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!