Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Hate Mail & Loving Children -- Part 3


I was thoroughly prepared to end this blog series at two entries.  I thought I had shared all I had to say about advocating for acceptance of our children, with both the outside world and within our own hearts.  But then my girlfriend Darcy had to go and mess everything up by sharing this article from the Huffington Post about a woman who had a nasty note left on her car when she parked in a spot marked disabled.  Of course, it made my blood boil, and it was relevant to the conversation we've been having, so I was compelled to add one more part to the series.

The note left on Suzanne Perryman's car after parking in a disabled spot read, "You are clearly not disabled -- Shame on you."  Her article is an emotional response to the author of the note, explaining that everything with special needs is not always apparent to the naked eye.  She acknowledges that she was once like this accuser, but is now glad to be set free from perception that sees things only as black and white.  In the video following the article, she explains that the judgmental memo on her windshield left her in tears at the end of an already trying day.

Yet, Suzanne Perryman stops short of detailing how many of us are out there, raising children with disabilities that will rarely be visible to the naked eye.  According to our friends advocating at Invisible Illness Awareness Week, 96% of people living with some sort of chronic condition have one that is "invisible".  According to the government statistics they cite from 1997, 20.6% of the population lives with some sort of disability.

Think that's crazy?  Look at the three beautiful children in the picture above.  One suffers from a severe bleeding disorder which can rarely be seen with the naked eye.  Because the most critical and severe bleeding is internal, hospitalizations are not unusual.  Use of a wheelchair is sometimes necessary when there is an active joint bleed occurring.  Rest is one of the required cures for these bleeds.

Another of these children suffers from a yet-to-be-accurately-diagnosed rheumatoid disorder.  Severe joint pain is a regular part of the day.  While this child knows that activity is good for the joints, by the end of the day, simple walking may just be too much to bear.  People would call this child "normal", seeing a smile even in times of great discomfort.

The last of these three children has asthma, severe allergies to medications, environmental pollens of various types, and foods.  Additionally, severe ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, and sensory processing issues make life complex for this child.  The neighbors have often judged us to be horrible parents where this child is concerned, largely because of the behaviors.  Oh, if they only knew...

And that is exactly what is wrong with human judgment -- We don't know what we don't know.  And even if we think we know, we live in that faulty black and white world that Suzanne Perryman so eloquently writes about in her article.  I can recall my son having a life-threatening bleed that put him in a wheelchair for two months.  Prior to my doctor-authorized hang-tag arriving in the mail, we put the application in the windshield in case we got stopped by the police for illegal parking.  I would deliver him to school every day, parking in a disabled spot, hauling the clumsy wheelchair out of the back of my SUV, assisting him into the chair and into school.  At pick-up time, it was the same routine in reverse.  And despite seeing my son in the chair, people were still calling the school, complaining that I was an unauthorized vehicle parking in a disabled spot.  It was clearly much easier for them to complain than it ever was for them to help me.  The weight of their stares as I walked him in and out of the building each day was oppressive.

Yet, I make my peace knowing that while these fools judge by what they think they know, the Lord sees the heart.  He has the inside scoop on what is really happening.  He will vindicate me.  I have only to rest and trust in Him.

Meanwhile, as I made the case in the previous two posts, I need to reflect His glory by counting my children as blessings and educating those around me.  With the graciousness of God, I need to remember that I was once a fool like them too.  I need to be longsuffering with their ignorance and show them the way.  And when I am so weary and downtrodden that I lose my cool with those who don't know any better, I need to apologize to them and forgive myself.

Pray for those who leave nasty notes of any kind.  Pray for those who treat our children as if they are a burden.  And remind those you come into contact with  that everything may not actually be as it first appears to them.

PRAY:  Father, I get so worn down by those who judge me or treat me harshly.  Renew my strength.  Holy Spirit infuse me with the ability to do what is right in the face of all that is wrong.  Heal my heart when it is broken.  When life bumps into me, let love spill out of me.

NOTE:  The 2013 observance of National Invisible Chrnoic Illness Awareness Week is September 9-15, 2013.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Of Hate Mail & Loving Children: Part 2

In our last post, I shared how my mentoree and I found ourselves in deep conviction and conversation after reading Jolene Philo's entry "Children Are a Gift From the Lord, Period", from her book A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations  for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children*.   We discussed how we are the defenders of our kids, making the case for their value in this dark culture.  We are their advocate, fighting for their rights when people want to steal from them even their very right to be alive.  Much of our time is spent pointing out to the world how life would not be the same without our kids, they are a blessing, and despite their challenges, they change us all for the better.  And yet, there is this nagging inner struggle in our own hearts that can still exist.

Nearly ever parent has times where they feel their child is a burden rather than a blessing.  This is even true of those who have typical children with no diagnoses.  The extra challenge for those of us raising children with special needs is that we have additional circumstances that bring us to that crossroad where we can either see things as the glass being half full or the glass being half empty.  The worst of our society sees our children as a burden, will we?

In Galatians 6, beginning in verse 2 and ending in verse 5, we are told to, "Carry each other's burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ...  Each person will have to carry their own load." (CEB).  Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend make the case in their famous Boundaries** books that while God intended us to each bear the load of daily living, there are times when each of us have an overwhelming situations where we need others to come alongside us.  Our maturity is displayed in knowing the difference between the two.  (See "Dependency -- Key to Our Needs" by Dr. John Townsend)

Let's look at how the Bible's original language describes the word "burden" in Galatians 6.  One of the greatest recommendations ever given to me was by my friend, Margo Fieseler.  She made me aware of the NIV Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible.  This terrific resource explains that the Greek word used for burden in Galatians 6 is "baros" or "weight".  Baros is also the root of words meaning "under pressure", "with difficulty", "weigh down excessively", "to become heavy", "to grieve", "heavy", "important", "savage", "fierce", and "very expensive".  Look at those translations!  Who of us have not felt under pressure, grieving, or weighed down excessively in dealing with our child's special needs?  There's no doubt that the battle is savage and fierce, and the cost of their treatment is very expensive.  There will be times when we need help from others in carrying these overwhelming issues.

Yet, God calls our children "gifts", a "blessing".  Drs. Cloud and Townsend make the case that we have troubles with our personal boundaries when we confuse our burdens and our loads.  Perhaps the NOG translation of those same verses from Galatian 6 better clarify the difference, "Help carry each other's burdens.  In this way you will follow Christ's teachings...  Assume your own responsibility." 

It may sound harsh, but perhaps we view our kids as burdens when we are being selfish and don't want to assume responsibility.  Maybe we aren't caring for ourselves on a regular basis, eating right, getting exercise, and enough sleep.  When we reach the point of being so depleted, our children can seem like burdens rather than blessings.  It could even be that we have succumb to the relentlessness of the accuser, working through the unkind words and actions of others around us, convincing us that our child is trouble rather than a treasure.  I have been guilty of all of these things at one time or another.

The key to getting out of this negative thinking is to give control of my view, my perception to the Lifter of my head.  (See Psalm 3:3)  When I allow God to lift my chin, fixing my eyes heavenward rather than casting them down at my challenges, I can see only glory.  I rise above any troubles, real or merely perceived, that occur in my life.  The Lord exchanges my limited, selfish or stressed view for his own limitless, conquering, hopeful outlook.  Suddenly, the annoying behaviors of my daughter are my opportunity to not only build acceptance, but also share the Gospel of hope.  My son's every-other day infusions are part of a regular routine as well as a chance to meditate on the power of the blood of Jesus.  I exchange my depression or bad attitude for one of glad joy.

Friend, almost all of us are there at some point in time.  The next time you feel discouraged and begin to view your child as a burden, go ahead and view the situation as such, but allow the Lifter of your head to bear that burden and draw your eyes toward Him, readjusting your view of your son or daughter as a person.  Most of the time, you will be carrying a daily load just like anyone else in this life.  For the times when things are so serious that you are overwhelmed, He will carry you, both through the power of His presence and through the loving hands of others He inspires to help you.  Enjoy the treasure of your child.  They are one of God's greatest miracles.

PRAY:  Jesus, wash my heart and mind clean when I view my child as a nuisance rather than Your precious present to me.  Thank You that you help me bear every burden and carry on with my daily load.  Holy Spirit, mature me to a level where I see things through Your eyes rather than through my own limited view.  Thank You that you give each person immense value and worth.

*Philo, Jolene (2009), A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, p. 149

**Cloud, Henry and John Townsend (1992), Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 49530
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Of Hate Mail and Loving Children: Part 1

I pulled into her driveway 30 minutes late.  It was a heavenly Wisconsin summer day, not too hot, not too cold.  The dog next door barked his greeting at my arrival.  My mentoree's assignment had been to pick out the devotional we would study together this week from Jolene Philo's A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations  for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children.  After her kids blessed me with their smiley greetings and coffee was poured, we read and discussed the entry "Children Are a Gift From the Lord, Period"*, and found ourselves deeply convicted.  In this passage, Jolene confronts the negative emotions we parents struggle with in sometimes feeling that our child is a burden rather than a blessing.  Which of us walking this journey hasn't crumbled in frustration at times, feeling weighed down? 

In pondering God's word in light of the passage, my sweet, smart mentoree made the point that it is virtually impossible to properly advocate for our children when we perceive them to be a burden.  How can we help others to see the miracle God has blessed us with when we are viewing them in a negative fashion ourselves?  If we are to convince a dark world of our children's value, perhaps we must first convince ourselves.

Our discussion predictably wandered from this wise insight to the recent news of an anonymous hate letter a mother in Canada had received regarding her child on the Autism Spectrum.  I spare you the toxic post here because it has been published and republished enough in cyberspace to make plenty of us sick.  However, I will tell you that my precious friend and I could so closely identify with the horror and heartbreak of receiving a letter like this from a neighbor.  I shared with her that I had opened an anonymous message addressed to my husband and I 10 years ago, casting aspersions on our parenting, condemning my role in ministry, telling me I should be paying more attention to my children.  When I called the lead pastors at my church in upset tears, explaining I had received this awful letter, they told me 2 things: first, everyone who serves in ministry for any length of time receives scathing notes like this; second, they have a policy of not reading unsigned letters because they originate from "the accuser", not God.  (See Matthew 18:15-17 for the correct way to address your concerns with another person.)  They quickly helped me shake the letter off, and realize that it was nothing but garbage.

Nevertheless, shaking off hate mail is often easier said than done.  This is where growth comes in.  It is uncomfortable feeling like anonymous eyes are always on you, assessing both you and your child.  You wonder who you can trust.  Yet, if we keep in regular communication with God through prayer and His word, we can have a certain, secure discernment that stands up to the critics.  We can find ourselves more surefooted when we are working for an audience of One versus trying to live up to the expectations of 
those who don't even have the decency or personal character to sign their name to a letter.

In addition, what others may mean for evil, God can use for good.  (See Genesis 50:19-21)  Only 2 days after the hate letter story from Canada surfaced, another story of a a similar experience confronting a couple in Virginia came to light.  Beginning an online fundraiser to offset the huge costs of adopting 2 girls with special needs from China, the couple were subjected to one neighbor accusing them of burdening the whole town with the cost of "importing" the girls.  As it turns out, the family homeschools, and the mother has experience working with children who have special needs, so the financial burdens this neighbor thought they were exposing the community to were nonexistent.  It took a local news station's coverage to expose the accuser for the ignoramus he is.  

Nonetheless, stories like these can bring about good on so many different levels.  First, they can't help but educate an ignorant public about many nuances of special needs.  People get to see the really tough parts we endure in raising a child with challenges.  Assumptions are dispelled.  Inclusion and acceptance of our kids is promoted.  Hatred is exposed.  Second, we tend to rise to the occasion when someone begins attacking that child we love.  In other words, our own perception of our child being a burden is challenged and turned on its head.  We rise up to declare the value of our precious child and suddenly see the blessings rather than the burdens.  And whether we realize it or not, sometimes that just may be what we need to reframe our thinking and persevere.

Until Jesus returns, there will always be nasty people on the face of this earth, treating our children disrespectfully.  But until we begin confronting those negative thoughts of this child as a burden, we will never be the discerning advocate for them that God has called us to be.  

PRAY:  Lord, open my eyes to my foolishness when I am feeling that my child is a burden.  I would never tolerate that sort of perception from others.  Holy Spirit, root it out when it tries to set up residence in me.  Thank You for my precious child.  What a privilege it is to be a parent!

*Philo, Jolene (2009), A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, p. 149

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Comforting Gift of Prayer


When the lamb had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 leaders bowed in front of him. Each held a harp and a gold bowl full of incense, the prayers of God’s holy people. 
~ Revelation 5:8, GW ~

A few weeks ago, I came home to a surprise package sitting on my dining room table.  I hadn't remembered ordering anything recently, so I couldn't imagine why I would be receiving this box in the mail.  Upon opening the exterior shipping box, I discovered a beautifully wrapped package tied with fancy cloth ribbon.  Wow!  Parents like me get medical bills and IEP paperwork in the mail, not treasures like this, I thought.

As I read the attached card, I discovered that this precious gift was from one of the mothers who had recently graduated from our Parent Mentor ProgramAmy has a heart of gold, and this treat sent to me only affirmed how blessed we are to have her involved in our ministry.  Inside the lovingly wrapped exterior was a precious gift that continues to bless me -- a Prayer Bowl.  I had never heard of any such aid to prayer prior to this, and I am beyond grateful to have it now as part of my daily habit.

Since inception, SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES has had a core prayer team that does nothing but lift up the concerns of our individual parents as well as the organization as a whole.  I can emphatically say that our ministry would not have survived had it not been for these faithful prayer warriors.  

Read today's opening Scripture verse again and meditate on it.  Our prayers are a pleasing sound to the Father, as the music of a harp would be.  Our prayers are a desirable aroma to the Lord, as incense.  Turning to God for full reliance, trust, and praise of the glory He deserves is not only essential for our life's journeys, but is also a love offering to Him.  That is what makes Amy's gift so remarkable.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

(Psalm 5:3, NIV)


We humans are a visual people.  The prayer bowl is a daily reminder to lift up our worries, praises, interventions, and needs to the only One who is able to competently handle them.
Prayer cards accompany the lovely prayer bowl, making it easy to share what is on my heart with God.  Some of the cards are completely blank, while others have prompts that are suitable to different situations.
Of course, the first prayer written on a card was for Amy, my blessed friend who would think enough of me to send on such a treasure. But after my thoughts for her have flowed supplication for my own husband and children, for those having surgery, for families suffering loss, for parents struggling to their core with their children.  I have confessed my own selfishness and sin.  And I have requested generous blessing for volunteers and for those who have blessed the special needs community in immense ways.

Prayer is a gift.  Pause and meditate on that a moment.  Because of Jesus, you can sit right where you are at any time and speak boldly and openly with the very Creator of the universe. (See Hebrews 4:16)  That is amazing!  You can't address most humans of authority that way, yet you can speak to the Ultimate Authority any time something is on your heart.  With such a privilege, why then would we hesitate to speak to our Loving Maker?

Amy's present to me is a tangible reminder of the greater gift of prayer.  It has enhanced my already active prayer life in a new way.  It is a reminder to present my thoughts and those I value to God each day, without hesitation.  I am grateful beyond words for her kindness to me, and my hope is that each of you would find such a way to daily communicate with the Lord.

PRAY:  Lord, when I merely read your word, it is a one-sided conversation.  Holy Spirit let me not rest until I have spoken to you and with you each day.  I cannot do life apart from You.  Thank You for the gift of prayer, for the opportunity to openly and freely share with You everything that is on my heart.  Your love is my treasure.


Prayer Bowls are available at http://prayerbowls.com/




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here Comes School: iSUPPORT

So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
~1 Thessalonians 5:11, MSG ~ 

Like putting on battle gear to venture into dangerous territory, so can be our journey into the new school year.  We phase our children back into sound sleep habits that were neglected during the summer, as well as line up all of the medical and psycho-social documentation necessary to accompany them on a fresh, new start.  Yet, land mines likely still lay ahead.  Adjustment rarely comes easily to kids like ours.  And new staff, different classmates, or foreign experiences can all mercilessly bombard our students.

For these reasons and so many more, we need to remember not to march into this peril alone.  God made us relational creatures.  I am so very glad He did!  His helping presence dwells in other humans who come alongside us through life's joys and challenges.  I can think of countless times over the years where, so many parents we serve, including myself, have conquered the difficulties of the school year through connection to another person who strengthened them.  In fact, I would contend that successfully advocating for our children simply cannot be done alone.  This is one of the key reasons our ministry is so devoted to mentoring.  

Mutual support can take many different forms when it comes to dealing with school.  Here are just a few examples of what that might look like:
  • Spousal support -- It is incredibly helpful to go into IEP meetings, teacher conferences or in service trainings as a team.  Because emotions run high, one parent tends to pick up information or details that the other does not.  Like it or not, the school team is subconsciously judging us as parents.  When we present a united front, we are much more of a force to be reckoned with.
  • Parent groups -- Most, if not all, of my best techniques, insights and tools as a parent have come from other parents.  Idea sharing is invaluable.  Nothing compares to another parent who is a few steps ahead of you on the journey and has faced similar trials.  These moms and dads tend to know what the laws are and can share what worked for them.  Additionally, their empathy provides comfort and encouragement in the midst of your family's circumstances.
  • Advocates -- Whether an individual possesses an actual job title as an advocate or is just a friend walking into a meeting with you, bringing an extra person along a team member shows you mean business.  Don't get me wrong.  This support is not meant to create an adversarial relationship with your school, but to demonstrate that you are a reasonable person who has others on their side.  Much like spousal support, that advocate can pick up nuances that you have missed in a situation.  And professional advocates are well-acquainted with the law, not allowing schools to weasel out of compliance.
  • Medical professionals -- Sadly, school administration and staff often treat parents dismissively, as if we aren't the foremost experts on our own children.  While medical professionals can often treat us that way as well, they can also be a critical, professional voice when dealing with your child's education.  If they are on the same page with you in regards to your child, you may find them to be just the help you need.  Their words can be powerful and esteemed by educators.  When I had a child with autism getting physical with my son who has hemophilia to the point of tipping him off the scales with anxiety, I could not have succeeded in getting him adequate accommodations without the help of our psychotherapist who is a trauma expert.  The school understood autism to the point where they were giving that child all of the rights while being dismissive of our son's.  That expert was able to convey the magnitude of the situation and spur everyone on to creative problem-solving to everyone's benefit.
  • School allies -- Parent liaisons and staff that have proven to work well with your child can be like an inside track to working well with administrators and new instructors.  Having a friend in this capacity can be such a tremendous help.  This, more than any of these other roles, tends to serve as a bridge-builder.
There is One who you can take with you into any of life's most daunting situations, and He is greater still.  He works through people He has placed in your life.  Don't go it alone!  Use the support God has available for you.  And offer the same kind of support to other parents like you that you see struggling.

Comment Below:  What are some other supports you have found useful in helping your child through school?

PRAY:  Lord, thank you for opening my eyes to the fact that you are always at work around me.  Thank You for the people you bless me with for the journey.  Holy Spirit, when I get overwhelmed or even if I am just trying to prudently plan, remind me to use the support you have provided.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Here Comes School: iKNOW

He changes the times and seasons.
    He gives power to kings,
    and he takes their power away.
He gives wisdom to people, so they become wise.
    He lets people learn things and become wise.
~ Daniel 2:21, ERV ~

See that photo above?  That's me addressing a statewide diagnostic group on patient legislative advocacy.  That is a confident, competent woman, sure of her personal experience and training.  That is an adult who is qualified enough to lead a group of her fellow patients in an area where they are not very familiar.

So, why does that same patient advocate shrink back when it comes to dealing with the schools?  I am sure I am not the only parent who experiences this.  We become nervous as the school year approaches.  We defer to the "professionals" on staff in school administration or to the teachers.  After all, they are with the children all day, so they have a better picture of what is actually going on, right?  We may feel uncomfortable with the way an IEP is being implemented or question what we are being told about our child, but we assume those with credentials know better than us in given situations, and we have it wrong.

Yet, God gives wisdom to parents who seek His face.  He made us the experts on our own children.  I am not implying that we should always assume that our "little angel" is never problematic at school, but I am saying that there's a reason that the Lord gives us that little feeling in the pit of our stomach telling us when something is not quite right.  We need to listen to that feeling.

Each school year is a lesson for parents in and of itself.  Take those lessons into the new school year to equip you for what lays ahead.  For example, after a horrible school year last year, I learned:
  • When you sense things are not going right at school, intervene early.  Unfortunately, school issues can often take a ridiculous amount of time to resolve.  It's not unlike watching the painfully slow process of lawmaking.  In education, the longer you take to push for resolution, the longer it will take for your child to have the type of school year they deserve.
  • Do not allow your school district to change your child's plan from an IEP to a 504 if they are transitioning to another school.  I gave my school district the benefit of the doubt because I had such a wonderful, trustworthy team at our grade school.  However, that 504 was like having nothing when it came to my daughter's daily life after she entered intermediate school.  They didn't even start giving her basic accommodations until more than half-way through the year, when I had made a nuisance of myself.  If your child has met the goals in grade school, have them create new ones for the middle school transition.  The same goes from intermediate school to high school.
  • The older children get, the more apparent it is that school administration tends to feel compassion for those with physical diagnoses, while those with invisible challenges like Autism Spectrum Disorders or ADHD are viewed as "bad" kids in need of discipline.  My son with hemophilia was treated with incredible kindness and dignity, while my daughter with ADHD and Asperger's was constantly getting hauled into the Vice Principal's office.  She was even given a detention after school one day that was in direct conflict with her 504 Plan.
These are just a handful of the lessons I learned from our agony last year.  My daughter experienced relentless bullying that was never resolved in a reasonable manner.  She lacked lasting friendships.  And she was academically stressed.  

Needless to say, I will not let these challenges become stumbling blocks for us this year.  I know what God has revealed to us in all the turmoil and heart ache.  He has opened my eyes to where I was too trusting.  He has shown me those who are trustworthy.  Most of all, He has made me the blessed steward of 3 remarkable children.  Because of that, it is my highest calling to rise to the occasion, like that professional advocate in the photo, and trust that I know what I am doing.  Christ lives in me, and because of that, wisdom and learning are only a prayer away.

What are some of the lessons you are carrying with you, as a parent, into this new school year?

PRAY:  Father, the accuser seeks to kill, steal and destroy, including our school year.  Protect our family and give us Your guidance as we begin again.  Strengthen us to walk in confidence that we know what You are revealing to us, especially in regards to our children.  Thank You that we don't have to face these struggles alone.  You are so faithful!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Here Comes School: iHOPE

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.
~ 1 Timothy 5:5, NIV ~

As much as I am looking forward to the relief of back-to-school, I know I am really exchanging one sort of stress for another.  Do you know the type of stress I'm talking about?  It's that last-school-year-was-awful-I-hope-this-one-is-better nervous pit in the middle of your stomach.  You hold your breath as you wait to see how your child connects with their new teacher.  Will the staff comply with your child's IEP or will you be back at the table fighting over accommodations in only a few weeks?  It would be nice if at least this year they were able to encourage your child and better protect them from the awful bullies.

These are the types of thoughts that mothers like me, raising exceptional children, wrestle with as we see school approaching.  Despite our best efforts and tireless advocacy, the fact remains that there is likely little we can do to control some of the situations that frighten us the most.  Don't get me wrong.  We can hold an in-service prior to the start of school, go over our child's 504 or IEP, prepare our child in advance, and cue up all of our favorite professionals.  Yet, there will be a point where we must leave our child for the day, and trust the school staff with our loved one.  We have little control over how others will behave until we know there is a problem.

This is why it is absolutely critical that we follow the example of the widow described in 1 Timothy 5:5.  All of our hope for the new school year must rest in God.  Our peace comes in trusting Him.  He will go before, behind, and beside our child.  Our job is to pray expectantly, with perseverance, asking God for wisdom throughout the school year.  Praying for protection for our child, for wisdom and love for the school staff, for the Lord's clarity for the administrators is essential.

As we pray, we will find our activity uniting to God's purpose and activity for our child.  This will help decrease our anxiety and stabilize our emotions in dealing with any challenges that arise.  Frankly, the more we talk to God through prayer, the better we get to know Him.  And He loves when we share the deepest part of our hearts with Him.

Friend, put your hopes for your child's new school year in God alone.  As the old adage goes, "When God is all you have, you realize that God is all you need."  Just as the hopeless, lonely widow of Timothy's time only has God to cling to, so you cannot step into this new school year as the parent of a child with special needs unless you go with your Divine Helper.  My prayer for you is that this year will be one of your family's best.

PRAY:  God, we can't step into this new school year without you.  All of our hope lays in You alone.  Guide us through a good 9 month journey into productive growth and learning.  Thank You for hearing our cries for help.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Being a "Good Neighbor" When Your Life is a Circus Act

Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself. 
~ Luke 10:27, CEB ~  
 
For years our ministry has had the great pleasure of supporting and leading the Moms Group at Christian Disciple Farm in Sullivan, Wisconsin.  This summer day camp is an outdoor VBS-style event for children of all ages with special needs and their siblings.  Families often take their summer vacation around this camp, with parents welcome to stay on the campus of this rural farm to be ministered to in their own peer group.  College and high school students serve as volunteers, making this a seasonal mission project for the week.  It truly is a remarkable event to behold! 
 
This year, we made the mothers' Bible time walk in complete harmony with what the children were learning through their Cokesbury curriculum.  Interestingly, the VBS theme this year is all about being a "good neighbor", while all the activities and decorations center around a circus carnival.  There has been plenty for the mothers to relate to.  For starters, we made sure that our group name included the word "Jugglers", because that seems to be a natural part of the calling of a special needs parent.

Next, we have explored probing questions regarding each day's story and Scripture theme.  These were not easy prompts to our chats, simply because it is not easy to juggle being the picture of a good neighbor while also parenting a child with medical, psychological or cognitive challenges.  You may want to do some self-reflection on these queries along with us:
  • Do you welcome everyone into your home in a friendly manner?  Why or Why not?
  • Did you know that you can't out-give God?  What are the hardest times for you to give?  To your kids?  Your spouse? Others?
  • How are you bold in goodness to your neighbor?  Do you ever get ticked when someone you know is unjustly treated?  How do you respond?
  • Who do you find it hardest to forgive?  Why?  What would it take for you to finally forgive?
  • If the Lord welcomes everyone, shouldn't we?  How can we leave this camp encouraging inclusion?
Did you find these questions to be simple?  I would hazard to say, probably not.  When our lives are complicated, it's tough to be loving and kind to everyone around us.  Yet, that is exactly what Christ calls us to do!
 
As I have reminded the moms I have the honor of leading this week, Whether you know it or not, people are watching you.  They are watching carefully how you respond to your circumstances.  When we we respond in unexpectedly pleasant ways, with kindness that is different from the predictable worldly response, people take notice.  YOU may be the only Jesus that people see.  How you reflect God's love and goodness in the midst of your storms can draw people to the Hope that goes beyond the hope of this world.
 
It's not an easy proposition.  We can only exhibit this type of neighborly behavior with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Call out to Him today in the midst of your circus-like life, and let Him do the juggling for you.

PRAY:  Lord, so often my life feels like a three-ring act without the tent.  Infuse me with your Holy Spirit.  Only by Your power can I show kindness to my neighbor in spite of my circumstances.  Reflect Your glory in and through me, so that others can see that there's a hope You offer that's much greater than anything in this world.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

Monday, August 12, 2013

COMPLETELY Victorious

So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can stand against us. And God is with us. He even let his own Son suffer for us. God gave his Son for all of us. So now with Jesus, God will surely give us all things. Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one! God is the one who makes them right. Who can say that God’s people are guilty? No one! Christ Jesus died for us, but that is not all. He was also raised from death. And now he is at God’s right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from Christ’s love? Can trouble or problems or persecution separate us from his love? If we have no food or clothes or face danger or even death, will that separate us from his love? As the Scriptures say,

“For you we are in danger of death all the time.
    People think we are worth no more than sheep to be killed.” 

But in all these troubles we have complete victory through God, who has shown his love for us.
~ Romans 8:31-37, ERV ~ 

It's easy to feel defeated when raising a child with special needs.  It can all begin with feeling the discouragement that comes from having taken meticulous care of ourselves when we were pregnant with our child, only to receive a serious diagnosis after birth.  We might follow strict routines for treatment and care, yet still encounter serious setbacks with our child.  We may deny ourselves vacations, dinners out, and all of the other niceties of life that others take for granted, and sadly, financial woe knocks on our door in spite of our fiscal responsibility.  Being an engaged, proactive, loving parent might be our constant pursuit, and still the critics have their unwelcome insults directed at us.

It's easy in all these frustrations to forget who we are, who we belong to.  That's what happened to our family when our son developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at 5 years of age.  I have shared the story many times before.  It all started when he developed his first life-threatening internal bleed.  I gave him an IV infusion of clotting factor and called the hematologist.  They instructed me to take him to the emergency room right away.  When we got there, he received 2 more IV pokes, 1 for a blood draw and 1 for the insertion of an IV catheter where he received fluids.  At 11 PM when he had no further symptoms, they discharged us from the hospital.  Exhausted and stressed, we returned home only to encounter more bleeding early the next morning.  I infused again and called the doctor back.  This time, our son was admitted inpatient to our Children's Hospital HOT Unit (hematology/oncology/transplant).  For the next 24 hours he received at least 8 more needle pokes for IV catheters, blood draws, radiological tests, and IVs that had to be replaced.  He was a mess.  He was so distraught that he was crying out for help, "Dad!  Make them stop!  You're supposed to be helping me!  Make them stop!"  It still breaks my heart to recount the story.

After his release from the hospital, he was never the same.  Infusing at home took both his father and I to accomplish.  Our son, who had once been cooperative and easy to infuse suddenly became combative and distraught in increasing measure.  We sought help from our social worker, the hematologist, and spent years with him in psychotherapy.  Medication entered the picture.  One practitioner prescribed a drug that made him violent and that put him at serious risk with his bleeding disorder.  Thankfully, after we fired her, we found an excellent psychiatrist who put him on a regular regimen with an anti-anxiety medication that made a noticeable  difference for him.  Yet, even after years of medication with a psychiatrist and things like EMDR, hypnosis, and other therapies with an excellent psychotherapist, he could not overcome his battle with needles and anxiety.  Defeat wore us down.

Last November, we reached a point where my husband and I had tried for 90 minutes to get an IV in our son unsuccessfully.  We ended up taking him in to our Children's Hospital where the hematologist was indignant.  She threatened to put our son in a mental hospital and treated us as if we were permissive parents who hadn't done everything possible to help our son.  I was angry, wounded and discouraged all at the same time.  At that point, the team called in a psychologist who had worked with our son the previous spring when he had been hospitalized for a different sort of life-threatening internal bleed.  This psychologist set the record straight with the hematologist and coached us through the entire ordeal.  With our son finally infused, we agreed that it was worth the trip to drive 60 miles round-trip each week to have him help us with our son.

God heard our years of crying out for help and granted us wisdom in turning the corner with this stubborn dilemma.  At first, we saw this psychologist a couple of times in 1 week, so that he could talk our son through the infusing.  Ironically, articles began coming out shortly after our initial visits talking about the effectiveness of the type of treatment our son was receiving, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  After we succeeded through those first few infusions, we began having weekly appointments.  Each time, new goals were set, anxious thoughts were challenged, new thought patterns were learned, and consequences were established for not meeting goals.  It wasn't always pretty, but it was effective.  Eventually, the visits were every other week.  And then the mother lode of all goals was set this past spring -- self-infusion.

While our son could not reach the goal of infusing himself by my birthday in May, he was making unbelievable progress.  An 8 year battle with anxiety had drastically improved, taming this monster down to the level of a nuisance rather than the original disruptive power it had once wielded.  We pressed on through the summer months, and to our delight, our son began regularly, albeit nervously, self-infusing.  It was beyond our wildest imagination.  But there was 1 hurdle still to be conquered.  

Our son has been attending hemophilia camp for 4 of the last 5 years.  At these camps, they not only teach boys to self-infuse, they reward them when infusing at camp for the first time.  This was a much-coveted, yet elusive reward for our son.  It would take unprecedented strength and courage for our son to continue this self-infusing at camp.  Even up to the day we dropped him off this year, things were looking uncertain.  I was concerned that the doctor and nurse there who didn't know him were already pushing too hard at check-in, which could easily have derailed his success at camp.

Amazingly, I had the joy of picking up our son and discovering that he was more than victorious over this monster that harassed him for the past 8 years.  Praise God!  He did it!  He self-infused at camp!  He finally earned his "butterfly award"!  This may not seem like a big deal to some, but I don't know how many of us would actually have the fortitude to administer our own IVs every other day.  For those who understand how PTSD and anxiety can grip a person, it is a major deal.  People like our son often become very ritualistic and rigid in their requirements as a means of controlling their disorder.  The lighting, room, noise, all need to be perfect to diminish the angst.  But he overcame all of that by the power of the Holy Spirit!

I share this lengthy personal story with you to encourage you.  Don't give up!  Just as Joseph was imprisoned for years, and David waited on God's timing to become king, the Lord has His eye on us through all life's discouraging delays.  It may have seemed like a lifetime to gain this victory for our son, but we were never apart from God's grip.  How miraculous it was to find our helpful psychologist and so dramatically turn the tide in only 8 months!

For years we walked by faith.  Now we have been blessed by that faith becoming sight!  No obstacle is too big for our God!  The remarkable boy we knew was locked inside that anxious wrapper all these years emerged completely victorious.  If it can happen for us, it can happen for you too.

I do not want to imply that this battle is ended.  Our son will beat back this monster of anxiety in days to come.  Yet, he holds the confidence that the Lord has equipped and enabled him for the battle.  He has become familiar with the stronger part that resides within him.  He knows that he is more than a conqueror through Christ.  And he is so thankful to the psychologist who not only helped orient him towards that ability, but also taught him to dispute those heavy worries.

What does your child need to conquer today to become completely victorious?  Healing often comes in ways we didn't ask, think or imagine.  And whether we can see a change or not, God is always at work around us and in the hearts of the willing.  Maybe that victory is only a thought away.

PRAY:  We praise You alone, Lord, for our victory comes in and through your awesome power!  Thank You for every obstacle you help us to overcome.  Holy Spirit, take every thought we have captive, and make those thoughts reflect your truth instead of our own discouragement.  Thank You for showing us that there are brighter days ahead.

 

Friday, August 9, 2013

CAMP: Blessed to Be a Blessing

"Every man should give as he is able, as the Lord your God has given to you."
~ Deuteronomy 16:17, NLV ~

I have uttered it time and again, "It is my job to train myself out of a job."  Interestingly, that phrase doesn't just mean that I have taught my children to be responsible, independent people.  It also means that I have imparted character, values and faith to my precious kids as well.  Camp helps me with both.

There comes a time in the life of many of our children where they age out of attending their favorite summer program as campers.  The good news is that most of these camps allow alumni to become "buddies," "assistants," or even train into the position of camp counselor.  It is incredible to watch the blessings bestowed upon our children come full circle. 

This is an amazing, understated fact about camp.  While we expect our children to grow emotionally and gain life skills at camp, character is also grown.  In attending our children are equipped to one day give back themselves.  They are blessed to be a blessing.  Most everyone I know in special needs ministry leadership would contend that the Body of Christ is not complete until those with disabilities are not only being served, but are serving and giving back to the best of their ability.  Nowhere is this naturally developed in quite the way it is at summer camp.

I consider myself blessed to have watched the years of scholarships given to my children return in the form of charity and service to others.  This year, our 16 year old daughter will pass on the blessing as she serves her 3rd year as a buddy to a child with special needs at Christian Disciple Farm, a day camp in our area.  Next year, our son will be old enough to qualify as a Counselor In Training (CIT) at the hemophilia camp he attends in Illinois.  These opportunities to give back reinforce our family's values and helps our teens grow character beyond the typical hedonism that often characterizes their phase of life.

Once cultivated, development of our children's ability to serve others, give back, love the least and lost, blossoms far beyond the camp setting.  That's just plain exciting to me!  All the work we do at home pouring into our children seems to be given fertilizer once they have learned to serve through the camp experience.  My eldest now serves through SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES, has gone on missions trips through church, and last week sorted shoes for Soles for Jesus.  Yes, some of this willingness comes from home.  Some of it is fostered by a solid youth group at church.  But camp is also a huge part of learning to give back.

If I have not taught my children to love others, to the best of their cognition, I have failed as a parent.  I need help to do that.  No parent can instill these values in their children apart from others.  I am infinitely grateful for the experience my children have been given.  I pray you seek out the same opportunities for your God-given treasures.

PRAY:  Shape and form my children, Lord.  My hearts desire is that they would glorify You.  Use tools like summer camp to grow them into the people You want them to be.  Thank You for giving us purpose as we pass on Your blessings.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

5 Benefits of Camp for You AND Your Child

Before the calendar ever flips from spring to summer, dates are announced and forms are mailed. It's time again for camp.  If your doctors and their staff are anything like ours, they ask with great excitement whether your child will be going to camp this year.  And if your child has decided to skip this summer's opportunity, the news is greeted with great disappointment from those who support you medically. 

So, what's the big deal?  Why do so many find camp to be a critical part of every summer, especially for kids with special needs?  Here are just a few of the benefits, not only for our children, but for us as parents:

FOR KIDS

  1. Independence grows during time apart from parents.  Try as we might, our mere presence can sometimes hinder our children.  When we are nearby, our kids too easily rely upon us and hesitate to spread their wings.  Whether it be day camp or a week away from home, camp stretches participants, especially in critical areas of independence.
  2. Our children are more receptive to learning new life skills from someone other than their parents.  Again, we as parents can try to teach our children independent living skills, whether it be in personal medical care or just basic daily activities, but they often resist us.  At camp, it becomes "cool" to learn the name of their disorder, to discover what to do for themselves in an emergency, to train to self-administer therapies, and to achieve mature habits of daily living.  Goals are set, and rewards are given.  Mixed in with the fun, this learning can be far more palatable to our kids than when we parents try to teach these things at home.
  3. Normalizing of diff-abilities occurs when children are around similar peers.  Every human heart wants to know that they are not alone.  It is good for our children's mental health, confidence, and self-perception to be around other kids who are just like them.  Peer-to-peer learning takes place as children learn how others with a similar diagnosis cope and press on.  Suddenly, our sons and daughters discover they are not so "strange", and that there are others in the world who also live with these challenges.
  4. Kids develop new social skills and new friendships at camp.  As stated with normalizing abilities, peer learning takes place.  Having to connect to others out of necessity can draw our children out of their shell.  Activities that require teamwork and strict rules on social behavior also aid our kids' development.  During that social bonding, new friendships are formed.  And so many of those friendships last far beyond camp.  I even know married couples who first met at camp!
  5. Children experience things at camp they would never otherwise have the opportunity to encounter.  It might be as simple as an overnight away from parents, which rarely occurs, or taking risks in a controlled environment that they wouldn't otherwise take.  From rock wall climbing to zip line riding, camp affords our children experiences that we would never be able to give them on our own.  Once camp has ended, my own children have even come home and amused us with the silly camp songs they have learned.  It is a joy to see a whole new world opened up to them.

FOR PARENTS

  1. Camp allows time for refreshment and recalibration.  Face it, as much as we love our children, summer can get tough having to parent without any break.  When we have loved ones at day camp, it gives us a little time to catch our breath without constant demands being put on us.  When our kids are away for an overnight camp, we can regroup, catch up on sleep, get a much-needed project done or just feel relief from the absence of caregiver duties.  Camp is definitely a gift for both our children AND ourselves!
  2. We find an opportunity to connect with other parents who have kids just like ours.  Just like our children, we parents want to know that we are not alone in our journey.  Seeing the same parents every year at camp can help us develop friendships with them. I can't tell you the number of times I've been stuck in line waiting to pick up medications where I've had the opportunity to chat with others who are walking the same journey as I am.  These encounters can give us new and lasting support.
  3. Parents are given the gift of watching their child blossom in new ways.  When we see our child execute that new life skill or introduce us to a new camp friend it can make our heart swell with joyful pride.  It is a heartwarming surprise to see a child who was otherwise feeling isolated finally connecting with others.  And what happiness we experience when we discover that our child has overcome a difficult challenge while they were at camp!  This surely makes picking our child up even more celebratory!
  4. Relief and peace of mind wash over us when we realize that our child is okay without us.  One of the greatest anxieties of parenting a child with special needs can be looking to the future.  Parents notoriously wonder how their child will survive or thrive without them.  The independent time at camp can reassure us that, given the right environment, people and planning, our kids will be okay without us.  That reassurance gives us a peace and perspective we wouldn't have otherwise encountered.  
  5. Camp gives us the opportunity to like our child again.  So many parents feel guilty that summer is a nerve-wracking time for their family.  With the comfort of our regular schedule removed, our household can be full of moodiness, bad behavior or just simply getting on one another's nerves.  Time apart from our kids can afford all of us to actually like each other again.  As the old adage says, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder."
These benefits are merely a snapshot of what camp can do for both you and your child.  As summer winds down and final weeks of camp take place, remember why you are embarking on this adventure.  And if you didn't send your child to camp this year, perhaps it is something you should seriously consider for next year.

PRAY:  Father God, all good things come from You.  Thank You for the gift of camp and all its benefits.  Continue to grow me and my child into the people You desire us to be.  Keep us all safe, and help us to finish these summer months well.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

CAMP: A Week of Anxious Parenting


Camp -- It's as much a part of summer as watermelon and swimming.  And while many of us never went to summer camp when we were kids, it seems to be all the rage for different diagnosis-specific groups and special needs organizations.  While there are many terrific benefits to this opportunity for our children (we'll talk about that in another entry), there is also a great deal of parental stress involved in that time apart.

Even typical families experience some of this parental anxiety.  This spring, I took a lengthy trip with my son and his classmates to a German immersion camp for 4 days.  The number of texts and messages I received from other parents who knew I was a chaperone on the trip was astounding!  They were all concerned about our safety and how their child was doing.  I felt like I had been a negligent parent all these years, just assuming that no news during the week away was good news.  In other words, I almost felt like telling these parents that if they hadn't heard from us, then we were all doing quite well.

Yet, I had to recall all of those camp weeks my kids had embarked upon that weren't so great.  There was the year we sent our oldest daughter to a different camp than our son, so that they could each have their own experiences to rave about.  When we delivered our son, he was staying in rough cabins that seemed more like tool sheds.  The kids there were cruel.  He had no desire to return to camp the following year.  Meanwhile, his sister was staying in huge air conditioned cabins, made tons of friends, and had a week she'll never forget.  You can probably guess that our daughter's camp was the destination of choice for all future camps. 

There have been other nerve-racking camp experiences we have encountered over the years.  For instance, there was the one year where, after dropping the kids off on a Sunday, I received a call from the camp first thing Monday morning.  They proceeded to tell me that my son was unable to fall asleep the night before.  When he arrived in the First Aid Cabin in the wee hours, he told the nurse, "My mom always gives me Benadryl to help me fall asleep at night."  WHAT?!  I was shocked that my son would even know to come up with something like that, especially considering I had never used Benadryl for that purpose.  More disturbing still, the camp nurse was willing to administer Benadryl in this fashion if this was truly our evening routine!  Another year, all 3 children went to the same camp together on the same week.  I figured I would finally allow myself the replenishing break I so desperately needed.  But one day into my personal getaway at our trailer, 6 hours away from the kids' camp, I got a call from one of the camp staff.  Our son was distraught over not having the exact needles he liked for infusing and was refusing to cooperate with his IV's.  After a whole host of calls, my husband was able to get the correct needles shipped to the camp via overnight express.   

Yes, there have been traumas, minor injuries and pandemonium involved with our camp weeks over the years.  But I think they only represent the straw that breaks the camel's back.  There really seems to be two core stress-builders that keep every parent on edge during camp week.  The first is the pressure of packing.  Assuring that our children have all of the clothing, toiletries, and incidentals they list is one thing.  And if your child is a slob, like our son, you end up repacking the packing.  But on top of that is the angst of assembling all of the medical supplies that need to accompany our children.  As you can tell from my needle story, one oversight as a parent can make it a miserable week for everyone.

Once we survive that anxiety of packing, we face the second major stress-builder that keeps us on edge -- our children's health while they are miles away from us.  Minor injuries or bumps in the road aren't what make us jump when the phone rings.  It is the thought that we have entrusted our child to the care of a group of medical staff who are not their usual doctors, and the terrifying thought that something major could happen while we are away from them.  What if there's an emergency?  What if they end up in the hospital, miles away from their home with doctors who don't know them? 

While parents like us realize that we must begin creating some space between ourselves and our children with special needs, it almost seems we cannot rest until the week has been completed and our child is back safe in our care.  This week of anxious parenting may be a necessary rite of passage, but we hold our breath through it, hoping for the best.  Does it ever get easier?  Perhaps not.

It is essential to keep in mind, during this week in particular, the wisdom I continually share with my own kids, "If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about."  In other words, prayer is critical to the well-being of both you and your camping child.  Pray that the Lord would grow them during this time.  Pray for God's protection and good health for all.  Pray that your child would make new friends.  Pray for the blessing of fun memories at the end of the week.

Once you have laid every concern, request or desire before the Lord, trust that He has your child in the palm of His hand.  He has His angels encamped around your precious child.  You may not be able to be right at your child's side, but He is.  And He loves your son or daughter infinitely more than you ever could.  Resting in this assurance will help bring you peace during that otherwise nervous time apart.

PRAY:  Father God, thank You for the amazing opportunity to send my child to camp.  Help my child to grow in new ways during this time.  Keep my child and everyone involved with the camp safe.  And fill me with the peace that surpasses all understanding while we're apart.

Friday, August 2, 2013

All of the Expertise I Never Wanted

Teach me wisdom and knowledge
 because I trust your commands.
~ Psalm 119:66, NCV ~

I will never forget my first day home from the hospital with my first born child.  I was clueless.  I had no training.  I had little help.  I put her in her crib and let her sleep for hours that first day, never realizing that she was in trouble because she was jaundice.  It wasn't long before the visiting nurse came to test her blood and determined that our daughter's bilirubin was high enough to be problematic.  She was readmitted to the hospital overnight and kept under a special light to help her body get rid of this excess of blood byproduct.  Thus began the first and easiest chapter of my expert parental medical education.   

Many years and 2 more children with chronic diagnoses later, I am a virtual treasure trove of medical information.  With ADHD, multiple severe allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, severe hemophilia A, PTSD, and social deficits all part of the mix in our household, I could create a list a mile long of things I know that are typically foreign to most parents.  While my neighbor worries about having a magazine picture house, I can instantly share facts like:
  • The half-life of recombinant clotting factor VIII is 12 hours.
  • Signs of head trauma include dilated pupils, vomiting, dizziness, and sleepiness.
  • Many antibiotic allergies can be outgrown, but not erythema multiforme.
  • Grapefruit juice is not compatible with Buspirone, an anti-anxiety drug.
  • Wheezing and asthma attacks are not always audible.
  • Only the best schools will help you with an IEP in addition to actually help your child make progress reaching the goals set forth.
  • Hydrating yourself before any sort of venipuncture can make your veins easier to find.
  • There is a difference between frank blood (bright red) and coffee grounds (also blood) coming out of your gastrointestinal system, and the coffee grounds are a smell you will never forget.
  • Elastogel offers one of the world's most amazing ice wraps.
  • Social skills training is something that the typical world takes for granted, but presents a virtually unending challenge in the Autism Spectrum world.
  • Lupus, arthritis and Lyme's Disease can all have similar symptoms.
  • What a test result shows and how a body behaves can often be 2 completely different things.
  • Versed is a drug that could have far more versatile use beyond pre-surgical relaxation of a child.
  • Doctors think they know everything because they see so many patients with a given diagnosis, but only those living under your own roof know exactly what the diagnosis looks like in that family.
  • Disorders/diseases don't like to follow rules.
These are merely the tip of the iceberg.  I am like a virtual "Cliff Clavin" when it comes to medicine because I deal with it every day, probably much like you do.  In fact, I can even put a needle in my own child's vein before I've ever had my first cup of coffee in the morning.  I also know what will cause each of my children to reach the breaking point medically or emotionally, and just how to calm each of them.

I never wanted all of this expertise.  With it comes much stress, exhaustion and heartache.  Yet, I'm so grateful that the Lord has surrounded us with good medical care, and has given us a mind to process all the information.  He has granted us discernment on when to push medical professionals and when to trust them.  And maybe our trials and volumes of acquired knowledge will be a blessing to others along the way.  That makes it all incredibly valuable.

PRAY:  Praise You, Lord, that you grant knowledge where it is needed!  May all that You have imparted to our family be of blessing to others we encounter as well.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF