Thursday, December 29, 2011

Finishing Well

I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, GW)

As yet another year draws to a close, I find myself glad to put this year behind me.  So many times it is far easier to look forward to improvement in the days ahead than it is to reflect on what we've just come through.  For my own family, too many years have been riddled by trauma.  We've had multiple years where there was an employment crisis.  There have been years where we endured hospitalizations and numerous medical crises.  Wrestling with schools, therapies or new diagnoses have often found us exhausted as a year draws to a close.  And this year we slog through the grief of losing yet another grandparent while we situate their spouse in nursing home care.

Even if the difficulties of the past year cause us to want to put it behind us, there are rewards for just having shown up.  God blesses faithful perseverance.  Too often we feel like we need to get things right or have perfect outcomes in order for this to have been a good year.  But the Lord merely calls us to hang in there and trust Him with the rest.  Jesus has already covered over our imperfections.  And God is the ultimate recycler, using all situations for our good and His glory! 

In these last few days of the year, take some time to reflect on all that you have been brought through.  How amazing that God has seen you through these things, the good, the bad, and the ugly!  What a loving Father that He would care about our lives!  While we may be glad to put the year behind us, we can also know that we finished well in faith because we survived the storms and are still here to tell about it.  Just doing the next right thing, no matter what the circumstance, is what is pleasing to God.


Pray:  Lord, thank You for all you have seen me through this year!  I couldn't have made it without You.

Friday, December 23, 2011

GREAT EXPECTATIONS


"No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame..."
(Psalm 25:3, NIV)

Part of the wonder of  the Christmas season is watching the eyes of children glow with excitement and anticipation of all involved in the celebration.  Squealing with delight over culinary creations and intricately wrapped gifts becomes music to the ears of all who hear.  And the joy can't help but spill over to everyone who dares to abandon themselves to the mirth.

But what happens when life doesn't turn out quite the way we expect?  Oh, how our hearts are crushed!  I would venture to say that we would be shocked if we truly knew how much time we spend grieving over what never turned out quite as we thought it might or as it will never be.  Fathers weep privately over wheelchair-bound sons that will never run at a track meet or over fragile sons that will never play football.  Mothers long to hear their names called out from the lips of their non-verbal youngsters.  Grandparents tie themselves up with worry over the future productivity of their challenged grandchildren.  And so it goes on.  These are real hurts and disappointments that we would all hope to move beyond.

Add to these broken dreams of life the largely unrealistic outlook we have towards the holiday season, and you have a toxic mix!  Family members are often completely insensitive to the plight of our children's challenges.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends expect all children to be completely polite, well-behaved, fancily dressed angels this time of year.  We expect everyone to be compassionate and have an understanding of what we live with on a daily basis.  Both are entirely unreasonable.  And waiting for situations to have the desired outcome only makes a time of great holiness completely stressful and misdirected.

One of the many great blessings yielded by my BSL (Bible Study Ladies) studies this year has been learning to pray "serious prayers".  And one of those prayers with the greatest impact in my life has been learning to, "Pray that all your expectations will be in Christ alone!"  As many of us do, I come from a family background riddled with the failings of being a control freak.  It has taken me countless years to cease trying to bridle the uncontrollable in my life.  Nevertheless, disappointment still has its insidious way of creeping into many parts of our psyche that we never even knew existed.

The beautifully liberating piece of the puzzle has come to me as I literally get face-down on my living room floor each morning, dissecting the parts of my life where I suddenly see I do have my own agenda of expectations.  I surrender those pieces to Him.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to crowd out the selfish parts of me.  More of Him and less of my self-absorbed nature!  And then I fall fully into the request to let all my expectations be in Christ alone.

Something truly amazing happens when we pray this way!  When we make a deliberate effort through prayer to align our will with His, God is faithful to answer affirmatively.  He will shape us in ever-increasing measure into the image of His beautiful Son when we willingly agree to it.  And we find peace and freedom from the godless circumstances of this world because all of our joy rests fully in the Unchanging One.

My prayer for every reader during this Christmastide is that all of your expectations would rest fully in the Babe who humbled Himself, leaving His glorious heaven to live amongst us for 33 years.  May the joy of the salvation He provided through that pain and humility give you peace and restoration no matter what you may face this year!

Pray:  "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." ~ Augustine of Hippo


* For more information on "Praying Serious Prayers" please e-mail either barb@snappin.org or  margo@margofieseler.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't Forget the Batteries!

"...And how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world."  (Ephesians 19-20, GNT)

We've turned the corner on Christmas!  It's the last week of Advent, and the stretch to the holiday is here.

How often in these days prior to our celebration do we hear in stores and on television, "Don't forget the batteries"?  These compact cells of electrochemical energy are the power source for toys, cameras, electronic entertainment and so many other things we depend on to fully enjoy our Christmas.  One doubt of how much we rely on these essential items is wiped away when we make the fatal mistake of forgetting them.  Nothing can dampen the event like not having the needed power to bring things to life.

Funny how this becomes a no-brainer when it comes to getting an electronic device to work, but is so easily forgotten in our spiritual life!  Life is demanding, especially this time of year.  Yet, how often do we, as followers of Jesus forget "the batteries"?  We try to tackle every need, every dilemma and every temptation on our own.  Yet, there is a power source we were given when we invited Jesus into our lives as Savior, Lord and Leader that we fail to plug in.

What I am speaking of is that gift of the Holy Spirit within us.  In theory, there is a new Person in control in our lives when we accept Jesus' free gift of salvation.  Yet, we often "forget the batteries".  We try to continue handling life in our own power, which by comparison to God's is no power at all.  Consumed by a frantic schedule, we jump into the day without even plugging in to our very source.

This fall I had the blessed opportunity to learn about and spend time with that Source at the BSL Retreat "Captivated:  Led by the Spirit".  There, my sweet friend Margo, led us through an awesome weekend where we got to know the Holy Spirit as a Person, who wants an intimate, personal relationship with each individual.  He dwells within us and guides us with His supreme wisdom and strength.  In Him, we have all we will ever need for any situation.  But we must open our ears to hear His voice through both His Bible and our conscience.

Do you feel like you are hanging by a thread this Christmas?  The Holy Spirit is your Comforter.  He will keep you in His strength and peace through all of the demands and frenzy of celebration.  Are you anxious about dealing with family or children?  Give the Spirit full control over the situation, and breathe in that sigh of relief.  Rest and trust in His goodness.  Do you find yourself unsure of how to manage the holiday with few financial resources and many concerns about your child's behavior at church, school or home?  Share the concerns of your heart with that Person who indwells you.  Listen for His wisdom as He shares a fresh word with you from God's word or reminds you of scripture you have already written on your heart.  He will grant you the discernment and perspective that is so very needed at times like this.

Praise God that you have everything you need to make this a special, meaningful Christmas with those you love!  All you need to remember is "Don't forget the Batteries"!

Pray:  Holy Spirit, you give new meaning when I read that You will supply all my needs.  Your provision goes far beyond what is material to what is divine.  Help me to remember now that I don't have to tackle everything on my own.  I can rely on the fullness of Your power and wisdom to care for me in every way.  That is truly awesome!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Measuring In Inches Instead of Miles

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)

There are too many days when I feel like I'm getting nowhere fast.  I spin my wheels, feeling like I'm working on the same problems over and over again.  I see my children, and too often I feel like there is no progress.  Rooms are still dirty.  Sibling quarrels still flare up.  Bad behaviors still persist.

In these frustrating, defeated moments of motherhood, parents like me need to measure our children's progress in inches rather than miles.  A readjustment of how we assess things is called for.  While the annoying triggers of sensory processing disorder are something we would all like to see disappear with the snap of our fingers, it's unrealistic.  And great progress has been made when we discover one new tool to a sensory diet or a child has become desensitized enough to sit through hair-brushing just one minute longer.  While it may seem like bathroom issues will never resolve, it is a step forward when we have a few less soiled pairs of underwear to wash in a week.   While we may wish would could tell a child suffering from anxiety, "Snap out of it!" and have the child calmed, we can consider ourselves moving in the right direction if our child can remember to do some deep breathing one more time this week.  While we would love for our child to be in perfect health, we're blessed when we've had one less hospital visit this year than in the previous year.

The fact is that our lives may never be what others would consider "normal", but in working on certain issues, we can feel like we've made progress using a different "yardstick".  For example, the professionals working with us on my youngest child's IEP recently broke down for us each piece of her previous years goals.  When we examined where she was just one short year ago, the difference was remarkable to us.  Last year, she was disruptive in class, blurting out frequently, socially disconnected from others, a sloppy printer and apathetic learner.  Already her special education plan has helped her monitor herself in class, cut way down on disruptions, develop some new friendships, begin some lovely cursive writing, and begin to develop systematic learning habits.  It's easy to lose sight of this progress in the every-day demands of life, but it is huge!  We simply need to assess accomplishments in a markedly different way.

Furthermore, we must not succumb to the distaste others have for our children.  How many parents are marginalized by relatives, friends or neighbors who whisper insults about their child?  At heart-wrenching times like these, we must keep in mind that God is doing a perfect work in our children.  Those outside of the immediate situation are utterly clueless as to what is involved with parenting our sons or daughters.  Every child is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14), and only their Creator knows the perfect timing to bring that child's character and abilities into their full completion.  God doesn't make mistakes.  He loves our children immeasurably more than we ever could.  Knowing this, we must be patient and cooperate with the time it takes to shape their progress.


Pray:  Abba Father, sometimes I feel stuck and defeated as a parent.  Open my eyes to the improvements being made.  Help me to remember that children don't grow in a day!  Grant me endurance and perspective.  And comfort me as I learn to cooperate with Your timing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Joy Moves In

“Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment." (Job 20:4-5, NIV)

I flicked on the TV in the kitchen to catch the days news as I prepared dinner last night.  Immediately, I was bombarded with commercials that did an excellent job of making a 30 second case for why their product was the ultimate way to obtain joy.  The first was from a cable company.  Really?  If I subscribe to this cable company and add on extra services I'll have a good-looking spouse who embraces me and delights in surprising me?  The next was for a car company.  You mean the ultimate Christmas joy looks like giving my spouse a new vehicle with a giant bow on top of it?  Wow!  I'm not going to have a good holiday if I can't afford that.

It occurred to me that the joy the world tries to seduce us with is utterly hopeless.  Cable TV goes out or the price goes up, leaving us frustrated or dissatisfied over time.  Cars need maintenance and repair.  Ultimately every vehicle needs to be replace.  Name your desire in this world -- relationships, health, vacations, material possessions, power, money.  Every single bit of it is fleeting!

So in this fourth week of Advent where the theme is joy, how can we obtain this seemingly elusive quality, and what does it exactly meant?  Let me answer the second question first by describing what joy is not.  Joy is not necessarily happiness.  It is not having everything go our way.  It is not security or possessions or healthy relationships.

Joy transcends our circumstances.  If you look at the Bible's many references to joy, you will see that the Greek word "chara", which means delight, is tied directly to God.  In fact, my impression in reading through all 242 verses where the word is used, most commonly involves a remembrance of what the Lord has just done for a person or a group.  In other words, joy is that delight, that contentment in knowing that no matter what the circumstances are now, God has been faithful before and He will be faithful again.

During the remaining days before Christmas, spend some quiet time in God's word.  Even if you have to get up a few minutes earlier or stay up a few minutes later, time alone with Him is well worth the sacrifice.  Look at the eye-witness accounts of seemingly impossible situations that the Lord brought people through.  Is anything too tough for Him? (see Jeremiah 32:27)  Now look at your own life and delight in the fact that your Creator has numbered every hair on your head. (see Luke 12:7)  If He cares that deeply for you, can you not trust that He is big enough to see you through any of life's difficulties?

Contemplating such things should bring you great joy during a season where things can be chaotic and misguided.  Such joy is a lasting, deep contentment in knowing Who the sure foundation of your life is.  And He cared enough to humble Himself and live amongst us for 33 years all for our benefit.  Certainly nothing the world has to offer can match that!

Pray:  Lord, it is so easy to focus on what I do not have as the world bombards me with advertising and the kids whine for possessions this time of year.  Help me to abide in Your deep joy that is not brief, but everlasting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

From the Inside Out

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

 

How are you doing with your holiday stress level?  It's only the second week of the Advent Season, and I'm sure you are struggling with balance just as I am.  There are all the demands that, while perennial, seem to catch us by surprise every year.  There never seems to be enough time to do the cleaning, the baking, the card writing, the shopping, the entertaining and the wrapping.  Christmas programs at school and church juggle the schedule along with any related parties.  And as the children grow, the dynamics of the phase they are in brings something new to adjust to.  Will their sensory issues be able to handle this years food, noise and clothing?  Is Santa real, and how are we dealing with that?  Are they self-regulating enough this year to get adequate sleep and control their excitement?  Add a couple of appointments for doctors and therapy, and a parent of a child with special needs is beyond the tipping point!

How ironic that the second week of Advent is supposed to be focused on the theme of peace!  Or is it?  What if this really is the perfect time to confront that issue in our lives?  What if that One who was born in the most chaotic of circumstances is the cure for our stress?  What if our peace has little to do with what is happening outside of us and everything to do with what is in our core?

That's the Good News that the humble Christ child came to bring us, if only we will quiet ourselves enough to listen.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit He sent to dwell within us, there is that "peace that surpasses all understanding." (Philippians 4:7)  When we give God ourselves fully, when we obey Him in increasing measure, when we devour His word like a box of chocolate truffles, He can and will change us from the inside out.  We will be like that house built on rock where life buffets against us, but doesn't destroy us.  And we can still reflect the joy of Christmas in the midst of our challenges without having to pretend.  When we know and trust that our faithful Father has it all handled, we can take a deep breath and know goodness in the storm.

Don't you want people to look at you and think, "I want what they have!"?  You have the perfect platform to proclaim the peace and goodness of God.  But you cannot give what you do not have to begin with.  This Christmas season, realize that salvation isn't your Creator's only gift to you.  Consume that heavenly peace He reserves for those who belong to Him.  And watch your world change!

Prayer:  My God, I know that it is humanly impossible to force myself to have peace in the midst of life's swirling storms.  This Christmas, help me to actually open up and use the gift of peace which you left me by the power of the Holy Spirit when I invited you into my life.  Do Your work in me as only You can do!



Monday, November 28, 2011

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10, NIV)

Every year we spend the day after Thanksgiving decorating our home for Christmas while the Black Friday shoppers attack with their avarice.  The kids were wonderful this year and entered in to the work with festive joy.  They each played a vital role in the team, packing up Autumn decorations, dusting, washing windows and folding laundry so we could get the place clean before we began to deck-the-halls.  Together we had many giggles as I watched my monkeys climb the maple tree outside to hang sparkling ornaments  blowing in the winter breeze.  Inside, the carols were ringing and the tubs of trimmings were beckoning.

The house looked like a bomb went off in it after we had brought plastic totes up from the basement containing what we needed to get the job done.  I was cranky from the claustrophobia of having stuff everywhere, and I was anxious to get things in order.  I couldn't wait to get the ugliness and litter out.  I just knew there was joyful beauty waiting underneath the disastrous mess!

During my quiet hours of Bible time and prayer in the early morning, God gave me a great insight.  You see, I have struggled with ungodly emotions and behaviors.  Bitterness, a short temper, selfishness are much like the clutter that I need to get out of my life.  I'm growing in the Lord, but too often it seems to get worse before it gets better.  I am motivated by celebrating a glorious good God, and I just know the Holy Spirit within me can transform.  But as I pull things out in my life, it almost seems at times like I'm moving in the exact opposite direction.

How very much this resembles our Christmas decorating!  I see that I need to pack away resentment, but things are a bit messy before I incorporate selflessness into my life.  My irritability needs to be washed away, but it takes some time before His perfect peace is established where I reside.  The cleaner I get things, the more I realize I need to get cleaned.  The joy of God's glory is crowded out by all my stuff, and the only way to reveal it is to deal with one undesirable piece at a time.  It all seems so overwhelming.  And too often I only feel like I'm making things worse instead of moving in a positive direction.

The other part of this is that much like decking-the-halls, it's a job that is best not attacked alone.  The admonition and encouragement of other believers helps get the job done more effectively while fostering a happy heart.  Since our Maker created us to be relational, He uses others to help fine tune our character into one that is far more pleasing to Him.  Working together, we sense that we are marching onward despite temporary setbacks.

As we begin this years Advent season, remember that just like the filthy house, you are a work in progress.  Inch by inch God will grow you into the image of His son Jesus in increasing measure.  With persistence, focus, and fellowship you will begin to rid yourself of the unattractive things that litter your life.  And under those behaviors and thoughts are the glow and peace of your awesome Lord!

Pray:  Wise and merciful God, I can only clean house with Your help!  Assist me as I make more and more room in my heart for You this Advent season!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD'S SENSORY SIGNALS... -- A Turn-Key Guide


Give discernment to me, your servant... ~ Psalm 119:125, NLT

If you're anything like me, some days you wish you had a field guide to figure out your child's behavior.  All too often, I struggle with understanding why my youngest treasure with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and social deficits just won't settle in to her own bed for the night.  It bewilders me when she overheats on days that the rest of us would find freezing.  I can go in another room to speak quietly in private with my husband, but she hears every word.  And I just had to talk to her today about some very rough play I saw her engaging in with another little girl right after school.  I ask myself, What is causing this, and what is an effective way of dealing with it?

Well, have I discovered an amazing resource for us!  Angie Voss' UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD'S SENSORY SIGNALS: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers is the easy reference so many of us parents have been waiting for.  The book begins with a brief one-page explanation of how to use this volume.  It then proceeds with a list entitled "Find Your Sensory Signal" which functions much like a table of contents.  This sensory signal list provides a vast array of behaviors and symptoms for readers to reference.  In fact, I went through all 3 pages of the list placing a check mark next to each one that my daughter displays.

As you reference the page that each sensory signal is on, a quick, helpful concentration of information is available to you.  At the top of the page, the sensory category of that behavior is identified.  For example, something you are seeing in a child may be tactile, vestibular, self-regulatory or the like.  A sensory explanation of that specific behavior is then detailed.  This can be particularly helpful because for the amateur, the senses involved may not be overtly obvious.  Next, possible questions are listed which can help determine if a behavior truly is sensory in origin.  How excellent to have these insights when you don't even know what questions to ask!  Finally, each page of sensory signals ends with a list of ideas to help.  What a fabulous, turn-key way to put practical information to immediate use! 

Asterisks abound on these pages as certain recommendations are given further explanation in the back of the book.  These are described in detail under the Sensory Tools and Resources section.  Sensory definitions are also described further at the back of the book.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD'S SENSORY SIGNALS is a new release that you will want to make sure you add to your bookshelf.  The more than 20 years experience Angie Voss possesses as an occupational therapist is put to ready use in this terrific new tool for the busy parent or educator of a child with special needs.  Given the transitory or voluntary nature of those working with our kids in a church setting, this would also be a great addition to the library of children's ministry workers! 

In fact, this book is such a clever idea that we would like to give a copy of it away in a drawing!  Just comment below why you would like to win a copy of Angie's book, and we will draw the winner a week from today!

PRAY:  Lord, I need wisdom and discernment in reading my child's cues.  Thank You for people like Angie to help me.  I look to you for direction and new ideas in helping my child succeed.


*You can learn more about Angie Voss, OTR/L and her book at http://understandingspd.com.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forgiving God




"Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.   All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments...  When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant;  I was a brute beast before you." ~ Psalm 73:13, 14, 21 & 22, NIV

Continuing on with our series based on the Inclusion Fusion talk "Bathing in the Healing Power of Forgiveness", let's move beyond forgiving others, and examine forgiving God.  When our child is first diagnosed, it is completely natural to feel angry at our Creator.  Guilty as we may feel about it, few escape this emotion.

Part of our anger at God is based on how we are humanly wired.  We were created with an innate sense to protect our children.  We see the vulnerability of the very young and become indignant that any harm would come to them.  Our strong sense of justice becomes painfully aware of their unfair lot in life.  What infant or child could ever be deserving of suffering surgeries, treatments, therapies or ostracizing by peers?

Another part of our anger is birthed by who we believe God to be.  We're taught from a very young age that "Jesus loves me," and "God is love".  So, how does that square with childhood suffering?  How can a loving God allow such a thing?  We are also raised to believe that God is omnipotent, almighty and can even alter the course of history.  If that is true, why wouldn't He prevent such heartache from occurring?

A final piece of our anger can be attributed to our own sense of entitlement.  We truly believe that we personally don't deserve the anguish of a child with special needs.  We feel that we have been "good enough" to deserve better.  Despite all of our prayer, serving, acts of kindness and decent behavior, tragedy has beset us, and that's not fair.

How do we resolve such feelings?  After all, it is rather odd to wrestle with hating One who holds the universe in His hands!  The first step is to get to know who God is.  Like any other relationship, the more time you spend with your Maker, the better you will get to know Him.  And that knowledge cannot come solely from the second-hand knowledge of another person.  It must come from digging deep into God's word.  Spending daily time without any noise and reading your Bible in a translation that you find understandable is absolutely key.  Over time, you will get to know God's character, how He works and who He is by reading not only His promises, but also how He has interacted with humans throughout history.

The second step involves taking an honest look at ourselves.  We all need to come to a place where we can admit that we really aren't "good enough" to deserve anything but hell.  Truthful self-examination reveals that we daily complain, quarrel, act selfishly, gossip and look down our noses at others.  We may not commit murder, but sin is sin, and we are too nasty to be in the presence of a holy God.  The good news is that we are dearly loved by our Creator even though we are tremendously unworthy.  He has made a way for us to be with Him in spite of ourselves!  He sacrificed His precious Son Jesus to pay the debt we owed to Him by our disobedience.  The honest renewal of this perspective leads us to the next step in forgiving God.

Once we realize that God spared no expense to draw us to Himself, when we realize that He's not even bound by death or the troubling consequences of sin, then we can begin to trust Him.  As we grow in that trust, we become more aware that He only has our best in mind.  "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," our Maker tenderly assures us in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).  It brings to mind all the times I have had to make my kids take icky medicine or have a painful immunization because I knew that it had tremendous benefit far beyond the temporary discomfort.  Over time, we see that God operates similarly, but with far more wisdom and infinite benefit.

As we trust, we may be tempted to doubt and take control of our situation in our own power.  That anger flares up again when God doesn't do things our way in our timing.  That's when it's time to remember, "Hands off!"  We will grow in realizing the Lords full sufficiency when we let go.  Our expectations need to be released.  We need to stop trying to make everything turn out the way we think is best.  When we pry our hands off of our children and instead trust them to God's care, we may find out that He has something even better than we ever could have asked or imagined in mind.

Finally, we need to endure.  Forgiveness doesn't usually come as a one-time occurrence.  We find those toxic feelings creeping back at times, and we need to forgive again.  The good news is that as we persevere, the forgiveness comes more readily or easily.  We find that un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the object of our anger to die!  We discover that forgiving is really a gift to ourselves as well as another. 

You can get past your anger at God.  Don't allow bitterness to overtake your personality.  Redemption starts right here and now.  All you have to decide is whether you will take hold of the joy held out for you!


Pray:  God, I cannot hide a thing from You.  You know how angry I get with you that you allowed these difficulties to enter our lives!  I know You are big enough to handle my anger towards You.  Help me to heal and work through this.  Help me to trust that you permit everything for my good and Your glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DIFFERENT DREAM PARENTING - New Release, New Tool Extraordinaire!



I can do all this through him who gives me strength.~ Philippians 4:13, NIV

Every so often a book comes along in the world of special needs that is a game changer.  DIFFERENT DREAM PARENTING: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs is just such a book.  As I mention in my endorsement within the book, no parents raising a child with unique challenges should be without this volume.


There are several things that made me fall in love with Jolene's second publication in the Different Dream series.  When my first child with special needs was born, there was a diagnosis specific book that was considered the encyclopedia of how to raise such a child.  While extremely helpful, it was somewhat short-sighted in the scope of what it covered.  Not so with this book!  Everything from birth to death is touched upon by the author.  Gaining a sure footing when a child receives a diagnosis is extremely difficult for parents.  Insights and tips provide that help to readers.  Tackling challenges in hospitals and schools are not for the faint of heart nor for those who are unaware of their legal rights.  Chapters equip parents with clear and concise information to help face these situation with confidence.  In fact, those raising children with special needs will want to keep this book handy to reference as life grows and changes.


Another reason I love this book is the fact that it combines the spiritual with the practical.  Those who read the history of SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES will discover that the organization was birthed, in part, by the fact that there was much in the way of secular support a decade ago, but not much in the way of faith-based support for parents of child with special needs.  Yet, nothing will test our faith will such heartache and confusion as when our son or daughter receives a diagnosis.  Not only does each chapter in DIFFERENT DREAM PARENTING start in scripture and end in prayer, but a solid Christian approach is woven throughout the information.  In addition, there are seven wonderful prayer guides in one of the appendices at the end of the book.  This is every bit as essential in putting parents on solid footing as the practical information provided.


Jolene so beautifully blends the information and spiritual support with stories from real parents, that our organization has decided to use this new release as part of our developing mentor program!  If you know a parent with a newly diagnosed child or if you have your own questions you're looking for answers to, be sure to pick up DIFFERENT DREAM PARENTING.  You will not be disappointed!


Pray:  Father, thank You that You provide resources for us through talented people like Jolene.  Give us wisdom.  And help us to approach the challenges of parenting one step at a time.


Monday, November 7, 2011

FORGIVING OTHERS - Part 2: 1,001 Stupid Things People Say & Do

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” ~ Luke 23:34, NIV


My daughter came to me crying Saturday morning.  Our 70 pound golden doodle had gotten at the glazed donut my husband so graciously bought for her.  Since they are such a rarity in our house, she was devastated.  Never mind that she had set it down for only a moment on the ladder steps to her bunk bed.  She proclaimed our dog "naughty" and "bad".  I found myself explaining to her that the dog was neither of those things, he was just an unintelligent animal, doing what animals do.  It was her responsibility to eat the donut promptly or put it in a place out of reach of the dog.


Crazy as it may sound, the people we encounter as parents of children with special needs should be viewed in much the same light.  They are ignorant humans doing what humans do.  People are inclined to want to provide a quick fix to our problems, give us a quick easy word to soothe us, or just not know what to do in their feelings of awkwardness.


I learned prior to having children that people are prone to this sort of activity when my husband and I experienced multiple miscarriages and years of infertility.  Oh, the comments!  "Now you have a little angel in heaven," "There was something wrong with that baby that you wouldn't have wanted to deal with anyway," and "Just adopt and you'll get pregnant in no time," were just a few of the brilliant remarks people had for us.  Never mind that we just would have loved to be hugged, understood and had any random act of kindness brought our way at that time.


By the time we finally became parents, I thought the foolish things people said and did were behind us, but they only arrived in a different flavor.  "Is she a good baby?", was the first idiotic-but-common utterance we heard from people when our eldest was born.  Honestly?  What did people expect us to say -- No, she's awful! Take her back?


When our son's hemophilia made its grand appearance right along with him, the piercing words and actions reached a new level.  People avoided us out of discomfort.  I was condemned by relatives because I am the genetic carrier of the disorder.  And the winner of the dumbest comments was a complete stranger walking past us on the street, inquiring as to why my tiny infant had a medical alert bracelet.   Lacking savvy enough to tell the woman to mind her own business, I shared my baby's diagnosis.  She promptly informed me, "Oh, we had a dog who had that.  We had to put him down."  How was that supposed to comfort the parent of a newborn facing such a difficult future?


My point is this, in our journey as parents of children with special needs, we will encounter countless words and deeds that we will need to forgive.  As my friend aptly puts it, "people don't know what they don't know".  They are often well-meaning and completely ignorant.  And we need to picture their words and actions like fluffy, foolish feathers on our hands that we blow off.  When we fail to forgive these situations, we are the big losers in the end.  We give the thing that wounds us too much power, and it eats us up inside.

I often ruminate about how Jesus must have felt with all the hurtful words and deeds hurled at Him, the God that lovingly came to save His people.  Despite the heartache He must have experienced, He continued to set a loving example for us all.  Forgive.  Know that people have many limitations.  Move forward in God's power and leave the hurts behind you.


Prayer:  Father, forgive the people who hurt us with their hurtful words and deeds.  Remind us that there have probably been times when we unknowingly have done the same.  Help us to walk uprightly by the strength of Your Spirit.

*See the full presentation on Bathing In The Healing Power of Forgiveness at HTTP://INCLUSIONFUSION.ORG.

Friday, November 4, 2011

FORGIVING OTHERS - Part 1: Charity Begins at Home

"...Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  (Luke 6:37, NIV)

Recently, I have had the great privilege of recording a presentation for the Inclusion Fusion Pajama Conference on "Bathing in the Healing Power of Forgiveness".  If we can have an honest moment here, let's agree that it's always easier to bloviate on in great speeches about forgiveness than to practice it.  And yet, we also need to candidly admit that forgiveness is a value we would like each our children to espouse as they grow.

I will go to my grave saying that God always keep me "on the short leash" because He knows I am prone to wander off in my own foolishness.  And so this was no less true when my presentation was posted for Inclusion Fusion.  Lest my head become immensely fat for being included in such a wonderful conference, the Lord humbled me by putting to the test all that I had professed in this talk on forgiveness.  For the past month, we had thought that my youngest daughter had misplaced her new cell phone in her unbelievably messy bedroom.  After cleaning it up and searching every corner of our home and cars, I took a gander at our billing detail online.  Much to my sadness and dismay, I found that while the phone was missing, it had been used with hundreds of dollars in apps and phone calls added to it.  Sadder still was the fact that in putting together the numbers that had been called and the last time we all remember seeing the phone, I was 99% certain that the phone had been stolen by my daughter's friend.

The first thing to do in a situation like this was to pray.  Only by the power of the Holy Spirit could I walk uprightly while feeling such frustration and anger.  It was essential to not lose my cool or act rashly in this situation.

The next thing to do was to come up with a plan of attack for dealing with the situation.  Fortunately, one of my friends with older daughters had been through this before.  She advised me that if I contacted the cell phone company and told them that the phone had been stolen, they would write off the charges.  That was useful information, but I felt that wasn't where the situation needed to end.  I definitely sensed that we had to draw a boundary between my daughter and this friend until the matter was resolved.  As my daughter's special needs include social deficits, she is particularly vulnerable in a circumstance like this.  I went to the school's principal and special education teacher to inform them of what had happened.  While it didn't involve the school, I wanted to be sure that they were aware in case any repercussions arose.  The principal thanked me and advised me to go to the police, which I intended to do anyway.  It gave me the sense that there was perhaps more to the story than I was aware of.  When I did go to the local police, I found myself wrestling out the situation along with the officer.  He had told me that unless the phone was found, the theft would be very hard to prove.  He encouraged me to go to the girl's father taking an approach that "perhaps she picked it up accidentally".  I was reluctant because of several serious things in the home that could make confrontation dangerous.  Nevertheless, the officer gave me a police report number to pass on to the cell phone company for my billing adjustment.

Like every married couple, my husband and I can have differences of opinions on how to deal with such matters.  This was no exception.  I called my husband to update him on the situation, and he seemed uncomfortable with some of it.  Nevertheless, he did make a phone call to the little friend's dad.  Much to my surprise, he didn't beat around the bush.  He came right out and said that our daughter's phone was missing and that he believed this other man's daughter knew something about it.  The two of them agreed to sit down and talk about it the following evening.  Equipped with the phone bill and not shrinking back from his accusation, he went to the other family's home and surprisingly got a full confession from the friend.  She had, in fact, stolen and abused the phone.  While she did not readily have it to return (it remains dead and currently not functioning), my husband insisted that she get it back to him and also apologize to our daughter.  The father also assured us that he will reimburse us for all costs if the phone company will not write it off.

Wow!  So, the question upon his return home and recounting of the conversation begged the question, Where do we go from here?  How do we approach this with a child who is searching for acceptance and who deeply struggles with social skills?

We sat our little daughter down and began to practice what we preached.  Forgive.  Our daughter was shocked and upset to find out that a friend would do such a thing.  But we encouraged her to tell this girl that she forgives her and that Jesus forgives her if the girl approaches her to apologize.  We stated that after the apology and forgiveness, the matter must be dropped.  She was not to talk to any other children about this or embarrass the friend.  Afterward, I e-mailed the principal and special ed teacher to give them the details.  I knew they could support us with her behavior.  I also set down consequences for my daughter if she did not follow these guidelines.  That it typically a strong motivator for her.

Will the friendship be allowed to continue?  I don't know.  I will need to pray about that further.  But this I do know -- Charity begins at home, whether it be with doling out donations or granting forgiveness.  I have no business teaching others about forgiveness unless I am willing to teach my own precious children the same.  I think this is a lesson none of us will ever forget!

Pray:  Oh, Father, help us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  And let that forgiveness begin with those closest to us!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why YOU Need to Attend INCLUSION FUSION ~ Our Top Ten


 
"...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10b, NIV)


Coming to a computer screen near you, November 3-5, 2011 will be the landmark Inclusion Fusion web conference for those with interest in topics related to living with special needs and the Christian church.  Here is our Top 10 list of why YOU should make attending this event your top priority:

10.  The conference is completely FREE!  How many times has the cost of a conference posed an obstacle to you attending?  Not this time!  The only thing this conference will cost you is time.

9.  You can attend the conference right from the comfort of your own home!  Let's face it, if you care for a loved one with special needs, getting out of the house or finding respite care can be tough.  There are no such concerns with this conference.

8.  You have access to two dozen of the foremost experts on disability ministry!  From those who have been trail-blazers in the field to exciting up-and-comers, you will have the opportunity to listen to wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Never has there been such a fabulous collection of speakers in one conference!

7.  Preeminent preacher, Chuck Swindoll will be the event's keynote speaker!  If you are not familiar with the Insights for Living radio show and the preaching ministry of Pastor Chuck Swindoll, you are in for a treat.  Pastor Swindoll's wisdom is sure to grow and inspire participants.

6.  There will be information just for parents or caregivers!  Topics addressing advocacy for the child, forgiveness, and transitions to adulthood are just some that may interest those raising a child with special needs.

5.    There will be information just for churches interested in starting an inclusion ministry!  Merely understanding the mission field is so important!  This topic as well as a basic presentation on how to get started will be offered along with others.

4.  New innovations will be discussed!  From respite to curriculum to social media, fresh ideas will be available to those who already have a special needs ministry at their church.  

3.  You will have an opportunity to live chat for 1 hour during the conference with most of the speakers!  When is the last time you had THAT sort of time to further discuss topics of interest with the presenters at a conference?  This offers attendees a much more engaging experience during the conference.

2.  A host of additional resources will be available to participants!  Each speaker or the organization they represent will have recommended resources or their own items to offer for sale to attendees.

AND THE NUMBER 1 REASON YOU NEED TO ATTEND INCLUSION FUSION...

1.  You were designed for fellowship!  Whether an isolated parent or an inquisitive servant looking for more guidance, God never intended for us to do life in a vacuum.  This conference will afford you the opportunity to connect to hundreds of others around the nation who have the same questions and interests.  And through such a venue, you are bound to be blessed!

JOIN KEY MINISTRY, SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES, LIFT DISABILITY NETWORK, THE NEED PROJECT, THE P.U.R.E. MINISTRY PROJECT, AND SO MANY OTHERS FOR THIS EVENT BY REGISTERING FOR THE CONFERENCE TODAY!

Pray:  Lord, wherever two or more are gathered in Your name, You are with us.  Thank You for being with us during the Inclusion Fusion conference.  Bless our time together, and help us all to grow as we learn how to better serve the least of Your children.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Going Backward to Stretch Forward

"So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands." ~ Psalm 78:7, NLT

I just had the great blessing of spending four days at a fabulous women's retreat in the North woods of Wisconsin.  The theme, which was walking in the Spirit, didn't especially trigger any anticipation in me prior to the event, but it certainly transformed me once I was there.  I had attended this retreat for the first time last year, and merely sought to once again experience the refreshment I had recalled receiving there.

Prior to my departure, there had been many demands on my life.  I had just finished working on writing two grants.  We were in full swing of preparing the kick-off event at our collaborative pediatric facility development.  I was in the throws of leading a committee as they develop a curriculum for parent mentors.  I was one week late in submitting my video presentation for a virtual conference.  Children were needing assistance with various special needs issues including a bleed incurred in a foolish phy ed accident, and a truth telling issue at school.  Things had really come to a head when I had to call an ambulance for my elderly mother when I found her unable to get out of bed when I arrived at her home.

It has been a rough but productive year.  And the battle scars of walking through life trying just to do the next right thing have left me feeling hard pressed on every side.  Restoration was not just a desire, but a requirement at this point.

As He so faithfully does, God met me right in my messiness at that retreat.  Escorted right into the presence of our Creator by worship leader, David Kaap, I came to the end of myself.  My focus changed, and I gained a deep desire to leave that place completely transformed in comparison to the way I had arrived.  More of You, Lord, and less of me, was the prayer of my heart.   I gained many new insights to walking in the Spirit through my sweet friend and speaker, Margo Fieseler.  But much of what I heard, read and learned were things that I had encountered before, yet God was bringing them afresh to my weary soul.

This retreat so emphatically convicted me to share with you that often we need to reflect backward on the eternal truths our Maker lovingly grants us in order to strain forward toward the prize He is holding out for us.  For instance, we may require some time to be alone with God and recall that He tells us that there is nothing that is too difficult for Him. (See Jeremiah 32:27)  Remembering those words, we can also remember times where the Lord got us out of an extremely sticky situation or a seemingly impossible circumstance.  This equips us to go forward in trust and confidence of His capable care.

Perhaps we face that ocean of medical bills that never seem to relent in a family living with special needs.  But as we quietly sit with our Bibles open, He bathes us in promises of His provision, faithfulness and care.  We read the stories of how God delivered people in the past and see that He still delivers today.  In those times, he brings to mind all those times he provided an unexpected rebate in the mail, an anonymous aid or a tax refund just in time.  And He refills us, equipping us to go forward in strength and assurance like we've never known before.

Our challenge is to keep walking in that knowledge of who He is.  Walking in humility, purity, contentment, faith, trust, truth, love, patience and wisdom, like sweet Margo taught, keeps us plugged in, close to His side so we can intimately hear Him whispering His blessed assurance to us as we stretch forward.  We're enabled to live a life filled with good works, light and the remarkable "something different" that draws others to the Savior we adore.  But we have to be deliberate in carving out that time to spiritually refill and recollect.

If we allow the insanity, pain and demands of this life to continually drown out what God stoops down to lovingly bless us with, how will we ever enjoy peace in the storms?  It is humanly impossible to experience joy amidst life's most severe trials.  But by the power of His Spirit, we can be filled to overflowing in spite of our circumstances.  May we make that time to reflect backward so we can go forward in the power of all He wants to lavish upon us!


Pray:  God, most days I'm just carried about by the whirlwinds of life's latest demands or crises.  My vision of you becomes blurred, and I'm left feeling desperate.  Oh, Holy Spirit, bring to my mind today all those truths you have taught me before, so I might be strengthened for today!  Apart from You, I can do nothing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Curious Disturbance

How horrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, who turn what is bitter into something sweet and what is sweet into something bitter.~ Isaiah 5:20, GW

Something has been eating at me lately.  Every morning when I sit down at my desk and begin my work at my computer, I receive notices that help me screen the vast sea of information pertinent to parents and caregivers of children with unique challenges.  I filter everything from small town newspapers to major news stories, from blogs to breaking government recalls.  But I've been viewing something in the mix that's disturbing.

In amidst announcements of interest to those of us serving family members with disabilities are urgent pleas for animals with special needs. Writers extol the virtues of a precious pooch missing a limb who is so worthy of saving from the pound, if only someone will provide a home.  Humaine animal welfare organizations plea that if we will only donate today, a kind creature who merely needs regular insulin shots can live out the rest of its days the way they were meant to be - in utter bliss.  I even saw a post the other day regarding a two-faced cat for whom animal rights enthusiasts are soliciting assistance.

Now, at first blush, people might not find a problem with wanting to show kindness to cute, cuddly little creatures.  Why wouldn't you want to help Fido?  After all, no reasonable human being would find animal suffering to be attractive.

However, where I get stuck is on that boundary line that distinctly lays between humanity and the animal kingdom.  I still firmly believe the truth of Genesis 1:26 that says, "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'”(NIV, bold print added for emphasis)  In God's economy, there is an order to things.  And people have priority over creatures.  We alone are created in His image. 

I look at how mixed up our culture has become.  I remember the case where a woman received a lesser punishment for delivering her baby in a public bathroom, killing it and throwing it in a dumpster than a professional athlete did for the animal abuse of dog fighting.  And things like this disturb me.

How can we as humans even think about rescuing a two-faced cat when every church in this country doesn't even have fully accessible restrooms?  What is appropriate about giving assistive devices to a rabbit when children in this country aren't able to function because they're specialized walker or wheelchair was stolen?  
I drove past the auctioneer's on the way home from our country getaway last week, and they were advertising "Culling Cow Action, 10 AM, 10/6".  That sounds like hamburger to me.  It's not cause to rescue Bessie when we are still nowhere near a cure for genetic disorders that still take the lives of our precious, valuable humans each day.

Are you disturbed by this too?  I surely hope you are.  For when wrong becomes right and right becomes wrong, our culture is in dangerous territory indeed.  And when I see this type of behavior, I keep looking towards the sky for Jesus' imminent return.


Pray:  God, give me perspective.  Help me to value every human life the same way you do.  Thank you for the gift of pets and all of your creatures.  But let me never give them better treatment than I would give one of the least of your children.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

LEAVING NO STONE UNTURNED!

"...And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” ~ Matthew 10:42, NIV


Running a non-profit ministry for parents of kids with special needs is an interesting endeavor, to say the least.  People often wonder what a person like myself does all day.  How much time can it take to set up an occasional meeting or respite event every-so-often?  Writing a blog is something many do as a hobby on the side.  How hard can it be to pack up a lovely gift basket to bless a mom or a dad in need?


While I will contend that God has blessed both myself and those who minister alongside me far more than we could ever bless those we serve, I want to encourage parents by letting you know that we leave no stone unturned for your benefit.  Walking the path myself gives me a keen awareness of how wearisome and anguishing it can be to parent these precious kids.  That only fuels my passion.  I feel grateful for all that God has done and continues to pour out on my family.  The only appropriate response is to share that Good News and hope beyond all hope with a hurting world.  To the great fortune of other parents, I have a big mouth, and hopefully, that results in the many others who step up to share the vision and serve.


That service is all wonderful, but in this world that God presently has us passing through, money is needed to fund all of these things and assist parents.  We leave no stone unturned by searching every corner to gain help with what we do.  Every Tuesday via Twitter, we "tweet" a #CharityTuesday request asking people to donate via our website.  We seem to be continually writing grants, and are immensely thankful for the kindness of organizations like The Stackner Family Foundation who share our vision and heart for families with a child who has special needs.  We apply for contests like the one we are currently involved in, Citgo's Fueling Good Program which awards gas gift cards to their winners.  Since gas cards are such a big part of what we do, programs like this seem to be a natural fit.  A simple way we offer people to support our organization without having to spend a dime themselves is to use our Good Search Toolbar where we get $0.01 ever time you search using us at the charity of choice.  We also use well known organizations like Great Non-Profits.Com and Guidestar to build awareness of our families' needs and what we are striving to do to meet those needs.  And we rely on the generosity of local businesses like The DeRosa Corporation, which have been great friends to us in providing dinner gift certificates or food at events at a deeply discounted rate.


The point is this, my friends, God loves you!  He has numbered every hair on your head!  He cares deeply for and about you, your child and your circumstances!  We who serve through SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES have the great honor of being His ambassadors to you in this dark world.  We hold this privilege in high regard, searching tirelessly and obediently for ways to serve you and to provide for your needs.  We do this in order that you may know the riches of His goodness and pass that on, in turn, to your children and everyone around you.  Won't you please share with those you know and love these different ways of supporting an organization that supports you?  We love to offer a cup of cold water to those traveling through challenging times.  But that pump needs to be primed, and these various ways all add to that.  If you have been blessed, pass on the blessing!


Pray:  Oh, Father, You are the great Jehovah Jireh!  You provide every good and perfect gift, including the most simple of comforts.  Please continue to provide for us in our times of greatest need.  Help us to pass along every blessing you pour out on us, all to Your glory!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Receiving the Best in Rest

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  ~ Matthew 11:28, NIV


It's a given - Raising a child with any sort of special need requires extra energy.  As parent of such a child, we are required to be an insurance expert, triage nurse, occupational therapist, education rights expert and overall advocate.  When you combine these necessities with the regular demands of parenting, we can become far more weary more quickly than the average mom or dad.  We need our cup refilled.


But how?  Each individual gets that rest so differently.  Any assortment of hobbies or interaction with other adults may bring some rest.  While actual sleep, a massage or quiet time reading might be just what it takes to get refreshed.  Just having some "normal" experiences with your child where you don't have to explain can be a blessing as well.


It's even likely that a parent doesn't know what will rejuvenate them because so many parents buy into the lie that they should be able to do it all without help from anyone else.  That doesn't do anyone any favors.  Even Jesus pulled away for awhile to be able to fill his tank and minister to the demanding crowds once again.


We are excited to be collaborating with Zachariah's Acres on the building of a new, innovative Christian respite campus.  This facility will not just be a respite center, but an entire campus.  Built on 50 rolling acres in Northern Waukesha County, Wisconsin, there's a bigger dream for you and your children than just a place to drop off your child.  The developers of this land are hoping to offer the opportunity for both you and your children to enjoy being refreshed in God's nature at such a place.  The campus approach will afford for an ADA accessible nature path through woods and prairies.  With 3 lovely ponds, various birds including great blue herons and wood ducks can be watched while dipping a fishing line.  Families will be welcomed to outdoor events with the building of a park pavilion, a bonfire pit and perhaps even an accessible playground.  A subsequent phase of the campus may include a bed and breakfast where mom and dad can have an evening alone without being so far away from their child that there is great angst.  And these are only a few of the ideas involved in this exciting development.

The remarkable part is that this campus is being built by parents just like you for parents just like you.  We know best what we want for ourselves and our precious children.  So we invite your reflection on such a respite opportunity.  What might the perfect refreshment look like for you and your special child?  We can't wait to hear! 


Pray:  Oh, God, you are the giver of dreams and of every perfect gift.  Help me in daring to dream what a respite facility for me and my child might look like.  Bless the land donor of this project, and give wisdom to those who are developing this project.  May it all be for Your glory!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Merit of Mentors

Imitate me as I imitate Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1, GWT


Parenthood is NOT for sissies!  Although I always knew I wanted to be a parent some day, I could never tell you specifically why or what I expected it to be.  In retrospect, I can see how God allowed me to go through certain trials in order to make me a better mother to the little people He entrusted to me.  But there are still many times I feel completely inadequate, begging the Lord to cover over my shortcomings in the eyes of my children.


It has been said before, "You need a license to drive a car, but any idiot can be a parent."  That leaves one wondering where we can look for training or growth if we truly take this role seriously.  Add to that role the huge responsibility of raising a well-adjusted child in spite of chronic illness or unique challenges, and a parent really needs a lifeline!


This is where Jesus left us a tremendous gift.  Not only did He faithfully, redeem us, but He mentored twelve clumsy guys and modeled how to do the same.  This wonderful method of of imparting wisdom and truth to others was a hallmark of Jesus' public life.

Here are some notable focal points of Jesus' mentoring:
  • Jesus always shared the wisdom that is beyond human wisdom.  There are so many things we come up against in life that are beyond our understanding.  We especially wrestle with deep philosophical and theological questions in times of crisis.  Jesus used those practical opportunities to draw people closer to the Father and gave them the opportunity to enter into intimate knowledge of Him.  That equipped those who followed Him to live through things like abuse, imprisonment and persecution with something that transcends the tragedies of this world.  His knowledge was meant to be shared.
  • Jesus met people where they were at and hung out in their midst.  I first heard from Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Jesus understood that people can't gain an eternal vision without first having their immediate crises addressed.  He validated them and their concerns, then pointed to the awesome hope that lay beyond their oppressing problems.  His approachability was refreshing.
  • Jesus let his actions speak for themselves.  All the lecturing in the world wouldn't mean a thing in our understanding of God had Jesus not walked a mile in our shoes.  He knew what it was like to be human, with all of its difficulties, and yet had his eye solidly fixed on the Father.  He unjustly suffered, so we can rely on his words and his example when we undergo the same.  His genuineness was admirable.
  • Jesus had an incredible ability to discern when a person needed tenderness and when a person needed a kick in the behind.  Despite meeting oppressed people who found themselves in a variety of tough circumstances, Jesus knew that candy-coating things wasn't always the right tool to use.  There were times when people were appropriately overwrought and convicted in their own situation where Jesus offered great tenderness and comfort.  But there were also many times where Jesus called people out on their unwillingness to face the truth or change.  His honesty was a solid  model.
  • Jesus spent more time at His Father's feet than He ever did mentoring.  Aside from the 30 year training period God put His only Son through, there was still an immense amount of time that Jesus spent alone with God when he was active in his mission.  Oh, how rich Jesus' mentoring was because he had spent forty days in the desert fasting and praying.  He made a habit of getting up before sunrise to spend time with the Father.  And he separated himself from the crowds and disciples with regularity.  His priorities were a goal worthy of replicating.
So, how does that all translate into our daily living now?  God surely wouldn't have wasted the last three years of His Son's life on earth mentoring disciples unless it was an important model.  If this awkward mix of fishermen, tax collectors and average guys needed to be guided to grow into the fullest potential God had in mind for them, why shouldn't this process be one we both go through and eventually help others through over time?


Parents of children with varying diagnoses desperately need this mentoring.  Beginning by spending time with someone more mature and experienced, a mother or father continues to grow, not only in the daily care of that child, but also in personal spiritual growth.  That personal enrichment that the parent gains is then naturally poured into that child as well as others around the parent.  Eventually, if the mentoree is willing to personally mature, they will also become a valuable mentor.


Pray:  God, thank You that You made us for relationship with both yourself and each other!  Help me to grow by this example of mentoring that Jesus left me!


* Look for future posts on mentoring as SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES continues to develop a formal mentor program across the nation for parents of children with special needs.

**Join us this Thursday evening, 7:30 PM, CST as we enjoy a live chat with one another about PARENT MENTORS at http://tweetchat.com/room/spnmin

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Equal But Different

Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. Galatians 3:28

Parenting a child with special needs is multi-layered.  Any parent of kids with challenges will solidly affirm this.  Life never happens in a vacuum.  So the entire family experiences a different kind of life together on this journey.

One of the difficulties that repeatedly seems to rear its ugly head in these families is the adjustment of "typical" siblings.  While rivalry is a regular occurrence between any two siblings, there is definitely a whole new issue when one of them has a particular diagnosis.

The added time and attention required by the child with a disability can cause a definite wedge between siblings.  Family relationships can become downright strained as the sibling with no diagnosis is asked to be responsible beyond their years.  We can end up asking this child to forego their needs being met and to offer understanding that they don't have the cognitive maturity to comply with.  It is not unusual for anger and resentment to fester.  Questioning self-value can occur.  At the same time guilt for being healthy or for having negative feelings in the first place can further confuse the healthy sibling.

So, how do we help our children through one of the most difficult parts of living in a family with a child who has special needs?  Several things can help result in a much better outcome.
  1. Start by dealing with your own strong emotions as a parent.  If you're experiencing guilt, get help dealing with it.  Be willing to admit that you may be expecting too much of your typical child while favoring your child with unique needs.  Until you get yourself healthy, it's unreasonable to expect your family to have healthy relationships.
  2. Make time to calmly explain to your other child the difficult position you are in as well as the needs that challenge their brother or sister.  Affirm your love for them and acknowledge how difficult this can be for a healthy sibling.  Be willing to answer questions or just listen without condemnation.
  3. Carve out some special time just for your child who does not have a specific diagnosis.  Do some things that your child has expressed interest in.  One big sore spot in our house was that our son got to go to McDonald's after his long clinic days at the hospital while the others did not.  In my special time with each of the other kids, we went out to eat wherever they wanted.  It doesn't even have to be that big.  Just reading a book together or going to the park offers the time that is so desperately craved.
  4. Never wield the weapon of guilt!  Nothing can be more divisive than clobbering your healthy child over the head with the fact that they don't have any diagnosis to overcome.  When they have a complaint, hardship or injury, take it seriously.  Every human-being needs validation, and life is not a pain contest.
  5. Don't forget to teach what God has to say about siblings.  While we don't want to use God's word to make our children feel bad about their relationship with a brother or sister, it is an important place to find examples of good and bad that has happened in families since the dawn of time.  And stories like that of Joseph and his brothers or of Jacob and Esau can demonstrate to our kids that even in the worst situations, healing between those we're related to is always possible.
  6. Help them form their own good memories together.  In spite of the issues we deal with, we make sure to develop traditions that are ours alone.  Hobbies, trips or family stories are memories that your children can share amongst themselves even when you're not in the picture.  We even sent all three of our kids to a diagnosis-specific camp together for a week this summer.  There, they developed fun memories together that my husband and I will never be privy to.  The ride home was definitely more pleasant than it was on the way there!
  7. Recognize that much of this is typical sibling rivalry.  It gets difficult to tease out what's "normal" and what's not.  Yes, there are differences in your family, but if they weren't there, there may be another reason for the bickering.  Monitor the situation, but don't lay it all at the feet of the special need.
With these few steps, raising a family that loves both typical and not-so-average kids can become much more delightful.  These precious gifts from God are not the same, but they should know that they are equal in the eyes of both their heavenly Father and their earthly parents.

PRAY:  Lord, some days I feel like I'm raising Cain and Abel!  Help me to make these children understand that you have given them one another as a gift.  Lead me to raise well-adjusted kids who thrive in spite of any adversities they may face.


*Join us every Thursday night at 7:30 PM, CST to discuss faith and special needs at http://tweetchat.com/room/spnmin  For more information how TweetChat works, visit our Facebook event announcement at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=276508309043484 This Thursday's topic will be on "Helping Siblings Work Through Negative Emotions".

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lessons From 911

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe...  
(Hebrews 12:28, NIV)

Like so many of us, I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I had just dropped off my daughter for kindergarten at her private Christian school.  I returned home to my chores.  I heard the news on the radio as I was making my bed and tidying the room.  Originally, they thought it was a CESNA that had hit Tower 1.

"It really is a sight to see," the radio announcer out of Madison proclaimed.  "If you're near a TV you should turn it on."

I did.  And my life was forever changed.  Weren't all of ours?  I remember shouting out my bedroom window to my next door neighbor who was in her backyard, telling her what was happening.  Shortly after, I watched in disbelief as I witnessed the second plane hit on live television.  There were rumors of dozens more planes missing from radars, leading citizens to believe that the hijackings were massive.  The Pentagon was hit.  The plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania crashed.  All flights were grounded, including that of a dear friend who was home visiting from out of state.  She was stranded indefinitely at my house.  It felt like the world was going to end that day.

All I wanted was to get my girl home from school and hold her close.  I worried about access to life-saving medication for my son who was not quite a year-and-a-half old at the time.  I couldn't hear my husband's voice often enough over the phone.  Love of family reigned supreme on that day.

Now, a decade later, though the horror is as fresh to me as that of watching the first spire sink in implosion, I realize there are many powerful and positive lessons born from the tragedy.  Of course, without thought, priorities are quickly straightened out when the focus is turned towards survival.  The treasure of each person you know and love surfaces in humble gratitude.

Then there are inspirational stories like that of Michael Benfante who, along with a co-worker carried Tina Fansen down 68 stories in her wheelchair to safety right before the building collapsed.  Through his selfless act of kindness, he affirmed the value of every life, proving each worthy saving.

Additionally, there is the unity of the people at this time.  I remember peacefully coming together with an adversarial neighbor as we listened to Billy Graham's sermon on the radio during the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance a mere 3 days after the attack.  Church attendance around the nation increased.  And people returned to our only Sure Foundation.

As our troops eventually deployed, I even recall meeting at the entry to our subdivision where neighbors gathered to hold hands and pray.  We were truly "One nation, under God."

So what is the take-away from these memories a decade later?  I believe it is still, "...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land," (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)  And, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity," (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV)  We need these Christian attitudes and behaviors every bit as much as we did the day this nation was attacked.  Let us not fail to live this way and boldly share this message with others every day that we are granted on this earth.

PRAY:  Father, the shock and horror of September 11, 2001 left us with such transformed attitudes and behaviors.  Sadly, so many of those have faded over the past decade.  Help us to return to those values and live them out in humble, obedient gratitude without having to ever go through a national tragedy like this again.

~ Barb Dittrich