Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have love me." (John 17:20-23, NIV)
We can accomplish more together than we can individually. Common sense would dictate that. Yet, day after day I witness with great sadness plenty of divisiveness and in-fighting within the special needs community. It never ceases to frustrate me and break my heart when I see people expending so much energy in an area that is so completely useless.
It's not to say that we have to agree with everyone on everything. Debate can stimulate great examination of an issue, pondering of the details and thinking through an outcome. Vigorous conversations can be essential in getting some amazing things done. But we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Throughout the year, I get numerous phone calls and e-mails regarding quarrels going on between people that have a great deal in common. There are the individuals in the autism community who are divided because some believe that immunizations truly are a cause of their child's diagnosis while others think that possibility has been totally eliminated. The two factions look upon one another with contempt. There are the people with severe hemophilia who think those with any other bleeding disorder in no way have it as bad as them, so they view themselves as superior in some way. There are the people on committees who can't agree on an approach to dealing with a problem situation, so they go at destroying each other instead of the problem. And there are those who are jealous and disgusted with families who have more financial security than they do. There are even those who hate others in the community who refuse to use "people first language" when addressing a particular diagnosis.
All of this can amount to a tremendous amount of cannibalizing of each other when we should be uniting in battle. We become our own worst enemies. A physician at a recent conference I attended mentioned how "fractured" the particular community was, thus, making it difficult to conquer the social crisis at hand. How well put and what an awful insight!
God's intent for our lives is to join in unity. Our troubles are meant to be recycled in order to bless one another. (see one of my favorite, oft-quoted verses 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) We are meant to find common ground an pool our energies towards a positive outcome. Being polite grown-ups, learning to hold our tongues when an issue is not "life or death", and seeing others hearts instead of their sometimes clumsy actions will take us far!
Our true enemies are not one another, but injustice, exclusion, intolerance, fear. Our energies should be expended on tenderly educating the ignorant, firmly fighting the unjust, breaking down fears and exclusion by being approachable and welcoming. We can change our world and our children's future in such positive ways when we come together!
Next time you get frustrated with another in the special needs community, offer them mercy, grace and a listening ear. It will take a great amount of self-control to do it, but you may be surprised how far it carries you. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. And realize that you have more in common than you have differences. And when you reach that place of peace, know how much you make God smile. After all, He tells us: "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1, NIV)
I encourage you to use this song as a meditation for making this your new mission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay7fMkreT98
Friday, June 18, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)
My "Beloved" (Yes, I really call him that. And yes, I have friends who laugh at me.) and I just celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary. While remarkable, it causes one to reflect on what keeps a couple together for better and for worse through those years. Candidly, it hasn't always been a picnic. Between repeated misfortune with joblessness, miscarriage, infertility, financial woes and kids with various chronic diseases, it's a miracle we've survived with a marriage intact.
Why would we stay together when the statistics of an 80%-plus divorce rate for parents of special needs kids is stacked against us? Do we have some out-of-the-ordinary relationship, of the ilk that you read about in novels? Truthfully, no. But our marriage is the result of hard work and dedication to both each other and God. That effort and commitment pays off in spades in more ways that one:
- First, unless a spouse is physically abusive, children benefit from an intact marriage. They learn problem solving skills when they see their parents work things out. The sense of belonging and teamwork that is built from a shared family experience with parents of both gender is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Ironically, children may also learn what not to emulate when they become married themselves. There's no shortage of information on the heavy toll divorce takes on our children. Anxiety, depression, poor sleep, lack of appetite, slipping grades and behavioral issues are all common results.
- Second, if you think you have difficulty working out the details involved in caring for your special child while you're both under the same roof, imagine how difficult it is when you're each living separately! While your spouse may not always offer you what you think you need in the way of support, it is still a support system. Figuring out how the medical expenses are going to be paid for along with daily living costs when you're dwelling in 2 separate residences can be daunting. Further, consistency in medical treatment, boundaries and basic routine are much harder when you and your spouse no longer reside together.
- Third, staying together pleases God, and that should be the main purpose of our lives when we're in relationship with Him. In Malachi 2:16 God is clear and emphatic that he hates divorce. It's not that He hates the people getting divorced, but His intent for marriage is for it to last. He is as hurt as those divorcing when we walk away unable to work things out.
It never ceases to amaze me when I hear that the divorce rate in the Christian community is higher than that of the non-believing population. Yet, I do hear many a Christian trying to justify calling it quits. There is no doubt that God wants better for His people.
So what are some things that help a couple over the inevitable hump of disliking each other in the course of a marriage?
- Devote yourself to marriage. Taking the attitude that quitting is not an option will help avoid the easy mindset of "Well, if it doesn't work out, I can always leave."
- Think of your kids instead of yourself! You may be unhappy or challenged, but have you thought of how unhappy a divorce would make a child who is already fighting the battle of a special need?
- Realize that God loves that spouse just as much as He loves you! When you find yourself in that self-righteous position of thinking you've been wronged and the other person owes you, remember that God sees each of you as His precious children. Strive to treat that partner in the same way that God sees them.
- In Colossians 3:23 we're told to do EVERYTHING as if we're doing it for God and not for men. Marriage is included in that command. When you're challenged by your spouse, remember that you're pushing through those difficulties not just for the benefit of the two of you, but for the sake of God's larger plan.
- Remember that you're not flawless either! Romans 3:23 reminds us that we're all less than perfect. Be courageous enough to take a long, hard look at yourself admitting your shortcomings. Marriage is give and take. Could it be that you're taking as well as giving?
In short, if I have to leave my kids with one bit of marital advice to take into their adult life, it's that marriage is hard work, but well worth it. Hopefully, our kids will cherish that advice and remember how I joke with my husband, "We're lucky we found one another because no one else would put up with either of us!"
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
"Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10, NIV)
The other day I got a note from a friend lamenting that she just couldn't get back into the groove of things. Besides the usual travails of parenting a child with special needs, a number of traumas had hit the family. I was under the impression from her words that she expected herself to be back to her pre-crisis operating levels with high energy and much accomplished. But alas, she was stuck in a "coasting" pattern.
Something struck me in witnessing her situation. What was wrong with coasting? Sometimes, that's just where God wants us. Stop and think about it -- There's no amount of high functioning and achievement that can earn God's love. Nothing we DO can earn us salvation. So why do we think we're less than acceptable when we are merely getting through life moment by moment with our days operating at a lower level?
To our detriment, we seem to have bought into the modern day lie that our value as a parent, as a human being, lays in our output. The more laundry we crank out, the more activities we run our kids around to, the more events we attend, the more we get checked off the list at work, the more acceptable we feel in the eyes of the world. If this were not so, how would a term like "slacker mom" make its way into contemporary jargon?
When Jesus dined at the home of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus (see Luke 10:38-42), one sister sat at the feet of Jesus clinging to his every word while the other sister frenetically ran around cooking and arranging to serve the flood of guests that had suddenly shown up. The NIV translation describes the sister who was working at the level of the typical modern day citizen, Martha, as "distracted". In fact, Jesus acknowledged her anxiety, but told her that her sister Mary had really made the better choice by chilling out with him.
In our lives as parents of kids with special needs, we have many demands, stressors and trials that wash over us. While we may foolishly expect ourselves to dance through these situations unscathed with our superhuman capes flapping in the wind behind us, God knows better. He designed us to do some coasting. Being fully present in the moment, even if that moment includes suffering, is what the Lord intends for us. We were not made to fly endlessly from one thing to the next like a spinning top. It's alright to just do the next thing, rest a little or leave the chores undone for a bit.
The next time you find yourself feeling bad that you're not accomplishing tasks to the level you think you should be, challenge those thoughts! Realize that God doesn't esteem your output. And embrace the saying that I have come to live by, "Good enough is good enough!"