Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XX: The Inappropriate School District Edition


As the school year comes to a close around most of the nation, I want to offer a heartfelt THANKS to so many educators who pour their hearts and souls into the growth of our remarkable kids.  We parents can never express enough how grateful we are for those earnest, hard-working teachers who make a difference in the lives of our children.

However, this week's "winner" does a great job of clearly displaying that there are some teachers out there who are simply unworthy of working with our students.  Be sure to take your antacids before you read THIS story!

It seems that a teacher in Stevens Point, WI gave her graduating students incredibly insulting and insensitive gifts as they transition out of Stevens Point Area Senior High.  Sue Felder, listed as a Special Education instructor at SPASH, was exposed for her completely inappropriate presents when one parent complained publicly that her daughter was given "...a toilet bowl brush, and a Comet cleanser. I asked my daughter why she got this gift, and she said her teacher told her that she will be scrubbing toilets.”*

 Are you SERIOUS?!

The only thing more outrageous than this gift and the idiotic instructor's pathetic apology is the flaccid response from the school superintendent.  How a district administrator can defend such an employee and their behavior is beyond me.  The district's official response is as follows:

“As part of the Stevens Point Area Public School District’s mission to prepare each student to be successful, the District has in place a Life Skills Center program. This program, which serves students with cognitive disabilities, promotes the learning of independent living and basic work skills.

Recently, a Life Skills Center teacher gave students a congratulatory card and gift basket as graduation gifts. All of the items were purchased with the teacher’s personal funds. Among the items in the gift basket was a brush and some cleaner. The items were included to reinforce the independent living skills and other gains that students had made during their time in the program.

While school staff did not mean for the gift to be offensive, school and District staff understand how parents may be find the gift to be so. For that, school and District staff offer parents their most sincere apology for the situation. Moving forward, students in the Life Skills Center program will be given gifts appropriate for graduation from high school.


The District regrets causing any offense and is committed to ensuring that this type of situation does not occur again.”**
Photo courtesy of Stevens Point City-Times
Understandably, the mother wants the teacher fired.  At the very least, I would say that this instructor belongs nowhere near kids with cognitive, emotional or physical challenges.  Parents like us spend our sons' and daughters' entire formative years trying to bring out their assets, showing the world their value, and developing our kids into contributing members of society.  Then in one fell swoop, an arrogant, foolish instructor like this can undermine everything we have spent a lifetime investing in.

Our kids matter!  They are human beings with the fingerprints of God all over them.  Their Creator has given them infinite value.  Every child wants to know they are accepted, treasured and loved.

Giving a child a gift bag containing a toilet brush with toilet bowl cleaner tells them, You will never amount to anything!

The dismissive nature of the school superintendent demonstrates what a pervasive problem this is in Stevens Point.  When asked by local media about the teacher's employment status, Attila Weninger (Yes, Attila is his real name!) responded that he did not think firing Felder is the answer.  “That would be inappropriate. This does not rise to that level, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”*  In other words, the life of the students receiving such gifts are not WORTH enough to dismiss such an unqualified individual from her post.  How's that for TOLERANCE?  INCLUSION?  EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION?  Such behavior from "professionals" only reinforces wider perceptions that a community like Stevens Point, WI is a "back woods" town.  I, for one, would never want one of my students attending SPASH.

Besides praying for the healing of these students' and their parents' hearts, please also pray for the hearts and minds of the "professionals" in this situation.  This community needs some God-sized help!

If you are further inspired, I would encourage you to respectfully enlighten Superintendent Attila Weneninger, PhD*** as to why such a gift and his response to it are so damaging to our children.  Parents like this mother need our support and wider advocacy.  God calls us to come alongside one another at times such as this, making the world aware that our kids are fearfully and wonderfully made.

For Further Exploration: 
*"Graduation gift from teacher to student upsets family", WSAU.com
**"District Apologizes to Students After Toilet Brushes Handed Out as Gifts", Steven's Point City-Times
***Stevens Point Area Public School District

~ Barb Dittrich

Friday, May 30, 2014

When I Struggle to Believe God

Photo courtesy of Kjetil Kolbjornsrud via 123rf.com
“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11).

When I don’t believe God, I cry back out to Him and wait for Him to show Himself strong again to me. I cry out to Him. I wait for His word and promises to wash over me. I remind myself of what He has done in the past. I determine I can trust, yet I waiver.

He understands my wavering. He provides a story of a man who cried out the same prayer. His son had been seizing for a long while. Like this man, I find that when I pray about something like healing or difficult situations that seem to linger on, I do waiver. I go through the motions of prayer but must cry out, “Help me with my unbelief!”

Listen, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THIS…God knows us and our thoughts. He fashioned us. He knows all of the intimate details of our lives. He wrote every day of ours in His book. Every event is working for our good and His glory. We can trust Him. Even when we can only muster up a mustard seed’s worth of faith. He has compassion on us. He is near the broken hearted. He loves us deeply and completely.

So when your faith is wavering and you cannot pray anymore know He is our intercessor. He will never leave or forsake us. He is faithful and just. All His promises are true. In all things we can trust Him even when they linger on. He has a greater plan. His thoughts are too wonderful for us to even comprehend.

Yet because of Jesus, these temporary trials that linger are only temporary! In light of eternity this short time here on Earth will not even compare. We must keep our eyes focused Heavenward and toward our eternal home where there is no pain or disease or sickness. That is where we are headed. It is easy to lose sight of this while we are here but we must remind one another of what really matters.

Today, I want to ask you, how can we help you by praying for you? What is hard right now? How is your belief wavering? What are you too weak to pray right now? Would you let us join you, help you, by praying? Leave it in the comments and we will lift it up alongside you.

Prayer: Lord, please help us with our unbelief. Help us to remember and trust all of your promises. Help us to remember this is not our home, our home is in Heaven if we are in Christ Jesus. Thank you for never leaving or forsaking us! Thank you for being a kind and wise Father. Thank you for being our intercessor when our prayers run dry. Keep us focused on You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

~Angela Parsley

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I SHOULD HAVE Said....I have TWO okay boys


My TWO Okay Boys
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”  Psalm 130: 3-4, NIV
Realizing that I am at the very least grumpy and at times downright bitter and weary sure isn’t fun.  Especially when God is doing so many good things at my home church currently when it comes to those who are differently abled and their families.  Our church has Buddy Breaks (monthly fun times for kids/teens with special needs and their siblings to attend on a Saturday morning while the parents and caregivers get a three hour break) as well as a support group/Bible study for parents and caregivers.  And for many years there has been a special needs Sunday school room that my son Luke, who has autism and is mostly non-verbal, enjoys.

Yet some of these have taken years and years to happen with some special families leaving the church after banging their head against walls for too long with no results.  The Buddy Break program and the support group came after a group of us from church met regularly--with one of our pastor’s attending each meeting—for over a year.  I co-led these meetings and felt after almost every single one that I was leaving a piece of myself behind.  Emotions ran high (at least mine!) and tears were shed.   Now that we are at a better place why can’t I just relax, let the past go and be thankful?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am thankful.  But it’s the other lingering thoughts and feelings that can trip me up so that I fall flat on my behind.  In my head I know this is all minor compared to what many people go through.  And especially compared to what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  But yet too often I find myself with this residue of bitterness.  Can anyone else relate?  What have you found that helps with this?  I’d love to hear.

I can offer a couple things that I’ve realized but I need more counsel and help, that’s for sure.  An encounter at the park recently showed me that I have a long way to go myself when communicating about disability.  Another woman was at the park with two young children while Luke was doing his usual laps around the play equipment.  He is always moving!  Her children tried to say “Hi” to Luke and so I told them he doesn’t talk much but how about a high five?  That led to a discussion with the other mom.  I told her Luke had autism, and although he doesn’t say much, he understands a TON.  She asked if I had other children and then when I said yes, “was my other son, okay?”  Our conversation was stilted due to a language barrier, and I said that my other son was okay and that he didn’t have the same “brain disorder” as Luke.  And guess who had stopped running and was standing right next to me when I said it? Yes, my beautiful 9 year old Lukey heard the whole conversation and I had just said that his brother Brandon was okay but not him and worse still that he had a “brain disorder”. Why didn’t I say that his brain works differently like I usually do?  And I shared all this just after I told her that Luke understands what we say and what is going on around him!!  SHAME ON ME.

What in the world did I do?  And how often do I do that??  If I can’t always get it right and I live with my boy day in and day out how can I expect other Christians outside the disability family to notice and do things correctly all the time?  I need to have more patience and more grace.

And the only way I can have more grace is by asking God for forgiveness for my own wrong-doing, and receiving His forgiveness and grace in my time of need, so that I can pass it on to others.  Maybe then I will have less time to be grumpy and bitter.  I sure hope so anyway.

PRAY:  “Lord, thanks so much that you forgive us.  Help us to move on from bitterness to thankfulness.  We need your healing touch so much.”

--By Deb Abbs

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Don't Let This Throw You



"Don't let this throw you.... Trust me." John 14:1 MSG

Confession: I had planned to write something pretty self-congratulatory about how much I have changed and grown because I waited so patiently for my daughter's biopsy reports, not obsessing over them and the myriad possible results and indicated disorders during all my waking hours.

But then I got the results, and while they were mostly good, we're left without a clear sense of what direction to go next---again. I made the suggested call to another specialist, which led to scheduling an appointment for early June. That means we've had an out-of-town specialist appointment every two weeks for a while---with at least two more to go. I'm tired. The cost of all of these appointments and the travel concerns me. I'm frustrated by the difficulty of getting the help my daughter needs. And frankly, I get scared about it all working out and our needs being met in the process.

I was on the verge of tears, trying not to completely freak out in front of my children, when I remembered that I hadn't read my chapter from John yet. I grabbed The Message Bible and sat down at the kitchen table. I opened it to John 14, and I saw it.
Don't let this throw you.... Trust me.
I know it's way out of context, but I promise you that God meant those words for me at that precise time and place. My peace was restored as I read the rest of the chapter and Jesus' assurances of His peace and presence. I went from looking at the circumstances that were causing the drama to remembering God, His love, His faithfulness, and all the times He has provided for us and seen us through. And the more I thought about God, the smaller my problems got and the more optimistic I became. I realized that He is actively working on our behalf in every situation that concerns us.

I decided not to let this new set of circumstances throw me---and to trust Him.

Pray: Father, I'm so thankful that you're bigger than any circumstance or situation that faces my family and me. Thank you for walking right beside us through it as we move toward Your solution for our problems and Your provision for every need. Amen.

~ Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How This "Jacked Up" Mom Found Freedom at Bratfest

Image Courtesy of Building 429/ Twitter
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
 
Have you ever had one of those days when God gives you a very clear message?  It's actually more than a clear message; it is a repeated message told to you over and over again.  It's so clear that you want to throw your hands up and say, "Okay, okay!  I get it, already!"

That happened to me...this past Memorial Day weekend...at a festival founded on the celebration of...
Bratwurst?
Let me set up the story a little for you first.

In three weeks I will be driving my trusty little red Impala into our new garage, attached to our new home, located in our new home state of Nevada.  For that reason, I was holding a garage sale at our current house here in Wisconsin this past Thursday and Friday.  We had several large pieces of furniture we wanted to unload before traveling across the country, as well as 10 years of  little girl clothes, old toys, and an assortment of unwanted  items that we had accumulated over the years.
Here's how Friday went for me. 
I opened up my second and last day of my sale by "slashing prices."  There were items that were still sitting there, (after I dragged them onto our black top driveway to bake in the sun for another day); and there was no way I was going to finish my sale with those items needing to be hauled back into the garage just to be put on a corner with a "FREE" sign slapped haphazardly on them.  
It worked.  I unloaded quite a few of those items.  I was happy...for a moment.
Before I was able to finish taking down my sale, the first moving company arrived to give me the estimate for transporting our prized possessions over miles of highway, up mountains, and across the plains.  I don't know if many of you have experienced this; but I started to feel shameful pretty much from the get-go.

I didn't feel shame in showing him our furniture, and it wasn't the plants, lamps, or photos hanging on the walls that made me cringe under his surveying eye.  
 It was what was inside the closets.
The first closet that brought me pangs of remorse was in Evie's room.  

It wasn't HER clothes; nor the sleeping bags on the top shelf.  It wasn't even the Easter baskets which we use only once a year.  
The shame came from a single brown-handled paper bag.
It had no identifying marks on the outside.  There was no way that the Estimator could have known what was inside.  But I knew.  I knew what the bag contained, and how long it had contained it.
Sealed in their original boxes, frozen in time, staring bleakly from their plastic prisons...Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion...and a cast of 5 other picture-perfect Mattel-made dolls were there. 
For nearly twelve years those dolls sat on a shelf in a brown paper bag.  Why?  At our apartment, I had them displayed.  But that was different.  I was younger, and I didn't have much of a "decorating style" yet.  Everything was "Wizard of Oz."  That was my style.

When we moved to our house though, I felt different.  I felt grown up.  I didn't want dolls to be displayed in boxes to dust just for the sake of keeping the collection.  So I put them in a bag, and I put the bag in a closet.  And now, this bag was going to be moved 1800 miles so it could be put in another closet?  On another shelf?  

Next we went to the closet in our master bedroom.  We opened up the closet in there.  1, 2, 3, 4 crates filled with women's shoes...a dozen shoe boxes on another shelf, and a row of shoes stacked on a shelf. 
Imelda...how much will you pay to have your shoes moved? 
It wasn't a costly collection.  I'm a bargain hunter.  However, it was a collection that spoke of regret, of holding on to mistakes in hopes of time healing those wounds. 

I bought them on sale...but I bought them impulsively, and when I realized that I had no reason to wear them, or realized they pinched my toes, I still would not give them up.  I was ashamed and decided I would hold on to them in order to someday justify the purchase.   
After the Estimator left, I picked Evie up from school and we headed down to Bratfest on Willow Island.  It was very exciting because for the first time in 31 years there would be a Christian music stage, and Building 429 was playing.  Let's look closely at the songs they sang and the message God gave me through them.

I see the world through my jaded eyes
I get frustrated when there is no Why
I put my focus on worthless things
Even the strong fall to their knees
God only knows what we all need
Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I will find in You
Life goes on, life goes on
But Your love will prove
All I need, all I need
I will find in You
I press on... 
Accessed at  http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/building429/wreckingballpresson.html

-OR-

Blameless, You have made me blameless
Sin has been made nameless
Doesn’t matter who I was before
I am
Shameless, You have made me shameless
Sin has been made nameless
Cause Your love has come and left its mark
And I am blameless
I’ll never change the man I was
But I believe grace because
Everything I tried to I hide
You took away and gave me life
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/building429/blameless.html

-HOW ABOUT-

Listen to the sound of hope
That's rising up over your old horizon
Listen to the sound, listen to the sound...
And listen to the sound of a new beginning of
This is where the old is ending
Listen to the sound, listen to the sound...
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/building429/listentothesound.html

-MAYBE THIS SUMS IT UP BEST-

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/building429/whereibelong.html

...And that's how Bratfest 2014 saved me.  Freed me.  I get it, God.  Message received...

Take this world and give me Jesus...Quit clinging to crap...Quit clinging to mistakes hoping that I can justify them.  Quit clinging to stuff hoping it will fill a void in my life that can only be filled by my Creator.  

This IS the sound of a new beginning...this is where the old is ending...

With that being said, I better get onto eBay and start getting rid of that "old stuff."  

Pray:  Lord, thank you for your direction, for speaking to us through things like Bratfest!  Thank you for blessing us abundantly, and for your grace which covers even our most shameful acts.  Help me to remain in YOU and not in this world. Amen

Monday, May 26, 2014

Standing His Post

Photo courtesy nationalharbor.com


"Children born to a young man
    are like arrows in a warrior’s hands." (Psalms 127:4, NLT)



I am an unabashed patriot.

I get a lump in my throat whenever I see an elderly gentleman wearing a hat symbolizing his past service to our country. When I see an active member of the armed forces dining in a restaurant, I like to quietly and anonymously arrange to pick up his check.

After all, that person is picking up the check for me every day he or she serves.

The only keepsake I have of my late grandfather is the flag presented to our family upon his death, in tribute to his service in World War II. I still remember the words uttered as the flag was placed in my grandmother’s lap. “On behalf of a grateful nation…”

This Memorial Day I will be thinking of people like my good friend Rick. Rick was a career military man who served 23 years in the army before retiring as a Master Sergeant.

He knows the heat of an Iraqi summer day and the blistering cold of a Middle Eastern winter night from his service in Desert Storm. Rick was in a part of the service that went before everyone else to secure the way.

At night he slept in a hammock slung from the turret of his fighting vehicle in the desert.

He still feels more comfortable driving a Bradley Armed Fighting Vehicle than he does a car.

Master Sergeants are tough, disciplined, and determined. You need to get something done and done right, find a Master Sergeant. They don’t make excuses, nor do they tolerate them either.

For 23 years Rick served his country. He stood a post. He showed up for duty everyday, and he never slacked off or thought about just walking away from it. He never mailed it in either. He considered it a privilege and responsibility.

And because he had made a commitment, he was prepared every day to lay down his life to serve his country.

A commitment he would keep with honor, dignity, and a passion for excellence for 23 years before retiring from the army.

But Rick didn’t retire altogether. He didn’t quit standing a post. He didn’t quit serving.

He was needed for an even greater calling and mission.

Now Rick has reported for duty again in a different role, at a different post.

Rick has a son with profound special needs. Rick’s son and my son are pretty close in age and very similar to each other in many ways. We’ve become great friends even though he is a Pittsburgh Steeler fan.

Everyday Rick stands his post. He gets his son after school and watches him in the afternoons. He takes him to appointments, therapies, swimming, cooks, and goes to IEP meetings. He supplements his retirement working in law enforcement.

Somehow along the way over the past couple of years, Rick also went back to school and finished his college degree graduating with honors, while sending his daughter through college as well.

And when his son needs anything at all, you can count on the ole’ Master Sergeant to report for duty and stand his post. It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it’s exhausting.

Rick considers it an honor and privilege. It’s his mission in life. When you have spent 23 years laying your life on the line for your country, laying your life down for your family comes natural.

Rick made a commitment to his son and family.  They have a lifetime bond together. One thing I know is that God destined them from the beginning of time to be together. He was called and chosen. And he’s committed.

Just glance at the wristband he wears with the words, “Chosen, Called, and Committed.”

We’re losing the special needs dads these days. Often it’s because the man can’t handle it, or refuses to handle it. Too often the dads seem to just walk away from it all, especially within the first 2-3 years of diagnosis.

We have an even greater epidemic of what I call the “vacant dad.” Vacant dads are present in the family in body only. They are emotionally detached, disengaged, and to a large degree not involved with their children with special needs.

While I call it the “vacant dad syndrome.” My buddy Rick would use a different word. He would call it desertion.

It’s not in the ol’ Sergeant’s vocabulary. The thought wouldn’t even cross his mind.

I tell him that makes him a hero in my book. He tells me he’s just doing what every man is supposed to do.

I wish that would resonate with every special needs dad.

Thanks for your service “Sarge.” And not just for the first 23 years.

We still have heroes living amongst us.

Pray: "Father today we remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free indeed. And we also give thanks for Jesus, who gave his life so that we might freely live with you."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XIX: The "God is Punishing Me" Edition


I want to be gentle here...

MANY parents ruminate over this concern.  I did myself when our son was born with Hemophilia A - Severe 14 years ago.  Parents like us often wonder if our child's special needs are due to something we did wrong on some level.

But as we grow to know God and work through our grief, we grow to reconcile our sorrow with a loving, generous God.  We have the unique opportunity to learn while our lives aren't perfect, our Creator certainly is!

That is why I had a face-meet-palm experience when a friend shared THIS news:  Toni Braxton has come out in her newly released book stating her belief that her son's autism diagnosis is the Lord's punishment for an abortion she previously had in 2001.

 Are you SERIOUS?!

Oh, where to start with this one...

First and foremost, let me state that any personal conviction Toni Braxton feels is between her and a personal, loving God, who only wants the best for her.  If you are a student of  the Lord's love letter to you, the Bible, you know that there are times where the unrepentant see their children reap the reward for their parents' disobedience.  (See Exodus 12:28-30)  If this woman has learned that God got her attention through tragedy, that is between her and Him.

However, I can't help but think of Psalm 103 (among many other Bible citations) which reminds us that the Lord is compassionate, slow to anger, gracious, and loving.  In verse 10, the psalmist proclaims, "...He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." (NIV)  Mercy is the hallmark of our Father, not cruelty.

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Jesus states with all authority Matthew 7:11, NIV.

What gets lost when a famous person like Toni Braxton publicly declares such thoughts is the awesome parent-nature of God.  It only reinforces a harsh, angry, distant Creator who can unpredictably zap us at any turn.  In many third world cultures, parents of children with special needs are ostracized because their children's disabilities are seen as some sort of punishment.  There can still tend to be that sort of undercurrent in our post-modern culture.  Statements like Braxton's only perpetuate those sentiments.

Furthermore, I would never want my child to perceive herself or her spectrum diagnosis as the Lord's punishment on me.  She is not a punishment.  She is a gift.  That makes Braxton's self-flagellation so hard to swallow.

Are so many pieces of Autism Spectrum Disorders a challenge to deal with?  Abso-stinkin-lutely!  It can be exhausting, discouraging, worrisome, and frustrating.  But so can many, many other things in our lives.  This is a fallen world.  It isn't heaven.  And God continues to shape our character, growing us into ever-more remarkable individuals by the struggles we face in life.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9, NIV

I like to declare that, "My God is the God of do-overs!"  Not only am I learning on life's journey, but He continues to give me more chances to "get it right" than any instructor I have ever encountered.  He is patient with me.  He loves me.  And He continues to sand off my rough edges with the grittiness of life.

Let me leave you with a better picture of Who our God is through this catchy little jingle.  Perhaps Toni Braxton needs to give it a listen!


~ 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, May 23, 2014

Not Just a 3 Day Party


It's a sad fact that too many people seem to forget that the Memorial Day holiday is not just a 3 day party.   While so many families use the extra day off to kick off their summer with a weekend getaway, picnics, and fun.  This holiday has a much deeper meaning that goes back to the Post-Civil War era of this nation.

The Memorial Day Foundation describes its history in part:  
It is unknown when Decoration Day first became Memorial Day. The Holiday was first celebrated by the people of Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866 and then again on May 5, 1867. It could be that Decoration Day and Memorial Day were celebrated concurrently in different parts of the North for many years until World War I. The South refused to acknowledge May 30th honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I. On June 19th, 1926 by joint resolution, U.S. Congress authorized and directed the Secratary of War to accept a tablet commemorating the designation of May 30th as Memorial Day. At that time Memorial Day was made a National Holiday and changed from honoring those who died fighting just the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in all our wars. In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

Since 1971 Memorial Day is now celebrated by law on the last Monday in May. That year Congress passed the National Holiday Act, P.L. 90-363 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays.

The fact is that our nation is filled with families who have real grief for real fathers, brothers, friends, and sons who have shed their blood that we might continue to live free.  Many of these families also live with the challenge of raising a child with special needs.  This presents an incredibly difficult challenge for the surviving spouse.  Depending upon the child's diagnosis, helping that child work through that grief can take longer and require additional tools that typical children do not require.  Here are some resources that can be a blessing to surviving spouses and children:
  1. The premier organization for those enduring the loss of a fallen solder is TAPS or The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.  Among their many helps this resource offers are "grief camp" for kids, mentors for grieving spouses, an informative blog, and connections to many other necessary, helpful benefits.
  2. Operation We Are Here offers a listing of numerous tools and resources specifically for grieving families.  While their mission is to serve all families dealing with deployment, they also share practhttps://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8703731822235770954#editor/target=post;postID=8119862616307803086ical suggestions to churches, communities and individuals on how to support and encourage the military community.
  3. Numerous books in a variety of age groups can help a child work through their grief.  For the younger set, there are books like The Invisible String, Night Catch, or When Mom or Dad Dies: A Book for Comfort for Kids.  For teens I Will Remember You: What to Do When Someone You Love Dies - A Guidebook Through Grief for Teens gets rave reviews from both parents and the book's target audience.  
  4. The Memorial Day Foundation can help grieving families by honoring their loved one appropriately.  Besides placing flowers at the graves of the fallen, they also link to other memorial events and organizations.
This Memorial Day weekend, don't just have fun with your family, but take some time to pause, pray and reflect.  Somebody gave their life so you could enjoy such relaxation with your family.  Pray for the families of the fallen.  And encourage any military family by offering your support.  These families give all, so the rest of us can live free.

PRAY:  Lord Jesus, You told us right before you laid down your own life that there is no greater love than giving ones life for the sake of others.  Thank You for giving Your life for us.  Now bless and strengthen those who have made a similar sacrifice through our military.  Comfort their hearts this weekend.  Open our eyes always to the ways we can be Your hands and feet to those serving in our armed forces. 

~ Barb Dittrich 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

God's Grace is Sufficient

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [Paul's thorn in the flesh] away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

My daughter Namine was born with a multitude of genetic defects, the most visible being something called caudal regression syndrome. It's a rarer cousin of spina bifida, occurring in 1 in 25,000 live births. CRS affects the spine, pelvis, legs, and feet; Namine was born with unmoving knees, club feet, dislocated hips, and shortened femurs. As a result, her primary means of getting from one place to another is her wheelchair. And she is five going on sixteen, wondering at anything and commenting on everything. We went on a walk the other day, and conversation turned serious.

"Daddy," she said, "how come you can walk with your legs?"

"That's just the way God made me," I responded.

We walked in silence for a while. Then she said, "Daddy?"

"Yes?"

"Sometimes I get mad that I can't walk."

"Do you get mad at me, or other people?"

"No, I just get... I get a little mad at myself. And sad."

We don't always know why God made us the way He did.  I myself am clinically depressive; I have fought it my entire life, and must continue to do so.  Paul never tells us in his letter to the Corinthians what his thorn in the flesh is; what he does tell us is that God never took it away.  As hard as it can be at times, through all our insecurities and doubts, we can always lean on God. His grace is sufficient.

PRAY: Heavenly Father, help us to remember to depend on You, not on ourselves. Remind us that Your love and grace are sufficient for us. In Your name we pray, Amen.

-Paul

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Mother's Odyssey

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
- Hebrews 10:23 nlt -

Sometimes, in all the chaos each day brings, it's easy to forget what the hopes and dreams are of being a parent.  I forget the meaning of my role in my children's lives.  The days start out at 100 mph and don't often slow down.  Each "failure" seems to stick like a red wine stain whereas the successes evaporate from sight almost instantly.  After enough of these days in a row without relief, it's easy to believe that my efforts make no difference. 

How do you stop sliding down that slippery slope?  What do you have in your toolbox that re-awakens you to your purpose like smelling salts help regain consciousness?

I just heard an amazing illustration that brings my purpose and calling as a Mother back to the forefront of my mind.  It has been such a blessing in my life that I have to share it.  One of our pastor friends gave a sermon on Mother's Day, relating the task of Motherhood to a story found in Homer's "Odyssey."  The story he told was that of Odysseus' encounter with the Sirens.  Odysseus avoided the destruction of the beautiful call of the Sirens by having his men tie him to the mast.  He begged them to untie him, but they just tied him tighter until the danger passed.
   
In this illustration, Mothers are Odysseus's men, who faithfully tie our little "Odysseuses" to the mast, and all the more in times of danger and temptation.  We ignore the call of sirens and bind our children to the mast - God, our Master and Commander - with ties of truth and mercy.

Wow, right?!  I get chills every time I think of it.  God has called us to this AWESOME purpose - to bind our children to the one thing that really matters: true Hope. 

Let us hold TIGHTLY WITHOUT WAVERING

When they kick and scream, hold them tight.  When they push the limits for the 80th time in one day, don't waver.  When they're hurt and scared, bind them all the more.  To what?

to the HOPE we affirm,

Tie them, hold them, unwaveringly connect them to the only hope that lasts.  The hope we affirm - we proclaim, we pronounce, we attest - the only hope that makes all the battles worthwhile.  

for GOD can be trusted to KEEP HIS PROMISE.

He promises rest for the weary.  He promises strength to the weak.  He promises he will continue the good work he began in us until completion.  He promises he will return.  He promises to hear us, to never leave nor forsake us.  He promises that, IN HIM, we are victorious.

My children may try me.  My heart will ache in the trials and struggles I navigate with them.  I will have days that I'll be tempted to feel the fight is futile.  And on those days, I will bind my children AND myself to the mast of hope with the words written on my heart: God can be trusted to keep his promise. 

PRAY: Dear Lord, Thank you for being my mast.  Let me know your promises full well so that I may bind my children to you with them, giving them the hope that will soothe, strengthen and protect them all the days of their lives.  I love that you have called me to be a parent in your kingdom, not mine.  Amen.

- Emily Krill

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/robwallace/736530487/">RobW_</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>