Monday, March 31, 2014

Sorrow's Influence



“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
    After all, everyone dies—
    so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,

    for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” 

Ecclessiastes 7:2-4, NLT

Party or funeral:  Which one would you rather be at?  Of course the party.  Oh wait, but where does the verse say it’s better to be?  Answer:  The funeral

“Sorrow is better than laughter.”  Hmmm.

Sorrow is defined as distress caused by loss, affliction, grief…

Parents of special needs kids know all too well about sorrow.    
It’s not just the loss of a life, which is a real possibility for some of our special needs kids. 
It’s the loss of their hopes and dreams. 
It’s grieving for them even before they know that they will never be able to……
It’s grieving that they have to endure this pain and affliction for years to come or maybe even a lifetime. 
How can this sorrow possibly be better than laughter?  
I thought laughter was good.  
Of course it is.  That’s not up for dispute. 

So, what about sorrow?  Why is it better? 

It’s that refining influence. 
Think of the times in your life when you grew the most and got the closest to God. 
Weren’t they those deeply sorrowful times? 
I know they were for me. 

We hear things like:  Life's short.  Tell people you love them.  Enjoy life.  Don't forget to stop and smell the roses along the way.  

Yet, we get caught up with doing lots of things and our relationship with God and others tends to suffer.  It doesn't really hit us until it HITS us personally.  When it hits us it hits us hard.  That diagnosis, unemployment, loss of life, betrayal, emotional pain, physical suffering, and the list goes on.  But what if sorrow does something more?

What if sorrow helps you feel joy more?
What if sorrow makes the laughter all the more meaningful?
What if sorrow helps you appreciate all of those little victories along the way?
What if sorrow puts everything important in life into perspective?
What if it takes sorrow in order to really live life, enjoy life, and appreciate life?

Think about those what ifs and I believe you will come to the same conclusion.
Would you feel joy as deeply if you didn't have that child with Downs Syndrome and see that joy on their face?
Would you be able to laugh at yourself so easily if your child didn't have the condition that put you in uncomfortable situations so often that you really don't care what people think anymore?
Would you appreciate those little victories that take months for your sensory sensitive child to be able to deal with when another child can just "deal with it" almost instantly?
Would you really feel what you feel, live life with the uncertainty of tomorrow, and really appreciate life if you didn't have that special needs child?

I contend that sorrow puts the rest of life into perspective.  You enjoy life more fully, live more deeply, and are even able to laugh at yourself.  Having a special needs child brings much sorrow, but it brings even greater joy.

The last verse brings it home when it talks about death.  Note that it says the wise think about death more. Well of course they do.  For many of these kids it's a real possibility at any moment.  Thinking about having a good time isn't really on the wise person's mind.  They just live life, so the good times just happen. 

PRAY:  Lord, even though there's been much sorrow in my life, I thank you for showing me how to live a life of purpose for you.  Thank you for giving me much to be joyful and thankful for.  Thank you for refining me to reflect more of you and less of me.  Lastly, help me, especially when all I see is sorrow.  

Ann Gapinski

Image from:  freedigitalphotos.net  By moggara12 image ID: 100156537


Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XI: The Scrappy School Edition


Oh, this week's winners are real gems!  That's right -- we have TWO winners this week, and they both involve schools.

Let's look at "WINNER" #1...

Ordinarily, schools are hungry to work with parents who are team players, especially when it comes to students with special needs.  But not this one.

No, this winner ought to get a SPECIAL award just for throwing common sense out the window.

It seems that the genius principal of Walnut Grove Elementary School thought it was wiser to call Missouri's Calverton Park Police and put the school on a 12 minute lockdown than to grant a concerned mother mercy for not having signed in at the front desk after being buzzed in to the school as a known parent.

Are you SERIOUS?!

You can learn all about Niakea Williams' ordeal over at the kmov.com website

Photo Courtesy of KMOV
 
In my humble opinion, this poor mother was far more polite than I would have been in the same circumstances.  In fact, I think the principal should be paying for any citation that may have been issued when Ms. Williams was arrested.

Is this REALLY how a school should be interacting with a parent?

This is yet another example of zero-tolerance trumping common sense.  When a school calls a mother for an emergency or urgent situation with their child, unless that parent is causing a disruptive altercation, a principal ought to have enough sense to grant that parent some leniency.  

In this case, the principal has not only made this mother an enemy, she also traumatized an already challenged student with Asperger's Syndrome.  I don't know of any parent that would feel comfortable sending their child back into that sort of learning environment.

Please pray for Niakea Williams and her child, that they would find themselves in a much more peaceable educational environment.

 Now let's look at "WINNER" #2...

Like our first candidate, this winner ought to get special merit for the lack of common sense.  Additionally, the administration of this school ought to be give a huge piece of coal or receive a "Grinch" award for lack of compassion.

Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, CO recently suspended Kamryn Renfro for violating their dress code policy by shaving her head in support for her friend and classmate, Delaney Clements, who lost her hair during chemotherapy to treat her cancer.  

Are you SERIOUS?!

Photo courtesy of KUSA

What the school cited as their reasoning for such a measure is, "Caprock Academy does have a detailed dress code policy, which was created to promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school's students. Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted." (per KUSA

How this translates to a parent like me is that a child with no hair is not safe, uniform or non-distracting.  My question would be, Has this school thought of how their words reflect on their thoughts about poor Delaney, who is battling cancer?

I applaud Kamryn Renfro's mother, who assumes a far more appropriate view towards her daughter's brave request to shave her head to support her friend.  This parent saw her daughter's request as an indication of inner character and compassion.

It sounds to me like Caprock's administrators could learn an awful lot from a kid like Kamryn, who will now be allowed to return to school, after all of the uproar.

To see the full story, visit KUSA 9News.  And please keep Delaney in your prayers as she fights on in her battle.

~ Barb Dittrich

*Do YOU have a nominee for a future "Are You SERIOUS?" Award?  E-mail us a link to the story with any of your own personal insights to barb@snappin.org 

Friday, March 28, 2014

All The Expertise I Never Wanted

Cut off from every avenue of escape, God has fenced me in
    and tied me up with heavy chains.
~ Lamentations 3:7, VOICE ~

Have you ever noticed that our children's diagnoses are rarely, if ever, a single disorder or diff-ability?  You may start out with one main challenge being labeled and treated, but it doesn't end there.  Added complications can later surface.  "Comorbidity" is a term experts use to describe diagnoses that often occur together, such as Down Syndrome and vision challenges, or Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism.

It seems we are in a weighty process of becoming reluctant experts.  There is this intense learning curve of becoming familiar with your child's diagnosis, knowing what their baseline looks like, discovering how to identify if something is wrong, and frankly, becoming somewhat confident in living with this in your home as your family's "new normal".

As I have frequently been known to tell parents we serve, 

Just when you think you have it figured out, you don't have it figured out!

There are times when I feel like I am imprisoned in the school of special needs parenthood with a dreadful life sentence.  It becomes traumatic, never being allowed to let your guard down, continually having to filter and process information, attempting to make impactful, wise decisions for your child in ever-changing situations.

This is one of those weeks for me.  As I was standing at the desk to check our eldest daughter in for her visit to the rheumatology clinic, my phone rang with the school phone number menacingly appearing on the screen.  The district nurse identified herself when I answered, telling me that our youngest daughter had been injured on a piece of playground equipment and was showing signs of a concussion.  Since I was at the Children's Hospital 30 miles away, my husband had to leave work to take her to the local emergency room near our home.  By the time my eldest had completed her appointment and we reached the other hospital's ER, the doctor had ordered a head CT and was contacting our pediatrician.  

Things have become a bit more complicated for our youngest daughter over the last year.  Through a number of situations, including a surgical procedure and the loss of a tooth, she is showing all of the signs of being a "symptomatic carrier" for hemophilia.  Head trauma is one of the most dangerous injuries to a person with a bleeding disorder.  This certainly added another stressful dynamic to her injury.

Long story short, while her head CT came back fine, she has spent the remainder of the week suffering terribly from a concussion and all its effects.  

So, once again I find myself facing yet another learning curve, gaining expertise I never wanted.  Namely, 

How in the WORLD do I deprive a kid with severe ADHD, SPD, and Asperger's of physical activity, electronics, TV and reading until her brain heals?

Despite a day of coloring, crafts, a bubble bath, tangrams, and other quiet activities, she went over the edge by evening.  This is going to be a long, painful healing process!


While the undergoing isn't fun, at least I know I have a Savior who has been weighed down in similar ways, and even worse.  During his earthly walk, Jesus gained expertise on living in poverty, being abandoned by those closest to him, and in serving the hearts of so many broken, needy people.  It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always fun, but he pushed on in the strength of the Spirit with an eternal vision.

How grateful I can be that when He went home to heaven, He left that same power of the Holy Spirit with me, and with every other parent who struggles.  

Yes, I never wanted all this expertise, but I know I have a God who understands and who has good purposes for entrusting me with the experiences He gives.

PRAY:  Father, I don't want to know more about symptoms, behaviors, and treatments.  Thank You for understanding me, and guiding me through such weighty, brain-bending life experiences.

~ Barb Dittrich

Photo image courtesy of mihtiander via 123rf.com

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Faith Like A Child


And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." ~ Matthew 18:3, NIV

My daughter Namine loves to draw. One morning, she asked for some paper to draw on, and of course I was happy to oblige. I sat and watched as she drew a cross. She looked up at me. "I'm drawing Jesus on the cross. But He's not done yet because He'll rise from the dead."

This Lenten season, we look to Jesus as he embarks on the path to the cross. But we remember that the cross was not the end; Jesus' life and mission did not end there. He wasn't done yet. He rose from the dead, securing our place in heaven with Him.

Pray: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to be the sacrifice in our place. Help me to have faith like a child, fully trusting in You. Amen.

Paul

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Travel, Trust, and the Special Needs Parent


The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:1-2 HCSB

I'm traveling twice this month. Once with my husband for a trip he won at work, and the next week for several days to speak at a conference. While I'm looking forward to both trips, I'm struggling with leaving my children behind. They will be well cared for by family members I love and trust. All the necessary instructions, medications, phone numbers for doctors, and food preparation will be taken care of before I leave.

But I'm still struggling. On one of the trips, I'll be out of the country for a few days. That means no cell phone service, and I may not have an internet connection either. On both trips, I'll be far from home.

The real issue is that I have somehow deceived myself into thinking that I'm the one in charge of my children's safety and well-being. While that's true to a degree, it's not true that I'm solely responsible. Ultimately, God is responsible for my children, both now and as they venture out into the world more, developing independence, preparing for the day when they will leave my care completely. I can't protect them fully, now or in the future.

Traveling is an exercise in trust. I have to entrust myself and my children to the only One who can really protect all of us. 

PRAY:  Father, thank you for taking such good care of us. Help me to trust you with our safety when we're together and apart. Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

One Word: FIRST QUARTER ROUND-UP -- Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)

A pretentious, showy life is an empty life;
    a plain and simple life is a full life.
~ Proverbs 13:7, MSG ~

It may be hard to believe, but we're quickly approaching the end of the first Quarter of 2014.

While we haven't touched on this topic in nearly 2 months, hopefully, you have continued to revisit the One Word you have chosen as your core focus for the year.  

On the chance that you haven't been following this theme since the beginning of the year, feel free to check our original One Word post from January, and find the related posts by looking down the "Labels" section in the right hand column of this blog.

If you have taken a stab at this different approach to your New Year's Resolution, you have been adding up  enough weeks to perhaps already be incorporating some new habits.

How is it going?

Did you start out strong only to find yourself forgetting about it over time?  What have you done to make your One Word a habit?  Are you seeing any difference yet this year?

If your answers are less-than-favorable, take heart!  It's not too late to make adjustments that get you back on track.  That is one of the beauties of choosing just One Word rather than making complex resolutions.

Allow me to share with you one painfully obvious universal truth that I have learned regarding this approach.

You may recall the my One Word for 2014 is "ORDER".  This word might engender thoughts of a neatly organized office, papers all filed, tidy totes and decorative systems making a work space fit for a magazine photo shoot.  However, my office currently looks nothing like that.  (Of course, it IS still early in the year.)  This word might also provoke thoughts of having perfect systems in place for handling all things critical to your child with special needs including schoolwork, clothing, medications, and travel equipment.  My household looks nothing like that either.

What my One Word has led me to is SIMPLICITY.  This is necessarily true for any single word choice because the focus itself is a simple one.  One of the beauties of this approach is that it helps us to create positive change in our lives in manageable, bite-sized pieces.  

What this looks like in my life is something as simple as a white board schedule on our refrigerator.  In the chaos of life with 3 kids who have chronic illnesses and/or special needs, we are able to create some order in our family simply by keeping the week's schedule available and up-to-date for all to see.  In the first Quarter of 2014, I have developed the habit of sitting down with our white board every Sunday afternoon and getting the week's schedule filled in.  Simple, I know.  Yet, this little thing has made our family take a huge step towards order over total chaos this year.

What small tools are you using to achieve your goals?

Have YOU discovered the blessing of taking simple steps in this first Quarter of the year?  If you haven't, it's not to late to start.

PRAY:  Lord, our children make our lives a bit more complicated than average.  Yet, we often do a pretty good job of making our lives more complicated all on our own.  We forget the simple.  We never consider that little things add up to big things in reaching our goals.  Holy Spirit, grant us wisdom, fix our focus, and remind us that we are closest to what You intend for us when we keep it simple.


To learn more visit http://oneword365.com/  

~ Barb Dittrich

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heaven's IEP



Photo by kidshealth.org
                                                                                            
"My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate "who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2:1)


The end of March means the changing of the seasons. Winter is ending, the colors are changing, and blooms are lurking just under the surface. Every parent knows what season is next.


That’s right! It’s IEP season!


I will never forget our first IEP meeting. I had no idea what to expect and certainly no idea of what was about to happen.


The room was full of early intervention therapists, school therapists, service providers, teachers, administrators…I’m pretty sure I even met the Governor and the Secretaries of Transportation and Veteran’s Affairs!


Later this week we will meet for our son’s twelfth IEP. That thought made me imagine.


What if God did an IEP on each one of us every year?


What if you got summoned to the throne room of Heaven once a year for God to complete an IEP on you?


“Thanks for coming in today Mr. Davidson. My name is Michael. Let me introduce you to the others here today. This is the LORD God, and to his right is Jesus Christ, I believe you two first met when you were 11 years old Jeff.”


In front of God is a huge file folder with my name written across it in a beautiful calligraphy. 


God opened the file and began to speak.


“I’d like to start by discussing Jeff’s strengths and positive characteristics we’ve observed. He has a wonderful sense of humor and works well with others. He stays motivated and has a vivid sense of imagination.”


“Our evaluations show he tests well in transparency, and he shows real improvement in valuing those like him as well as those not like him. We have moved his mercy ranking from a 3 to a 4 based upon his performance this year. He demonstrated practically no mercy at all several years ago, so the direct services have helped him make great strides in that area."


“Our testing reveals a real aptitude for leadership, administration and teaching, putting him in the upper quadrant.”


“However, our real life observations in the field also show some serious deficiencies and areas he continues to lag far behind that we need to address."


“Jeff continues to place a much higher value on receiving grace than he does on giving grace to others. He also continues to struggle with pride, envy, and jealousy.”


“His latest evaluations show he can be judgmental and quick-tempered. Right now we are just looking at this on a consultative basis, but if it doesn’t improve we may have to start providing direct services once a week,” God concluded.


At that moment Jesus spoke up, “I’m here today as Jeff’s advocate. Can I see the file please?”


Michael noted all this into my folder and slid it across the table to Jesus.


Jesus scribbled something on the front page although I couldn’t make it out from across the table. Then he slid the folder back to God, who opened it and glanced at the front page.


God then turned in my direction and announced that there had been a revision made to my IEP.


“A provider has stepped up and agreed to cover all your deficiencies and make up for all the areas you are lacking. Based upon his review of the file, we deem you perfect in our standing. He has agreed to add your scores together with his own so now you have a spotless record."


Michael handed me my heavenly IEP back for my signature. As I scribbled my name, I noticed my file now only contained one page. The rest had disappeared. I snuck a glance at the page as I signed my name. 


The word “Mine” was written boldly in blood across the page right above the scrawled signature of Jesus himself.


And then I looked at the name on the file. Jesus had marked through my name, again with his blood, and had written his own name on the front of the file where mine used to be.


Michael grinned at me as we walked out and whispered, “No matter how often I see him do that, it never gets old!”


PRAY: "Father we're so thankful that your mercies are new every morning, and for your everlasting faithfulness. Thank you that your word says you are the God who fights for us."


--Jeff Davidson



Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume X: Deaf Ears Turned Towards Cries For Help


It's always sad when I find this week's winner first thing on a Monday morning. 

And when I discovered this story, I only regret I hadn't known about it years ago.  After all, I pride myself on having been gifted by God with a BIG MOUTH for a reason.

Sadly, I somehow missed this story on CNN posted back in October of 2013:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/29/us/oklahoma-boy-death/




 Are you SERIOUS?!

It took me some incredible intestinal fortitude to get through all of the information I was forced to consume in order to write today's post.  As a mother, not only did my heart break, but my ire flared as I saw one of my lifelong adages proven true in startling reality...

"The child 'welfare' system is no welfare at all!"

The utter disregard for this boy's life, despite the fact that the DHS received over 20 calls from his adult sister who was worried about Quinten's mistreatment and neglect, ought to make all of us pay much closer attention to the way our government programs and employees work.

I will let you decide if you have the emotional wherewithal to read the details.  I have left you with plenty in the way of links to the story in this post.

While we should be rejoicing that at least these workers were criminally charged, that doesn't bring young Quinten back to life.  It would have been far better to never have this awful case occur in the first place.

Hopefully, at the very least, articles like this one will bring attention to situations like this that occur in other negligent agency offices in America.

~ Barb Dittrich

*Do YOU have a nominee for a future "Are You SERIOUS?" Award?  E-mail us a link to the story with any of your own personal insights to barb@snappin.org 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Parent of World Down Syndrome Day

And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works...
~Hebrews 10:24, NET ~ 

Dear Parent of World Down Syndrome Day,

I remember you from my childhood -- strong, quiet, persevering, isolated.  You once seemed sentenced to the life of an eternal caregiver, grim, but dutiful.  Oh, how you have changed in this generation!  

I got to know you much better through my own special needs parenting journey.  I can remember taking our 7 week old son to the Memorial Day parade and seeing you across the street, happily venturing out with your newborn.  I was impressed that the grimness had vanished, giving way to genuine parental joy, just like every other parent has.  It spurred me on to have a positive outlook with my baby's serious diagnosis.  Your attitude dared me to quickly leave the uncertainty and darkness I seemed to find myself in.

I was surprised in the months ahead when I saw a startling number of you in the infusion clinic at the hospital where we would take our baby to be treated.  Little did I know that so many of you faced the devastating heartache of seeing your child battle leukemia.  Even so, your perseverance as you saw your child through such a battle was, again, motivating and inspiring.

Since those early days of my own parental walk 13 years ago, I have pondered whether people know that you face so much more than just a child with a classic appearance and cognitive delays.  Do they know that you have paved the way for so many of us in so many other areas of illness or disease?  How many of those in the larger public ever take note of how you advocate and stretch medical expertise in additional areas like cardiac care, gastroenterology, vision, endocrinology, mental health, orthopedics, neurology, autoimmune disorders, dental care, dermatology, and urology?  You are on top of your game in so many different ways, ever learning, ever adjusting.

You are bold.  In a world that tries to pressure us into believing that a child with Down Syndrome should be offered an "out" through the option of terminating their gestation, you demonstrate the value of every life by lovingly welcoming that child into your family.  While there is no doubt there are still many difficulties, you are wise enough to realize that no life is without challenges.  You press on with your sight trained on the good.

You are walking hope for the future of so many individuals with so many different diagnoses, largely because you so passionately focus, not on what your child cannot do, but what they can do.  Because of you, new education and job opportunities continue to blossom.  The future is so much brighter than it ever has been before because you, dear parent, fought relentlessly to get us here.  

Stigma continues to be smashed under your feet, because you are tired of putting up with it.  You've boldly stood up to let people know that it's NOT okay to use "The R-word" as a means of insulting others or making them feel less.  You have shown the world that people deserve love and respect, no matter who they are or what their circumstances.

At the same time, you are humorously pragmatic.  While you fight, you remind us that your child with Down Syndrome can be a pain in the fanny just like everyone else.  You shrink the power that the hard parts of this journey have over you by having an amazing ability to love and laugh in spite of them.

You continue to widen the promise of a good future for all of us because you are never content to have your child relegated to a place of less-than.  You show the rest of us how to know our children well, even with all of their quirks, and still be their greatest fans.  You build acceptance because you are accepting.

Congratulations, Parent of World Down Syndrome Day!  While you may sometimes feel overwhelmed by how far we still have to go in making this world a better place for your child, please know that parents like YOU have brought us so far from where we once were.  You spur us all on to greatness.  I am so proud and grateful to know you.

With Love,

PRAY:  Father, please bless parents raising a child with Down Syndrome in a special way today.  Grant them a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing how each of them, even in their ugliest hours, inspire and motivate the rest of us who are on a similar journey alongside them. 

LEARN MORE AT http://worlddownsyndromeday.org/  and explore the many medical challenges that can accompany Trisomy 21 at http://www.medicalhomeportal.org/diagnoses-and-conditions/down-syndrome#ClinicalAssessmenttagless

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Acceptance Begins at Home

So now what? We who are strong are not just to satisfy our own desires. We are called to carry the weaknesses of those who are not strong. Each of us must strive to please our neighbors, pursuing their welfare so they will become strong. The Anointed One Himself is our model for this kind of living, for He did not live to please Himself. And as the Scriptures declared, “When they insult You, they insult me.”[a]  You see, everything written in the days of old was recorded to give us instructions for living. We find encouragement through the Scriptures and a call to perseverance that will produce hopeful living. I pray that our God, who calls you and gives you perseverance and encouragement, will join all of you together to share one mind according to Jesus the Anointed. In this unity, you will share one voice as you glorify the one True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, our Liberating King.
 
So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due.
~ Romans 15:1-7, VOICE ~

accept verb
to regard as right or true 
Synonyms accept, buy, credit, swallow, take, trust
Related Words account, accredit, understand; assume, presume, suppose; conclude, deduce, infer
Near Antonyms distrust, doubt, misdoubt, mistrust, question, suspect; challenge, dispute 
Antonyms disbelieve, discredit, reject*

Poser.  Imposter.  Fraud.

Yes, these are all words I have ascribed to myself over the past 18 months as I try to process the fact that my daughter is on the Autism Spectrum. 

"Imposter Syndrome" is a documented, widely known psychological phenomenon where an individual feels like they are a fraud, despite accomplishments at school, on the job, or even in daily living.  Oddly enough, one of the most significant ways to deal with these feelings is to accept the underlying insecurity that triggers such self-perception.  Acceptance ushers in normalization, allowing an individual to conquer their self-doubt.
 
Yes, this "syndrome" would describe ME, especially when it comes to identifying myself as the mother of a girl with Asperger's Syndrome.

As I puzzled through this with my husband, we tried to grasp where such faulty thinking originates.  Could it be that we only came to the realization that our daughter has this diagnosis within the past few years?  Is it the fact that there are so many other parents whose child faces a far more difficult version of this spectrum disorder?  This is not necessarily her primary or only diagnosis, with such complexities as severe allergies, asthma, ADHD, and most recently, a bleeding disorder.

There's no doubt to me where she stands when you look at the many nuances involved with Theory of Mind. One colleague explained to me awhile back that this, not the ability to make eye contact, is the deciding factor that determines whether or not a child is on the Autism Spectrum.  Her Sensory Processing Disorder, her social awkwardness, her inability to put herself in the shoes of another, and her need to have many nuanced expressions of speech explained to her in detail are just a few of the quirky things that make our daughter uniquely herself.

And maybe that's where they answer lays.

In reality, perhaps my "imposter syndrome" is rooted in a lack of acceptance.  The truth that my daughter's differences collectively have a name is perhaps something that challenges me this far into the parenting journey.  The forgiveness that I fail to give myself in realizing that it's a diagnosis and not me that is responsible for some of her difficulties -- it's all part of this.  Too many years of subconsciously buying into the accusations of others...  Too many years of trying to make adaptations at school...  Too much time trying to make sense of what we saw going on with her at home...  It couldn't be as easy as being labelled an Autism Spectrum Disorder, could it?

But then we who parent a child on the spectrum know 
none of it is easy, don't we?

Always having to be "on" in order to manage our child's challenges in the home, pushing back against bullying, deeply craving and fostering peer friendships, dealing with relatives who will likely never "get it", working on the IEP's in partnership with the school, and praying relentlessly that the future will be bright for our kids never allows us to be completely at ease.

Still, we can accept, and it is that Romans 15 acceptance that I am stepping into as I lay down these feelings of fraud. 

PRAY:  Father, it is so funny how our feelings and perceptions can deceive us.  Forgive me for not accepting with gratitude and love that which You have entrusted to my care.  Strengthen me as I continue to advocate for my cherished child.

~ Barb Dittrich

Footnotes:
  a.  15:3 - Psalm 69:9

*Merriam-Webster, Incorporated



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My IEP


If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future
 and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? 
And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move,
without love I would be no good to anybody.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:2 nlt ~

It was that time of year again - the annual IEP review for our son. 

My husband and I have our pre-IEP-plan down to a science, of sorts.  Sometime during the week of the meeting, we sit down and discuss what we feel the two or three "core issues" are that we see preventing growth in our son.  We also discuss what we've tried to do at home that may/may not have worked in overcoming these issues. 

We were having one of those discussions when all of a sudden my husband, who is an extremely creative, visionary educator, got a sparkle in his eyes.  I raised my eyebrows in confusion at his seemingly random excitement.  In response, he said something I will never forget:
I get it, Emmy!  I know the true purpose of an IEP!  An IEP is the parents' plea to their child's educators to love their child and the reciprocal promise from the educators that they will love that child. 
Wow.  Seriously, wow.  When he said that, it was as if he had taken a table covered in rubrics, test scores, paperwork, therapy tools, etc. and wiped them clear off the table, leaving it clean and ready for true productivity.  That is exactly what we want for our son - we want to know that our child will be loved and appreciated for who he is by the people who are helping us grow WHO HE IS.

I felt like 30 pounds had been lifted off of my soul in that moment of clarity. 

Then I had an even bigger epiphany - that is what God wants us to offer one another.  Often times, I am so focused on problem solving and strategy that I forget to just love my neighbor.  Every day I slip into believing the lie that I have to have all the answers rather than just offer a shoulder to cry on.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 nlt)
God didn't put us here on this earth alone - he gave us the gift of each other.  If I want to be a gift to my brothers and sister, no matter the circumstance, I need to love them as our father loves them.  I need to live out a SPIRITUAL IEP:
Intentionally. Embrace. People. 

PRAY: Dear Lord, I am sorry for all the times when I haven't loved others like I should.  You have given us the gift of brothers and sisters to sharpen together with, and sometimes I take that for granted.  Help me to live out your command to love my neighbor as you, our father, loves his children.  Thank you for putting special educators in our schools who cherish our children and set an example for me to embrace.  Amen.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I'm Just Going to Rest my Eyes

Photo Courtesy of Frame Angel / freedigitalphotos.net

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:41 NIV
As young girls, my cousins, sister and I would tease my grandma when we'd catch her falling asleep as she read stories to us or watched TV with us.  Grandma would say, "I was just resting my eyes." 

We've all been there...that overwhelming exhaustion that comes with being a parent, or meeting an important deadline, or going through a traumatic event like a death of a close friend or relative.  We've all had those times when all we want to do is just close our eyes...if even for a moment.  
But the moment turns into minutes...
And maybe even many, many minutes.
Suddenly, we find we have fallen sound asleep...
There was a time when Jesus became very upset with his disciples when he caught them "resting their eyes." They had just experienced their last supper together, Jesus had explained to them how his death was drawing near, and several of them had scoffed at the thought of denying him, let alone betraying him to anyone.  They were devastated, they were troubled, they were exhausted.
Then Jesus tells them before he withdraws for a time of prayer alone:  Pray that you will not fall into temptation.  Luke 22:40 NIV
How hard is that?  He doesn't even just bid them to pray, he actually throws out a topic for them!!!  

Of course, Jesus knew that Satan was just itching to catch them at their most vulnerable; tired, afraid, confused...those are some of Satan's favorite adjectives!!!  And the root word used which is translated to "temptation" is peirasmos which means "the trial of a man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy."   
Jesus was urging them to pray so that Satan couldn't assault their faith during such a critical time.
...But instead they fell asleep.
When Jesus returns he asks them..."Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" Matthew 26:40 NIV
Ouch.

He's the one facing HIS last hours before fulfilling his destiny as Savior of the world, and they couldn't stay awake with him to watch over him and keep him safe as he prayed.  
But, it's even worse...in a couple of the accounts of this same event, Jesus gives them a second chance and they STILL fall back to sleep!
This reminds me so much of ME.  The number of times that God has to remind me of the same thing over and over again, and I still fall back into the same pattern of thought or behavior.  How many times have I fallen asleep on God, just totally given in to the weakness of my flesh and never really tried to stay awake and alert; never thought to be on guard for Satan as he prowls around in my life?

I'll try to remember this image; the image of the people who truly loved Jesus, who followed him, walked with him, ate with him, and taught with him as they struggled to keep their spirit ahead of their flesh.  

Maybe the disappointment shown by Jesus, "Couldn't you...one hour?"; maybe that will help me reconsider before I try to rest my eyes as I'm in the middle of doing God's work. 

Pray:  Lord, you prayed to your Father in heaven so fiercely in that garden that your sweat turned to blood; I pray that I will overcome my weak flesh so that I can pursue your will with such passion. 

~Tammie Hefty


 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Letter. Should he open it?


Luke 6:37b  "Forgive others, and you will be forgiven."  NLT


He got the letter not long after he was sent to prison.  He wasn't sure if he should open it.  After all it was from the father of the family that he was partially responsible for the death of their son.  

It didn't matter that he didn't even know that their son had died until months after it occurred.  

It didn't matter that he had never even met their son except that one time.

It didn't matter that he didn't think the prescription drug he bought on the street for him wouldn't harm him.

It didn't matter that he thought the informant should have been held responsible for this crime and should be the one in jail.  

It didn't matter that he was sincerely sorry that their son had died and that he had said as much at his sentencing for them to hear.

It didn't matter that prison was the last place he wanted to be.

Should he open it or not.  

He stared at it for a while and eventually decided to open it.

He didn't expect to see those words.  "We don't hold anything against you. We forgive you."

There were other things in the letter too and they were actually praying for him.  

He wrote back to them and told them that he's been reading his Bible and seeking God.  He sure didn't want to be sent to prison, but it was changing him for the better.  

This is a true story.  As the parents of the son that died it is hard to describe how it felt to forgive this young man.  I can tell you that this forgiveness not only affected the young man's life, but ours as well.  

It also got me to start thinking and praying about others in my life that I haven't really forgiven.  I thought I was the forgiving type, but God soon revealed a few people that I was still holding onto forgiveness with.  


He also showed me how not forgiving was a consuming and destructive force.  It was not advancing His kingdom.  In fact it was doing the opposite.  Besides that, it was taking precious time away from more important things in life.  

Letting go and forgiving opened me up to forgiveness and the blessing that being forgiven brings.  I also had to ask forgiveness myself.  This was even harder for me, but in the end brought some healing into these relationships.

I challenge you:

Is there anyone you need to forgive?  
Were you abused, forgotten, lied to, cheated on, ...?
Is there anyone you need to ask forgiveness?
Did you gossip, lie about, deceive, neglect, ...?

Ask God to show you whom you need to forgive and ask forgiveness of.

Prayer:  Lord, Help us to forgive, even when it's hard too. Help us seek forgiveness too. Lastly, use forgiveness to bring us and the other person closer to you

Ann Gapinski


Photo Courtesy of:  Gualberto107 image ID: 100168350  from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/