Monday, June 30, 2014

What are you afraid of?

   He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Psalm 91:4-6 (NLT)

Before David even had a diagnosis, he had many symptoms of his Borderline Personality and Anxiety Disorders.  Because he was such a caring person, we thought no one would ever be afraid of him.  We were more concerned about him with self-injury because he was so hard on himself.   We were still ignorant about what mental illness could do to a person.  We’ve all heard that ignorance is bliss.  Well, I contend that ignorance is hell.

Once, when we were gone, things escalated between him and a sibling.  We heard both kids tell different stories of a volatile situation at best.  We should not have taken both sides of the story with equal consideration, but we did.  This resulted in one of those bad parenting moments with ramifications down the road.  If I wrote a book on Bad Parenting Moments 101, this would be one of those big ones.  We were still pretty clueless about what David had going on inside his brain.  We were in the roller coaster stage (things would get better for a little bit only to get really bad again).  We were hoping it would get better, but not all that hopeful.  That may be why we considered both sides equally, but it ultimately led to one child being very much afraid of the other.  This is a tough story to tell because we messed up.  To top it off we were not even aware that we messed up. 

A few years later David’s sibling told us how he slept with a bat under his bed.  A bat!  Really!  This quiet, reserved, and gentle child of ours had a bat under his bed.  We felt like awful parents for several reasons.  I won’t go there, but you can just imagine the self-examination that followed this revelation.  I can understand why he didn't come to us.  After all, we weighed David's word and his equally.  

Thankfully, I believe this child did come to understand that had we known we would have helped him through this fear and protected him.  We offered to do whatever we could to help him through the COLLATERAL DAMAGE this incident had caused and when David passed away this sibling even spoke of David’s caring spirit at his memorial service.
Not counting some of the things we learned as parents, I thought of this story when considering my fears.
Do I carry or hide a bat anywhere?
Am I afraid of things out of my control? 
What about not being there when my special needs child gets older? 
What about getting ill myself? 
What about the financial toll?
What about….

The verse above doesn’t say TRY not to be afraid.  It says DON’T be afraid. 
It also says He promises to COVER YOU, PROTECT YOU, AND SHELTER YOU!
What more could I ask for?  Nothing

Prayer:  Lord, Help me to trust you when I am afraid.  Also, help me to learn from my bad parenting choices even when it’s painful to look at them.  Lastly, remind me that you are there to shelter and protect me.

To read my other posts click on my name under the labels section.
Photo courtesty of: by Graur razvan iounut

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XXIV: The NIMBY Edition

I often say, with a bit of snark, that people love to take "holy pictures" with our kids.  Few things make a person look more charitable and benevolent than being seen helping a child with special needs.

However, the flip side is also true -- Few things make a person look more wicked than being unkind to a child with a chronic illness or disability.

That is where this week's winners find themselves -- in the arena of the wicked.
 Are you SERIOUS?!

In a lovely suburb of Chicago, just a couple hours south of our headquarters, a private facility serving children with developmental challenges recently sought permission from their village board to expand their school to accommodate twice as many students.  The Marklund Philip Center for Children in Bloomington, IL would like to build a 12,000 square foot addition to their existing building, where 31 students are currently enrolled.  The improved facility would enable them to offer their excellent care and education to 66 students.

Photo courtesy of
Sadly, before the Center did receive final approval, neighbors raked Marklund over the coals with a bad case of NIMBY - "Not In My Backyard". People in the area made their disapproval known at the village board meeting, voicing concerns about traffic, noise, and the safety of neighborhood children as reasons why the expansion request should be denied.

While I don't want to be dismissive of the concerns of those living in the neighborhood, I would say that this isn't the first time I have seen this type of NIMBY issue create contention around such a remarkable institution.

A number of years ago, our organization helped a local non-profit trying to establish a rural respite campus for kids with special needs get connected and further their mission.  Literally, in the middle of a farm field, off the beaten path, neighbors near the future home of Zachariah's Acres had a similar reaction to the neighbors of Marklund.  The unfortunate truth in that situation was that one of the town board members was an objecting neighbor.  The same concerns arose -- traffic, noise, safety.

When I see situations like this I just have to wonder,  
WHAT ARE THESE NEIGHBORS REALLY AFRAID OF?  As the president of Marklund stated in his interview, it's hard not to believe that these citizens aren't harboring a prejudice against kids like ours.  Why do they want to keep our kids out?  Their objections seem relatively trivial.

Ironically, facilities like these can end up being the shining jewel of a community.  Employers often love schools like this as they offer a wider range of employee opportunities because their children can avail themselves of such quality centers.  Schools with typical students are also able to interface with these establishments offering a broader base of integrated learning.  Churches and community organizations usually find themselves coming together in united purpose around such places.  It leaves a mother like me completely bewildered over why neighbors like these work so fiercely to oppose such assets. 

It can only come down to one thing -- FEAR.

Our children are nothing to be feared!  They are people, like anyone else, in need of love and attention.  Besides, the average citizen should realize that they are only 1 emergency room visit, 1 doctor's appointment away from being us.

As I sadly shake my head, I am reminded (and also remind YOU) that we still have MUCH work to do in telling our stories to make this world a more inclusive place.

~ Barb Dittrich

*For further reading:  "Expansion Plan For Special-Needs School Stirs Controversy in Bloomingdale", CBS 2, Chicago, June 23, 2014; "Compromise suggested for proposed respite facility:  Concerns raised over Zachariah's Acres", Living Lake Country, November 9, 2011.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Taking a Walk on the Dark Side

Photo Credit

"O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness." (2 Samuel 22:29, NLT)

I jumped when the cell phone rang.

I had closed my office door and was aimlessly flipping through Facebook while munching on my salad. I thought it would be a brief respite in the middle of an incredibly hectic day.

My Facebook feed was full of pictures from so many typical friends who were enjoying their summer vacations. Picture after picture of families at the beach, resort parks, and other wonderful locations that our circumstances would never let us enjoy.

Traveling with a child who is profoundly challenged by cerebral palsy, autism, and a seizure disorder is extremely difficult for us. Our last attempt at a vacation lasted only 43 hours before we decided to return home.

I could sense the Dark Side whispering in my head, taunting me, beckoning me alluringly.

That’s the very moment my cell phone rang.

Through her panic-filled fearful and tearful voice my wife told me my son was having a horrific seizure while lying in his bed. She watched helplessly as the seizure gripped his body.

The Dark Side fog enveloped my mind and seductively wrapped its arms around me.

My wife and I use the phrase “Dark Side” to refer to that feeling of grief, depression, and discouragement that we all feel from time to time as parents of a child with special needs. Moments when we are bewildered, frustrated, angry; and we just want to scream and cry out.

You hear so many counselors and professionals tell you, as the parent of a child with special needs, that you just have to fully go through the grief process.

What I have learned as the father of a child with special needs and as a special needs pastor is that you will go through that grief period over and over, several times throughout your life. Not only that, but you and your spouse will go through those stages at your own paces, meaning you aren’t at the same place in your grief at the same time.

We have developed the concept of the Dark Side to give ourselves the liberty, grace, freedom, and space needed to cope and deal with periods of discouragement, sadness, and grief, as we struggle down this journey.

Everyone has certain triggers that can cause a walk on the Dark Side. So here are our ground rules for surviving a walk on the Dark Side.

1) Only one of us can go there at a time. Misery loves company. When we throw a pity party, our natural tendency is to invite others to join us. To survive a walk on the Dark Side, only one person can go at a time. The other person in the relationship must stay positive and unaffected, refusing to join in the walk on the Dark Side as difficult as that may be.

2) You cannot survive staying on the Dark Side too long. We give each other a few days and that is it. If you stay there too long mentally, it will destroy you. So if one of us ventures over, the other can leave us alone initially, but eventually has to come perform search and rescue after an appropriate time.

3) You must have a trusted friend/spouse/someone who will faithfully throw you a lifeline and come pull you out at the appropriate time without judgment, comment, or question.

4) Don’t be afraid of the Dark Side. You can grow, mature, and learn from a walk on the Dark Side. The Dark Side can be a place of tremendous growth and learning. Just obey the rules!

Remember, you were chosen and called. The Dark Side is just a place you will encounter throughout your journey as a special-needs parent. But it’s not a destination. The Dark Side doesn’t require a passport as long as you don’t take up residence.

PRAY: "Father your word says you go with us through the valley of fear and that you fight for us. Father when I go to the Dark Side thank you for reminding me of my purpose, your love, and your promise to never leave me."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Lil' Dab'll Do Ya

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. "  Matthew 5:13 NIV
My grandpa Ed died when I was 8 years old.  That means I have a fairly limited amount of memories about him.  However, there's one thing that has ALWAYS stuck with me:  

A Lil' Dab'll Do Ya.

I remember Grandpa saying that when we would be painting with water.  You know the books that you could buy at a Ben Franklin?  They looked like coloring books, but the pictures were drawn with colored lines and when you'd apply the tap water with a brush, the colored lines would run and become "paint."
Grandpa would caution us, "A lil' dab'll do ya..."  
He meant, "Don't use too much water, or you'll ruin the picture."

That was good advice; important advice.  I demolished many a piece of art by using too much water...the paper would become soggy and tear or the "color" would be so watered down that there was no intensity to it at all.

Jesus gave us the same advice, just in a different way...
"You are the salt of the earth..."
We all know the medical warnings against too much salt...a large salt intake can have a negative effect on blood pressure.   We also know that too much salt can RUIN a great food.  Too much salt can dehydrate us; it sucks the water from where it needs to be in our bodies; from where it gives us the most benefit.  God tells us to use specifically small amounts of salt when he tells us to "season" our offerings to him with salt:
"Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings."  Leviticus 2:13 NIV
The definition of SEASON is:  To add zest, piquancy, or interest to.   Yahoo Dictionary

We are called to use a "lil' dab" of salt to the world by adding zest; by getting people interested in God, questioning Him, seeking Him, yearning for a closer relationship with Him. We are not called to slam an entire block of salt on someone's head. We are not told to throw God's word at people to condemn them.  

Furthermore, we are told to season ALL of our offerings...which means that EVERYTHING we do, we do FOR God.  Whatever our profession, whatever relationships we have, whatever decisions we make for our lives...they are ALL to be seasoned with salt; they are ALL to have a "lil' dab" of God in them.  
"But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
According to the Morton Salt website, salt on it's own does not expire.  However, if you add other ingredients to salt, like iodine, the salt will have a limited shelf-life.  


If we are the salt of the earth, and salt that has "expired" is not good for anything and should be thrown out...then, we better not try to add other ingredients to our faith besides the PURE world of God.  We can't change God's word, we can't adjust it to be more "PC", and we can't "add" to it.  
The minute we start playing God, we may as well climb up onto a shelf and wait to expire.
 A lil' dab'll do ya.  Keep it simple.  Keep it pure.

Pray:  Father God, thank you for giving us your word, and for giving us the Holy Spirit who helps us keep our saltiness here in the world.  Help me to know just how much salt to sprinkle and where to sprinkle it.  Father, help me to never lose my saltiness here on earth.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Don't Do This Alone

Two are better than one . . . . If one falls down, his friend can help him up. 
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV1984

It's wearing me down---my younger daughter's specialist appointments, my health concerns, job challenges, financial issues, the constant vigilance to make sure my older daughter's emotional needs are being met, the crazy schedules, all of it.

When life gets overwhelming, I have a tendency to isolate myself. I don't reach out to others like I should. I stay home more, struggling with fear and anxiety, trying to get myself together so I can support my husband and children. That doesn't work very well. Staying to myself actually increases my anxiety, making the whole situation even more difficult to handle.

I'm doing better this time. I have let a few trusted friends in on the details of our situation, asking them to pray with us and for us. I am so blessed to receive texts, emails, and private messages through social media asking how we're doing and if there's a specific prayer need for the day, often accompanied by a word of encouragement or a scripture verse to cling to during the day's rough moments.

When Solomon said "Two are better than one," he knew what he was talking about. The Bible talks repeatedly of fellowship between believers and encourages us to lift one another up.

None of us can do this thing called life alone, and that goes double for parents of kids with special needs. Don't do this alone. Find someone to come alongside you to pray for you, encourage you, and check on you on the hard days. It makes all the difference in the world.

Father, Thank you for the friends you have brought into my life to pray for me and to encourage me to keep looking to you when times are hard. I am so thankful that I can be real with them, sharing both the joy and the pain. Amen.

Photo credit: Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Papa, Patience and Power

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”
 (Psalm 51:10 NRSV)

Throughout my father’s life I saw him change and grow.  He wasn’t always the most patient person, but really, who is?  I can be at the head of the line myself some days. In hindsight I think my dad dealt with a lot of stress that he kept to himself.  I was shielded from it, but I think that just made his load heavier at times. Through the gift of a life well-lived and experiences taken to heart, he mellowed over the years. I remember one time riding in the car with him when he was in his sixties and he missed a stop light.  As he stopped the car, he turned to me and winked, “Now I’m first!  Looking at it that way, it has no control over me. I took its power away.”

That has always stayed with me.  There have been times I have felt powerless in the midst of a situation, especially when watching my child struggle.  I think of my dad’s wise words at times like that. When worry, frustration, grief, etc. get a toehold (or a death grip!), I use my dad’s wisdom of trying to see it from a different perspective. How can I take away the power of something that exerts negative control and needs to be weeded from my life?

In Psalm 51 the psalmist writes, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NRSV)

This is a psalm of returning to God and turning away from sin.  I think that same idea applies here.  Asking God for a clean heart, a fresh start, a new attitude creates a new perspective. It gives the power and glory to God in all things.

Prayer:    Patient God, Thank you for the power to renew and refresh and put our hearts in the right place. Give us a fresh view of the world full of wonderful possibilities. Amen.

Lorna Bradley

Photo: "Driving In Car In Fall" by digidreamgrafix

Monday, June 23, 2014

Everything I Needed To Know About Raising My Kids I Learned From My Gardens

Jesus taught them many things by using picture-stories. He said, “A man went out to plant seeds.  As he planted the seeds, some fell by the side of the road. The birds came and ate the seeds.  Some seeds fell between rocks. The seeds came up at once because there was so little ground.  When the sun was high in the sky, they dried up and died because they had no root.  Some seeds fell among thorns. The thorns grew and did not give the seeds room to grow.  Some seeds fell on good ground and gave much grain. Some gave one hundred times as much grain. Some gave sixty times as much grain. Some gave thirty times as much grain.  You have ears, then listen.”


Why Jesus Used Picture-Stories

The followers of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in picture-stories?”  He said to the followers, “You were given the secrets about the holy nation of heaven. The secrets were not given to the others. He who has will have more given to him. He will have even more than enough. But he who has little will have even that taken away from him.

“This is why I speak to them in picture-stories. They have eyes but they do not see. They have ears but they do not hear and they do not understand. It happened in their lives as Isaiah said it would happen. He said, ‘You hear and hear but do not understand. You look and look but do not see. The hearts of these people have become fat. They hear very little with their ears. They have closed their eyes. If they did not do this, they would see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts. Then they would be changed in their ways, and I would heal them.’  But how great are your eyes because they see. How great are your ears because they hear.  For sure, I tell you, that many early preachers and men right with God have wanted to see the things you see, but they did not see them. They wanted to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.


Jesus Tells about the Man Who Planted Seeds

“Listen to the picture-story of the man who planted seeds in the ground.  When anyone hears the Word about the holy nation and does not understand it, the devil comes and takes away what was put in his heart. He is like the seed that fell by the side of the road.  The seed which fell between rocks is like the person who receives the Word with joy as soon as he hears it.  Its root is not deep and it does not last long. When troubles and suffering come because of the Word, he gives up and falls away.  The seed which fell among thorns is like the person who hears the Word but the cares of this life, and the love for money let the thorns come up and do not give the seed room to grow and give grain.  The seed which fell on good ground is like the one who hears the Word and understands it. He gives much grain. Some seed gives one hundred times as much grain. Some gives sixty times as much grain. Some gives thirty times as much grain.”


The Picture-Story of the Good Seed and the Weed Seed

Jesus told them another picture-story. He said, “The holy nation of heaven is like a man who planted good seed in his field.  During the night someone who hated him came and planted weed seed with the good seed in his field and went away.  When the good seed started to grow and give grain, weeds came up also.

“The servants of the man who planted the seed came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not plant good seed in your field? Why does it have weeds also?’  The man who planted the seed said, ‘Someone who hates me has done this.’ The servants asked him, ‘Should we go and pull the weeds out from among the good grain?’  He said, ‘No, because if you pull out the weeds, the good grain will come up also.  Let them grow together until the time to gather the grain. Then I will say to the workmen, “Gather the weeds first and put them together to be burned. Then gather the good grain into my building.”’
~ Matthew 13:3-30, NLV ~ 

With the coming of the warmer weather, I have been spending more time in my gardens.  Neglected for the few years we had a camper, they are getting much more attention since we were forced to sell our little piece of enjoyment.  Gardening is therapeutic for me in that, unlike so much of the rest of what I do, I can see tangible results for my efforts.  That brings a bit of peace to my burdened soul.

This year, it suddenly occurred to me that so much I know about raising my children - chronic illness, special needs and all - I have learned from tending the soil and encouraging growth in my own backyard. 

Here are some thoughts...
  • You can't have a productive outcome if you don't first till the soil.  Like a garden, the soil of a child's heart has to be broken up before seeds can be planted.  Just as the stiffness of the soil needs to be broken up and softened, so the willful, disobedient heart of a child needs to be constantly worked by a parent in order to plant the seeds of good character.  Rocks must be removed.  Weeds must be pulled.  It may be painful hard work, but if these things are not dealt with from the start, things can get very ugly over time.
  • Weeds always seem to grow much easier than the good seeds we plant.  Just as the wide, easy path is the one that leads to destruction, so weeds come too readily.  And the more apathy we show, the more strength they gain, choking out anything good we have planted.  It is no different with our kids.  The evil of this world is so pervasive and alluring that its nasty byproduct pops up in our children with no effort at all.  If we don't pay close attention to what is sprouting up in the hearts of our children, unwanted behaviors and character deficits can win out.
  • Despite our best efforts, sometimes we need a great deal of help to grow something.  I have had difficulty with our vegetable bed for years.  Even though the garden was started with good quality top soil, I have had a terrible time getting things to grow in the healthy and vital way they should.  I have added horse manure and mulch and plant food.  This year, we sent our soil to our state university extension office for testing.  We consulted an expert at our local garden shop to help us interpret the results and pick out the right fertilizer to mend the soil.  As a result, things are growing much better this year.  Who of us raising a child with a chronic illness or special need can't relate to having gone through this process in our child-rearing?  When growth is not occurring as it should, we subject our children to various tests, treatments and therapies.  We need much help and remediation to get our child going in the right direction. 
  • Patient perseverance is essential.  Just as we cannot rush a garden, we cannot rush the growth and development of a child.  In order to have any sort of yield, we must faithfully stick by our responsibility day-after-day.  Devoting time to doing the necessary things like watering, giving the necessary ingredients like plant food, will result in fruit we can be proud of in the end.  There are really no shortcuts.  It's not always fun or easy to hang in there with our children.  It can seem like we are getting nowhere at times.  Still, longsuffering with our offspring is critical.
  • Sharing the yield can be incredibly joyful.  As we pour ourselves into such worthy pursuits, the outcome can be so gratifying.  Is there any food more delicious than that using ingredients from our own garden?  Oh, how satisfying to tell people that you grew the fruits or veggies they are enjoying in their meal!  Having people admire a lovely flower arrangement or picturesque planting of blooms you have tended is such a delight as well.  It is much the same when people are touched by the children we have so lovingly and tirelessly poured into.  What a blessing to have someone tell you, "I just love your daughter," or "What a fine young man your son is becoming."  At times like this, it is such joy to share with others what God has given us the privilege of tending.
I pray that you have time to relax and enjoy some lush, beautiful gardens this summer.  The lessons in parenthood God holds for us there offer a breathtaking, powerful meditation.

PRAY:  Gardener of life, store in our hearts all of the remarkable insights on parenthood you have for us as we watch the earth burst forth with buds and blooms.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XXIII: The Wondering About Weapons Edition

An underlying current of unease has been in the atmosphere.  With each new story we hear of mass shootings, we seem to throw up our hands wondering why this is happening.  What is going on with our nation?  There ought to be stricter laws!  Why are mass shootings on the rise?  

Except they're not.

Now, I'm not trying to start a debate on gun control, so stick with me here.  But media venues from left to right, Daily Beast to CNN to TownHall, are all citing Northeastern University criminologist, James Alan Fox's study demonstrating that there is no major increase in mass shootings since 1976 (where he began his comparison).

So, why are we given the impression that such gun homicides are on the rise?  Is it the rapid flow of information these days?  Is it a sensationalistic media that has a 24 hour news cycle they must fill?  Who knows!

One thing is for certain, highly publicized incidents like the ones that took place at Sandy Hook and Isla Vista have done NOTHING to help the way our kids with special needs are perceived.  Sadly, our culture would rather overreact than come to a greater understanding of autism, Asperger's Syndrome, schizophrenia, or childhood depression.  Whatever is most expeditious seems to win out over truly getting to know an affected child, so the knee-jerk reaction is to perceive every one of our special kids as a potential mass murderer.
Case in point, two recent incidents have occurred where children were disciplined by a school because of incidents involving imaginary weapons.

 Are you SERIOUS?!

In the first case, a 13 year old boy in New Jersey was suspended after a student sitting behind him in class blurted out, "He’s making gun motions, send him to (juvenile detention!)" while the boy was twirling his pencil in class.  The school would only allow him to return after a psychological evaluation was done declaring that he was not an imminent threat to his fellow classmates.

Photo image courtesy of sakhorn38 via
In the second case, an 8 year old boy was tossed out of a private special school that helps children with social-behavioral issues in Lower Manhattan after his parents had already paid the school nearly $120,000 in tuition and other expenses, because he had threatened another student with a gun made out of rolled-up paper.  The school said the boy “had a model for physically aggressive behavior in his immediate family,’’ simply because his father had served a tour of duty in the military.  

These are just two publicized stories.  Because of our work with many parents across the nation, I also know other families who go through such things without them appearing in the media.  Many parents feel a sense of wounded shame around them.  I know of one family who endured a suspension for their child because another student had seen this kid write in a notebook a list of names of hated fellow students that had been bullying.  The school involved the police, telling the parents that such writing was considered a "hit list".  Again, the student could not return to school until a psychiatric professional had cleared the child as no risk to fellow students.

I am not professing that any of the kids involved in these situations are angelic.  No child is perfect.  However, I also don't feel comfortable about the way any of these mentioned situations have been handled.  

In at least two of these situations, mere accusation caused an event where the PARENT was required to pay for mental health evaluation in order for their child to return to school (if they are allowed to return at all), not the school calling the child into question.  Families dealing with special needs are rarely like the divorced Manhattan couple that shelled out the $120,000.  They are usually financially pressed families who spend a disproportionate amount of their incomes on doctors and therapists.  These are people who are hard pressed for acceptance and support from extended family, neighbors, churches and the wider community.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I'm doubtful that it is removing a student from school for twirling a pencil or shooting a paper gun.  In fact, I have to wonder if this sort of reaction only ingrains in a child that they are a "bad kid", setting them up for future social issues or trouble with the law.

What do you think?  Is our culture overreacting because of people like Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger, James Holmes and the like?  How do we get the culture to stop recoiling from our children and begin loving them for who they are?

I sure wish I had all the answers...

~ Barb Dittrich

*For further reading, Father claims son was removed from NJ school for twirling a pencil, WPIX News; Toy gun made of paper gets kid tossed from school, New York.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Missing Dad

My father with my 3 kids, only 24 hours before he was promoted to heaven.
Then Joseph hugged his father’s face. He wept over him and kissed him. Joseph instructed the physicians in his service to embalm his father, so the physicians embalmed Israel. They took forty days, for that is the full time needed for embalming. The Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.
When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s royal court, “If I have found favor in your sight, please say to Pharaoh, ‘My father made me swear an oath. He said, “I am about to die. Bury me in my tomb that I dug for myself there in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go and bury my father; then I will return.’” So Pharaoh said, “Go and bury your father, just as he made you swear to do.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father; all Pharaoh’s officials went with him—the senior courtiers of his household, all the senior officials of the land of Egypt, all Joseph’s household, his brothers, and his father’s household. But they left their little children and their flocks and herds in the land of Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him, so it was a very large entourage.

When they came to the threshing floor of Atad on the other side of the Jordan, they mourned there with very great and bitter sorrow. There Joseph observed a seven day period of mourning for his father.
~ Genesis 50:1-10, NET~

So. much. loss.  How do you ever heal from having a loved one stolen away for the remainder of your days on earth?

Joseph had all of those years separated from his father.  There was so much lost time to make up for when they were reunited.  Yet, even he and his father were not spared the mournful schism of death.  While Jacob left a powerful legacy, his demise also created a huge void.

Three years ago today, my father went the way of Jacob and so many others before him.  Catching us quite by surprise, he fell to the floor with a burst aneurism at about 5:30 in the morning.  He made it to his heavenly home in time for lunch.

As I read this passage from Genesis, I can relate to Joseph's deep grief.  I also wept over my father, hugging him, and singing him to the gates of heaven along with my siblings and my mom.  After he had passed, I was blessed with the opportunity to be alone with him for a time, talking to him, one last time holding and admiring his beautiful hands that belied their years of devoted hard work.  Oh, the tears.

Like Jacob, my Father left a powerful legacy.  While he only had half as many children as "Israel" did, all 6 of us have proven to be hard-working, responsible citizens.  My Dad's work ethic was not only something imparted to us at home, but was also way of life he practiced in the business he co-owned with a small group of his peers.  That selflessness carried even further into his volunteerism at his church and with our local hemophilia foundation.

Also like Jacob, my Father's departure left a huge void.  What's missing since Dad has been gone?
  • Outrageous humor.  I miss the inevitable chuckles we shared nearly every time we spoke.  I'm sure I got my wit and great love for laughter from him.  Corny at times, yes.  Downright funny, nearly always.  He had a great gift for lightening any heavy mood.
  • Help in any difficulty.  "What can I do for ya?"  This came out of his mouth as frequently as cursing comes out of the mouths of others.  He really meant it.  From shuttling little old nuns to the store or hospital, to taking a grandchild to a homeschool play because mom is too sick, to spending the duration of his retirement caring for his disabled wife, my Dad was dutiful and selfless in how he served others.
  • Warm hospitality.  It wasn't just "What can I do for ya?".  It was also, "What can I get for ya?".  Just when you needed a break, my Dad would offer the relieving hospitality you didn't even realize you were craving.  A lover of good food and drink, my Father would make sure he had on hand just what brought you enjoyment.
  • Comforting, strengthening encouragement.  "Don't get your dauber down," Dad would say as he put his arm around your shoulders.  He had a way of assuring you of better times without babying you.  My Dad gave just the right combination of tender hug mixed with swift kick in the pants.
  • Affirming pride.  "Good for you, honey!  That's great!"  Is it any wonder his approval meant so much?  Dad had an "Atta boy!" at the end of each hurdle, not only for his children, but for his grandchildren too.  It was easy to feel a sense of accomplishment with that kind of feedback from Dad.
Three years later, I still hurt so deeply missing him at times.  He would have been so proud at our son's 8th grade graduation this year.  He would have been so reassuring and helpful when my husband lost a job 9 months ago.  He would have aptly ridiculed and harassed me when my eldest daughter was learning to drive.

I'm glad he left such a remarkable legacy.  That is the only way to somehow heal the many voids that remain in missing Dad.

PRAY:  Father, thank You that You are a Dad we never have to miss.  You're always just a prayer away.  We are always in Your presence.  Thank You for our earthly fathers.  Thank You for what You teach us through these men.  Thank You for the comfort of their legacy when we are feeling so empty from their loss.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Day My Dad Entered Eternity...

Image Courtesy of Exsodus/
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV
Two years ago today, I answered the phone and heard my mom's broken voice tell me that my dad had died.  It seemed unreal.  I had just seen him days before.  He was still so young.  I thought there was so much yet for him to see and do.

I cried; not necessarily because of the depths of sadness from missing my dad, not yet.  I cried because I wondered what he felt like when he died.  
Did he know he was dying?  
Was he scared or in pain?
Had he cried out for help and found no one there to hear him?
But then I remembered the passage my sister and I had read while we sat bedside with our grandpa as he was dying.  
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.  2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NASB
When Dad entered eternity, he MAY have been frightened, he MAY have known he was dying, he MAY have cried out...but none of that REALLY mattered.  The brief moments of pain or fear Dad MAY have had were temporal; just part of the feelings we all have while we are in these "tents" here on earth; separated from our loving God and Creator.  

And Dad wasn't alone when he entered eternity.  He had the Holy Spirit with him to comfort him; that was part of God's pledge to us in response to Christ's death on the cross.  

Dad would not have wanted me to feel sad or mournful concerning his death.  I know this, because he himself had told me how to handle fear and sadness.  When I was younger, I was a practicing hypochondriac.  If I saw a TV show where someone was diagnosed with a disease, I soon developed a belief that I too had that disease.   One particularly difficult time, Dad sat me down and said, "When we are scared or afraid like how you feel right now, do you know who we are supposed to call?"  

"Dr. Quinn?"  I responded, naming our family's general practitioner. 

I'm sure he had to fight back laughter as he said, "No, Jesus."

Call on Jesus.

Great advice from a father to his daughter.  

As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, NO ONE can fathom what God has done; that's why he's God.   But He has set in our hearts the pursuit of eternity.  My dad finished the race; completed the goal for which he was striving, three years ago today. 

Pray:  Heavenly Father, thank you for your pursuit of US, and for placing in our hearts the desire to live with you forever.  Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to us so we are never alone here on earth.  We pray for comfort for those who have lost loved-ones on this earth, and we pray that we may all be together again in eternity with you.  Amen.