

The invisible extend grace to the visible.

The son extends grace to the mom.

The mom extends grace to the son.

The clergy extend grace to the lay people.

The lay people extend grace to the clergy.

The neighbor extends grace to the neighbor.

Those who hear extend grace to those who are deaf.

The deaf extend grace to those who hear.

The limited extend grace to those who think they are “unlimited.”

Those who think they are unlimited extend grace to the limited.

The stranger extends grace to the stranger.

Proverbs 3:3 says “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” 

We are called to kindness because we are chosen of God (Colossians 3:12).

We are to grow in kindness in order to become useful and fruitful in Christ (1 Peter 1:7-8).

The kindness of Christ leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Please pray with me:

Father, thank you for your kindness you have extended to me. Thank you for your good gifts you bestow on your children. Lord I ask you to teach me kindness as my first response, just as You have shown me. Please work through me in your kindness extended especially in the face of unkindness.

Amen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Confession: I didn't do my summer to-do's

“…for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;”
Lamentations 3:22b-23a, NIV

The first day of summer break I was optimistic and inspired. I had a long to-do list for my son with special needs. We were going to find various new specialists, therapists, do an “intensive” or two, and end the summer with an enhanced boy and a momma whose list was all checked-off. I envisioned the first day of school a triumphant return for both of us.

I should have tempered my enthusiasm a bit. My son is 17, we’ve done summer before.  And despite my enthusiasm, this one turned out like many of our previous summers. Have you ever felt like you are not doing nearly enough? Surely all the other special needs moms are getting it ALL done, right?

I decided I would share my summer to-do fail with you, and then I’ll burn the whole list! Because lamenting what I have not done isn’t going to help me. And focusing on what we didn’t do, or have, or find, is not what will lead us into a successful Fall. My un-checked items include: Find an ABA therapist (which we got a prescription for in February and I just got my fourth rejection); Go to the beach a lot (haven’t been once since summer started); Get an appointment with ___________  (fill in the blank, he needs about 4 different specialist check-ups at this point).   

I can’t even type all of those without getting a knot in my stomach and having to shut down some pretty harsh self-talk. I find that I review the list often, and almost never do I visit all the great things we did this summer. I guess that’s the special parent dilemma: There is always something ELSE that we could be doing or finding to help our child. The more complex the special needs, the greater the myriad of new specialists, services or medicines that one could be researching. It’s never-ending and definitely overwhelming. 

Let’s start school by congratulating ourselves for starting school. Seriously! If your child is going to attend a school (or homeschool) great job! Just that has taken a lot more work for you than for parents of typical children. You survived IEP meetings and new teachers and questionnaires and re-shuffled therapy schedules, etc. And while we’re patting ourselves on the back, you survived summer! Hooray! Making it through a long string of days where schedules are off, sleep patterns are different, food is not routine, therapists are on vacation, and rain (or heat) change plan: that is not for the weak or frail. 

I’ve decided not to focus on my still-pending items, but rather on the positive aspects of summer and starting another year of school. Maybe I won’t burn the list, I’ll scoot it over to my Fall to-do items, and give myself a few more months to get them all done. Whether or not you got everything done this summer, feel free to enter the school year at peace, with positive thoughts about yourself, your parenting, and the new season. We all made it through summer, and thankfully we are entering a new school year. This time I am vowing to NOT place any new or unrealistic expectations on either my son or myself. That way my perfectionism will have nothing to criticize me about. Yes, we’ll keep plugging away at doing special needs life, but enjoying it along the way.   

An end-of-summer prayer:  Thank you Heavenly Father, that your compassion toward me is new each morning. Help me to see and feel that you are pleased with me, and not look back on anything I haven’t accomplished with regret. Let me instead look forward to your grace and mercy. Enable me to greet this new school year with strength and a positive outlook for myself and for my child(ren). Bless this school year, protect my child, and keep me in your will as their mom, following the steps that you have ordered for us.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Take Time to Listen ~ #SacredSunday

The Sabbath was made for rest. We can't hear God's voice if we fail to slow down and listen to His Word as well as the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Be intentional about taking time to turn your ear towards your Maker this weekend. You might be surprised what you hear. 
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Loving God Enough to Let Go

Copyright: kuznetsovkonsta / 123RF Stock Photo
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness
        by trusting the Lord.
(Psalm 4:5, GW)

Last week I spent five days in a row with a group of remarkable "warrior moms" at a special needs day camp. On Friday mornings I have been training an inspiring group of mothers to be mentors. Other days I am speaking with parents one-on-one, in our small groups, or connecting with moms and dads by happenstance. The prevailing theme always seems to be the samefear and worry.

At the same time, I am preparing to send one of my children who is still in search of medical answers abroad for a full year of study in Japan. Her college advisers have marveled at how her father and I cheer her on in this endeavor. We are so proud of her! And while I hate the thought of not hugging my precious girl in my arms for an entire eleven months, I cannot wait for the woman she will become on this trip. 

At camp, we shared many, many stories of our children. My daughter's release was juxtaposed to other parents who are terrified to even leave their child alone with their spouses. The dread of the new school year also seemed to haunt many. Others still were wrestling with the thought of their child's transitions to adulthood in the not-so-distant future. 
Copyright : ymgerman
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
(Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)

"I don't know how you can be so calm about letting her go!" one of the mothers commented to me at camp. 

I have had parents I serve say virtually the same thing to me as my daughter's departure draws nearer.

Strangely, if you had ever told me that I would be at this point of peace twenty years ago, I would have told you that you were crazy. Still, God has done a work in me that only He could do. In my younger years, I had an almost relentless desire to be a mother. That certainly made it extra-challenging going through repeated miscarriage and infertility treatment. I was also a high-strung control freak. But God broke me of that tendency as He taught me very early on in parenthood to hold my children with an open hand

Perhaps hemophilia was a gift to me in this way. The worst things always seemed to happen to my son when I was standing right next to him or when they were without explanation. Like the time he stood up in the double stroller and landed face first on the hospital floor, seemingly bleeding from nose and mouth, astonishing his hematologist who hadn't really dealt with a toddler having frank bleeding in recent years. Or the time he got into the car after school one day after school with an "Ouch!" to his upper thigh and then ended up hospitalized for a week with home health care for a month because of a life-threatening bleed in his hip compartment. 

"We like to have control, don't we?" I pondered with the camp moms. 

The funny thing is that if having a medically fragile child or one with special needs doesn't teach you that you are not in control, nothing will. 

God has proven Himself faithful before and He will be again. Jesus told us that God has numbered every hair on our heads. I haven't even done that with my own child's head. How much MORE must God love my child than I! 

In the worst of circumstances our Father has been provider, comforter, healer, and defender. When things seem hopeless, He is our hope. Despite hardships, He shows us an incomparable peace and joy.

The natural response to this matchless love is for me to love God enough to let go. As I release my children to Him, I worship Him with my trust. And each time I trust Him, He shows Himself more trustworthy. After all, 90% of the things we worry about never come to fruition! 

With the unsettling behavior of North Korea increasing, my eldest and I have had the "what if something happened" talk. She was taken aback when I expressed to her that, while I would be crushed if the worst case scenario took place, I have the blessed confidence that I will see her soon again in heaven. She would be the lucky duck who got to beat me there! That reassurance of knowing what will happen to my girl regardless of earthly circumstances is a blessing beyond all measure. 

So as I lovingly escort my daughter to board that plane to Japan; as I trust my son to venture out one more day, despite having missed an infusion; as I suddenly allow my youngest daughter to have a sleepover with her new-found friends, I know that my faithful Savior will go with each of them when I cannot be there. They will spread wings to become their best selves. And I grow deeper in love with the One who is truly worthy.  

Pray with me...

Father, we parents raising remarkable kids always seem to have to be on high alert. A disproportionate amount of worry and concern seems to haunt moms and dads like us. Holy Spirit, fill us with Your strength to push through those emotions to a point where we can trust You fully with our children. Help us to love you enough to let go.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Following God Makes All The Difference

“So Moses told the people, ‘You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail. Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.” 
Deuteronomy 5:32-33 NLT

Life is broken and messy and confusing and stressful! It doesn’t seem to take much to pull our eyes and heart away from God. A typical day seems to be filled with much more heartache than hallelujah. But I wonder if that is true or if my perspective is often slanted by my lack of following God wholeheartedly. 

What if all the twists and turns are part of the journey He designed? 

What if I just need to take a deep breath and trust Him as I follow Him? 

Before we can really talk about following God, we need to determine who He is. Early in this passage in Deuteronomy, God’s glory and greatness are spoken of with great fear by the Israelites. They had seen the thunder and lightning, they had heard the loud voice, and they were surprised to still be living. The Almighty God of the universe is a merciful God who desires intimate relationship with us. 

He is overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and glorious. We are to fear and revere and respect Him… this is true worship!

As powerful and majestic as He is, the relational aspect cannot be missed. God desires His people to fear and obey, not to avoid judgment primarily, but to enjoy relationship. It pleases God greatly when we follow and worship Him. In the midst of the crazy, we must remember that God is for us, no matter what the circumstances of life may communicate. So, if this is who God is and what He thinks about us, how does following Him make all the difference? 

Following God opens the door to a relationship and a perspective that completely shifts how we see the world around us. Suffering can be viewed through His eyes and, as Joni Eareckson Tada so eloquently declares, “Sometimes God allows what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves.” 

Following God provides comfort and peace in the midst of the storm. 

Following God ushers in the abundant life that Jesus promises. This is not necessarily a life free from pain and hurt and suffering, but rather is the life He has designed for us. Life with Jesus is infinitely better than life without Him. 

Following God is truly the only path to making any sense out of a broken world. And when even sense isn’t to be made, there is nothing that compares to knowing you are loved and cared for by the Creator of the universe.


Let us come together and make a covenant to stand against distractions and to see the world through the eyes of God so that we may live and enjoy the life He designed for us, even when it seems to be the very opposite of what we might have chosen for ourselves. 

Lord God, You are truly the Lord Almighty. Your voice rumbles like thunder and Your very presence overwhelms us. Yet, You desire intimate and personal relationship. May we say no to the distractions of everyday life. May we prayerfully see the world through Your eyes. May be follow You above all else because You truly make all the difference in our lives.

 ~ Mike

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Broken but still usable

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, 
O God, You will not despise."  Psalm 51:17 (NASB)

Every day, we make our daughters formula. She is on the ketogenic diet, and each of the measurements is very precise in order to keep seizures at bay.

Several of the tools we use are various sizes of measuring cups. 

One of these measuring cups is special - just the right size and hard to find. It has to be ordered, takes a few weeks to arrive in the mail, and not available locally.

And it is made of glass, this measuring cup is fragile.

Recently, after I made girlie's daily food, I put the measuring cup in the sink to be washed, and I accidentally knocked it with another dish (or two, oh my). Let me just admit it, I put it in the sink full of other dishes.

Our fragile measuring cup crackedA long crack down the side appeared along with a chip at the top.

First thing I did was run to the computer to order another one.

But in the time between when the crack happened and when the new one arrives, what do I do?

Use the one I have, of course. With a huge crack down the side and chip in the top, is it still usable?

Praise God! It still held liquid! It still held the formula and did not leak!

The messed up measuring cup still worked. No formula leaked out of the crack.  

It was broken but still usable.

Girlie is a broken vessel, trying to live in a body that does not work, in a body that just won't cooperate.

Yet, God uses her just like she is. With her perfect and pure spirit but broken body, Girlie glorifies God just like she is.

Me too. I'm broken. I'm a broken clay pot.

But my life still holds Jesus, still holds love, still holds hope, even with a big crack down the side.  My brokenness is just not as visible as girlie's, but it is there none-the-less.  

A broken vessel can still glorify God.

Dear God, I thank you for my brokenness. I thank you for my daughter who glorifies You, and teaches me more than I could ever have imagined. I pray that you would bless the moms who need to see You even in the brokenness.
Amen

Melanie Durity

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Going After The One

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NKJV

I knew it was coming. I could feel it. He was standing there shifting from one foot to the other as we waited. In my infinite wisdom I had chosen the self check out at the grocery store. I was sure it would be quicker...even with my coupons. 

I was wrong. 

My Six foot tall man-sized son, who normally does pretty well grocery shopping, had no intentions of waiting for the chatty little checkout guy to scan those coupons. 

He ran. 

He ran right out the door.

Into the busy parking lot. 

He was, "Abandon ship, and every man for himself!"

I was right behind him, or as right behind him as a 45 year old, overweight and out of shape woman can be. I lost him at one point and a couple of times I froze as he ran behind cars that were backing out, but I didn't give up. I didn't stop looking for him until I found him, until he was safe. I am his parent and "going after him" is woven into my DNA. 

I was a real life, live action Luke 15:4 "leave the 99 sheep to go after the one" example.

I left behind my change, my purse, my groceries, and...my other two kids. Thankfully the girls are 11 and well, they are not strangers to interesting circumstances. 

When I caught up to my son, who had finally located our vehicle and climbed into the back seat, I looked behind me and saw those two little girls that I had left in the store, running to catch up to us. They were carrying my change and my purse. 

When they made it to the car I hugged them and asked if they were ok. They handed me my stuff and shook their heads "yes." "Good," I responded, "Now run back in there and get the groceries." 

We still needed the food. I had already paid for it, and leaving my son to go back in was simply not an option. 

They knew that. 

Without hesitation, they turned right around and headed back toward the store. 

We have been talking about this idea of "going after the one" at church. Luke Chapter 15, verse 4 says, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”
(‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:4,‬ ‭NKJV‬)‬

We don't often get to live this so literally. While I was chasing my almost grown autistic son through the grocery store parking lot, I was not thinking how incredible it was that this adventure parallels this verse. I was just thinking I had to keep him safe, I had to find him; stopping, resting, giving up...not even an option. 

Can you imagine the depth of love and concern, the determination that God has when he comes after us? 

God I am so thankful for Your love and willingness to come after us, to search for us and not stop until you find us. You know that our children wander and bolt and run, many times without concern of direction and danger. Protect our children and protect our hearts.  In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
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