Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Worn - Prayers of a Special Needs Mom

"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. " ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV~

The alarm goes off at 5 AM so that I can enjoy a brief 30 minutes in quiet, soaking in God's word, hoping to hear His voice before the demands of school-aged children and a groggy husband fill the house.  I hit the snooze button praying that just 10 more minutes will give me the energy I so desperately need.  Sadly, the child that crawled into bed with me last night kicks me again, awakening me to the fact that I need to administer an IV before another child can leave the house today.  There's no rest for me.

As I finish brewing coffee, I hope that I can fill my emotional cup with just a drop of Divine vigor to greet my day with gladness.  But the weight of what I'm carrying has my hope drained before I'm even out of my bathrobe.  I have more medical appointments to schedule for the children today.  There are erroneous medical bills to contest.  Our new testing request for an IEP looms, while every day at school represents hell to the child in my bed.  And our credit card has declined again as my husband bears the increasing load of working more for less pay.  There's so much to fight for, and no fight left in me.

What happened to the hope that transcends my circumstances?  Lord, I need to know this gets better, that it won't last forever.  I want to dissolve in a puddle of tears.  Every fiber of my drained spirit needs someone to care for me.  Yet, if I slow down, who will be strong for my children?  They grieve.  They are beaten around by their diagnoses, and by their peers.  I need to be their standard bearer, guiding them through the struggles they face in this world.  I pray that will be enough to give them a bright future, reflecting Your glory in this dark world.  Please, Father, make all this suffering worth something.  Redeem our sorrow.

Renew my soul.  You are the lifter of my head.  My dreams may be shattered, but I know You, O Lord, offer us a glorious eternity that far outweighs our pain.  Grant me the stamina to keep running and to finish well.  Restore to me the joy of knowing that I'm passing through this heaviness to a place where there is no more crying or anguish.  Help our little family, buffeted by life's pounding waves, to catch our breath, to enjoy the simple pleasures that others take for granted.  Refill me to face another day.  Without Your hope, I would be utterly crushed.

"Worn" by Mike Donehey, Jeff Owen, Jason Ingram; Performed by Tenth Avenue North; © 2012 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, West Main Music, Formerly Music, Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse, and Open Hands Music. All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, West Main Music, Formerly Music, Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse and Open Hands Music administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 8 Music Square West, Nashville TN 37203

Don’t forget to vote for SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES in the About.com Readers Choice Awards. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 19th. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Speaking Life Into Our Children

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!" (Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT)

A person doesn't have to watch the evening news for even a full week to realize that this is a perverse and upside down generation.  Right is wrong, and wrong is right.  These are wicked days that can weigh us down heavily if we focus only on the bad.

Part of the twisted nature of our culture is that we publicly speak of the value of the disabled, yet we mock them at every turn.  We talk of the social rights of those with special needs, yet we advocate for their termination prior to birth.  Our acceptance is oh-so-thinly veiled.  Mixed signals abound.  And while we would like to believe that we are an evolved and sophisticated culture, we are as unwelcoming as the generations before us when it comes to those with physical, cognitive or emotional challenges.  Children still mock in the school yards.  Off color jokes still occur at cocktail parties.  Discrimination still occurs in the work place.

With so much stacked against our children, our calling as parents is clear.  In order to succeed, our precious kids need us to speak life into them.  This world speaks the lies of death into them.  In all its subtleties, their life in this human body points out their differences, tells them they are not as valuable or lovable as others, wears them down with suffering, and prohibits them from doing too many things.  Anxiety, depression, and financial woes nip at their heals in disproportionate measure as compared to their typical peers.

Yet, God's word exposes the falsehoods of this world:
  • When the world calls our children unwanted or unlovable, God says, "I love you with an everlasting love.  So I will continue to show you my kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3, GW)
  • When the world tells our kids that they have much to fear, and that God is distant or detached, He proclaims, "I tell you, my friends, don’t be afraid of people who can kill the body but after that can do nothing more to hurt you...  Five sparrows are sold for only two pennies, and God does not forget any of them.  But God even knows how many hairs you have on your head. Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows."  (Luke 12:4,6-7, NCV)
  • When the world says that there is no value in suffering and that all pain must be avoided, God reveals His truth, “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT)
  • When the world says the only hope for our children lays in exterior forces like a cure or government intervention, God assures us, “Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are very happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. And we are also happy with the troubles we have. Why are we happy with troubles? Because we know that these troubles make us more patient.  And this patience is proof that we are strong. And this proof gives us hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us. We know this because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit he gave us.” (Romans 5:2-5, ERV)
These passages are only the tip of the iceberg.  God's word, the Bible, is filled with countless examples of how He loves and values our children.  (For more life-filled inspiration, watch Krista Horning's powerful testimony given at the Works of God Conference in November of 2012!)

Speaking life into our children means sharing these promises and the joy that lays beyond this flawed world and all it's swirling circumstances.  In Christ, we have a hope that far exceeds anything that can happen to us, in us or around us.  Clothing ourselves and our children in these life-giving words strengthens us, and helps us repel the dark lies that would do us harm.

Be intentional.  Begin the daily habit of building your child up by speaking God's words of life into him or her.  If you don't do it, who will?

PRAY:  Father God, I have so much on my mind every day.  It's easy to forget how much my child needs me to speak words of life into him.  By Your wisdom, Holy Spirit, bring to mind each day how I might be intentional about building my child up in this world that tears down.  Thank You that Your love doesn't operate by this world's hurtful standards.


Don’t forget to vote for SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES in the About.com Readers Choice Awards. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 19th. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The TSA and Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. ~ James 1:27, MSG

I was on my way to enjoy a brief vacation with my family when I heard it on the news again.  On February 9, 2013, the Transportation Security Administration demonstrated yet another incredible lack of decency at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, stopping a 3 year old in a wheelchair for special screening.  The child was so traumatized by the experience, she sobbed that she no longer wanted to go to Disney.

As I listened to this, my stomach turned, knowing that this could have been any one of my 2 children with special needs or the dozens of terrific children our ministry serves.  It also occurred to me that I have heard horror stories like this before.  This sticks with a person because it seems so completely horrifying that someone who is amongst the most vulnerable of our citizens would have to endure such treatment.

If people only knew how challenging it is to travel with disabilities in the first place, perhaps they could fully grasp the magnitude of these incidents.  For our children with mobility issues, getting to and through the airport is just the beginning of the struggles.  Getting settled on an airplane can be frightening and uncertain as well.  If any additional medical supplies must also accompany us, the TSA checkpoint can be utterly nerve-wracking.  Needles, oxygen and expensive medications must all be treated in a specific way and have travel letters packed along with them in order to justify carrying them aboard a plane.  And even with all of this extra attention, a family may still have difficulty.

Traveling with a child who has "invisible disabilities" like ADHD, autism or anxiety disorder presents its own challenges.  Preparing children with these challenges ahead of time requires extra effort and foresight.  Talking about how to behave and what not to say, even jokingly, may present some real angst with parents until the family has arrived at their intended destination.  Impulsivity, nervous behaviors or tics could land families in one of these unenviable types of situations.

Given all of this added stress to air travel for those with a disabled family member, a person would hope that our government would have the good common sense to show some compassion to travelers with extra challenges.  Researching stories for this post, I found the number of stories involving our most fragile and vulnerable citizens to be alarming. First, I came across the 2011 story of a 29 year old cognitively impaired male who was traveling with his father to Disney from Detroit.  During this incident, the passenger, who has the cognition of a 2 year old, was questioned about the adult diaper under his clothing.  A fidget that he had carried for comfort for 20 years was also confiscated.  After that incident, the traveling public was told that this was merely an “isolated case of bad judgment.”

Yet, in March of 2012, a video of a 2010 incident involving a child in a wheelchair surfaced.  Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that this little 3-year-old boy with a broken leg was prohibited from receiving any comfort from his parents during the screening process.  Trauma specialists can confirm how events like this have the potential to permanently affect our children.  The TSA's response to the outrage over this incident was to claim, "the agency would perform fewer and less-invasive pat-downs on children."

Belying this claim, another incident in December of 2012 garnered a great deal of attention as a 12 year old in a wheelchair was delayed at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.  Screeners found that this young lady had explosive residue on her hands when swabbed, and would not let her proceed to her flight to Florida for medical treatment.  Eventually, an explosive expert had to be called in to clear her for flight, but only after driving the child to tears.

And now this latest incident.  It truly makes it hard to believe the agency's claim that "TSA Cares" when it comes to passengers flying with disabilities and medical conditions.  And while we parents would be wise to check with the TSA, beginning with their website links, in advance of travel to assure smooth passage, our government owes its most defenseless citizens far better treatment in airports.

We may not make the connection with faith here, but God calls us in His word to rise to the aid the weak and innocent in such situations.  Thusfar, we, the church, have been failing horribly.  Standing in a church on Sundays, praying for better is barely the tip of the iceberg in obeying the Lord's mandate.  We must rise up to permanently change such behavior.  Writing our lawmakers en masse is absolutely called for at times like this.  Contacting advocacy agencies like the The American Association of People with Disabilities to ask why they aren't spearheading change for the way those with special needs are treated by the TSA is completely appropriate.  Making our voices heard, standing up for the vulnerable is essential.  Let us not delay doing so for another day, lest there be another innocent 3 year old child traumatized by our own sanctioned security.

PRAY:  God of justice, You are the one who sees.  Nothing is hidden from Your sight.  Come to the aid of your harassed and mistreated children.  Empower us through Your Holy Spirit to act on behalf of those who are being violated by our own government agencies.  Restore us to a place where we are known for the godly way we treat the least and the lost in our culture.

Don’t forget to vote for SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES in the About.com Readers Choice Awards. You can vote every day until the contest ends March 19th. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'll Follow You Anywhere, Lord... Except There

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish... ~ Jonah 1:3

It's easy to be a Christian and say "yes" to Jesus... except when it's not.  When we are between crises with our precious kids, we may seem resolute that we would walk into any difficulty God calls us to with inner peace and acceptance.  But then we stare down the barrel of that potential crisis and we find ourselves pleading, "No, God.  Not this!"  The continuing and subsequent trials we parents of children with special needs are challenged with can make the decision to trust and obey a daily issue.
Let me describe what I mean with more vivid examples.  How many of us parents have begun the special needs journey seeking diagnoses and received a label of ADHD?  While we may cry with the news, we begin to think to ourselves, Okay, I can handle this.  At least it's not (fill in the blank).  As we find ourselves walking the journey further with that child, we find that treatment for ADHD isn't quite capturing all that we see going on.  We visit doctors or therapists for more help, and other diagnoses emerge.  The professionals examining our child may even hint at things like autism, bipolar disorder or Tourette's.  As we await a decisive determination, we can find ourselves thinking, Please God, don't let it be (fill in the blank).  While that new label can bring additional help, we find ourselves grieving afresh at a sorrow we never wanted to face.

I've seen it countless times in our bleeding disorders community as well.  As I have made eye contact with the most life-threatening of bleeding episodes, I have thought, "Please, God.  Don't let this be a GI bleed.  I have to be imagining things.  This just can't be," or "I'm probably worrying about nothing.  This isn't what an ileopsoas bleed is supposed to look like.  Oh, God, please don't let that be what this is."  In both of those situations, I have ended up in the hospital with our son, the worst imaginable diagnosis coming true.  Others I am close to have faced the same.  There is an autoimmune response some guys with hemophilia develop, called inhibitors, which renders their life-saving clotting factor almost useless.  This too is a "Let this cup pass from me," type of discovery.

Whatever the dreaded outcome, we look much like the disobedient Jonah when we refuse to face it.  This man was a fool with an attitude problem.  He thought he could run from God.  He thought he could hide from God.  Yet, he found himself finding out who is really boss in the disgusting stomach of a fish.  When he was finally ready to surrender and face the task that God had called him to, he was regurgitated onto a beach.  

We need not face such wrestling with the Lord if we remember that where God calls, God equips.  On our own, we are not able to face such heartaches with the ones we love.  There is no human strength that can adequately steel us to watch our offspring struggle and suffer.  Yet, as we experience the Lord in our daily lives over time, we come to realize that He hasn't abandoned us in the past, and He won't abandon us in any new trial we face.

This is not to say that we should not face a crisis with tears or without the need for encouragement.  We would be cold and out of our minds if we had no emotional response to such things.  What it does mean, however, is that we can be in the midst of swirling turmoil and find peace and rest in knowing that God will walk through it all holding us tight.  His strength and tender love will be enough to see us through.

PRAY:  For today's prayer, I leave you with the music and encouragement of Ginny Owens...


Photo Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, February 18, 2013

"I Underestimated the Disabled"

"I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me."
~ Philippians 4:13, GW ~ 

I have the great privilege of parenting a remarkable 16 year old girl.  Talented, sweet and spunky in her own right, our eldest daughter has lived a very different life as the "big sister" of two siblings with special needs.  This has colored her world as she has grown up knowing no other family life than that with unique challenges, unpredictable schedules, suffering, chaos and life on the margins.  In addition to having grown up in a home where she had these remarkable siblings with multiple diagnoses, our daughter's life has also been shaped by our activity in special needs ministry.  She has had her eyes opened to "invisible disabilities" that other kids her age would never otherwise be aware of, and has spent a much larger amount of time with people of all ages who face physical, cognitive and emotional challenges.  What I find so inspiring about my daughter is that she sees people for who they are on the inside, not their "wrapper," and she never stops trying to deepen her understanding of those with challenges.

Recently, one of my colleagues moved back from warm, sunny Florida to the snowy, cold Midwest.  The delightful part of her return to this part of the country is that we get to see one another more frequently, and my family gets to know her better.  One of the unique things about my friend is that she has some disabilities, but those disabilities surely don't have her!  She has her master's degree, and is currently schooling for her doctorate while she continues to work in her job in disability ministry leadership.  I pale in comparison to this brilliant and funny friend of mine!

One evening, my friend had left after enjoying dinner and conversation with us, and my 16 year old engaged me in a remarkable conversation.  It began with her struggling with the proper use of language.  "People first" language has been a strong movement in this country in recent years.  But those who haven't grown up with that language or who don't have disabilities would  often use words that would make the people first crowd cringe or become indignant.  I thought it was incredible that my daughter had that level of sensitivity to how words affect people in the special needs community.

As our discussion continued, I found myself even more impressed with my girl.  She expressed to me how in awe she was of all the people with special needs that we have allowed to touch her life.  Watching in amazement at how these individuals overcome their adversity inspires her to want to address them with the respect she feels they are due.  That seemed obvious as she stuck around the dinner table to chat with my friend after her younger siblings had scattered.

Speaking about my friend and all that she had accomplished despite having CP, my daughter finally exclaimed, "I guess I just underestimated the disabled!"  She expressed that wonderment in discovering that people can live beyond what the world would think are insurmountable limits.  And it appeared to be a transformative "Aha" moment.

I share this tale with you not to brag about my daughter, although I am certainly proud of how God has used our journey to shape her character.  Rather, I share it with you to inspire you to keep exposing others to people in the special needs community.  That simple act can change our world.  It removes fears and barriers.  It builds acceptance and understanding.  Eyes are opened to true awe and reverence for life.

God is very near to people with special needs.  If we want to draw near to Him, what better place to start than spending time with friends who have a disability.  My prayer would be that every person on this earth would open their hearts to the love and respect that my daughter has.

PRAY:  Awesome God, Creator of all, soften our spirits and open our minds to our fellow man.  Help us to see people, rather than just their wrappers.  Help us to love as you love.  Bless us to be a blessing.  By Your Holy Spirit power, may we continue as ambassadors for the diff-abled people that you relentlessly love.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Those With Disabilities Are Human Too

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
~ Romans 3:23, NLT~

On a day when the rest of the world was enamored with love, giving chocolates and roses, the news blared with the shocking report of a murder in South Africa.  Six time paralympic gold medal winner, Oscar Pistorious had been arrested and charged with gunning down his girlfriend of 2 months, Reeva Steenkamp.  In no time, neighbors and the police took the liberty of telling the world that there had been previous domestic disputes at the home.

The amount of air time this story received seemed disproportionate.  The disbelief surrounding the murder was almost palpable.  How could a gifted athlete, overcoming the unbelievable adversity of disability to a point where he was able to compete in the regular Olympics, throw it all away with 4 bullets?

This story is a clear example of the discord between human thinking and God's thinking.  People love to root for the underdog.  Because of their challenges, those with disabilities are considered foremost amongst those underdogs.  Should a person with special needs overcome their adversity in powerful or notable ways, our culture almost grants them saint status.  

The faulty human thinking seems to go like this:  The person with a disability was wronged by life.  They conquered that limitation.  Because they overcame that wrong, they are right and good, and surely have a place reserved for them in heaven.

Pistorious' aggression proves God's view with a more pronounced contrast.  None of us are good enough.  All of us are hopeless sinners.  We need the Savior.  Even the most awesome accomplishments by man's standards are not enough to earn our way into heaven.  Perhaps this is why a news story of this nature is so utterly disturbing to society.

Yet, as Christians, we have a boundless hope to share with the world.  Even after the heinous crime of murder, there is still redemption.  Jesus can wash away our darkest crimes.  He lifts us from every shortcoming and deep pit of this life, and He makes all things new and beautiful.

How much our Christian worldview ought to motivate us to pour this message of hope into our children!  Whether our child has autism, cerebral palsy or a serious heart condition, they are a hopeless sinner.  God does not owe our children heaven because of their special needs.   That may be a shockingly painful message to hear, but it is truth.  However, whether our child is non-verbal, cognitively delayed or seemingly typical, Jesus still died for them.  We need to pour that message into our children!  God promises His word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish the very purpose it was sent forth to do.  (Isaiah 55:11)  That means we can rest secure in the assurance that if we do our part as parents, God will take care of the rest.

When our children with unique abilities have a love for Jesus, no matter what their cognition, the world stands up and notices.  Our kids have every reason to be discouraged, bitter and hopeless by the world's standards.  Yet, when they have learned to trust in the Lord alone, they bear the message to the culture that our hope does not lay in athleticism, intellectual prowess or any sort of human accomplishment, but Something far greater than the unreliability of this world.

Let Oscar Pistorious' sad story be a cautionary tale to you.  Go ahead and encourage your child to achieve all that they hope to, but grow your child first and foremost on the foundation of Christ.

PRAY:  Oh, my God, it is so easy to have my attention drawn away from Your standards and onto the world's standards.  Grant me wisdom and perseverance in raising my child to know and love You.  Gently, remind me when I am getting off track.  Use my child as Your powerful ambassador to a misguided world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday


PRAY:  Jesus, our lives are complicated and stressful.  We don't like to quiet ourselves for a time to face our temptations and shortcomings.  By the power of Your Holy Spirit, we venture into the wilderness for the next 40 days with You.  Grant us revelation there.  Help us to be better parents to these special kids.  Equip us during this time to face the crosses that we must encounter as part of our calling.  And help us to remember, those crosses don't have the final say in our lives -- Your resurrection power and glory will restore us, our children, all that we love to an eternal joy that is far beyond the trials of this world.  

From the Archives: Desert Time - A Lenten Meditation

Comfort in the Midst of Chaos: Desert Time - A Lenten Meditation: "The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animal...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Promises About Nothing



It occurred to me yesterday, as I sat quietly, absorbing wisdom from God's word in the newness of the morning:  "Nothing" means something when it comes to God.  Promises are fulfilled by doing the nothing that He commands.  Nothing can also hold promise in and of itself.

While this may sound like the gibberish of an overtaxed mother who has lost her mind, read these verses from His Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and you will see what I mean:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1)

Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. (Psalm 34:9)

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 

My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25-26)
 
Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. (Isaiah 40:23)

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17)

"I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." (Luke 10:19)

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3)

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life."  (John 6:63)

“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)


If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV)

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.  (Hebrews 4:13)


Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  (1 John 2:10)

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  (Revelation 21:23-27)

All of these precious promises about nothing add up to quite something!  We can cling to these verses when our stamina is fading, the medical reports are looking hopeless, or the school challenges are relentless.  God's words speak life and empowerment into us.  When we can't, he assures us He can.  He hedges us in by warning us what to avoid in order to receive His best for us.  Love is the goal He spurs us on towards.  And He comforts us with the insight that nothing happens apart from His knowledge.  His justice reigns supreme.


PRAY:  Holy Lord, only You can make something of my nothing.  And when it seems as if nothing good will come to us, You redeem our circumstances.  Bring these loving promises to mind when life overwhelms me.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible verses taken from

New International Version (NIV)  Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Intentionality, Part 2 -- God of the Details


"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
~ Luke 12:6-7, NIV ~ 

The above diagram might look to the average viewer like a bad nightmare from their high school chemistry class, but it details the difference between life and death for our son.  This schematic is an illustration of what is more commonly known in medical circles as the clotting cascade.  Approximately 20 different chemical reactions have to occur in the blood, all in a sequential order, for the body to form a stable clot.  Our son is missing just one of those little numbers, Factor 8 (FVIII), which prevents him from clotting, even without apparent trauma or injury.  His "factor"must be replaced with a synthetic intravenous substitute 3-4 times a week on a good week, and every 12 hours in a critical situation.  Those little IVs cost over $2,000 per infusion because of the intricacy of making the factor and because there is a comparably small demand for the product with hemophilia occurring in only approximately 17,000 individuals in the United States.

Shift gears now away from bleeding, and spend some time petting a dog or a cat.  As you stroke the fur of these animals, look more intently.  Notice how each little hair is a certain natural length, color and texture depending upon where it is located on the animal's body.  View how each little hair is carefully placed on these common pets.  If there is just a small patch of that fur missing, say the size of a dime, it is disturbingly noticeable.  

These two very different examples are merely the beginning of all the detail our awesome and glorious God has to put on display through the creation He loves.  Meditate on that momentarily.  He didn't have to make the incredible variation of hues, tones and colors, but He did.  All of the flavors our human tongues are able to enjoy from steak to strawberries, He intentionally created.  Every texture that your child is drawn towards or repelled by were part of His remarkable plan.  Our minds could literally be overwhelmed by all of complexity our Creator has put into His creation.

As I set my mind and heart towards intentionality, I realize that I am created in the image of God.  I know from His word that I am also called to be conformed to the likeness of His son, Jesus, the Christ.  (See Romans 8:29)  If our Yahweh God approaches life with such intentionality, and I am created and called to be like Him, should I not also aspire towards a lovingly purposeful style?

I am not implying that we should become obsessive or worried.  We are not God and are limited in our humanity.  However, intentionality calls for care from us rather than apathy or disregard.  It calls for us to put a little more effort forth to yield the type of satisfying result our loving Father intended for us.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, I can give that extra effort.

When I would rather read a book than plan meals; when I would rather just go to the grocery store immediately without making a list; when I just want to charge into that IEP meeting to give them a piece of my mind instead of writing down well thought out solutions that might work;  when I don't feel like putting in the effort to deal with the insurance company, just that tiny extra push of intentionality will make the difference between being swept into more chaos by my circumstances or enjoying the fruit of mindfulness in my actions.

PRAY:  Awesome Creator, I praise You that You are the God of details!  Thank you for awakening my spirit to your intentionality, so that I may imitate it and enjoy Your best for me and my family.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Intentionality - Part 1

“But he knows where I am going.
    And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold."
~ Job 23:10, NLT ~ 

When the calendar turned over to a new year, one of my esteemed friends posted an intriguing question on her Facebook page, "Do you have a 'focus word,' or theme for yourself in 2013?"  After giving it some thought, I came up with mine -- Intentionality.  It came rather easily because, reflecting back, I could clearly discern how much of my time was spent being swept away by the tyranny of my circumstances in the past year.  My father passed away unexpectedly 19 months ago, and the repercussions of his death made life wretched, not to mention the immense grief that descended.  We moved my mother into assisted living this past year, saw her through cancer surgery, and helped her settle in to a whole new way of life without Dad.  We saw our son through a life-threatening bleeding episode that put him in the hospital for days and kept him in a wheelchair for months.  Our youngest daughter had just started to bloom from the cooperative effort of her educators at the grade school when she was dropped from an IEP down to a 504, transitioning to the intermediate school.  Needless to say, the new school year brought a whole host of new challenges.  Later in the year, our son had such anxiety centered around his hemophilia that it almost landed him in a hospital.  During that time, his toe was broken and he spent months more in a wheelchair.  All of this made me, along with my precious family, miserable.  Deciding to spend the next 12 months of my life approaching my days in a much more intentional way was the perfect remedy to this misery.

However, let me reveal to you, the parent raising a child with unique and pressing needs, what happens when you begin to set your face towards intentionality:  You suddenly see how many unintentional things discordantly occur in your life.  That extra bite of food you never intended to take; that glass of wine you never intended to pour; those words you let slip out of your mouth when you should have given them thought first; that task that diverted your attention from what you really intended to do all become the enemy.  Cleaning house with all of this clutter suddenly becomes an enormous task.

Yet, I will still contend that intentionality is a worthwhile pursuit.  When I was an investment broker, we used to hear repeatedly in our sales training, "If you aim for nothing, that's exactly what you will achieve."  I can attest to the truth of these words.  And raising children whose serious and often urgent needs disrupt our schedule or rhythm demands that we recapture the framework and remainder of our time.  Otherwise, chaos and misery are sure to pervade our family life.  

Friends, are you willing to make the journey pursuing intentionality with me this year?  I am anxious to share with you all that I am learning as I sit silently each morning, soaking in what God has to teach me about this much-needed endeavor.  I am also anxious to hear from you about what you do to be intentional and deliberate in your life.  I think we would both grow if we could make the journey together and keep each other sharp.  (Proverbs 27:17)

Let me leave you with this thought from God.  The Lord tells us in Deuteronomy 28:13, "If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom." (NLT.  Emphasis mine)  This means that our Father intends for us to be leading deliberately with thoughtful planning, not to be whipped to and fro by the tail of our circumstances.

I will share more wisdom in the days ahead that the Lord has been pouring over me in regards to intentionality.  Are you coming along?

PRAY:  Oh, my merciful God, You do not want me to be swept away by the temporal things around me.  By Your Holy Spirit power, You intend for me to be intentional.  Guide me as I listen to Your voice and pursue Your best for me.

Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, February 4, 2013

When You Want to Punch a Wall

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”[a] Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
~Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT~

Frustration and anger are normal human emotions that play a part of every life without exception.  However, the dominance of these strong emotions vary from person to person.  Given the obstacles facing us, we parents of children with special needs seem to wrestle with these feelings more frequently than we would like.  
In our role as parents of these unique and precious children, we have many, many adversaries, and those adversaries can change over time.  First and foremost, we are doing battle with our child's diagnosis.  Learning to tame that beast, whether it be physical, cognitive or emotional is a lifetime pursuit.  The disease, disorder or injury angers us on so many levels, because it causes pain or limitations to a child we love, it derails life as we thought it would be, it causes financial trials, and it alters how others treat us.  Additional adversaries are usually people or systems that create stumbling blocks for us and those we love.  They may be relatives who don't understand or who aren't supportive, friends who let us down or make a thoughtless comment, educators who don't want to work with us as a team, doctors who belittle us or disregard our input on treatment, insurance companies that deny or delay claims, government programs that fall short; and the list could go on, and on, and on.

With all of this coming against us, it is so easy to be angry.  And much of our anger is righteous indignation or a valid frustration.  But if we are not careful, that anger can literally eat us alive as parents.  The amount of stress we can experience physically and emotionally when we are going to bat for our kids can not only cause us poor health, but it can also lessen  our credibility with those adversaries or persons we need to win over.

This is why we must learn to channel our anger in positive, beneficial ways, lest it control us.  Our health, our children's well-being and our personal reputation are all on the line. Here are some thoughts:
  • Find a physical outlet to express your anger.  Our family has a punching bag in the basement for our proprioceptive sensory seeker.  I picked up some ladies punching gloves to use this tool as an outlet for my times of extreme frustration.  It makes a good workout as well!  Other outlets I have heard recommended from doctors and other parents include things like running, twisting a towel, screaming into a pillow or throwing a ball.  Whatever you choose, know that physical exertion of some sort is a healthy release to the fight-or-flight hormones coursing through your veins in those frustrating times.
  • Write things down.  Yes, you can write the hate letters you want to send to people, and then burn them instead of sending them.  That is helpful, but it's not what I'm talking about.  As our Bible verse for the day conveys to us, Satan gets a foothold by clouding our thinking, which then causes us to act rashly.  Instead, ask yourself, What would make this situation better?  Write those things down in detail.  If your trouble is with the school, write down some creative solutions to work into your child's plan.  If it is with your doctor, detail what you want to see changed in treatment.  After all, you are the one paying the bill.  If your trouble is with relatives, perhaps write down a strategy for that person or person(s) that states, "We feel (blank) in this situation.  Would you please be so kind as to let us explain what we need from you?"  Try to provide a solution rather than just getting angry.  Keeping your cool is imperative.
  • Take some quiet time to calm yourself.  Even if it means setting an alarm to get up in the middle of the night or waking 30-60 minutes early in the morning, try sitting quietly to regain perspective.  When things are running red hot with emotion, it's easy to suddenly have a distorted view.  Sitting quietly for a time with our own thoughts, when we are not in the thick of the situation, can help us ask better questions of ourselves.  What are my options?  What's the worst thing that can happen in this situation?  Would it be the end of the world if I spent less time with this person?  What does my child and my family really need?  These are all helpful questions to mull over when we have less noise and rush.  The result can be helpful solutions along with a regained sense of control.
  • Humble yourself.  Remembering that you are an imperfect person just like everyone else is critical.  You make mistakes, so do others.  While we may not always feel like it, educating others and being lovingly patient with them is what Christ calls us to do.  In fact, it is our unique role as the parent of a child with special needs.  I have not perfected this myself.  However, I try to always be the first one to apologize and to banish the attitude that the world owes me something.  Another tact I have taken, especially when dealing with some poor customer service representative at an insurance company, is to open our conversation with the statement, "I just want you to know that you're dealing with a really angry customer right now.  I know it is not your fault.  I want to apologize in advance if I lose my cool with you during this conversation."  This seems to immediately deflate the tension and helps us to begin working on a solution.  And all of  these methods of humbling ourselves go a long way towards coming together for the benefit of our children and our families.
The journey of learning to tame our anger will more than likely last a lifetime.  With all that is required of us as special parents, we do ourselves and everyone around us a favor when we seek to continually improve.  When you want to punch a wall because you're so upset, what keeps you from doing it?  Of course, your hand will be hurt.  You may even put a hole in the wall.  The same is true of the emotions and the words that thrust out of us at these times.  Changing what spills out of us in these frustrating times will keep us from hurting ourselves and others.  God expects us to be angry, but He offers us more positive outlets that allow us to move through that emotion in a way that brings great pleasure and glory to Him.

PRAY:  Lord, there are so many times where I am just at the end of my rope.  Calm my anxious and irritated heart.  Help me to treat others the way I want to be treated.  And help me to put into action at least one of these ideas I read about today, so I can begin improving life for my family and I.

Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 4:26 Ps 4:4.
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Under Construction

God’s word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions.
~ Hebrews 4:12, GW~

I want to take this brief opportunity to thank our readers and apologize for some sporadic moments with our blog posts lately.  Frankly, the reason is because God is on the move!  The Lord has afforded SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES unexpected, extraordinary opportunities to reach parents of children with special needs and serve them in their areas of deepest need.  This has caused some interruptions in typical work, missed deadlines and a little more juggling.  However, since we are following God where we see Him moving, the result will be divinely designed and ordained tools crafted specifically for parents like us.  

Isn't it amazing how our God is the God of details?  He intimately cares about every need that parents like us, raising these precious and unique children, face.  

We can't wait to share with you shortly some fabulous updates and changes!  Until then, thanks again for your continued patience and support.
Image Courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net