Monday, July 30, 2012

Blessings in the Trial

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen 
 and no cattle in the stalls,  
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
~Habakkuk 3:17-18~

Our last post, "What I Would Tell You -- The Heart of a Special Needs Mom" was one of our most read posts of all time.  Although the piece seeks to share with the typical public some of the hurts and challenges of being a family with a member who has special needs, this theme seemed to be lost on at least one reader who proclaimed on Twitter, "That woman who wrote that needs to talk to someone. Yes it is hard but my child is a blessing not a burden."  This comment motivates me to thank the reader for her sincere concern about my mental health status, and clarify that both this blog and the entire ministry it is attached to seeks to take parents from a place of being heavily burdened to the joy of seeing blessings in the storms.  

It's easy to look at many of the circumstances involved with raising children with special needs and feel heavily burdened.  No doubt, it is definitely hard.  However, there are precious things that we will enjoy in our journey that many other families will not.

The first blessing that came into our family when a chronic diagnosis arrived on our doorstep was the awareness of how precious life is.  When we consider the simple act of breathing, or nervous system function or our blood clotting, which the rest of the world seems to take for granted, we know first hand the complex miracle God has created in every human body.  And every day we have with the ones we love is a gift.

Another blessing to our family has been the immense gift of perspective.  We don't sweat the small stuff in quite the same way as others do.  God has been with us before and He will be with us again as we press on.  For example, hospital stays for life-threatening bleeds and appointments that last for hours or even series of days make those quick visits a breeze.  During a recent visit for a camp check-up, the nurse was apologizing for the bouncing back-and-forth between two exam rooms for an hour to get two of my children's visits completed.  I assured her, "Honey, our last doctor's appointment at Children's Hospital was 5 hours long.  This is nothing."  Our family tends to see that things could be much worse than what we are enduring because of the big-picture world in which we live.

Compassion is a blessing that has been poured out on us when we are struggling.  We have come to know some of the most terrific people in our lives through our most challenging times of adjusting to new IEPs or medical battles the kids are facing.  A kind word, a loving hug, some unexpected time to recharge our batteries when we least expected it are all ways people have been the hands and feet of Jesus to us.  Next week, through the kindness of donors we will never meet, our kids will be going to hemophilia camp for a week on scholarships provided by local foundations.  Their excitement can hardly be contained.  And I am so very grateful to see the unique experience that they come home and share with us in their camp stories when we pick them up.

Excuse me if this seems braggadocious, but my children, in turn, have become some of the most compassionate people I know.  Because they live with more than the average life challenges, they always seem to have their "radars on" for those who are suffering.  They have an awareness of people who they think may be on the autism spectrum or have cognitive diagnoses.  If they hear someone is in a hospital or has another type of trial, they are the first to encourage prayer and ask for an update on their status.  At the same time, they see the person inside, not the impaired wrapper that the person is living with.  Wheelchairs, walkers and the like don't intimidate them.  And they are the first to chastise any of their buddies at school who would dare to use the "R" word.

Along those same lines, each of our children has become an engaged US citizen through their involvement in legislative advocacy, especially for those with bleeding disorders.  They understand the implications of certain laws greater than most adults do.  And my eldest child had the great privilege of advocating for a federal law that she got to see passed, shortly after we had been in Washington, DC.  It is truly intriguing to see them form their own opinions on state and national policy at their young age.

My children also have an eternal perspective that many adults do not have.  While they each have a solid faith, I find myself most confounded by the depth of thought that my youngest child with serious social deficits, ADHD, SPD, asthma and severe allergies shares.  As with every other thought in her world, you never know what is going to come out of her mouth at the strangest of times.  But when she shares her thoughts on faith and eternity, it always takes my breath away because I know she walks closely with the Lord, beyond what I can perceive.

I could go on and on about how blessed I feel parenting our three children.  The goodness God has poured out upon our lives never ends.  Sometimes, words escape me as I am in awe of the unexpected joy I am privileged to witness.

The simple fact is that we are all a product of our circumstances.  And how we respond to those circumstances shapes us into the individuals we become.  The goal of my husband and myself has always been to raise kids who love life and become the best they can be personally, whatever that may look like.  To our joy and surprise, they each are funny, energetic and creative people who are poised to become the leaders of tomorrow.  

Does that mean that they do not endure anguish and trials that weigh them down?  Certainly not!  And our last post sought to share some of those nuances for those who lack empathy.  Despite our joy and blessings, life is frequently still very hard.  Our family, our children will always need a bit more support, understanding and compassion than the typical person. 

The opportunity to proclaim, "We are so very blessed," in the midst of our trials is what we hope will point other people to the Source of our joy in the storm.  The Holy Spirit alone is the one who has enabled us to see the half-full part of the glass, diminishing the rather human tendency to fixate on the half-empty part with a huge chip on our shoulder.  While we struggle financially, the joy our Savior has poured into us makes us feel richer than the millionaires that surround us who have not faced the same.

It is a fine line sharing the reality of this life we live with children who have medical, emotional or cognitive diagnoses.  We want others to gain acceptance and compassion by hearing what we endure while we still conveying our positive gratitude.  With God's help, may we all find that balance in reaching others, not oversimplifying or downplaying and at the same time, not hesitating to praise the One who makes this a beautiful life with these precious children.

PRAY:  Every good and perfect gift is from you, Father!  I never would have chosen to have a child with special needs prior to becoming a parent.  But You have shown me greater joy in the midst of our circumstances.  Thank You for the precious child(ren) You have blessed me with and the life You have given us together.  Only You can take something difficult and make it so beautiful!

Friday, July 27, 2012

What I Would Tell You -- The Heart of a Special Needs Mom

“Do for others what you would want them to do for you. This is the meaning of the Law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets." (Matthew 7:12, ERV)

It occurred to me today as I was running around trying to return a glass baking dish that someone had delivered a meal to us in back in April after my son had been hospitalized with a bleed in his hip joint.  "Why do people who are kind enough to bring you a meal when you're in need never think to bring it to you in a disposable container?"  I wondered if people who have the best intentions of trying to relieve our stress ever thought of how much stress they add when we are living in a crisis and yet have to get their prized dishes back to them.

As I mulled this over in my mind, I realized, there are probably many of the nuances of raising a child with a chronic illness or disorder that would never occur to the average person.  For instance, consider yourself extremely lucky if you get a thank you note from any of us.  Will I call, Facebook or e-mail you?  Sure.  But a formal, handwritten note is typically beyond what our family life will allow.  I am too busy either trying to fill out yet another set of paperwork for one of my kids or pay some past due bills to write personal notes any more. 

In fact, there are many things that the demands of various special needs edge out of our lives.  Want to visit an immaculate home with spotless carpet and new paint?  Just pass by our place if that's what you're looking for.  With all of the doctors appointments, treatments, behavior management, insurance work and applications that never seem to end, a clean house seems like a distant memory.

Forget asking us to go to a sporting event or an expensive vacation or dinner.  All of our "disposable income" goes to doctors and therapists.  In fact, I find it very humbling knowing that people whisper in disgust behind our backs because we can't reciprocate on footing the bill when someone has been so kind to pay for our way on something.  Everything we have is a monument to the good provision of God.  He gives what we need -- no more, no less.

What else would I tell you?  Families like us always need help.  We are in this for the long haul.  This isn't a temporary condition that will get better some day.  I know that makes you feel uncomfortable, but we didn't ask for this.  Please don't always make us beg for assistance.  That also adds stress.  What a blessing it would be if someone treated us the way they would want to be treated!  The sweetest relief in my twelve-and-a-half years of special needs parenting have come the very few times when someone unexpectedly showed up at our door with a meal or volunteered to take the kids to give us a break or said, "I'm going to help you clean your house," all without expecting anything in return.

It can get so isolating.  Being stuck five hours in a small, windowless exam room every six months for a hematology visit is only the beginning of our alone-ness.  Because we are a high-maintenance bunch or our daughter with ADHD, SPD, asthma and allergies is a handful, we don't get included in the fun we see our friends enjoying together.  Since our son can't play many sports, the friends that have moved on pursuing such activities have left us by the wayside.  When there is a medical situation, we can't make it to church.  It sure would be nice to know that our church family misses us at times like that.

I am not trying to make excuses or throw a pity party.  The fact is, our lives are just hard.  It takes every ounce of strength to walk uprightly by faith when other children ostracize your child or other parents judge you or you are in the health room at school for your second or third visit this week.  I can't sign up for the PTA or prepare the Campbell's Soup labels to raise funds for the school.  I cannot help with Girl Scouts or chaperone at the school dance because I need every spare minute just to try and keep up with basic demands.

Our lives are messy.  As with so many other things in life, there is so much you don't see.  But we feel incredibly blessed.  All we have to offer you is ourselves.  And if you can handle that, you can be with us. We try to generously give ourselves as we are able.  We know how much we have been given, and we want to give back.

Oh, dear.  I've said too much now, haven't I?  Well, I guess I'm used to others shaking their heads at me by now.  But if I could leave you with one thing from my heart it is this -- Little things mean so much.  Through our struggles, God has stripped us of the unimportant things in life and replaced them with what really matters.  So, in the final analysis, any act of kindness shown to us is deeply appreciated.  Unlike the average person, we understand that every little gesture is a big deal.  Simple understanding, acceptance, love and compassion is what we need.  There is much joy to our lives, but that doesn't mean we're not hurting.  If you find it in your heart, a simple hug would even do.

PRAY:  Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord.  Help us as humans to treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saving Your Sanity In The Summer

All of Moses’ Teachings are summarized in a single statement,
"Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” ~ Galatians 5:14, GW

The word "summer" engenders all sorts of joy for families around the nation.  Picnics and pools, trips and treats, family and fun all come to mind when people think of the months of June, July and August.  The opportunity to relax and take life at a slower pace tends to bring a smile to the face and happy anticipation to the heart.

However, that's not always the experience of parents raising children with medical, psychological, or cognitive diagnoses.  While our hopes lay in being able to enjoy a typical summer on the beach or at a baseball game, our reality can look quite different.  Months of 24/7 with no break in caring for our children, their disorders and their behaviors can actually make summer a tough time of year for us parents.  Exhaustion abounds as we try to participate in the sweet parts of average life while still trying to manage care of our children.

So, I have to ask, What are you doing about it?  Do you even have an awareness or acceptance that this is a challenging time of the year for you?  Are you maintaining boundaries with your children to keep the stress to a minimum?  And are you being intentional about creating any time for yourself this summer?

God tells us numerous times in His word to "Love your neighbor as yourself." (highlighting mine)  You are in no position to love another if you are not caring for your own well-being.  Here are a few helpful ideas:
  • Take a walk prior to the kids rising or after they are asleep to steal some time to enjoy the weather and clear your head.
  • When your spouse is home or another person who can care for your child is available, schedule some girlfriend time for coffee, a movie or even window shopping.  Having that adult time with peers you love is always a treat that will fill your emotional tank.
  • Get a book that is not related to special needs that you've always wanted to read, and spend time with it this summer.  Even if you have to put it in the bathroom to read a page at a time, filling your mind with something other than the challenges with your child gives better perspective and brings some personal enjoyment.
  • Avail yourself of scholarships to send your child to a week of overnight camp, day camp or other daytime programming.  This will allow you to carve out some refreshment for yourself while your child is broadening their experience.
  • Have a summer play date with other families in the same position as you.  No one understands better than another who has walked a mile in your shoes.  Being able to hang out on a patio with one another's children casually can offer terrific relief.  With a small group of friends like this, there is no shame to having special dietary requirements or having to scoot out early.  No explanation of behaviors or treatments is necessary.
These are just a few ideas to prime the pump.  The point is to be deliberate about filling yourself to be poured out another day.  Of course, spending time in God's word is a must for keeping our sanity, but it will only be possible if you plan for the interruptions that summer inevitably brings.  I urge you to come up with your own strategies for this challenge today!

PRAY:  Father, thank You that You care for me!  Too often I get wrapped up in the serious demands of my life, especially when there is no break in the summer.  Grant me wisdom in remembering to also care for myself, so that I can be the effective parent you want me to be.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paperwork Mountain

“...I am completely worn out!  How can I last?" (Proverbs 30:1, CEV)

Of all the jobs that weigh us down as parents raising children with special needs, I would have to say that the seemingly endless filling-out of paperwork has to be one of our more daunting tasks.  There is the government paperwork to fill out if your child is receiving Medicaid or Katie Beckett Program assistance.  This set runs at least 14 pages per year for my son.  If you are enrolled in any help from other medical assistance organizations, that is a whole different set of paperwork, which easily runs 4-6 pages for most.  The extra medical forms for school seem to be increasing in our district and may well be in yours.  This year I will fill out 5 sets of forms with no less than 2 pages each for both my son and my youngest daughter.  If your child wants to go to camp, you can count on another 8-12 pages along with a required medical exam and updated vaccination records.  (Oh, copies of that are needed for school as well!)  If you are fortunate enough to find a church with an inclusion ministry, there will be at least 4 pages of forms to complete, and you may be asked to share a copy of your child's IEP or 504 Plan.  And organizations like the one I lead most certainly request 4-6 pages of paperwork in order to allow participation in evening respite programs.

I am sure that I am leaving other required paperwork out of this litany, but what I have is more than enough to take anyone's breath away.  Is it any wonder parents like us frequently live in a continual state of overwhelm?  Just managing the disorder or diagnosis is more than enough without the part-time job of endlessly filling out forms.

While it is a necessary part of our jobs as parents, the Lord hears our cries for help and offers us small blessings through a variety of tools.  For starters, if you are not keeping your child's medical information updated and stored on a USB drive already, I urge you to use one of your choosing as soon as possible.  There are a wide variety of medical alert drives available in both dog tag or wrist band styles to choose from. also provides reviews, allowing buyers to weigh the pros and cons of each devise to make the wisest choice for their own personal situation.

Another type of tool you may find incredibly helpful is a medical information binder such as My Medical Assistant or Green Pear Health's Medical Records Organizer.  This type of system will allow you to keep everything in one place for your entire family, which is particularly helpful if you have more than one child with a special need like our family does.  Immunizations, visits to specialists, allergies, and even medical bills for tax or reimbursement purposes can all be centrally accessed when using such a system.

If your state has such a program available, a Patient At Risk Program, such as Wisconsin is currently piloting, can be a real life saver.  Allowing professionals to "break the seal" and access your child's medical information when you cannot be reached in an emergency is, in my estimation, a must for kids with special needs.   If you are uncertain to whether or not your state has such a program, merely contact a children's hospital in your area.  They are sure to know.

Overwhelmed No More by veteran special needs mom, Joan Celebi, has become a favorite recommendation of mine over the years as well.  While you must make the time to get through Joan's workshop-in-a-book, it is time well spent that will eventually save you time in the long run.  After all, part of that immense stress that comes from completing reams and reams of paperwork is due to the fact that there are already so many demands on our complex lives.

Another personal tip I recommend is the simple task of photo-copying everything you fill out.  This helps circumvent the need to strain our brains and thumb through piles of papers to uncover facts that we already used on a previous set of forms.  I even keep extra copies of our Medicaid and insurance cards scanned in to my computer.  

Filling out forms incrementally over a period of time can help conquer this large task as well.  Filling out 14 pages in one day can intimidate us into procrastination.  But we can surely fill out 2 pages today, and perhaps another 2 pages a few days from now.  This may help scale the job down into bite-sized pieces that lessen stress.

Ultimately, rest and trust in God.  When He says in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB), "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight," He means ALL your ways!  Nothing is too big or too small for our God -- even the unpleasant task of paperwork for our children.  How blessed we are that He cares and sends us help!

PRAY:  Lord, if there is one thing that weighs me down, it is all of the paperwork involved in raising this child that you blessed me with.  I can't do it without Your help!  Fill me with your peace and discernment to accomplish this task.

Friday, July 20, 2012


"...I will fight against whoever fights you, and I will rescue your children." ~ Isaiah 49:25, GNT

"The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly." ~ Psalm 103:6, NLT

Few parents of children with typical kids can perceive the amount of injustice parents of children with special diagnoses face.  Whereas the average parent may find one school year where their child has a teacher that has it in for their child, or may have 1 bullying situation to contend with, this sort of thing can be a constant for moms and dads like us.

In countless ways, we find our challenged kids suffering from repeated injustice.  Frightfully common is the doctor who doesn't take us or our child seriously in dealing with their disease or disorder.  Insurance companies engage us in perpetual battle to get claims accepted and paid.  Schools frequently make parents fight for every morsel of accommodation to which their child is entitled.  Friends seem to be a never-ending dilemma, and our kids can be painfully isolated or ostracized.  Churches refuse to get out of their comfort zone to learn to include kids like ours.  And even our extended family can be unkind with the way they treat our precious offspring.

What is a parent to do?  When you read this brief litany of injustices, it's easy to see why so many parents live their lives in a constant state of bitterness, anger and frustration.  It's an enormous piece of the stress we bear in our unique role.  But God intends good for our lives, not an endlessly resentful attitude. (see Jeremiah 29:11)  And by trusting in His Holy Spirit, resolution can come.

There are positive ways to push back against the inordinate amount of injustice our children face:
  • Don't do a thing apart from God.  As my friend, Pastor Joe Medina, phrased it, "The best respite you will ever receive is on your knees."  Go to your Abba Daddy when there is trouble.  He cares about your every concern.  And cling to the faithfulness of the promises He gives you in His word.  Trust the Lord to lead you through any challenges your child faces in any matter.  He will lead you and give you wise discernment.
  • Become a calm, informed advocate.  Know what your rights are in the school system, medical system, insurance system, and other areas of basic living.  I frequently refer people to the Wright's Law website, which gives terrific resources and information to parents, especially concerning their child's educational rights.  Once you know what you and your child are legally entitled to, calmly face the situation at hand, even bringing another person with you if needed.  When your emotions are running high, I often find it helpful to start the conversation with the statement, "I want to apologize right now because I'm really upset, and I'm probably going to lose my cool."  While that may sound crazy, I have found it to instantly diffuse the situation for all involved, and sometimes even evoke ice-breaking laughter.
  • Educate others around you.  Mistreatment is often born of ignorance.  When you teach others what the different part of your life looks like, they gain understanding and often, compassion.  What they may originally see as bad behavior, they can now see as a symptom of a specific diagnosis.  What they once viewed as "babying," they can now see as an accommodation that is a matter of life-or-death for your child.  While we are not always up to the task, when we are strong, we must find the fortitude to share how we adapt our lives and then show them that a full, happy life is possible with those adaptations.  This is how we break down barriers.
  • Establish emotional boundaries.  If you are a regular reader of this devotional, you know that I am a huge fan of the Boundaries series by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.   This may mean that you learn a new method of behavior that protects your family from the bad while you are also building up the good.  Asserting yourself with unkind relatives or friends, walking away from the mistreatment of others, discerning what is acceptable or unacceptable, or even asking for help are all skills that involve boundaries.  As the guardian of your child, a parent must learn these important methods of managing interactions with others.
In the final analysis, dealing with injustice is a life-long learning process.  Like a muscle, your coping skills improve with every workout.  Accepting that this is just a regular part of your life will help quell the anxiety you feel rise up in situations where you or your child is wronged.  And helping another parent with that piece of their lives, in turn, will help redeem the frustrating angst you may experience.

PRAY:  Jesus, you know what it is to suffer tremendous injustice.  You suffered just like me in every way, but were without sin.  Guide me as I learn to deal with the many trials that come up against my precious family.  I put my trust in You and the promises You give to comfort me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Siblings Rising

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~ Proverbs 18:24, NIV

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. ~ Proverbs 17:17, NIV

Over the past decade of ministry, I frequently see one of the persistent topics that brings parents great anguish is the issue of siblings who live with a child that has special needs. The emotional conflict parents carry internally regarding this challenge cannot be underestimated.  Guilt weighs heavily when parents feel unable to offer equal time to all of their children.  Yet, frustration festers that the "typical" child doesn't understand what their sibling with special needs is going through.  It is not uncommon for mothers and fathers to mistakenly make comments to the healthy child like, "How would you like to be going through what your brother/sister is going through?"  This unwittingly demeans and heaps guilt on the child without a diagnosis.

The organization I have the humble privilege of leading has long been a proponent of Don Meyer's Sibling Support Project which serves to deal with this inevitable challenge.  I would hazard a guess that this may even be one of our most used secular resources.  We have consistently held SibShops in conjunction with a local YMCA to meet the need in the families we serve.  And even when parents don't have such workshops available in their area, I frequently recommend the books and resources offered by this organization as excellent comfort to those dealing with the heartache of these issues.

Yet, as much as we seek help in this arena, I often smile to myself seeing what benefits God has brought forth in my children.  Because I have two children with special needs whose diagnoses are completely different, that sibling effect can even occur in my affected kids to the same degree it does in their eldest sister who has no issues.  Learning to live with a brother who has severe hemophilia and anxiety disorder has transformed my son's two sisters.  Seeing him endure IV infusions three times per week, frequent doctor's visits and multiple hospitalizations has made his sisters:
  • Far more compassionate towards those who suffer.
  • Discerning about the seriousness of different illnesses or chronic conditions.
  • Fervent in prayer for those who are battling physical issues.
  • Virtually fearless in approaching anyone in a wheelchair or with a physical disability. 
  • Quick to ask questions in order to gain understanding about the condition.
Learning to live with a little sister who has severe allergies to virtually all antibiotics, some foods, molds, trees and weeds, who has ADHD and sensory processing disorder has made my youngest's older sister and brother:
  • Understand that there is much going on that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
  • Have to develop adaptation skills in dealing with difficult people.
  • Learn that people's actions don't always reflect their heart.
  • Quick to identify and want to get help for those they perceive as having a "special need."
  • Look out for one another because danger can sneak up in the most unexpected ways.
These are just a few of the ways that my kids have been shaped by their sibling's diagnoses.  I have watched them go from resentful and frustrated, to being spoiled by getting to participate in family activities geared towards those with special needs, to becoming sensitive and loving people, and finally, to giving back by volunteering.

There is no doubt that dealing with the issues surrounding brothers and sisters of those with various diagnoses can be immensely stressful.  However, too often we fix our vision on the half-empty part of the glass.  We can grow children of unexpected character who are tomorrow's leaders simply because they grew up with a sibling who had special needs.  My prayer for us all is that we would be neither too harsh nor feel too sorry for these kids as we usher them through their journey to adulthood.

PRAY:  Lord, too often I feel pity for my "typical" child.  There doesn't seem to be enough of me to go around to the point that I can give each of my children the attention they need.  And still, I get so angry with the unreasonable expectations of my unaffected child.  Only by Your help can I work through this dilemma and start to see good come from it.  I put this difficult aspect of raising a child with special needs into Your hands today.

(Pictured above:  Charlie, 12; Lexi, 15; Sophie, 10) 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deep Roots

"Good will come to the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord.  He will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the river. It will not be afraid when the heat comes but its leaves will be green. It will not be troubled in a dry year, or stop giving fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NLV)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the slight drought besetting the area in which I live, and how that translates into a spiritual analogy.  In just a few short weeks, this same dryness has now been declared a severe drought in my area of Wisconsin.  Burning bans have been joined by watering bans with even wheat fields starting on fire merely by being harvested.  And God has brought forth additional spiritual lessons as a result.

One point of curiosity to me in this weather is the odd look of established trees and shrubs still bearing their lush greenery as lawns and fields surrounding them are so desperately dead and dry.  This can only be attributed to one essential difference -- deep roots.  The grasses, most flowers and young plants have fragile footing that stands very close to the surface, making them far more susceptible to drought.  Whereas large trees have deep, deep root systems that run several feet under the ground both protecting them from topical dryness and enabling them to seek water tables that run far beneath the earth's veneer.

This example serves as a solid practical reminder to me that tending to my spiritual depth in all seasons will prevent much personal suffering, shriveling and ugliness in life's arid seasons.  (See "Parched Earth," posted June 27, 2012)  God was keenly aware of these cycles of the earth when He inspired much of His written word.  Jesus promises in both John, Chapter 4 and John, Chapter 7 that He gives "living water" to those who seek Him.  That same "living water" was spoken of in Jeremiah, Chapters 2 and 17 as well as Zechariah, Chapter 14.  And the eternal provision of "living water" is described in Revelation 7.  The term "living water" is one that those who dwell in the Middle East can relate to because they live in a dry climate.  This two word term refers to bubbling streams and copious rains rather than the more common stagnant ponds or cisterns to which they are accustomed. (I recommend The New Unger's Bible Dictionary for studying such phrases.)  The bottom line is that God alone is the provider of active, life-giving needs, and deep attachment to Him helps us to thrive no matter what the circumstances.

In meditating on what my surroundings look like now, I want to be like the man described in Jeremiah 17:7-8 or in Psalm 1.  I don't want to be shallow and lifeless in the seasons that tend to scorch us.  To me, this deeply rooted analogy also brings me to Matthew 13:3-23 with the parable of the sower.  In particular, verse 21 of this passage demonstrates how easily our faith can be uprooted when we are merely living on the surface.

Once again, I refer back to my post of June 27, 2012, knowing that my time in God's word, prayer and faith-filled relationships helps me to grow and maintain those deep roots.  And as this summer's weather shows me, even the established trees with deep roots need a continual soaking or they tend to experience undue stress and lose a few leaves out of season.  It won't kill the bush or arbor, but for a time, it won't look as it should.  These reminders should compel us to steadily remain in that holy habit of keeping those "roots" established near fresh, running waters.  How are you doing with that?

PRAY:  God, it's the summer, and there are so many fun busy things to do.  And the kids are home from school and want more from me.  It's so easy to forget to carve out some time to be alone with You or maintain my good spiritual habits when my routine is different.  But the drought could be just around the corner, and my well would be dry.  Remind me and beckon me each day to come sit and fill my heart with Your life-giving waters!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A New Routine

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
~Isaiah 43:19, NIV~

After being the parent of children with special needs for over a decade now, you would think nothing would surprise me any more, but it did.  I had taken my son for his twice-a-year hematology visit, lasting 5 hours long, on Monday.  My youngest daughter, who has multiple diagnoses, was due to visit the asthma/allergy clinic the following Tuesday.  I had expected it to be a blessedly quick in-and-out after the grueling appointment the day before.  I was wrong.  It ended up being a two hour appointment with disturbing revelations.

Given the fact that we live with certain diagnoses in our home that involve major trauma, I unwittingly judged the children's medical concerns against the more serious crises, blowing off what I perceived to be lesser issues.  I discovered how foolish that was when my daughter's breathing test revealed that her asthma was not adequately under control.  She also confessed in the office that she wasn't reporting her attacks to me or treating them as she should be, a very serious matter indeed.  Furthermore, the frequency with which we were using decongestants revealed that her allergies were also not properly managed.  We ended up leaving the office with three new medicines added to the four she is already taking, and a whole new routine to get a handle on.

I'll admit it -- I was surprised, discouraged and a bit overwhelmed.  With her sensory processing disorder, I was concerned that she would tolerate some of the new treatments.  We were also bound to leave for a bit of a holiday vacation after the appointment, so this would mean managing medications and trying to establish a routine at a time where routines are typically thrown out the window.  I also felt troubled that my judgment had been off regarding the seriousness of this situation.  

Yet, God spoke to me in the stress of trying to follow a fresh regimen.  He lead the way through it.  This was no difficulty, but a different place that He is working in our lives.  What a blessing those medications are!  Our daughter also learned a valuable lesson in reporting her breathing troubles to us on a timely basis because the new treatments made her feel better almost instantly.  And yet again, the Lord gave us another set of life experiences that we can use to build a bridge with other struggling parents.

Eventually, our unfamiliar routine will become a part of our daily rituals.  At that point, we will surely find God doing something different to direct us once again to open our eyes to the various corners of His work.  Until that time, I know He is blazing the trail before us, making things more manageable as we sometimes-wearily follow Him.

PRAY:  Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You, not on the challenge of changes that disturb our routine.  I don't want to miss any new things You are doing.  Bring to my mind the fact that You go before me in everything.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Purse

Children are an inheritance from the Lord.  They are a reward from him.  The children born to a man when he is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. ~ Psalm 127:3-4, GW

Facebook is a great tool.  Our ministry uses it to connect many isolated parents to resources and hope.  But it can also be haunting, bringing people from our past back into our lives when we perhaps haven't been connected to them in years.

About a week ago, I had a person whose children I had once babysat for, whom I worked side-by-side with at my first real job, and whom I had sung in the church choir with suddenly send me a "friend" request out of the blue.  Strange, I thought, as I hadn't been in touch with the person, probably in three decades.  Abandoning any hesitation, I accepted her request and found myself chatting with her again.  She is still in the area where I grew up, so much of our conversation centered around the sudden death of my father this past year and the moving of my mother into assisted living.  At one point, she asked me my current address so she could send me something regarding my father.  I gave it to her, and we concluded a pleasant time of catching up with one another.

A few days later, I was shocked to see a huge padded envelope arrive from this woman in the mail.  As I opened it and read her letter, I was brought to tears.  This woman had visited my parents' estate sale and purchased all of my father's ties.  Her cousin is a gifted crafter, who makes old ties into purses.  These ties of my father's were destined for such a use, and I was the blessed recipient of one of them.  I hugged the small satchel to my chest as I wept.

I remember seeing my father in the very tie that was used for this bag.  He was a frequent wearer of this accessory which most males now despise.  He was a co-owner of a car parts business for most of his adult life and wore a tie to work every day in his warehouse.  Every Sunday for church, every special occasion, he was nicely dressed like a responsible, respectable gentleman of his era would be known to do.  

While a neck tie is just one of life's many "things," it is yet another reminder of a person we treasure.  I know that for me, this purse made out of a piece of his attire evokes strong thoughts of my father's personal character.  It reminds me of much of the powerful legacy he left me.  My father was all about pressing on in hard work.  He believed in applying oneself and using the gifts God gave us in honest effort.  He was a man of quiet, but solid faith.  Personal prayer and steady service at his church were something to which he was always committed.  He was also devoted to simple, quiet, selfless giving.  "What can I do for ya?" was a phrase that frequently came from his mouth.  And in the ways he knew how, he was there to carry a person through life's difficulties.

Looking at such a gift I can't help but wonder, what sort of legacy my scarves or my husband's ties would remind our children of.  Would they evoke thoughts of a good God or false faith?  Would they remind our children of the hope we have tried to share during the hopeless seasons of our lives or disappointed bitterness?  Would they bring to memory acts of selfless devotion and reckless obedience or selfish indulgence and a lack of love?

Being so close to our children with special needs gives us a unique opportunity to leave them a powerful inheritance beyond what typical kids enjoy.  We are much more available to model the hope, grace, joy and faithfulness of Jesus than those who don't walk in our shoes.  I pray that when I am finally home praising God in His glorious heaven that my own children will be left with as precious and inspirational memories as I had evoked by that sweet purse.  How about you?

PRAY:  Lord, help me to be a good steward of the precious child(ren) you have given me to raise.  When I want to give up, help me to recall how I would want my child to remember me once I am gone.  And help me to treat them like the precious inheritance You intended them to be for me.