Friday, August 31, 2012

Changing Our World One Life At a Time

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God."
~2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV~

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.
But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
 ~ Mother Teresa~

The other day we had my son's 504 plan meeting with his 7th grade staff to prepare for the new school year.  What a far cry it was from the first inservice we had done with a treatment center nurse and the staff of his 4 year old preschool so many years ago!  I remember it like it was yesterday, wanting to crawl under the table as the nurse proceeded to tell his teachers that his clotting factor was made from Chinese hamster ovaries.  Did they really need to know that?  I recall how deeply disappointed I was at the entire experience, and how little it had done to really build understanding and acceptance of my son.

From that point on, I had vowed that I would do every inservice by myself, so I could correctly direct things and better help faculty to develop a comfort level.  While I homeschooled him in both kindergarten and 1st grade (a completely gratifying experience, I might add), I was fully prepared when I returned him to public school.  Good thing, as had I not been ready, the mortified look on his 2nd grade teacher's face at our inservice would have left me hopeless.  Thankfully, things went much better this time.  Teachers and other allied staff asked good questions.  Thus commenced a year where both adults and children whom we came into contact with daily, got to know this charming young man and the mysterious diagnosis that came along with him.

Our son developed a new best friend, his dearest buddy to this day.  The other kids in the community got to know him for who he was, not just what he had.  Every year they began to grow in their understanding of this distinct individual and his rare diagnosis that many fear in ignorance.

I won't kid you, there have been years that have been absolute hell.  His 3rd grade year was marked by a dear teacher who did not have control of her difficult class.  He was physically bullied by a child on the autism spectrum, which was difficult to work through.  Another time, I had to race to school as he was found during quiet reading time asleep in a puddle of his own blood.  Still, Christ used those experience,s as we persevered, to teach both ourselves and everyone around us so much more.

Transition to intermediate school certainly wasn't simple either.  A larger school with twice the children made things interesting.  We had to begin all over with completely new faculty.  New adaptations had to be made as this age group of males is notorious for slamming one another into lockers.  Last year we tested another  new set of accommodations, attending school in a wheelchair and with a PICC line placed in his arm.  Again, every previous year we had spent with cooperative school staffers and fellow students, only stretched the understanding and acceptance of each life touched by our son.  One year built upon another as concern replaced fear and compassion replaced rejection.

At this years 504, everyone in the small conference room laughed as they awaited our son's annual demonstration of how the clotting cascade works through the use of a domino chain.  Confidence from fellow colleagues gave buoyancy to the two new staff members who learned of how they may need to adjust in this new school year.  It had to be one of the shortest, happiest school meetings of our lives.

I left sensing that we are changing the world one life at a time.  This change we bring is not only because of hemophilia.  The disorder is merely a vehicle to break down barriers, dispel myths, build understanding and compassion.  Because of the suffering of this family and the Savior we love, we carry the Gospel message with us through every little piece of this journey we endure.  When school staff sees me laugh rolling my eyes or singing circus music through chaos, that is Christ in me.  I couldn't do that without Him.  That sweet boy's demeanor and genuine leadership tendencies are born of the struggles he has navigated holding on to his Maker's hand.  Even though he is young, he knows Where his help comes from.  As our family works with teachers, school nurses and administration, rather than coming at them with guns a-blazing, they witness the difference Jesus can make in a life.

That is our unique gift as parents of children with special needs.  People will listen to us in ways they never would hear the average person.  We have a credibility that comes from our degree earned at the university of a challenging life.  The distinct opportunity is there, ripe for the picking, to dispel the myths that individuals may have picked up along the way about God being harsh or earning our way to heaven or not being good enough to approach our Creator.  We are privileged ambassadors, image bearers of a merciful, loving, tender God who cares deeply about each of his precious children.  And because of that role, we can build a better alliance each year that passes, between that one life at a time and the Savior who loves them so passionately.

PRAY:  "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen"
 ~ Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi~

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Teaching Our Children the Importance of Prayer

 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:  ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
~ Jeremiah 33:2-3, NIV~

It's a natural part of being a Christian parent.  We go through the ritual of prayer as a matter of course.  If our goal is to have our children's faith become their own, then we are deliberate about teaching our children why we pray and the importance of prayer at a young age.  But raising a child with special needs can certainly add a new twist to this esteemed duty of parenting.  Having two of three children with completely different special needs, I can tell you that there are different challenges to teaching a child with a chronic illness or physical disability the importance of prayer versus the challenges of teaching a child with cognitive or emotional diagnoses.  Allow me to illustrate by sharing with you the interesting journey I have traveled with my own children.

Our son's diagnosis of severe hemophilia at birth in 2000 immediately impressed upon me the critical nature of prayer in his life.  Knowing that his disorder could, at times, be life-threatening, there was no second thought that his only hope would be found in the Lord.  From the second I first cradled him in my arms, I modeled prayer by praying over him and for him.  I would fold his chubby little baby hands and pray with him in just the same way I did with my eldest child, but there was a difference.  Before he would receive one of his thousands of intravenous needle pokes, we would pray for help, comfort and success before the infusion.  With something this central to the core of his life, the importance of speaking to Jesus through prayer was more implied than taught.  

I find it hard to talk about teaching my children the importance of prayer without also talking about introducing them to God's word.  Sharing the Bible was an essential part of my children's spiritual growth from the day they were born as well.  Beginning with age appropriate cloth baby books, then board books and so forth, we spent time reading Bible verses together daily, until my children could read on their own.  We would study both at the breakfast table and in our homeschooling.  My insights, coupled with practical lessons made God's love letter come alive for all of us.  

Naturally, this Bible reading led to teaching the kids to pray Scripture.  Returning to my son's prayer before infusing, I will tell you that years of crises and pain have left him with great anxiety.  But even so, he goes through a ritual of visualization praying, "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength, " (Philippians 4:13) calming himself to press on through difficulty.  And when life gets to be too much for a young man of his tender age, I have heard him crying for Jesus' return.

While our son's prayer life is a powerful story in and of itself, our youngest daughter's development has been no less inspiring.  Hers was a high risk pregnancy, requiring me to be off my feet for the final four months of gestation.  It was a tumultuous time, but God grew me in mighty ways.  Transformed to be the mother of this treasure, prayer is the only thing that has carried us through raising this unique girl.  From early on, while appearing otherwise typical, I couldn't use a toilet without her taking off through the neighborhood wearing nothing but a diaper.  She suffered from ear infections that repeatedly ended with severe allergic reactions to the antibiotics prescribed.  There were times when I frankly thought I would lose my mind.

Her spiritual formation was challenging.  Because of her diagnosis, our daughter has difficulty with "theory of mind" or the ability to see things from another person's viewpoint.  She can also be somewhat "flat" with certain emotional responses.  So often, I wondered if anything was sinking in.  She is bashful about praying out loud and because of her severe ADHD which cannot be treated with medications, her Bible reading is mostly distracted.   Persistence and adaptation were the key to teaching this precious daughter the importance of prayer.  If it meant we had to keep it short, we kept it short.  If we had to move, we danced.  Music especially appealed to her, so we sang.

At a young age, she asked to be baptized.  I wrestled with allowing her to do so.  My concern?  I didn't think I was seeing fruit.  We would study the Bible, pray together, and then she would haul off and hit her brother or sister.  I finally got on the phone and talked to my friend, Dr. Steve Grcevich, hoping for some wisdom to give me clarity.  He tested my thoughts, like a good brother in Christ would do.  "Did you instantly produce fruit when you received Jesus as your Savior?"  Suddenly, my concerns seemed foolish.  After discussing it further, I made the decision to let her be baptized.

Since that time, her faith life has grown richer.  The endless questions that come from her less-than-typical brain leave me in awe.  What amazement to see God reach a child with cognitive and emotional challenges in a unique way!  She bows deeply in prayer at dinner, and brings her prayer concerns to her family.  It may be bullying because of her differences at school.  It may be a wounded animal.  But she knows that the One she wants to flee to with her concerns is Jesus.  And she thanks Him for things the rest of us might take for granted.

The bottom line is that prayer is an essential part of an intimate, conversational relationship with our Maker.  Teaching my children that has been one of the highest callings of my life.  Whether our children are verbal or non-verbal, fully mobile or physically challenged, God wants to engage His precious creations in a unique way.  No one knows your child like you do.  Find that special something that connects them in a remarkable and special way to their Only Hope.  Model, read the Bible together, pray Scripture together, persevere and adapt.  You will never spend your time more wisely.

PRAY:  “Lord, teach us to pray..."  (Luke 11:1)  And Father, make me a good steward of the precious child You have given me.  Thank You for the privilege of teaching my child the importance of prayer.

Monday, August 27, 2012

God Doesn't Get Stressed Out!

He will not let you fall;
    your protector is always awake.

The protector of Israel
    never dozes or sleeps.
~Psalm 121:3-4, GNT~

Have you ever had one of those times when you are studying God's word and a spiritual revelation washes over you like it never has before?  It's not that the truth wasn't always there to begin with, but a new, and often simple anchor to your faith is suddenly uncovered.  That is the sort of experience I had in my devotional time this morning.

I was studying both Psalm 63 and Psalm 65.  In these passages, I read of the Lord's might, power, and awesome glory.  It took my breath away as I contemplated His amazing ability to create, to forgive, to care for His good earth, to satisfy hearts, and to protect His creation.  When I got to the verbal picture in Psalm 63, verse 7 of rejoicing in the protective "shadow of your wings" like a little chick in its mothers protection, and in verse 8 being upheld as I cling to Him, the thought suddenly jumped alive for me.  God does this sort of thing for every single one of us who take our shelter in Him, and He never gets stressed out!

When the bad things of life pursue us, our Maker is there to shelter us and lift us up.  Danger may be near, but we can sing in His safety.  He holds us in a place of honor.  And He doesn't just do it collectively.  When my heart is racing because I've just received bad news about a diagnosis, and you are feeling defeated 15 minutes later because of  being unable to get your child with self-regulation issues to sleep again, and another mom is fretting 2 minutes later because she doesn't know where the money will come from to pay the huge medical bills, God is calmly there.  Our gracious Creator doesn't have to rush from person to person, quickly giving His loved ones a pat on the back and an encouragement to carry on, so He can quickly scramble to the next human in need of help.  His glory and love are so all-encompassing that He is fully there for each and every one of us, with more than we could ever want or need.  His comfort, compassion, tenderness and protection are so great, that our human versions are only a small, cheap imitation.  Isn't that incredible?

Naturally, when I "marinated"  a bit on this revelation of another small part of who Yahweh is, I could only find myself to be completely foolish.  If the Lord never stresses out, why should I?  And yet, too often, I do.  Everything I go through is "Father filtered," so why should I be afraid?  If I am standing in the middle of His will, running into His arms, or in the shadow of His wings, He's got things handled for me.  And if He doesn't stress out about it, neither should I.  There is nothing that I can go through that God can't handle.  He loves me infinitely.  All I need do is rest and trust.

PRAY:  Oh, God, how foolish I am!  So often I worry about these extra challenges our family faces.  Forgive me for failing to realize that You already have it handled.  If You don't get stressed out, then neither should I.

Friday, August 24, 2012

If Not for Jesus...

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
~ Psalm 20:7, NIV ~

I am coming through one of the toughest stretches in my life.  This past year, my father unexpectedly passed away.  My mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer 5 months later and was placed in assisted living 3 months after that.  Our son was hospitalized with a life-threatening iliopsoas bleed a month later.  He was then released with a PICC line and immobilized via a wheelchair for the next month.  A month after that, I began the major task of getting my parents' home repaired, cleaned out and put on the market for sale.  And the following month, our ministry went through some great turmoil at the hands of some whom we thought were our friends.  We pressed on with our work by the grace of God, but weeks later, my eldest suddenly came down with pneumonia just days before a week away at camp.  Having finished her course of antibiotics the day before we dropped her off, with much prayer, we left her and her brother for the week.  Thank God, she returned no worse for the wear.  Now two weeks later, I am preparing to close on the sale of my parents' house with all of the usual last minute paperwork.  Amidst the scramble, my youngest, who is allergic to every antibiotic but one, has now also been diagnosed with pneumonia.  While I would certainly qualify all of this as more than enough serious stress for one year, there has been yet one more challenge.  A tearful call came two nights ago announcing that a dear life-long family friend was hit by a car when he was out riding his bike.

I apologize if this all sounds like a bad reality TV show.  But there's a purpose to me sharing this.  No person should be able to function sanely after this much trauma over 14 months.  There is one reason, and one reason alone, why I am still able to get out of bed, laugh and press on after a year like this.  It's Jesus.

So many times over the years I have walked into the doors of our regional Children's Hospital, witnessing even more heartbreaking situations with strangers' kids and thought, How do people do this without Jesus?  How do they handle this without the hope that He alone provides?  How do they get through the sleeplessness, and the misunderstanding of a "typical" world?  How do they find purpose in their suffering?  In the suffering of their child?

The same type of questions could be asked about my life this past year.  How would I do it, if not for Jesus?  How would I make it without the hope that He alone provides?  How would I ever manage all the sleepless nights?  All the false accusations?  All the struggles to work through with schools and doctors?  Only Christ gives meaning to our suffering.  We, like broken pieces of glass, sparkle as we reflect His glory.  

If not for Jesus, I could not find hope and comfort in knowing that I will not be separated from those I love for long.  If not for Jesus, I never would have the perspective that our troubles are "light and momentary" compared to our eternity.  If not for Jesus, I would never realize that my Maker knows the heartache of watching His precious child suffer.  If not for Jesus, I would not know compassion and purpose and miracles and so much more than the eye will ever see.

What's the alternative?  Without Christ a person can turn to alcohol, drugs, shopping, gossip...  Bitterness and hopelessness.  What sort of life is that?  The world is not a better place for us having been here when we turn to those things.  We don't leave a mark or make a difference in a remarkable way when we fail to reflect God's glory to the dark world around us.

The bottom line is that those who trust in Jesus and suffer just as I do are given an important opportunity.  We have a message of hope to share with a hurting world.  Don't miss that opportunity to tell your story of what your life might be, if not for Jesus.

PRAY:  Oh Jesus, if not for You, my life would have no meaning or joy.  I would crumble under the crushing weight of life.  Thank You for loving me and leaving an example to live by.  Help me to boldly share our story with the world around us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doubting My Doubts

For God has given wisdom and much learning and joy to the person who is good in God’s eyes.
~ Ecclesiastes 2:26, NLV ~

If only I had known earlier in my journey as a mother that every woman has those periods of uncertainty, perhaps I wouldn't have wasted so much time feeling completely incompetent as a parent.  With our eldest child, everything was new.  I was like a sponge learning about parenting and getting to know my child.  I had to discover what a "mother's instinct" was, how to identify it and how to listen to it.

When our second child was born with severe hemophilia, all the confidence I had gained with our eldest child seemed to vanish with a moment's notice.  What was I to do with this child?  I was completely clueless.  Once again, I dove head-long into reading.  RAISING A CHILD WITH HEMOPHILIA was and remains the go-to book for those with a new diagnosis.  When I wasn't nursing or changing our son, I was devouring this volume.  It was frightening.  Because of all of the anecdotes shared by parents in the book, including that of a mother whose baby's throat had swelled from crying too long, I made erroneous decisions.  I wouldn't let our son cry for long.  I struggled with knowing when to accept the doctors' words as gospel, and when to assert myself, taking charge of our son's health care.  I had to develop instincts over time, learning what this disorder looked like in our son, and how to address some challenges in his daily life.

God wasn't through with me yet.  Once we began to adjust, learn how to infuse at home, and adapt to life with a son who has hemophilia, our youngest child came along as a game changer.  From the time she could walk, it was apparent that something was a bit different about her.  In fact, we have an entire scrapbook of photos with her toddler antics...  fully clothed in a running bath, standing on the keys of the piano, on the kitchen counter completely smeared from head to toe with triple paste as she holds a meat thermometer in her hand.  While I can laugh now, I certainly wasn't giggling at the fact that I couldn't use a bathroom without her taking off through the neighborhood when she was younger.  Although I knew about children like this from my job, I struggled with serious self-doubt under the heavy judgment of neighbors, family and friends.

When her 1st grade teacher insisted that I get her tested for ADHD, it was a solid message to doubt my doubts.  I learned that trusting those instincts God had installed and grown in me was the beginning of motherly wisdom.  While I cried at the teacher's calling this out in our daughter, I realized that I should have listened to myself when I sensed there was something "not quite right" about our youngest. 

Since that time, I have given the Lord much larger sway to work on me and use those motherly instincts.  When I have a situation where that alarm is going off in me, I first go to God, pray about the situation and seek His guidance.  As He speaks to my heart about what to do, I step out in faith, making decisions that may be controversial with medical personnel or school staff.  I am always polite, yet still assert myself.  And  when I operate in this way, God blesses it.

Trusting my God-given motherly instinct has served my children well and actually given them a better life.  Because of it, I have been able to accurately detect and aggressively treat a life-threatening gastro-intestinal bleed in my son, save my youngest daughter's life through early detection of numerous allergic reactions, identify that there was a physical bullying situation going on with my son at school before he ever uttered a word about it, get my youngest daughter in for a series of testing at school that lead to a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder with social deficits, work as a team with the staff of two schools to develop effective 504 and IEP plans for my children, and detect an iliopsoas bleed in my son very early on, which lead to a better-than-expected recovery.  I apologize if this sounds like bragging, but these are only a few of the important situations I can think of where doubting my doubts lead to a vibrant life for my children.

I have heard it said so many times before, where God calls, God equips.  That is surely true in parents of children with special needs.  My friend, Shannon, frequently professed to me at one point in my parenting journey, "God gave my children to ME.  I know what's best for my kids.  And God gave those children to you, Barb.  Trust yourself with them!"  Her confidence and encouragement spurred me on, making all the difference in my parenting.  My Maker and the Maker of my children has put us together and equipped us for the things that He is allowing in our lives.

My friend, if you find yourself questioning the right thing to do with your child when it comes to school or medical treatments or discipline, be teachable, but trust what God has shown you.  Doubt your doubts, not yourself!  Spend some time getting quiet, praying, and reflecting on what the Lord has taught you in your life up to this point, as well as what you have learned thusfar in your parenting journey.  I have learned that every time I ignore my instincts, I make wrong decisions.  My prayer today is that you don't make that same mistake.

PRAY:  Father God, thank You for making me a parent.  I trust that where You call me, You equip me.  Help me to listen to that voice you have placed inside my heart, that motherly instinct, so I can be the best parent possible to the treasure(s) You have given me.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV~

We have an outstanding team at SNAPPIN' Ministries who have dedicated the past year of their lives to the development of a thorough, high-quality Parenting Together Mentor Curriculum.  Excitement is building as we are less than a month out from the premier of the program.  And as we spend more hours focusing on this area of building parents up, I find my mind wandering to my own growth as a parent.

No doubt, our past experiences, in all their variety and color, shape our style as parents.  Those past experiences begin with the way we ourselves were parented.  Of course, there are things we both embrace and reject from our own upbringing.  For example, I find myself fondly remembering how my own mother brought us up with a solid focus on faith, made each of our birthdays special and unique, and instilled in us the value of hard work.  However, I find myself departing from her refusal to admit making mistakes to her children, from not giving her kids credit for knowing more than she might think, and from making every parental edict "a hill to die on."  

Having maintained what I valued and filtered out what I disliked about growing up in my own home of origin, I have become better equipped to discern what to keep and what to discard from parenting information that comes via outside sources.  Laughably, I can remember my husband teasing me one day, early in my parenting journey, when I quoted one of my favorite resources stating, "They say you should do X."  He quipped without missing a beat, "Who are THEY, anyway?"  Point taken, I learned not to be so overly critical of myself as a mother.  At the same time, I have never stopped trying to be the best guardian and steward of my precious children that I can.

Besides reading everything I can get my hands on, I have found myself emulating or following the example of people I admire.  I have spent time with other mothers who have solid character and wonderful parenting skills.  A type of small group mentoring became available to me at one time through a Christian playgroup that a number of us formed.  We would take turns hosting at our homes with snacks for young and old, along with a Bible lesson and crafts for the kids.  I would glean so much from the other moms who were "walking a mile in my shoes" at the time.  I would take in what I liked or found effective from the other mothers, while discarding in my mind that which I knew would not work for my own family.

At one point, the small playgroup was not enough.  I felt heavily burdened as my third pregnancy became high risk and my marriage was enduring serious challenges.  Our church had a woman-to-woman mentor program, which I joined.  Despite never having done such a program before, I quickly felt comfortable with my mentor, Shara, who is still a dear friend to this day.  This truly kicked my parenting up a notch, as I watched Shara parent 7 children with relative calmness, work a job from home, love her husband, and have a deep satisfaction with what God had given her.  We talked endless hours and prayed together.  But more than anything, I watched her raise her terrific children.  I still find myself admiring her family, who exudes joy despite every hardship they have suffered.
Several months after our youngest was born, my sweet mentor moved back to Texas with her family, not only to be near loved ones, but also to get her husband closer to a preferred hospital to treat his cancer.  Before they departed, Shara found herself facing the fears of her husband's diagnosis.  I had the privilege of offering her support.  I was at a point where my endurance was built up enough to watch her 4 youngest children along with my own.  As I tearfully parted company with her, I knew this special relationship would live on in my heart forever.

Months later, I felt called to give back through that same woman-to-woman mentor program.  Though I didn't know why, I sensed God instructing me to enroll as a "big sister" or as a mentor at this time.  As always, my obedience to the Lord was blessed.  I ended up having much in common with my younger sister, Sue, and once again found myself in a position of mutual edification.  I was mindful to be a good listener, not to be a know-it-all, and to pray fervently with and for her.  This broke through the tough shell she had built around herself, and helped her to know that she was not alone in her hardship.

I share these stories with you to remind you that we are all shaped by our own personal experience.  That experience is worth sharing with others.  God made us relational creatures.  And He equips us with new tools for life's daily battles by allowing us to emulate others.  Modelling and mentoring works.  It ends our isolation, offering us the comfort of knowing that we're not the only ones facing difficult battles.  We identify with others through stories, and by watching how they do life.  We build one another up through empathy, compassion and prayer.  And simple as it may appear, mentoring can be life-changing.

This is what gets me excited or, as Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church puts it, rings my bell.  I have followed others as they follow Christ.  I have experienced it transform me as a wife and mother, taking me far beyond the skills imparted to me by my own mother.  My desire is to see every mother of a child with special needs given the opportunity to look at their child with infinite hope and rest in the knowledge that God is up to something big.  I can't wait to see parents go from deflated and tired to energized and empowered.  God is on the move, and I feel privileged to have a front row seat to watch Him work.

PRAY:  Lord, You have set forth the model of mentoring in Your holy word.  Just as your disciples followed You, let me also do the same.  And if I find myself dragging or down, help me to emulate another as they emulate You, faithful God.

* A special note of gratitude to team members, author, Jolene Philo, psychotherapist Stephanie Scheiber, LCSW, SAC and remarkable special needs mom, Donna Vanden Boom for their remarkable work and devotion to the development of this program.


Friday, August 3, 2012

A Chance to Give Back

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38

In a decade of ministry, I don't believe I have ever done this.  Yet, we always talk about giving families who are served by special needs ministry a way to give back.  Today, I am going to see if we can do a "money bomb" (as politicians like to call it) to offer people a simple way to give back.  This will enable us to continue sharing the hope of Jesus with parents who are in such desperate need of it.

Beginning today, please donate $10 on our SNAPPIN' Donation Page!  Once you've done that, please share with others you know about this blog, this ministry and how they have affected your life.  Encourage them to give $10.  It's not a huge ask.  A person pays more than $10 for 3 Happy Meals on that rare stop at McDonald's.  But while it may be small, imagine if all of us gave just $10!  What a difference that could make!

I challenge you to give back today.  If you do, won't you please post a comment?  Dedicate your $10 to a way that God has blessed you in your life.  Make it a holy remembrance of His faithfulness.  And change the lives of others in the process.

PRAY:  I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, CEV)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Faith of a Child With Special Needs

"Watch that you don't treat a single one of these childlike believers arrogantly. You realize, don't you, that their personal angels are constantly in touch with my Father in heaven?" ~ Matthew 18:10, MSG

I couldn't believe it.  My husband and I started this ministry a decade ago, so I would have thought we had had this conversation before in past years.  But I pressed on in leading the ministry while God called him elsewhere, so I should have realized he would have a question like this.

"What about kids who are not cognitive?  They can't ever receive Jesus as their Savior, so how can they be saved?"  Honestly, I was aghast to hear my husband give voice to such thoughts.  But because I love him profusely, I saw his heart and not the clumsiness of his words.  So I patiently educated my husband.   

First of all, non-verbal does NOT equal non-cognitive.  We are so very blessed to live in a generation where non-verbal children are able to communicate to us through computers, a DynaVox or an iPad.  What tears of joy flow when parents hear the voice of the child they always knew was there, through the use of an assistive device!  We now know for a fact that just because kids cannot verbalize their faith, that does not mean that they do not have the cognition to have a faith life.

Second, our God is a God of love and mercy.  His compassion affords for those who do not have the cognitive capacity to fully understand the saving grace of Jesus.  I contend that we will be shocked at how full heaven is with those who had no capacity in this life to make a faith decision.

Once I had my husband on board with those finer points, I brought to the fore our own personal experiences.  I hesitated when our youngest child asked to baptized.  Living with severe ADHD (per the neuorpsychologist), SPD, social deficits, asthma and severe allergies, this spunky girl did not look the way my other children did when they made a faith decision.  I called my friend, Dr. Steve Grcevich, and wrestled out loud with him.  "I'm not seeing any fruit, Steve," I expressed.  He brought me back to my senses stating, "Do you see fruit in believers who don't have special needs before they are baptized, Barb?  I think if she keeps pushing you, there's something to this, and you should let her do it." 

I listened to my friend's wise advice.  Since she made her own faith decision, I must confess that I am frequently shocked at the profound spiritual thoughts that come out of my daughter's mouth.  Just when I'll wonder if she truly understands, she'll utter something like, "Mom, I hate Satan.  Yeah, he thinks he's God, but he isn't."  There's no doubt to me at times like this that the Holy Spirit is living inside that sweet little heart.

Likewise, my son's extreme suffering through the pain of living with hemophilia has not only helped him to grow, but has transformed his faith.  At a mere 12 years old, his passion for Christ and other kids who suffer is deep.  I have listened to him cry out to the Lord for help and held him in my arms as he sobs, "I just can't take this another day.  I want to be home with Jesus now."  Yet, the Holy Spirit gives him the strength to press on.  And when he does, I get to see his tenderness in ways like caring for his cousin who is hearing impaired and on the autism spectrum.  Even though Charlie has difficulty communicating with him, he goes out of his way to play with his cousin and create some enjoyment between the two of them.  He makes it a point to show the practical love of Jesus to any kid he thinks shares with him that common bond of special needs.

Yes, there is no doubt that our children have the capacity to have a strong and meaningful relationship with their Savior, no matter what cognitive level they are at.  And I think many of us would be shocked at how deep that relationship can be.  But we shouldn't be!  After all, Psalm 34:18 tells us that God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  We can take comfort in knowing how very close the Lord is to our children as they face their difficulties.  And those same difficulties can actually be a remarkable opportunity for God to put His glory on display for all the world to see.

My friend, no matter where your child is at emotionally, physically or cognitively, pouring the salvation message into them and introducing them to a friendship with their Creator is an extremely worthy pursuit.  When you raise them up in faith, you give your child their only hope, which will far outlast your own lifetime.

PRAY:  God, you have inspired me to fight for my child in every way while they are under my care.  Help me to be that same warrior parent when it comes to my child's faith life.  Forgive me for the times I dismissed my child's ability to know You.  Help me to tirelessly pursue opportunities for my child to know You personally, which ultimately brings You more glory.