Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In This World You Will Have Migraines



Image Courtesy of Stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33 NIV


It’s tough being a parent.  To be a parent with a chronic illness makes circumstances even harder.  I have been dealing with debilitating migraine headaches.  It’s something I have dealt with for 20 years; but they come in cycles, and when I’m in a cycle, I have them daily for a long period of time. 


I know that God gives me these migraines as a way to test my faith.  Not only are they testing my faith, but they are testing the patience and faith of my daughter as well.  Evie has special needs, and one of those needs is high-anxiety.  When she sees me not feeling well, she gets very upset.  So, I have to do everything I can to keep things as normal as possible for her.  This is a very difficult thing to do when I’m in the middle of an intense migraine.  


I hold fast to the verse from John above.  “In this world you will have troubles.”  Oh, yes, I am experiencing one of those “troubles” right now.  I have scaled back on many activities.  My personal blog has gone un-touched for several days.  I have stopped packing for our move in June because I know that when Evie is at school, I should be resting.  I have been going to bed shortly after she does because my body is so tired from fighting the migraine all day.  I am experiencing those “troubles” of which Christ spoke.


“I have overcome the world.”


Yes.  I make this verse my own; as if Christ is speaking directly to me.  “In this world you will have migraines.  Take heart, Tammie!  I have overcome migraines.”  Of course!  If I believe that Christ died, and conquered death, then certainly he has the power to overcome migraines. 


For now, I will make adjustments in my life that allow God to step in and show his strength in midst of my weakness.  I’ll let him show me what is important and of what I can let go.  I’ll let my writing be “less thought out” and more “from my heart,” because I’m letting God take over.  I will let God help me to overcome the trouble of this world.


Pray:  Lord, help me to stay focused on you as you shepherd me through a season of pain.  Keep me from trying to do too much; help me to lie down in the pasture to which you have led me.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Look What I Found!


"But the angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.'"
-Matthew 28:5-6

I think it will be a while before the magic of hunting for Easter eggs fades for my daughter. But it's not just the eggs: she shows the same wide-eyed wonder in church: at five years old, she's at the age where she's started to get what the pastor's talking about. Being a hospital-bound kid, she gets sickness. She's seen death. To know that she'll see her loved ones again, that they're not gone for good? That's amazing. That's wonder. And to get that it's Jesus who did that, by dying on the cross? It blows her mind. It should blow our minds, too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant us a childlike faith, that we see the wonder in the sacrifice You made for us. Thank You, Father, for the gift of eternal life. In Your Name, Amen.

Paul Eiche

Monday, April 28, 2014

What's He Doing Here?

Photo Credit en.wikipedia.org
                                                                                     
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. " (Revelation 3:20)


“Wait a minute. What’s he doing here? Why is he even allowed in the room, much less at the table?”

The question had to be asked the first time the King summoned the royal family to the dining table. The true sons and daughters of the King exchanged looks, whispered back and forth, and looked curiously on the late arriving guest.

“How can he possibly deserve to be here at the King’s table," they thought silently. The King himself, knowing what they must be thinking, announced, “ Mephibosheth will always eat at my table.”

King David had made a pact with his friend Jonathan before a brutal civil war, that if anything happened to either one of them, the other would take care of his surviving family.

There was only one member of the family left. A man named Mephibosheth, who had special needs, being crippled in both his feet.

From the moment David learned of Mephibosheth, he adopted him into his family, gave him back his inheritance, and invited him to have a seat at the King’s table.

“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” (2 Samuel 9:7)

That’s one of my favorite passages. I use it often in my speaking to demonstrate how God’s (the King’s) table includes seats for those with special needs. I use the illustration to proclaim that we are all welcome in God’s Kingdom (the table), even those with special needs. I love to use this story when speaking to churches about opening their doors and their programs to include those with special needs and disabilities.

Recently, in preparation for presiding over the Lord’s Supper at my church, I was re-reading the gospel’s account of the Lords Supper. As I read the account again, it mentions that Jesus was there with all twelve disciples. All twelve? Something struck a nerve inside me, causing me to blurt out loud.

“Wait a minute. What’s he doing here? Why is he even allowed in the room, much less at the table?

I was referring to Judas. Jesus knew full well what Judas was about to do. He even announced it as they dined around the table. Yet, Jesus still took bread and wine, blessed it, gave thanks, and served it to Judas.

Myself there is no way I could do that. I wouldn’t even have allowed Judas in the room, much less at the table.

Oh the unbelievable grace of our Lord!

I felt like the Spirit of God prompted me though to take another look around the table. As if saying, "look around again."

This time I noticed Peter. Just a few hours after the supper, Peter would deny even knowing Christ three times. Jesus had even warned Peter at the table that, “this very night- before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”- Matthew 26:35)

“Wait a minute. What’s he doing here? Why is he even allowed in the room, much less at the table?”

How in the world could Jesus allow Judas and Peter to sit as his table, and even serve them, knowing how they were going to betray him?

Then I felt the Holy Spirit thumping in my soul and prompting me, “Take one more look around the table and tell me what else you see.”

This time I looked around the Lord’s table- and I began to weep and cry.

This time I had seen myself at the Lord’s Table.

Me. With all my hang-ups, missteps, baggage, doubts, and faults.

Me. With all my sins, my issues, and my garbage in my heart.

I was sitting at the King’s table. I began to sob.

“Wait a minute. What am I doing here? Why am I even allowed in the room, much less at the table?”

God reminded me that just like Mephibosheth, I too am broken, and crippled in my own way.  We all have our own "special"needs. And like Mephibosheth, I too have been adopted into His royal family and given an inheritance.

And just like Mephibosheth, because of God’s unquenchable grace, you and I too will always have a seat at the royal table, and dine with the King. 


PRAY: "Father,your love and grace overwhelm me. Who am I that you have saved me and adopted me into your family? Thank you for your love, your grace, and your willingness to invite someone like me to your table."

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XV: Sticky Fingers/Entitlement Edition


I often joke with friends that Wisconsin's state motto should be changed from "FORWARD" to "ALL YOU CAN EAT".  We LOVE free stuff in this state, or even the impression of getting something for nothing.  I can tell you from decades of experience that even at charity auctions, where items are supposed to be bid-up and over-payed for, Wisconsinites still like to see if they can get a deal on an item.

Given that fact, this week's award winner shouldn't come as a shock.

This past week, our organization had a booth at a special needs event in Wisconsin.  I "woman-ed" the booth for much of the expo.  As I have seen so many times before at such events I have exhibited at or attended as a participant, there were certain attendees who went from booth to booth collecting any and all freebies they could find to bring home.  A gentleman in the booth next to me represented a very small organization, selling items that young adults with disabilities had created.  A neophyte to such an event, he was not familiar with the type of "grazing" I have witnessed over the decades.  Much to his surprise, 2 adorable little girls walked by his booth, grabbed 2 of his items for sale, tucked them in their bags, and walked away.  As he pointed this out to me in shock, I asked him if he had also noticed the woman talking directly to him who had taken one of his logo-embroidered hats and tucked it into her bag.  Since he hadn't, his shock only multiplied.  Ultimately, he shrugged it off, but I think this is an issue worth confronting.

So, this week's award winner is every one of us who has "sticky fingers" or who gets a bit greedy at exhibit halls.

Are you SERIOUS?!

Let me be clear.  When exhibitors bring items for display, we do want to share them with people at our booths.  For example, I was MORE than happy to have children take some of our coloring books, so I would not have to lug them back to the office.  They were there for children to enjoy and to share our contact information.  However, it is when attendees become gluttonous or operate with an attitude of entitlement that expo behavior becomes problematic.  Some examples of this would be the conference attendee who grabs fists-full of pens, bracelets, stress balls or goodies of any kind; conference attendees who are repeat visitors to a booth, thinking those manning the booth don't notice that they're "double-dipping"; or conference attendees who take books, merchandise or other items on display for sale without paying when the vendor does not notice. 

Photo Image courtesy of dinictis via 123rf.com
It is sad to have to point out such gaps in etiquette, but pervasive bad behavior makes it necessary.  Having a family member who faces a challenge with special needs does NOT entitle us to rob or mistreat others.  Besides, no amount of free tschotschkes will ever compensate for sorrows or difficulties.  It behooves us to shine the light of Jesus wherever we go, showing others what a difference the Lord makes in our lives.  We have a unique platform to do so.  When we get sticky fingers or act entitled at conferences, we give the world a completely false perception of what it's like living with special needs, and we certainly fail at building good will for our community.


*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, April 25, 2014

We are blessed??? Huh, how's that??


 “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and your looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you sick or in prison and got to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
Matthew 25:35-40, NIV

If I didn’t know what a strong Christian she was, I (Deb) might have wondered if she had one too many glasses of wine!  Why?  Because my friend, Amy, who has two sons with Angelman Syndrome (a mutation of the 15th chromosome characterized by developmental delays across the board—fine and gross motor, cognitive, lack of speech, seizures, orthopedic impairment, sleeplessness, etc.) was sharing with me how incredibly blessed she is.

And not only was she saying this about herself, but about myself as well, since my son, who has autism and is non-verbal, requires so much care. What the heck was she talking about??

Amy’s story:

I was driving in my car listening to Christian radio and Matthew 25: 35-36 was read aloud.  Initially I was very frustrated because I want to go out and serve people.  I want to go to third world countries and serve those kids who are thirsty and hungry and need clothes. Having two children with severe disabilities has made that impossible for me. 

The Lord made me see, however, that He has given me something very special to do.  He has given me the opportunity to live out these verses every single day. The above verses aren’t just applied to serving people in third world countries—it also applies to my situation.  My boys can’t eat unless I feed them or drink unless I get it for them.  In the past this included specialized cups, straws and feeding chairs. They don’t get dressed unless I get the clothes and physically put them on piece by piece.

What I blessing that whatever I do for them I do for Jesus!  This is what the Lord allows me to do every single day as I take care of my children who the world considers the least of these.  When I’m in the midst of the frustration  and exhaustion that come with caring for my children with special needs  and things aren’t going our way and I want to scream, “Why me Lord? Why did you put me in this position?”  He has softened my heart and allowed me to see HIS face on my children.

So those of us who are care givers day in and day out can strive to remember and know that we are clothing Christ and feeding Him as we care for our special need loved ones.  We can realize what an honor He has given to us and, therefore, how incredibly blessed we are.  And for those of us who are not quite there yet (Deb) we can ask the Lord to give us eyes to see and open hearts to believe that this is true.

PRAY:  “Lord, thank you for your word that tells us that as we care for those who are hungry and thirsty—even those in our own family—that we are caring for YOU.  How incredible.  Please help us to know and remember this truth as we go about our lives day to day.”

By guest writer Amy Clark and Deb Abbs

*Photo image courtesy of winnond via freedigitalphotos.net

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When God Says No to a Mother's Heart Cry

"Yet even when you do pray, your prayers are not answered, because you pray just for selfish reasons" (James 4:3, CEV).

"Please, God, Please don't let my daughter have autism," I cried out as the reality of it pierced my heart. It was a prayer I spoke silently in my heart several years prior. There were moments when I knew something was different. Those moments when all the toys had to be in a line perfectly or enduring fits thrown that seemed out of proportion because I had no idea what went wrong. These little but distinct things were things I secretly held in my heart and I cried out to God.

Fast forward to age eight. Things continued to solidify my suspicions. As her peers moved out of the concrete thinking stage, could enjoy jokes, and started learning social cues, my girl floundered. All the suspicions stored up in my heart compacted. I felt a pain in my gut. I prayed, cried, and freaked out. I reacted in fear.

BUT, God's "perfect love casts out all fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:17-19). I had been selfishly worrying about how this all would effect me. I feared the "punishment" of this. I had my own plans, dreams and ideas about my life and special needs was not part of it.

Those truths were so hard for me to admit but they were true. I would not chose this life on my own if I had a clean slate to pick from, however, living it now I can see it is the best plan for us. God is wise and good in His foreknowledge and planning of our lives. He will work out everything for our good and use it to conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). This is most important.

God chose to answer my prayer with no. We did get an autism diagnosis of Asperger's. When I look at it now I see the blessing in it. My entire family is more mindful of others because of the path we daily walk. We are more empathetic and helpful to others struggling in life. We take note of others with these same daily challenges that many others do not see. Most importantly it does allow us the opportunity to die daily to ourselves and cling to our Savior, our constant source of strength. As we follow His pattern of laying our lives down, we then rise up in greater strength. Death to self must come before the resurrection of strength in Him.

As a good Father, God saw this path as best for us. I also know my aspie girl is thankful for how God made her wonderfully and fearfully (Psalm 139). How He did not make a mistake as He knit her together in my womb (Psalm 139). She is thankful to be unique and would not change it. I would not either for we trust God's great plan for us in and through the challenges of it. We embrace it and rely fully on Christ.

Prayer: Father, help us to embrace the greater plan you have for our lives even when we do not understand or do not like it. Help us to trust you and allow our trials to conform us into the image of Christ. Help us to see others and help when we can. Help us to comfort others as you comfort us. In Jesus Name. Amen.


~Angela Parsley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gas, Giggles, and a God-sized YES!



And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 NLT


I’m reading Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch (as part of the book's launch team), and I have cried and prayed my way through half of the book so far. I have begged God to show me what my God-sized YES is, what He would have me do that’s bigger than myself for the good of others and for His glory. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I thought my husband would come to me with some idea for ministry or missions for our family. Maybe I thought God would birth a crazy dream in my heart that hadn’t been there the day before. Maybe I thought my story would look a lot like Kristen’s.


It doesn’t. What I got instead was a Maundy Thursday service at a church in the denomination my husband grew up in, which is a very liturgical church and very different from what my daughter is used to. (Are any red flags going up for you yet? Clue: Different.)


Everything went well until the minister began to present his devotional thoughts on the Scripture reading. His demeanor did not set well with our daughter. She became very agitated and started trying to whisper to me to convey her displeasure. I was whispering back to tell her that we would talk about it after the service when I smelled it. Yes, you know what. I looked at her, and she was, to her credit, trying to squeak out an “Excuse me.” But she was also about to break down in hysterical giggles.


I quickly led her out of the sanctuary and downstairs to a bathroom, where I let her vent about her perceptions of the minister and had her go to the bathroom so the giggles wouldn’t turn into an embarrassing incident of another kind. After she had giggled for a while, I asked her to please hold on for a little longer, for her daddy’s sake. She agreed to try, and we returned to the service. My husband and I made eye contact and tried not to break down into a fit of giggles ourselves.


And that’s when it hit me. Sometimes the God-sized YES in our lives is the seemingly small yes. It’s the one that says YES to God when He gives you a child with special needs to raise. It’s the one that realizes being a living sacrifice is in the daily, mundane living and not just in the big things. It’s in saying YES to loving my child on the days when she’s determined to make everyone very aware of autism. It’s in saying YES to another therapy appointment, the need to see yet another specialist, the uncertainty of what the future holds. It’s in daring to let God change me through the process, saying YES to how this changes my writing and speaking and the way I conduct my life.


I think this is the point that Kristen has been making all along. When your sparkly, safe faith is no longer enough, you surrender to a God-sized YES that may be much different than what you imagined. And what special needs parent can’t say that’s true?

Father, thank You for entrusting this precious child to me. Help me to follow you into whatever YES you have planned for our family. You are good, and I know your plan for all of us is amazing. I can’t wait to see what You’re going to do! Amen.

~ Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Audience of One

Image Courtesy of Naypong/freedigitalphotos.net
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ...Philippians 3:8

God often reminds me that the world is NOT my primary audience. I am not here to become popular, famous, or highly acclaimed.  I am here to carry out his will, whatever that may be.  He most recently is reminding me of this with my current condition; daily migraines. 

For those who have not suffered from migraines, the only way I can describe it is a searing pain that runs from my lower right shoulder blade, up through the back of my head, radiates down through my right ear into my jaw and creates a stabbing pain behind my right eye.  Even when I am able to take a medication that might alleviate the pain, my body still experiences the migraine, so I am exhausted.

That being said, I have been unable to really workout for the past week (I typically workout daily, alternating a turbo jam aerobic workout with a free-weight lifting program, my), my "packing for our big move" has come to an abrupt halt, and I find myself going to bed right after Evie falls asleep and having a hard time making it through the day without a nap.  

In other words, I'm completely useless.

This is often how God tells me that I need to slow down.  It seems like whenever I'm in a flurry of activity and busy-ness, God knows that he needs to hit me over the head with an a iron skillet in order to get me to slow down and remember that "I'm not all that".  When I am in the middle of a cycle of migraines, I am brought to a state of humility unlike any other time.  I have to recognize that sometimes my mind can't over come my physical circumstances, and I have to recognize that, even without my involvement, LIFE GOES ON.  

So, now, as I sit here writing and thinking about all the things I "have to do" today, I also realize that God is saying, "Tammie, you are not the center of that task...without you, life will go on."  
My salvation does not rest on my ability to DO anything today.  My life with God in Heaven does not hinge on my completion of a to-do list.  Anything that I accomplish to bring ME glory is garbage in the eyes of God.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, help me to slow down and look to you.  Help me to remember that my life was created to bring YOU glory. Help me to lay aside my pride and look to you for strength.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Monday, April 21, 2014

Secrets Revealed




“… God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.  No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.  And we have received God’s Spirit…, so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.”  1 Cor. 2:10-12  NLT


I remember one time when I was talking with my son, David, and he was trying to explaining how NO ONE understood him.  He went on to try and explain how his brain was working so differently than anyone else he knew.  He often had deep discussions with people and came to this conclusion based on that and talking with his psychiatrist.  I could only get a small glimpse from him telling me how his brain was working counter to the norm.

Once, before he was even a teenager and had a full diagnosis of his mental condition, he had said out of the blue, “If I wasn’t real ,I would be real.”  Who says that and what does it even mean? 

Another time when he was an adult he said, “My brain doesn’t work right and no one can fix it.” 

He said many other things to indicate that the “wiring” in his brain was out of sync.

Even though I couldn’t fully understand all that David was going through in life, I could read up on his condition, listen to him, and try and help him in the best ways available for him from my understanding. 

I was able to do many things, but never could fully see all of his deep secrets or really understand his thoughts.  My help to David was limited because he couldn’t or wouldn’t share everything with me.  I couldn't "know his thoughts".

Here’s the thing though.  God offers us so much more.  If we are Christians he shows us His deep secrets.   He lets us see “His thoughts” through the Holy Spirit.  This is so amazing that the one and only God of the universe is letting us in on His thoughts, His secrets, and giving us wonderful things.   It’s absurd to even think that God would do that.  I am only one of the billions of people on this earth.  Does he really care about me to do something that amazing as to let me in on His deep secrets?  We all know the answer is yes and he does it because he loves us that much. 

Jesus told us he had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come.  There are many other scripture verses that tell us what the Holy Spirit does in our life if we let him. 
A few are:
 "The Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of our sinful nature."  Gal. 5:17  NLT
The Spirit leads us in every part of our life if we let him.  Gal. 5:25 NLT
The Spirit gives us the mind of Christ.  1 Cor. 2:16 NLT 
"...letting the Spirit control your mind leads to a life of peace."  Romans 8:6b NLT

When we read the Word and utilize the Spirit in us, God’s secrets, thoughts, and blessings are revealed to us.  His thoughts are right in front of us and we know all of the things He freely gives us.  Plus the Spirit gives us a life of peace.  
Who doesn't want that?

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for sending your Spirit and loving us so much that would you even reveal your thoughts to us.  Help us to read your Word with the Holy Spirit’s help.  Lastly, help us live a Spirit led life.

Ann Gapinski

Image from freedigitalphotos.net by sumetho