Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is it Settled In Your Soul?

                                                                                                                                      photo credit: Josh Mckenzie 

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. 
On God, my salvation, and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is refuge for us. Selah.  
Psalms 62:5-8  NASB

I glanced up at my friend as she sat down beside me at church. We are both moms and caregivers for our adult child with physical disabilities. I easily recognized the familiar look of fatigue in her eyes. She leaned over and whispered to me that it had been a long morning. She was, however, excited to make it to church, even if she was a little late. I gave her a knowing look and a big hug.  

Near the end of church service, we stood with the rest of the congregation to sing the final song. A unique version of “It is Well” (You Make Me Brave - by Kristen DiMarco & Bethel Music).

As we sang my thoughts went to my friend standing next to me. I thought about how much she has gone through in the past few years and additional challenges in the last few months. Yet despite it all, I heard her quietly sing these words to the song, Through it all, through it all it is well...It is well. I knew it was not easy.

I have been there, where you strain to sing the words. Wanting to believe it, holding onto the hope that it promises and yet still the internal struggle. Near the end of the song she leaned over to me and said, “You know, it is well doesn’t mean what people might think.” I gave her a little hug, I knew exactly what she meant!

How do you explain to someone who may not comprehend how, in the midst of heartache and pain, that you REALLY can sing with passion, that it is in fact, Well with my soul?   

It is not a happiness or pretense that everything is great. More like you’re at peace in your spirit. That it is SETTLED IN YOUR SOUL!

Settled in your soul. Knowing who God is. Trusting him for strength for each day. Understanding HE IS SOVEREIGN gives us hope. Hope not dependent on circumstances. An Eternal hope, where one day there will an end to all heartbreak, pain, illness, struggles, and death!

When we know these things to be true in the very depth of our soul THEN we can say, yes even sing… It is well… with my soul. 

Some days may be more difficult than others but we can get to that place where it is Settled in our Soul no matter what!

Well then, how do we, during extraordinary difficult situations, freely sing those words with a deep sense of peace that it is well with my soul?

By surrendering constantly to Gods will. Believing he is God. Knowing he is in total control. Trusting in his faithfulness to keep his promises.

The real heart of the matter is that being well in our spirit and soul is not about us or our circumstances. It is experiencing His peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of overwhelming odds. It is resting in His love for us knowing that he cares for us. 

This is a beautiful song. Take a moment, close your eyes. Ask God to make it well with your soul.  

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving us hope. Hope that does not disappoint. Hope that endures through it all. It is because of that hope that we find only in you that we are able to say it is Settled IN our souls! I pray that you will bring that peace that passes understanding to each of us today as we turn to you and fully trust you and your will. 
In Jesus name, I pray

Photo Credit: Josh Mckenzie 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Having the Courage to Let my Child Fail

The righteous may fall seven times but still get up...
Proverbs 24:16, CEB

The mama bear in me growls, “I’ll protect my child against danger, disappointment, and discontent! After all, I want Bethany to be safe, happy, and occupied at all times.”

I think most parents lean toward making their child’s life lovely; beautiful, safe, enriched, and happy.

When Bethany was born with Down Syndrome, I took that charge to a whole new level. After all, isn't there more reason to protect someone who is defenseless and unable to navigate the depths of life?

As Bethany is now 16, and adulthood is quickly approaching, I’m constantly reminding myself, my job, my goal as her mom is to step back from “high alert protection mode” and allow her to grow up. Ugh!

Thank God, my awesome hubby, Jeff, has a different, more adventurous approach to parenting! Daddy takes Bethany driving in his convertible almost weekly. First, it was driving circles in parking lots, now its country roads. She’s driving about 35 mph and doing a good job.

Jeff is much better at helping Bethany grow up than I am!  I’m all kinds of nervous. I can think of every good reason not to get her hopes up that she will be able to first, take the driver’s test and be able to pass, and secondly, that she will have the ability to process the multitude of occurrences that happen while driving. Factor in crazy drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, drunk drivers, cell phone drivers, and fast traffic, and I could just about have a break down when I think about it.

But Bethany really wants to be able to drive.

Jeff is helping me understand that failure is not the opposite of success but part of success. Bethany will never know what she can achieve unless she tries.

When I try to protect her from failing, I’m crippling her future and undermining God's work of instilling perseverance into her character.

The truth is life is full of many failures that teach us to learn so we can do better the next time. Life is all about trying and failing, practicing and changing, and ultimately, growing in maturity. If I don’t want Bethany to remain childlike, I need to have courage to let her fail.

Bethany drives Daddy's convertible on a beautiful Kansas day!

“The work of trying over and over again” cultivates character and strength. Failing is the part of learning that leads to success.

I want Bethany to succeed and mature: that's why this "mama bear" is learning to have the courage to let Bethany fail.

Dear Father,
Help us to parent our children with courage and faith. Help us not be afraid of failing but see it as an opportunity to grow. As our children grow up, teach us to encourage them and cheer them on through their successes and their failures.In Jesus Name, Amen.

Cindy Barclay

Monday, January 16, 2017

Embracing This Special Life

“There is a time for everything… A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1,5 NIV)

One early summer day, my husband suggested we take the boys on a vacation to the beach. Inside, I cringed. It sounded terrible. I envisioned chasing two little boys, ages two and four, both with speech and gross motor delays and sensory processing disorder around a beach. Oh yeah, and they both freak out if they get water in their faces. Did my dear husband realize there’d be a lot of water to get in little faces at the beach and the pool?

I thought he was crazy and I told him so. But I also told him he worked hard for our family, and if this is what he wanted to do with his hard earned money, then I’d honor it. I would be a good submissive wife and all that jazz. 

But, praise the Lord, it was a glorious vacation! The boys had a blast. Never had we seen such excitement on those little faces. “Where are we going?” my husband would ask the boys, as we would put on swimsuits and gather our towels and sand toys for some time on the beach and at the pool. “Da beee!” my four-year-old son would exclaim, wiggling, and doing his awkward yet charming interpretation of swimming strokes. This child, who used to be terrified of water, was by the end of our vacation jumping into the pool into his daddy’s arms. And my younger son, who had just celebrated his second birthday added three new words to his sparse vocabulary and learned to accept water splashed into his face without a meltdown, huge victories in our book. Huge.

My husband and I marveled at the excitement. We hadn’t experienced such joy in a long time. We knew this was a gift from God. An opportunity to enjoy our family, the progress our children were making with all the hard work and the never-ending therapies we were doing.  A time to just rest and be a family. 

On the last day of our trip, the thought of packing up our belongings and heading back to our house and the appointments and the mountain of laundry gave me a panic attack. Seriously. My chest felt tight and my heart pounded. Tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t catch my breath. My husband suggested I go out to the beach and spend some time by myself and I went gladly, eager to process this overwhelming anxiety with God. 

I listened to the waves crash on the shore, tasted my warm salty tears. I didn’t even know what to pray about. I’d been hearing silence from God for the past year or so and expected more of the same.

Never have I been so grateful to be proven wrong. He whispered one word that broke the silence and banished the anxiety and the grief that had gripped my heart for so long. 


“Embrace what?” I wondered. And for the next hour or so, God revealed area after area of my life that I needed to embrace. I wish I had written it at all down at the time, but I don’t think my pen would have flown across the pages fast enough. I was convicted. Encouraged. Loved by the God of the universe.   

He would gently remind me of something I needed to embrace fully in my life. Something that I needed to not only accept, but cherish. My role as a mother. My husband. My children. Their diagnoses. Their progress. Their personalities. This special needs journey. Myself. And most importantly, God. My perspective was transformed to the Biblical, rather than the worldly way of doing things that I’d been trying to do unsuccessfully for years.  

I don’t know how long I spent on the beach, anxious thoughts stilling, transformation unfolding in my heart. A couple hours. I probably could have spent longer, but it started to rain and I headed toward our lovely beach condo, to where my family was waiting to greet me, to my renewed purpose. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive and happy and at peace and eager to embrace and enjoy the many blessings and even the hard circumstances in my life knowing that God was by my side.

What do you need to embrace this year?

Pray: Dear Lord, I’m sorry for all the times I focus on the circumstances in my life, rather than focusing on you and all my blessings. Help me to let go of any bitterness, anxiety and other negative emotions in my life. Open my eyes and my heart to see your beauty and glory in the blessings and the circumstances in my life, and to be thankful for them. Help me to embrace you and all the good things you have given to me.

 ~Jenn Soehnlin

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bias Against The Unseen

You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, VOICE ~ 

Two kids, both with intense challenges, but people react to each of them in completely different ways. The prevailing emotion directed at one is a flood of compassion for all of the physical trials he has faced. The other spends years ostracized, friendless, and treated like she's a "bad kid."

Sound familiar? 

This is the story of 2 of my 3 children. While I have walked with each of them through every bump and trial of their lives, it never ceases to amaze me how differently they have been treated. Each of them has faced heartbreaking difficulties. Compassion and assistance are due each of them to empower them to reach their full potential.

When adults look at my son they see a clean cut, courteous, smart young man. The scars on his arms from thousands of intravenous infusions over the years may catch their attention. On rare occasion, they might see him in a wheelchair to stay off his feet to heal or wearing a sling to immobilize an arm. Depending upon his condition at the time, they likely either enjoy his company or feel sorry for what he is going through.

On the other hand, people have treated my daughter like she is her behavior. Causality never crosses their minds. They don't see that noise may have driven her sensory processing disorder to its outer limits and is causing her physical pain. An inability to correctly read social situations might have her response unwittingly come across as sassy. It may not be obvious that she is not paying attention or acting a little wild because she wasn't given the opportunity to move enough that day. 

Despite the fact that so little is truly known about EITHER of my children's challenges, my son gets the advantage because he has health issues you can sometimes see. My daughter never gets that kind of understanding. There is a bias against the unseen. Because the atypical parts of her physiology cannot be seen with the naked eye, people make assumptions. It is heartbreaking to see the disdain with which she has been treated by some adults, neighbors, family members, and friends over the years. The message that is continually conveyed to her by peers and adults is, "Your behavior is bad and YOU are bad. Nobody likes you or wants to be around you." 

I have suffered in partnership with my daughter as people accuse me of being a "bad parent" and allowing her poor behavior. 

So how do we respond to this bias, this injustice amid family members who each endure pain in their own right? We heed Paul's words spurring us on to greatness in his second letter to the early Church in Corinth. Focusing on our final destination and being confident in who we are in Christ has helped us endure this added sorrow. I continually remind my kids that we are just passing through here, ambassadors for Christ in a foreign land. El Roi (the God Who Sees), knows all of the unseen things that others do not. So we put our ultimate hope in the invisible, knowing that is where God dwells.

PRAY: Father, thank You for restoring us with the confidence that You see what others do not. Even when others may have a bias against us, we are so grateful that we can rest in the assurance that You know what is really going on.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Abundance of Grace

“Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him and sent a message by Nathan the prophet.”
2 Samuel 12:24-25b (ESV)
I can remember it like it happened yesterday. I was sitting in the office of the dean for my college when I was informed that the advisory board recommended removing me from school immediately due to my inability to honor the lifestyle covenant that I had agreed to as an aspiring pastor. The shock was deep and sudden. I lost a year of college basketball eligibility, I lost a semester of school (the only semester, ironically, that I had straight A’s), I lost the respect of my peers and the respect of myself. However, this all paled in comparison to driving home the week of Thanksgiving, showing up at my parent’s house unexpectedly and sharing the news with them. Ouch!
By the grace of God, I was able to enroll back in school the following year, spent more time pursuing Christ than pursuing the world, and graduated as a fully licensed pastor ready to serve. Fast forward the tape twenty years and I am still blessed to be in full-time ministry. I learned first-hand that He is truly the God of second chances and that by His grace the hope of the future is always greater than the pain of the past. My own issues brought about a painful situation – yet, the grace of God used it to teach me that He is for me and not against me.
How else can we explain how God responds to the sins of David? Yes, there were consequences (the death of his son). Yes, there was great pain and shame and turmoil (public calling out by Nathan, as well as everybody in the palace knowing the true story). Yet, the very woman that he committed adultery with becomes not only his wife but the mother to the wisest man to ever walk the earth!
The great thing about God’s grace is that it doesn’t take devastating sin to become involved in our lives.
His grace is present when life is spinning too fast and we don’t know what to do.
His grace is present when our children are sick and we don’t know what to do.
His grace is present when our finances come up short, our health is lacking and our friends are absent.
2 Peter 1:2 (NIV) reminds us that grace and peace are ours “in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 

I have no idea what you are walking through today or what your hopes/fears are for 2017. All I know is that God is for you, that He is the God of second chances, and that His grace is sufficient. Cry out to Him, sit in silence with Him, meditate on His Word, but remember that He abundantly pours out His grace in our lives. If He can turn a story of adultery and murder into one of celebration and worship, then just imagine what He can do with your story!
Dear Lord, I so often get tired and worn down and focused on my own needs and struggles. Please remind me today that Your grace is sufficient and that no matter what storms exist or where I have come up short, You are truly the God of second chances. Help me to slow down, to know You more and to rest in the abundance of Your grace.
~ Mike