Monday, September 25, 2017

Typical Siblings, Much Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...
Galatians 5:22 ESV

Do you think about how your child’s disability has affected your family? If you are anything like me, you think about it fairly often.

Thinking about Liam’s disabilities is a necessity when we try to plan activities.  I have to think of how he will react to stimuli, how his wheelchair will fit into places, and where/if we will be able to change his diaper if we are someplace for more than a couple of hours. I feel sad when we can’t do things as a family because they aren’t accessible or would be upsetting for Liam.

When my little girl plays pretend with her friend and they discuss their siblings’ disabilities, my heart aches and swells at the same time. When my eldest discusses medical interventions and therapies as easily as some kids discuss movies, I feel a conflicted pride and sadness. 

If you were to draw a wheel depicting our family, Liam would be in the center. The family only operates well when his needs are met and he is content. If any of the spokes break or fall off, the wheel cannot turn. When Liam is sick or unhappy, we all go into a sort of “survival” mode and everyone works to help him. Perhaps your family is similar to ours in this way?

Last week our family attended an Autumn event for children and families with special needs. At the end, we were invited to go into the orchard and pick 6 apples to take home. The orchard was a very young one. We would be the first people to pick fruit off the rows of small trees. As we approached the row of tiny trees, I expected to find only a few apples. I was so surprised to find that the small trees were bursting with beautiful red apples. After each person in our group picked 6, there were still trees full of apples left. 

When I think of how Liam’s disabilities affect my children’s lives, it’s usually the hard things that I am thinking of. It is easy to see all of the ways that families without disabilities have an easier life. I forget that God is growing these girls for HIS purpose. He is using the circumstances in their lives to glorify him. Through their love for the Lord, their love for Liam, and the circumstances that Liam’s disabilities bring into our lives, God is pruning them into the very trees that he needs them to be. He always has their eternal good in mind and is working toward that.

My girls are like those little trees in that new orchard. They are young and people may approach them expecting only small things, but through the Lord, they are full of fruit. I see this in so many ways in their kind, generous, and sympathetic personalities. I see it in the way that they notice a child who has hurt feelings and extend kindness. I see it in the way that they acknowledge the elderly and hold doors for others. I see it in all of the little ways that they care for their brother and put his needs ahead of their own on a regular basis. God put this precious boy and these precious girls into this family with His good plan in mind. The same is true for your family.

The Message says, 
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:22)
Dear Heavenly Father, Please be with our families. Strengthen our children and guide them so that they can grow beautiful fruit for you.  Amen.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Share a Little Love — #SacredSunday

Life beats up on each of us more than enough. The world could definitely use more kindness. No matter what your circumstances, God wants you to share love and encouragement with those around you. Will you answer the call?
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Friday, September 22, 2017

"Special Needs" or Human Needs?

God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27, NET)

There are so many misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments concerning the sphere of special needs; physical, intellectual, and invisible disabilities.

Ever since Bethany was born God has used her humanity to teach us some wondrous truths: 

Everyone is fearfully and wonderfully made.
We are not so much different as alike.
Not one of us are whole, perfect, or invincible.
ALL of us need a Savior.

While blogging, I’ve spent a lot of energy and words trying to convince people that “they” are just like our daughter, Bethany (who has Down Syndrome) because we ALL have special needs. But what if I have it backwards???? What if everyone isn’t like Bethany, what if Bethany is like everyone else? Instead of labeling "needs" as special, maybe we should label them as human needs! 

“Special” should be word that sets you apart in a positive way. When Bethany was born, I can’t count how many times people would come up and say, “God gave you a such special child because He knew you were such special parents.” I inwardly shuddered and revolted against that word, "special." 

ALL our children are special.

Down syndrome didn't make her more special. She is special because she's our child, created in God's image, with less-than-perfect DNA (just like all of us). Linking the word "special" to Down Syndrome instead of her personhood seemed like a slap in the face considering the potential future we might be facing.

Is it “special” to have potential heart problems, learning challenges, inclusion battles, possible speech impediments, hearing difficulties, and an increased chance of Alzheimer's? 

Is it "special" to have to fight for an inclusive education, opportunities for jobs, a fair wage, friends, understanding and respect as a person?

Which brings me full circle and prompts this question:

Are these “special needs” or basic human needs?

Everyone has special needs. Everyone is challenged. Everyone is disabled. Everyone is human (despite that Peter Sanger wants to label the disabled as "sub"human!)

No one has special needs, just human needs. 

Instead of labeling our challenges as special, maybe we should just label them as “human.”
Our human needs are as varied as there are stars in the heaven. Individual and distinct. The Good News is there is One who loves and accepts us in all our brokenness but who loves us too much to leave us there. Our Father in Heaven is in the redemption and restoration business. He’s committed to meeting each and every one of our human needs through Jesus Christ.  

Our human needs will be one day be fully met and satisfied in Jesus Christ. In His presence we will know fullness of joy and perfect shalom — mind, body, and spirit. Now that, THAT will be really special!

Prayer: Father God, Help us have eyes to see the needs and challenges each and every person faces. Help us respect and give dignity to each person, compassion and truth. And when we see needs that are greater than our own, help us understand and offer compassion and help.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Time to Dream Again

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
– Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV – 
This summer I came to a very sad realization in my personal life. Stress and busyness and accomplishments and far too many personal plates to spin had drained away all of my hope and anticipation and ability to dream. In the midst of the craziness of life and ministry and personal, my eyes were no longer focused on God and instead were focused on the storms of life. I found myself floundering on many levels, pulling away from the very foundations that I knew I needed which further contributed to my despair and hopelessness.

On the outside, everything seemed fine. I had become very good at “putting on my game face” and hiding the hurt and hopelessness and true sense of emptiness I was experiencing within on a daily basis. I filled the void with more work, more busyness, and quite honestly, more pointless idle time to assist with avoiding my reality. However, I am blessed by a wonderful wife who not only walks with Christ, but knows me well. She could tell that I was out of sorts and, after several painful discussions, she helped me see that I was floundering and could not continue to function this way much longer.

Currently, I am just beginning to slow down, to reconnect with God, and to gain some small slivers of hope. I am resolute that it is time to dream again. God’s love is steadfast, he is faithful, and he is always for me. I have known this my entire life, but had stopped living with this reality fresh in my spirit each day.

Unfortunately, I am confident that I am not alone in this process. Far too many of us become overwhelmed by exhaustion, ever-increasing priorities, and the expectations of others. We can so easily focus on the storm and forget that the God of the storm is calling us to dream, to hope, to remember that the storm will fade, yet God will never fade. In the midst of these seasons, temptation calls much louder, distraction pulls much stronger, and hopelessness grows much quicker.

We know who God is, we speak of him in glowing terms, and we can proclaim Bible verses until we are blue in the face…but do we truly live what we know? Do we run to him for refuge? For hope? For the ability to dream every day?

My soul has been desperately dry and barren for quite some time and the only way to experience the vitality that God calls me to is to lean on him and dream again.
I’m not talking big huge dreams that will change the course of human history. I’m at a place right now where my dreams are as simple as reading the Bible on a regular basis. I dream of praying more often with my wife. I dream of hearing the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart.

I have been tired for far too long. I have allowed the storms to distract for far too long. I have tried to live life on my own for far too long. It is time to lean on God, to trust his mercies, to remember his faithfulness, and to dream again!

Dear Lord, I am so easily distracted and overwhelmed and exhausted. I consistently let me eyes turn to the storm instead of to you. Thank you for your faithful love, for your steadfast mercy, for your incredible grace in my life. Today, I declare that you are my portion and, therefore, I will hope in you. It is time to dream again! Amen.
~ Mike 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rejoice Always? What If I Don't Feel Like It?

 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~
I type this as I am struggling through the end of a stomach virus. I am queasy and cannot do much of anything. Yet, instead of whining about it, it is God's will that I rejoice. Always. Always includes my hard times. In fact, it also says to give thanks in ALL circumstances. How in the world am I to rejoice and give thanks for a stomach bug? Why would I?

Now let's shift that question around. 

Why would I not rejoice and give thanks in it?

After all, God does will that behavior, doesn't He? But who does He will that behavior in? It says, in Christ. I cannot will myself to be thankful for what seems meaningless. But in Christ, I can by faith and trust.

I can shift my thoughts and eyes off of me and onto Him as I renew my mind in His word. If I believe that God is in absolute control of my life and that He is good, I can give thanks even in this hard time because it is about Him and not me.

Paul learned the secret of contentment in Christ when he lived in good times and bad. The secret was that he could do all things through Christ who gave him strength (Phil. 4:13). This is true for us as well. 

When we sit in the throes of a stomach virus or any other difficulty, we can shift our eyes off self and on to Christ. In that act of faith, we can learn to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

This means we trade our moaning and groaning for thankfulness. 
  • We thank God for rest.
  • We thank God that He is giving others opportunities to serve us.
  • We thank God that we realize we are not unstoppable. We are weak and in that weakness He is strong.
  • We thank God for the amazing body that can heal itself.
  • We thank God for the dependence we are learning to faithfully trust in Christ.
There are so many other things we can learn as we rejoice in CHRIST. Whatever our present circumstances consist of does not matter. Whether they are good or bad, sickness or health, we can rejoice in the person of Christ because He cares for us. He is with us. It is in this period of dependence we learn that we can really count on Christ.

Father, thank you for telling us how to rejoice. Thank you for every life experience in the here and now because all are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. Help us keep our eyes focused Heavenward. Help us stay thankful in Christ. In Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thank You

For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."    
2 Corinthians 10:10, NIV

"I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way." 
2 Corinthians 11:5,6, NIV

But Moses pleaded with the LORD, "O Lord, I'm not very good with words. I never have been, and I'm not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled." Exodus 4:10 NLT

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. Jeremiah 1:6 KJV

I am not a gifted speaker, my words get tangled and I stumble over my point. 

I am weak with my words. 

I am weak with my words, but so were Moses and Paul. There is someone else I have the honor of walking through life with, who struggles with words, and that someone is my son. 

I have learned a very valuable lesson through him; There is more than one way to speak. 

Equally important, I have learned through watching him; Where we are weak, God is strong

I want to thank him, and share with you just a small part of what I have learned from this incredible human being that God has entrusted me with, sharing it all would simply take a lifetime...

I sit here, a million words running through my mind, because there is so much I could say. None of it seems quite enough. You, my son, are a man of few words and likewise, there are few words to adequately describe you. 

In the eyes of the world you are now an adult, 18 years old tomorrow. At six feet tall, you look every bit the part of being a grown up. But when I look at you, I still see a little boy, my buddy.

You have been my buddy your entire life. From the very beginning; waking up at the exact same time every night, we spent quality time together as I rocked you back to sleep. This is when I first discovered Martha Stewart...thank you.

You explored the world your own way and taught me that we didn't have to do things like everyone else. Why bounce a basketball when you can lick it? This is where I learned not to care what anyone else thinks...thank you.

You refused to be hidden, tucked away "out of sight and out of mind". The school superintendent knows your name, that's ok. Your light shines bright in a world that is often dark. This is where I learned the importance of standing up for what I believe in...thank you

You gave me a voice, and I have tried so hard to give you one. 

Now more than ever I realize, you have always had a voice. You have used that voice from the very beginning; it has just taken me and the rest of the world time, to learn to listen.

Autism brings with it many challenges, and some have been very hard on you, but through them all you have taught me many things:

  • Because of you, I understand someone can have a voice without speaking. 
  • Because of you, I see and hear things I never would have noticed.
  • Because of you, I have learned what it means to be patient and determined.
  • Because of you, I know the value of failure and the joy of success.
  • Because of you, I found a voice I never knew existed.
Time has moved quickly and I often feel I have failed you, that I haven't done enough. It's not that I wanted to "fix" you or "change" you... I just wanted to give you what you needed and help you understand the world around you. I think that is just what mothers instinctively do. 

I look back at the last 18 years and what I see is an indescribable gift. Everything that I so desperately wanted to give you, is exactly what you have given to me and everyone around you. 

Happy Birthday little Buddy.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for this child, but I am even more thankful for the knowledge that You hold him in the palm of your hand. Because of You, I am not afraid. Amen.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Special Needs: Every Season Has a Purpose

To everything there is a season; a time for every purpose under heaven. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1, Berean Study Bible

Spiced pumpkin bread, apple cinnamon candles, crisp evenings, and a few bold yellow and crimson leaves signal summer is turning to autumn yet again. Like an old song by the Byrds declares, “To everything there is a season — Turn, Turn, Turn.” 

These days, it seems more like spin, spin, spin instead of turn. I can definitely miss the purpose in the turnings if I'm not intentionally aware. 

Every.Road.Trip! What parent hasn’t been asked, “Are we there, yet?”

Impatience wants the trip over to enjoy the arrival to the destination. 

Have your kids ever complained while doing chores? “Are we done, yet?”

Frustration or perhaps laziness, wants to to do life the easy way.  

Not yet. Patience. Wisdom. Work. Understanding. 

Seasons come and seasons go. I'm called to contemplate the beauty and purpose of each current season. 

When Bethany was born with Down Syndrome, I became acclimated to the “slower” turnings of life. I had more time to ponder the purposes and ultimate meaning of life. I had more time to celebrate each little victory. 

Bethany’s “turns” may be slower but when that season arrives in full, it is simply glorious. For example, when her two and three words finally became full sentences, it was like spring had sprung after a long, difficult winter. We watch her “not yets” become “now I can.” 

Each new accomplishment, every new understanding, has its thrilling “turn.”  

My takeaway? Embrace the season I'm in now, because my "not yets" will be fully realized in God's times, plans and purposes.  

photo credit:

There is a purpose under heaven for every life and every season. I can't just let life happen. I don't want to wish it away. I'm learning to dig for God’s purposes like I'm digging for gold! I've learned, every season holds some bummers but more beauty than I can contain. When I find Him in every season, I've found everything. Eureka! 

Rejoicing in the beauty of “not yet.” When Bethany asks me (50 times) if we’re there yet, my standard answer has become, “No, but we’re getting there.” 

“Mom, can I get my driver’s license?” 

“Not yet, but you’re getting closer! You’ll just have to keep practicing and learning.” 

“Mom, can I get married?” 

“Not yet. We have to pray for the right guy to come into your life at the right time. Let’s just enjoy today and trust God for your future.” 

I’m not much different. 

“God, would you please un-complicate my life? I need it to be simpler and easier, please!” 

“Not yet! I haven’t fully worked out My purposes in your life. There is a right time for everything, and I accomplish all things in My perfect time. You’re getting there – I’m with you – now let’s enjoy the journey and remember, the best is yet to come.”

Pray: Father in heaven, thank you for the turn of each season in our lives. Help us look for your purposes, embrace the lessons, and enjoy our journey. Thank you for the promise that one day our “not yets” will be fulfilled in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Cindy Barclay