Friday, June 29, 2012

The Door of Heaven Lays on the Other Side of Suffering

“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” ~ Acts 7:56, NIV


A few days ago, I was spending precious time with the Lord, using one of my favorite devotionals STREAMS IN THE DESERT.  The particular entry I was reading discussed Gospel writer and beloved disciple, John, seeing the door to heaven opened while he was exiled on the isle of Patmos. It also mentioned that Jacob, while at odds with his brother, lonely, on his way to find a wife, saw heaven opened with the angels ascending and descending.

I could not help but read this passage and wonder, Is it possible to see heaven without marching straight through the heart of suffering?  As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit brought more verses to mind.  Not the least of these was the passage from Acts of Stephen's persecution.   

Stephen was the church's first martyr.  Under intense scrutiny from the authorities of his faith community, facing certain punishment, he persevered in his faith in Christ.  As a result, he saw heaven opened before him and feared nothing.  Despite the horror and pain of being stoned, with joy he commended his spirit to the Lord.

As the parent of a child with special needs, have you seen the door of heaven opened before you?  I have.  Most recently, I saw it last weekend.  Two young boys stood smiling next to each other, flexing their muscles for a picture.  The remarkable part of that scene is that these two had only a few short months earlier been hospitalized at the same place at the same time, suffering tremendous pain from their diagnoses.  And now they were rejoicing in their Maker together at an outdoor worship service.  One of those boys was my son.  Wow!  How could I not cry tears of joy at this scene?  These two have the hope of eternal glory in the Lord, despite their intense pain here on earth.


That is a foretaste of heaven!  Each time we see our child's smile in spite of their difficulties, we see that door to eternity opened.  Every occasion where we feel that peace that indwells us in spite of our circumstances, we receive that unique opportunity to peek into paradise.  Any time our hope is renewed contrary to what our situation tells us, we view the kingdom we're headed for.  Because, you see, we are just passing through this world, headed for a place where, "There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, NLT)


Presently, we live in that world of the "old things," and that includes suffering on our way to glory.  If you are feeling discouraged today, take heart and look heavenward.  Jesus is opening the door for you!


PRAY:  Oh, Father, too often I feel like this journey is dark.  Help me to look up and see the unique opportunity our suffering gives us to peek into the eternal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parched Earth

O God, you are my God.
    At dawn I search for you.
        My soul thirsts for you.
        My body longs for you
            in a dry, parched land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1 ~ NIV

I don't know what it's like in your part of the country these days, but we're almost near drought conditions where I live.  Communities have instituted burning bans.  Neighbors are up early to water flowers lest they die.  One of our trees is actually so stressed that is beginning to lose leaves as if it is Autumn.  Most notably, lawns are looking as dry as mowed hay.

Predictably, my thoughts turn to God with this concrete example.  How often do our souls look like that parched earth?  My own spirit can easily become shriveled when not properly "watered".  And sadly, despite knowing better, this happens to the vast majority of us.

So how do we avoid our faith life assuming the appearance of an ugly, burned out lawn?  Three things are key:
  1. Saturate your soul with God's Word.  His promises, His instructions, His admonitions, His encouragement are all nutrition for the human spirit.  His words breathe life to us in our times of discouragement.  They fortify us for trials that lay ahead.  And we are far less apt to be blown around like dust in a dry wind if we are rooted in God.  Listening to His voice builds a relationship more lush than the greenest forest.
  2. Drench your time in prayer.  How can you have a healthy, thriving relationship with someone to whom you never speak?  Whether it's on your knees early in the morning, driving the kids around for the tenth time in a day, or waiting yet again at a doctor's office, you can speak to the One who loves you and can nourish your heart any time, anywhere.  You can be assured that your prayers will never go unanswered.  Those answers may come as "yes", "no" or "slow", but they will be sure to give you what you need exactly when you need it.
  3. Submerge yourself in relationships with others who build you up in the Lord.  God uses other sojourners in this world to pour into your life.  And He uses your life to pour into others.  There are at least a dozen different verses in the Bible using the words "one another," instructing us what to do.  We are to "love one another," "admonish one another," "strengthen one another," "encourage one another," and so on.  In other words, while people can sometimes be difficult, the right people at the right time are actually God's gift to us.  They are there to help us thrive and carry on, as we are also there for them.
My friend, as the parent of a special child, you cannot afford to let your soul become like a parched lawn!  Be mindful of what it takes to grow and bloom.  Seek those habits.  Otherwise, you may become dried and dormant, having no beauty or joy to offer.

PRAY:  Lord, help me to be aware!  I don't want to become withered up and spiritually useless.  Pour Your grace and goodness into my life.  Help me to stay close to You, my Living Water!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The News of the Day

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:42-44, NIV)

Want to get your heart racing without exercise?  Listen to the latest news of the day.  Drought and fire plague one part of the nation while hurricanes and floods threaten another.  Terrorists become rulers in foreign nations while we face corruption with some of our own officials.  Humans commit unspeakable acts against one another, and we wonder what is becoming of this world.


In the book of Matthew, Chapter 24, Jesus discusses the "end times" and his return to earth.  Many of the things we face in our current culture are the same issues beleaguering humans over 2,000 years ago.  Hearts tremble over false leaders and wars.  But there is a prevailing admonition Jesus seems to offer amidst the dread.


Never stop being in good relationship with God.  The only hope we have in a hopeless world is to be plugged in to our Savior.  This will keep us from getting caught off guard.  The truth will never be far from us.  We can live without regrets.  The rest is superfluous.


Today, as I watch, all eyes in our nation turned towards the Supreme Court as they anxiously await a ruling on the Affordable Care Act.  I know where my focus needs to be.  It is easy for a parent of a child with expensive health concerns to become nervous about critical care.  Still, no matter what the outcome, God is on the throne.  My focus and perseverance needs to be fixed on Christ alone.


How are you doing with that?


Pray:  Lord, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the news of the day.  Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You, and stop worrying about the rest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daddy, Daddy!

You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" (Galatians 4:6, MSG)

When husbands become fathers of children with special needs, it affects them in deep, deep ways that are different from the ways it affects mothers.  My own husband has helped me understand that over the past 12 years.  And tenderness to a father's needs is as key in offering comfort to a family as it is to a mother's.

Some ways that fathers differ in their struggle includes:
  • Men are "fixers" who feel compelled to solve problems.  Special needs parenting can be tough in this regard because dads can't necessarily make a disorder go away or eliminate behaviors.
  • Men feel a heavy burden to be the provider for the family.  Most fathers feel immense stress because they feel responsible to earn enough money to not only provide the requirements of basic living, but also cover the costs of treating their child's disease.  If a situation arises, as so often does in this economy, where a man finds himself between jobs, the added stress of insurance needs for the family weighs very much on his mind.
  • Men tend to compartmentalize, so accomplishing other tasks at home while still helping to manage their child's special needs can be tricky.  Supervising to avoid risky behaviors, medicating on a timely basis, or keeping kids on their routine can be difficult for a father while trying to also get yard work or home maintenance done.
  • Men don't get a break after coming home from an outside job.  While the expectation of a father might be that of getting some down time after a hard days work, special needs fathers often have to jump right in to help the minute they are in the door.  This can create some serious friction in marriage.  Mothers who have been home all day without a break see their spouse's return home as the relief they finally need.  Conversely, the father may need a little time for reentry.
  • Men are typically not the primary caregiver in the home.  This can create a difficult situation in that the father hasn't necessarily heard information from doctors or therapists first hand.  It can be hard to fully grasp the seriousness of a situation or how important a certain type of treatment is when those issues are translated through another person.
These are only some of the unique challenges expressed to me by both my husband and other fathers of children with special needs.  They are tough, but they are not without hope. 

When children are crying out, "Daddy!  Daddy!" to a stressed out father, there are ways to find relief.  One of the most important is that wives be sensitive to the fact that their husbands have needs too.  Mutual compassion and understanding is essential in this type of marriage.  Since guys relate very differently from women, it is also essential that they have other guys who have the same struggles with whom to connect.  Small groups, sports, building projects and other social events are a great way for men to work side-by-side and feel acceptance.

However, probably the most important way fathers can get the help they need in raising a child with special needs is through their own "Abba" (an affectionate name Jewish children called their fathers) or "Daddy".    As today's passage states, when men receive into their lives that salvation which only Jesus offers, the Holy Spirit is in them, helping them to reach up to the Father of all mankind.  Through that relationship, an unmatchable intimacy is offered where men don't always have to be the strong one.  They can begin to move in the strength of their Heavenly Daddy.  They can come to Him with their greatest concerns and shortcomings, receiving help where they need it.  They can gain an eternal perspective, which lightens the heaviness of all that is required of them in this life.

While my own husband is a good daddy, I know he wrestles with many challenges every day.  Yet, our family is kept together and our ability to laugh through it all remains because he has an "Abba, Father" on whom he relies.  Foster an intimate relationship with the Daddy of all today, and enjoy that same help for your own family!

PRAY:  Yahweh, who can be a Father like you?  You give us good gifts and grow us up in wise ways.  Help me to fully rely on You as a parent today!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Twenty Years And Counting!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV 

Twenty years ago, on a hot, hot summer day, I got into a hot air balloon with the man I love and said "I do".  We did not yet know the fullness of the grace and mercy of our God, yet still chose Colossians 3:12-14 to be read as a key part of our ceremony.  Having vowed to clothe ourselves in love and compassion, our whole lives stood before us.  I remember telling my husband, "I can't wait to discover life with you!"  Little did I know what that truly meant back then.

In my mind, discovering life together meant having adventures of a recreational kind, and those we did have.  Water skiing, cross country skiing, attending jazz concerts and winning the trip of a lifetime to a 5 star resort on Puerto Rico were all part of our experience.  He stood by me as I worked full-time and tested for my investment broker's license.  I stood by him as he experienced the many challenges of owning a small retail business.  We were living large and had little need for God beyond our casual church attendance.

God truly got our attention and became the third person in our marriage when we began trying to build a family.  We were first invited to a Bible study after I had encountered a second miscarriage.  In different ways and time frames, we each invited Christ into our lives in a new and deeper way.  Life changed drastically because of that step of faith.

While we had a new, eternal hope, life got even harder.  We discovered we had infertility issues and would only become parents by God's hand.  The amount of money spent and heartbreaking treatment endured took a heavy toll on us.  But the Lord, in His infinite mercy, blessed us with our eldest child fifteen-and-a-half years ago.  Although she brought great joy to our hearts, we were under immense pressure as we discovered that someone who worked for my husband was robbing him blind.  Despite our best efforts to discover who it was, we came up empty.  With our first child just under a year old, we sold the business, never knowing that employers aren't tremendously fond of hiring people who once worked for themselves.  The sale of the business began a period of time where my husband found himself between jobs five times over seven years.  The financial crisis this triggered was beyond words.  It was by the grace of God alone that we did not lose everything we had.

During that stretch of time, special needs made its first appearance in our lives.  I can still see the look of my husband's broken heart showing on his distressed, discolored face when we found out we had a son with severe hemophilia.  And ten years ago, when our youngest came into our lives, the frustrations and stress grew over her first six years until we began receiving some definitive diagnoses for her.  The journey of managing our children's disorders has not relented.  Hospitalizations and difficulties are just members of our family these days.

Many, many other trials have buffeted us as a couple.  Loss of parents, personal illnesses and other challenges have not spared us. There is frequently tension and frustration between us.  We don't even like each other at times.  Still, we have a peace that surpasses all understanding and a glue that holds us together through it all.

So, how can a couple find laughter and contentment together in spite of a journey like this?  There are several things we would both say that are essential to our solid-yet-imperfect marriage.  First, we walk through it with the Lord as our third partner.  During those times where we can barely keep it together as a couple, God reminds us to love one another as He has loved each of us.  Second, we try to walk in humility.  Daily, often even hourly, we are quick to apologize or yield to each other.  We have buried much of our pride and know that neither of us is always right.  Third, we value perseverance.  If the difficulties of our lives have taught us anything, it is that life is an endurance race.  We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and just keep going, even when the going gets tough.  Fourth, we build one another up as a team.  There have been so many times over the past twenty years where it has felt like us against the world.  But knowing we have one person who is our biggest cheerleader, who stands behind us through good and bad makes all the difference.  Fifth, we take turns with managing the children's health.  While I still handle the majority of the children's medical care as their mother, we are deliberate about alternating who infuses our son, both attending IEP and clinic meetings, and ordering our kids' medications.  Sixth and certainly not least, we treasure the sweet moments together.  There are life experiences and memories that only we two share.  My husband sweetly detailed many of them in the card he gave me for this anniversary.  Remembering that we have been blessed with many good times together as a couple helps to shrink the size of the tough times in our lives.

The past twenty years haven't been easy, but they have been deeply satisfying.  Marriage is a partnership formed and blessed by God.  It's worth the effort a couple puts forth, if they keep their eyes on Him.

PRAY:  Lord, you gave us the gift of marriage.  Help us to not abuse that gift or take it for granted.  When I become self focused, remind me to clothe myself in compassion and love my spouse as You have loved me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

It DOES Take a Village!

"As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience. 

 Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children,  to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.  And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.

Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say." ~ Titus 2, NLT


Friday was the last day of elementary school for our youngest child.  When I took her to school, carrying all the gifts we had for her various teachers, aids and therapists, I wasn't able to make it past the front office without bursting into tears.  The team at this school became family to us over the years of my children's education.  These kind professionals walked through everything from IEPs, to 504s, to hospital emergencies, to bullying issues with us.  They have helped make adaptations for the lingering grief of family losses, sensory challenges, bleeding episodes and asthma attacks.  They have comforted us in our tears, encouraged us in our frustrations, and shared our wacky laughter.  But most remarkably, they have offered us wisdom, insights and guidance, with complete kindness and dignity every step of the way.  We have had the enviable position of being a true team with our elementary school all these years.


And that is the type of model Christ calls us to in raising kids with special needs.  Reading the passage above from Chapter 2 of the Book of Titus, you can see that God expects us to get outside help even in raising typical children.  Add to that the many challenges and unchartered areas we face with children who have a diagnosis, and a parent is foolish to think that they should ever be able to go it alone.


When we read God's word, we need to take notice of the ways that were intended to be in relationship.  In going through the NIV Translation of the Bible this morning, I encountered 51 verses that used the words "one another" to describe how we are to treat people.  They also reflect how we are to receive input as well.  It's clear that we are to work as a team with other people.  There is always something we can learn or take away from time with another person -- even if it is only what to avoid!  And while professionals hold much value, there is equally as much to be learned from other parents.  In fact, I frequently joke, "All of my best ideas are stolen!"


Now, just to clarify, this does not mean that we relinquish our responsibility to "The Village".  God calls parents to be the primary team responsible for raising their children.  While there are days that we may feel exhausted or overwhelmed, we must not fall into the malaise of abdicating our duty to "Start children off on the way they should go..." (Proverbs 22:6, TNIV).  However, if we put the effort into the commitment to take the lead in seeking the very best for our children, including receiving and filtering input from others, the best possible outcome is sure to follow.

Ultimately, as so often is the case, we can accomplish more together than we can individually.  Work with the village to raise your child.  Thank them for their efforts.  And in the end, be found a good steward of the precious child entrusted to your care.

PRAY:  Lord, so often I think I should be super-human.  Help me to wipe that foolish thought out of my head!  Help me to work together with other people and other resources to offer my child the best possible outcome in life.  

Footnotes:
  1. Titus 2:3 Greek be enslaved to much wine.
  2. Titus 2:5 Some manuscripts read to care for their homes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Goodbye Childhood!


"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I no longer used childish ways." (1 Corinthians 13:11, GW)

Today is the last day of elementary school in our family...  forever.  Our youngest little sprite (pictured above) who struggles with severe allergies, ADHD, SPD and social deficits is really struggling with this milestone.  She doesn't want to grow up.  Here heart is sad at the thought of leaving behind fun things like first grade buddies, field day, fine arts night and the fourth grade wax museum.  She is swallowing tears as she ponders the thought of no longer seeing familiar people she loves like the speech therapist who greets every kid at her school in the morning, the janitor who was baptized at the same time she was, and her favorite, silly second grade teacher.  It's comfortable to stay in the delights of childhood.

I can't blame Sophie for how she feels.  I often want to remain in the comfort and self-gratification of childhood.  Even so, growing means leaving behind those impulsive, self-serving ways.  It means saying "no" to what I want, instead exercising self-discipline and self-control.  It means not always giving voice to the first thought that comes to mind.  It means being diplomatic rather than selfish.

As the worn-out parent of children with special needs, it can be too easy to remain in my childish ways.  I often feel indignant.  "Not fair!" is too frequently where I am stuck.  It takes every ounce of me to sometimes refrain from lashing out at doctors or teachers or insurance companies, telling them what I really think of them.  Somehow, I delude myself with the notion that because I carry some difficulties on my shoulders, I am entitled to have the world compensate me with every delight and pleasure.  How extremely immature!

God is most glorified when I put those aspects of childhood behind me!  Thinking with discernment and not shooting from the hip is what catches the attention of others because it is so rare.  Treating others with grace and mercy makes a self-centered world notice something "pleasantly peculiar" in me.  Working things out with medical professionals and school staff rather than repeatedly blowing my stack becomes a living testimony of who God is and what He does.

As we spend the warm summer months barefoot in the grass, blowing bubbles, licking popsicles and burying one another at the beach, I hope to make this transition easier for my precious daughter.  I want her to know the joys of leaving the bad parts of childhood behind, while treasuring the sweet parts of youth forever.  I want her to look forward to that "something better" God holds out ahead for her.

PRAY:  Oh, Jesus, it is so hard to leave childish ways behind us.  And yet you tell us that unless we become like a little child, we cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Help us to maintain that innocent trust while we put behind us the self-destructive parts of immaturity.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In AWE of God's Word

"...You stoop down to make me great." ~ Psalm 18:35b, NIV1984


Have you ever had a certain Bible verse keep drawing you in?  Lately, I have been feeling the call to return to Psalm 18 again and again in its entirety.   Highlighted and written next to in my faithful favorite Bible with its broken binding, held together by my quilted floral Bible cover splashed with soothing colors, this song of David continues to woo me.


I have felt compelled to revisit this Psalm and do a deeper, expository study of it.  This involves digging in deep, exposing the details of God's word, allowing the richness of the Father's love letter to overwhelm me.  It entails referring to other verses of Scripture to unfold the meaning and context of what I am reading.  Slowing down is the order of the day, and "marinating" on what the Creator of the Universe has to say personally...  to me...  leaves the heart in simple and blessed awe.


Nothing equips the heart for future battle like being strengthened by God's promises!  Like training for a marathon, what I consume will affect how I run.  And failing to fill myself when I am able will only result in burnout or even injury.  I know that I can only make it through the pains of hospital stays or tough IEPs because I spend that time bathing in the healing words of my Savior every day.


What about you?  When was the last time you allowed your breath to be taken away by all the good God has in store for you?  He stoops down to make YOU great!  How cool is that?  In the wise words of my associate pastor, "Come apart before you come apart!"  Make deliberate, precious, carefully guarded time to enjoy quiet, deep immersion in the Words of Life.  You'll be glad you did!


PRAY:  "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105, NIV)  Help me not to take that for granted, God.  Leave me in awe today!

Monday, June 4, 2012

PRAYING FOR YOUR LEADERS: Wisconsin's Wakeup Call

"The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live."  (1 Timothy 2:1-3, MSG)

As some may already be aware, I live in the great State of Wisconsin.  I have been a "Cheesehead" all my life, with my earliest years begun on the South Side of Milwaukee, and my teen years in Waukesha County.  I attended both Waukesha County Technical College and later, The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.  Until I met my husband, Steve, I lived in various locations throughout the lovely suburb of Wauwatosa.  While still considered part of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area, I relocated to my current home in the westernmost area of Waukesha County over 20 years ago because of my dear husband.  I love our home City of Oconomowoc, not only because of the many inland lakes and recreational areas here, but because of the generous, down-to-earth people.  It is a wonderful place to raise a family!

Growing up, I enjoyed many other parts of Wisconsin.  As a child, I camped with my parents on the Mississippi River near Lacrosse.  We also enjoyed the Rhinelander area for many summers, staying at a friend's cabin.  In my adult years, I grew fond of frequent visits to Door County with all of it's artisans and miles of lake shore.  And with my husband's passion for skiing the American Birkebeiner Ski Race, we always trek far north to Hayward each February.  In more recent years, camping with our children in Waushara County grew into the gift of a permanent summer retreat at our trailer near Wautoma.  There is something about the woods and the water of this state that deeply feeds my soul.

With all of this history, is it any wonder that my mind is distracted and my heart racing a little faster as our state gets ready to face a historical recall election on June 5th that is grabbing national attention?  For the past 18 months, I have watched the home I love torn apart by a government quarrel never before seen in recent US history.  Demonstrators occupied our State Capitol for weeks on end.  Local businesses were either threatened or rewarded based upon how they responded to our governor's position on certain political issues.  Lifetime friendships were torn apart.  And family members won't speak to other family members because of what has transpired in Wisconsin this past year-and-a-half.

Frankly, Wisconsin has become a good example of how Christians should not live within their society.  Having engaged in legislative advocacy on both the state and national levels, I have to contend that there is no such thing as perfect government, in any regard.  People in this state seem to have taken leave of all of their senses, to the point where they can no longer joke about their politics.  Many to look to government, or reduction thereof, as the answer to all of their troubles.  Even in communities of faith, there is contentiousness between members, with God no longer on the throne. 

If ever there were a case to be made for praying for our leaders, no matter what their political persuasion, the recall nightmare in Wisconsin is surely it.  Praying for wisdom, courage, clarity of mind, and cooperation on the citizens' behalf are only a few of the things we can be lifting up to the Ultimate Ruler.  What we have lived through in Wisconsin has been very distracting, not "...(ruling) well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation."  Honestly, up until this point, I would never have thought to pray for such things in government.  I think that it's also essential to pray that God's truth would be revealed, and that over all else, we "...clothe (ourselves) with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

I have watched many parents of children with special needs go through exponentially more stress in Wisconsin because of this political unrest.  Some are being used as political pawns.  Many are being misinformed and live in total fear of losing government assistance for their precious children.  Whatever the case, these are families that certainly don't need the added stress of this government chaos.

My friends, on or before June 5, 2012, would you be so kind as to pray for the people of Wisconsin?  Pray for our leaders.  Pray that we can once again live peaceably with one another.  Pray that this political stress would come to an end once and for all.  Then get praying for your own leaders and officials, lest you be subjected to the same where you live!

PRAY:  Lord, no matter what happens in governments, help us to remember that it is You who are ultimately on the throne.  Lord, direct and guide our leaders.  Help us to live in peace with one another, respectfully and responsibly, so we can reflect your glory to a hurting world.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Attached


“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, NIV)


Life as the parent of a child with special needs is anything but predictable.  Traumas are unexpected and perhaps more frequent than in the average family.  Adjustments seem continual.  Medical professionals may finally figure out a medication regime or treatment that is optimal for a child, and then that child grows, throwing off the entire routine, setting the process back to square one.  Despite our best efforts, we can find ourselves the unwanted recipients of meltdowns and melodrama. 

If you're anything like me, you would be rich if you had a dollar for every time someone has proclaimed, "I don't know how you do it," to you.  What is your response to people when they throw such a comment at you?  Is it a polite, bashful smile?  Is it a dismissive, Oh, it's really nothing?


My response to such a comment is always, "I couldn't do it without Jesus!"  Nothing makes me more keenly aware of my ineptitude quite like mothering children with special needs.  I can't control my temper apart from Christ.  I can't make good decisions without Christ.  I can't make myself push through every heartbreaking, tough piece of the journey, but for the continual influence of Christ.


Take this morning.  I am in the midst of orchestrating the sale of my parents' house.  I have several medical appointments I am trying to coordinate.  And I have several overdue projects for work.  I was up late working on all of this, so I overslept today.  When I oversleep, the entire family oversleeps.  Today is an infusion day, so we hurriedly went through the sterile process of reconstituting the medicine and preparing the IV to treat our son.  However, he doesn't do well in a rush, so a total anxiety meltdown ensued.  Meanwhile, our extra-grace-required daughter with her various diagnoses is shouting for our attention from her bedroom.  And did I mention that we woke up to discover there was no coffee in the house?


On days like this it is virtually impossible to keep from having a complete adult breakdown...  But for God.  Staying grafted in to Jesus, continually talking to Him through the insanity, asking Him to control my behavior and thought life is "how (I) do it!"  Or the days when I am depressed or beyond weary and can't take another step, that whispered prayer, "Jesus, apart from you, I cannot even take a breath today," helps me to press on.


Because of every challenge we face, we are left with the gift of perspective.  Every inch of success is to God's great credit.  I realize that the small victories of a good IEP or a family trip without constant arguing in the car are all the result of our constant clinging to Jesus.  An "easy", routine infusion has the Father's fingerprints all over it.  Everyone sleeping in their own beds at night are a precious, simple gift from God.  Knowing that my help comes from the Lord makes my heart swell with gratitude, pushing out life's darkness and yielding sweet fruit.


Persistently remaining as a grafted-in branch to the True Vine, is what keeps my head above water.  Even on the days where I'm plodding, barely moving one foot in front of the other, I know I'm moving in the right direction.  And on my better days, when I can sense the strength of the Risen Christ coursing through my veins, I can confidently proclaim, "In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall." (Psalm 18:29, NLT)  That's how I "do it".  How about you?


PRAY:  Lord, I realize my total foolishness in thinking I can do a single thing apart from You.  Help me to remain in You, so I can bear good fruit in my life.