Friday, October 31, 2014

The Schedule That Binds


Photo Image Courtesy of igorigorevich via 123rf.com
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
~ Romans 12:2, NIV ~ 

The month of October has always been a favorable time of year for me, in every aspect of the season. Each year, I find myself exhilarated by the changing colors of the trees, the cool scent of an autumn breeze; I’m enthralled by the beauty of God’s land and the frantic preparation of hibernating critters; more than anything, however, the most captivating aspect of the times, for me, is the commercialized holiday of Halloween.
I suppose some would find it shallow, how absorbed I am into the traditional costumed horror and whatnot, but I genuinely find some of my greatest pleasure in the festivities. I enjoy scaring myself silly with the latest psychological horror film, and, of course, constructing my own costumes for the next Halloween bash.

Lately, however, I find myself without the freedom to bask in my customary revelries, let alone find the time to think. Within the first two months of my senior year, I experienced an incredible shift in my workload as my AP classes and time-sensitive assignments began to take their toll. In just a couple of months, I found myself dealing with more work than I had ever dealt with in one sitting throughout my three previous years of high school. Talk about spooky right there! I’d been exhausted an baffled, not to mention pulled in too many directions to count. On top of all of this, I had been working at a local haunted house that runs every weekend night in October. 
There, I was a makeup artist, an actor, and makeup removal crew, scrubbing and praying that our alcohol wipes wouldn’t dribble into our poor actors eyes any more than they already had.
 
Amidst this, about two weeks ago, I had been working on an assignment that had me staying up until 1:00 AM and rising at 4:00 to complete. The assignment was barely finished by the anticipated due-date and my other classes were beginning to pile on top of that as well. Friday rolled around and as I entered the haunted house, monstrous coffee in hand, I could already tell I was about to lose it… and I did. I had become bitter and unfiltered, snippy and frustrated with each and every slip up in others work and my own. I was unable to be the good kid I knew I could be and I was incapable of speaking to others with civility. 
 
So, what good comes from this string of unfortunate predicaments? I myself couldn’t fathom the blessing in this situation until I’d finally relinquished my own control over the madness--or what control I thought I’d had. Between one of the few moments of peace I had encountered during this time--right before sleep or in the gaps between classes--I found myself being backhanded by the Hand of spiritual sense. In this, I was able to see what was already apparent, and what would have been apparent quite some time sooner, had it not been for the effects of sleep deprivation and my desperately calloused attitude:  working is great, and a little bit of stress keeps you going, but overwork is brought upon by the hands of the Adversary.
 
Now, allow me to admit: the problems I face as a student likely seem like a field day compared to the chaos of being a special needs parent. Just being a parent is enough stress on its own, but to have to manage a child’s crippling challenges while enduring the simultaneous struggle to control one’s own sanity is more than most people would dare to face in their most frightening of dreams.
 
Regardless, we, as God’s blessed children, cannot let ourselves be swayed by sin when the road gets rocky and peace is the last thing we see on the horizon.
 
In the midst of my recent struggles, I can remember my youth pastor sending out a Twitter message that shoved me right out of my exhausted rut, saying:
 

If Satan can't make us bad, he will make us busy. Let your Savior dictate your schedule!”

And that’s just what we should be doing! God even tells us in Romans 6:13, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (NIV)

God wants our everything, even our turbulent days and sleepless nights, and for the Man who died to set us free from such binding trials, we must owe Him what He is due, do we not? To take care of others as the hands and feet of God, we have to learn to take care of ourselves, even if that means letting yourself sleep through that extra hour, dividing some of that dirty work to the spouse lounging on the couch, or simply telling yourself to sit down in silence and rejuvenate with the amount of time God has blessed you with.
 
So go ahead and watch the Halloween thrillers that you’d never be viewing beyond this month of merriment; let yourself jump out of your seat at the sudden scares and unexpected horrors; let go and enjoy the next low-budget rendition of Frankenstein or Dracula and fear for the minds who created such iconic chillers; these are the little monsters to fear in irrationality. The big beasts manifested in our stresses and our schedules: those are the ones to watch from afar, to observe carefully, cautiously, so as to protect the health of the mind, body, and soul which God gave for us to hold dear.

Pray: Lord God, help me to learn how to take care of myself, to veer away from the strains and expectations of this world and run close to Your almighty provision of comfort and rest. Separate me from my stresses so that my eyes may always be fixed on You.

~ Alexandra Dittrich

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Elect -- 11 Choices Beyond the Voting Booth

Photo image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“So revere Jehovah and serve him in sincerity and truth. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Worship the Lord alone. But if you are unwilling to obey the Lord, then decide today whom you will obey. Will it be the gods of your ancestors beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites here in this land? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
~ Joshua 24:14-16, TLB ~

I don't know about you, but I will be SO glad when this election season is over with!  All of the ads with dark, scary music playing in the background, as the serious voice over tells you that one candidate's opponent is a puppy juggler or zebra tickler, are enough to make a citizen crazy.  Politicians make big promises and warn of dire consequences if they are not voted into office every. single. election.  

Honestly, although have friends who hold political positions, I put my hopes in THE One True King.  Any other expectations of human leaders are bound to be met with disappointment eventually.  Just look at how much darker this world grows every day!

So to take the focus and turn it to where it should be, I made this little list...

I ELECT...
  1. To BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God made flesh, who died on the cross for my sins, and rose from the dead to secure my future in heaven.
  2. To TRUST that God knows me better than I know myself, and that He know what is best for me.  He always has my good  in mind.  I can trust Him with my children, their needs, and their futures.
  3. To LEAVE my greatest fears and worries with God, KNOWING that He is big enough to handle every concern.  He can carry the angst about medical bills, school issues, and world peace.
  4. To REST in the assurance that any trial I may face can and will be recycled for my good and God's glory.  He calls me friend and does not endeavor to harm me.
  5. To AGREE that I am Christ's ambassador, here temporarily, being used by Him to push back the darkness of this world, on my way to my heavenly home.
  6. To REJOICE that there is a Leader who is smarter and more capable than all of the doctors, lawyers, and geniuses of all time combined.
  7. To BE THANKFUL for every grace, every blessing, every good gift that God pours over me in addition to my undeserved salvation.
  8. To live a life SET APART from this world, being conformed more to the likeness of Christ through every trial, and looking less and less like my fleshly self. 
  9. To OBEY my Maker, because He is God, and I am not.
  10. To REJECT this world's standards of worth, beauty, success, importance, valuing God's criteria instead.
  11. To LOVE and FORGIVE, even when it's not easy, realizing that I owe people nothing less, because I am loved and forgiven by God.
What would YOU add to the list???

PRAY:  LORD, I chose you over this world.  Keep my eyes fixed on your glory and your business, without being distracted by those wrestling for power in this life.

~ Barb Dittrich

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pick Anthony!


The reason we never sit in the front row of a show is the inevitable request to the audience, “I need a volunteer.”

The reaction of virtually everyone was the same… Look away… Don’t make eye contact… Sit completely still and don’t appear that you can be separated from the herd…

Everyone except Anthony.  Anthony’s hand shot in the air with all the enthusiasm of Arnold Horshak on a re-run of Welcome Back Kotter. “Oh! Oh! Oh!”

I was sitting up in the balcony well out of the “accidental volunteer zone,” and it seemed everyone around me knew Anthony.

“Look at Anthony.”
“Anthony wants to volunteer.”
“I don’t think the juggler sees Anthony.”

Thus began the cheer from the cheap seats.  “Pick Anthony! Pick Anthony!”

I never actually met Anthony, but I knew of Anthony almost immediately when my husband and I took a recent fall New England cruise. Whether it was our fellow dinner companions, casual conversations in the gym, or chatting with fellow passengers on tours, it seemed everyone knew Anthony.

“Have you met Anthony yet? “
“No.”
“Oh, you will!”

I’m sure there are many things Anthony can’t do.  Frankly, I don’t care about those things.  There are plenty of things I can't do either so that makes us even. A young adult in his mid-twenties, he was gregarious, friendly and everyone who talked about him thought he was great and had a funny story to tell. He sat in the front row at every show, always starting a standing ovation and blowing kisses to the dancers. Anthony was a unifier. Anthony was a cheerleader. Anthony was everyone’s friend. Our tablemates hung out with Anthony a good bit since their cabin was close to his and I always enjoyed hearing the stories that started, “Guess what Anthony did today.”

I suppose one of the favorite things about my vacation was that I got to experience a place called acceptance. No one focused on what was different about Anthony, but rather what was great about him.  It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth where they played favorites and he reminded him that we are all in it together.

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1Corinthians 12:20-26 NRSV)

Paul reminds us how to get it right. Everyone belongs. Everyone has a gift to share. It was a pleasure to see that lived out among my fellow passengers. The trip would have been less without Anthony. I’m glad God picked us to be on his ship.

Holy God, thank you for Anthony and the way that you have gifted him. May all those who share his unique abilities find a place called acceptance. Amen.



Image courtesy of “Hand Reach to Sky” samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beauty in the Broken Places

Recently Jolene Philo at DifferentDream.com kindly invited me to guest blog on her site and I shared this story about what I've learned about letting go of perfection in a life with special needs. You can read the original post here:  http://www.differentdream.com/2014/10/beauty-in-the-broken-places-of-special-needs-parenting/
Who Me
I have lived with cats my entire married life.  They are naughty.  Every day as my son leaves the house he calls out, “Coco, don’t set anything on fire.”  This has yet to happen, but I tell you she has the potential.
I find that living with cats impacts my home d├ęcor. Knick-knacks need to be non-fragile, bottom heavy, or inexpensive.  Preferably all three. My mother visited Spain and brought back for me a tall and delicate porcelain figurine.  I’ve glued it back together so often that it is more glue than porcelain at this point.  Coco just looks at me all innocent, “Who? Me?”
When I was younger imperfections bothered me. Nicks and chips and brokenness have come to matter less. Maybe that has to do with the lessons learned over a decade or two with special needs. We all have brokenness somewhere. Maybe it’s the brokenness that says, “I’ve lived a life. I’ve taken some hard knocks. I’ve come out stronger for it. The chips and nicks mean I’ve been out there trying.”
There is a style of Japanese art work called Kintsugi. It means “beautifully broken.” It is pottery that has been broken and then repaired with seams of pure gold or silver. When I see these amazing creations of beauty from brokenness I see that perfection is over-rated. The real beauty comes from the brokenness.
Sometimes as a special needs parent I feel broken like that porcelain figurine. I’m sure you do too sometimes. Knocked about, nicks and chips out there for everyone to see.  I also know we are not alone.  God walks with us on good days and bad days alike, pouring his love and grace into the broken places.  Where God pours in the gold, we are made all the stronger for the journey.
"But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.  (Job 23:10 NLT)
Prayer: Loving God, fill the broken places so that your glory shines in the world for all to see. Amen.
To see the beauty and variety of Kintsugi, search for images with your favorite search engine. It is stunningly beautiful art out of everyday simple things. Also, Keep an eye out for Jolene's new book Caregiver's Notebook coming out soon.  It's a great organizational tool for special needs parents. You can read more details here:  http://www.differentdream.com/2014/10/caregivers-notebook/
Photo: "Who Me?" by Lorna Bradley

Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Ways to Encourage Your Husband on the Special Needs Journey

Photo image courtesy of Volodymyr Baleha via 123rfcom
"Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife."
Proverbs 21:9, NIV
 
Better to live in a desert
    than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
Proverbs 21:19, NIV

The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
Proverbs 14:1, NIV 

These may seem like harsh words when we are trying to draw near to God.

Yet, we mothers have a very bad, pervasive habit.  That habit is only magnified when we are raising a child with a chronic illness or special needs.  We complain that we want help.  But when we receive help from our husbands, we criticize and complain.

"You're not doing it right!"

We rip control back, only to undermine the very assistance we crave.  It's no surprise that Dad's offers of help come less and less every time we berate his performance.

Here are some thoughts on how we can become the type of mother who BUILDS her home, her family, rather than one who DESTROYS it:
  1. Come to grips with the fact that your husband is not going to do things exactly like you do.  Your way is not the only way.  It is not necessarily the perfect way.  My husband and my son found a new system to doing an infusion.  I never would have thought of the short-cut the two of them invented.  And when things don't turn out exactly the way I would like them done, I remind myself, God made my husband the father, not the mother.  Good enough is good enough.  It doesn't have to be perfect to still be helpful.
  2. Involve your husband in the care and decision-making.  I know way too many mothers who are nervous about involving their husbands in the care of their children.  This can especially be the case when a child needs involved medical care.  One thing that has always blessed me is adopting the attitude, "I need to know that he can take care of these kids if I get hit by a truck."  With this mindset, I was able to work a rhythm with my husband where every-other-treatment would be handled by him.  This gave him adequate practice with  procedures.  He also comes to medical appointments and IEP meetings any time he is able. While he still struggles completely understanding the daily issues involved with our children's care, he has a better understanding than if he weren't involved in those pieces of the huge process.  This also helps to involve him in meaningful dialogue regarding important decisions for our kids' health and education.
  3. Realize that dads can often bring a certain fun factor that we moms simply don't.  Because men tend to be more gross motor in their activity than women, and tend to worry a bit less, their non-conformity to our ways can be a beautiful blessing to our kids.  They may take some reasonable risks that we mothers are too fearful to take. This broadens our kids' horizons and offers them joyful, exhilarating experiences they wouldn't otherwise have.  My husband is the one who takes the kids cross-country skiing, water-skiing, and sneaks them onto contraband trampolines.  Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and let them have these types of fun experiences with their dad.
    Photo image courtesy of jarenwicklund via 123rf.com
  4. Develop a sense of humor while you develop your boundaries.  There are some non-negotiable things that my husband needs to know about.  There are no compromises when it comes to sterile administration of intravenous medication.  Medical alert tags must be worn by the kids when they're away from us.  But there's a lot of wiggle room beyond those boundaries.  I used to have neighbors say scary things when I would return from business trips, "Oh, you must've been gone.  We saw the kids dancing on the roof of your Suburban."  Or my husband would tell me that he took the kids to the Irish Pub for their music circle.  Hmmm.  Rather than nagging or quarreling, I have learned to jokingly say as I head out of town, "My bare minimum requirement is that my children be alive and unharmed by the time I return."  He and I are both sporting a smile with these parting words, which eases a lot of tension and makes for a more pleasant time apart. 
  5. Remind your children that Daddy is NOT Mommy.  In addition to unreasonable expectations from us wives, our husbands can feel immense pressure from the criticism of our littles.  Kids with chronic illness and special needs can frequently be obsessive and ritualistic about the way things are done.  It can be critical in stretching our children's horizons to assure them that all will be well, even if the person caring for them doesn't do things exactly the way Mom does.  This also opens up the opportunity for new bonding between our kids and Dad, rather than driving them apart with the wedge of irritation, criticism, and unmet expectations. 
These are just a few of the things that have helped build up our family, rather than letting my tendency to nag or quarrel tear us apart.  

God instructs both husbands and wives on how to treat one another in Paul's letter to the Church in Ephesus.  (see Ephesians 5:21-33)   He calls us wives to an attitude of respect and common decency, not micromanaging and criticizing.  I don't know about you, but I think that the more I stretch towards that goal, the happier we ALL are in this household.

PRAY:  Jesus, help me look more like YOU, and less like my cranky, demanding, perfectionist self.

~ Barb Dittrich

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Are You Serious" Awards - Volume XXXVI: The Failing to Plan, Planning to Fail Edition

"The astute see evil coming and take shelter,
    but the stupid plow right on and then, of course, have to pay the price."
~ Proverbs 27:12, VOICE ~

I am a proactive parent.  For the past 14 years plus, I have learned to know my children, what is "normal" for them, and what the best course of treatment is for them.  I wasn't born with this skill.  I was taught by a terrific nurse coordinator when our son was diagnosed with severe hemophilia at birth.

For those who don't know the world of bleeding disorders, this illness, while chronic, can also be critical.  Therefore, parents are taught early on how to conduct triage and assessment on their child.  Over the years we learn how to diagnose internal bleeding and how serious that bleeding may be.

That being said, critical thinking skills become a frequent byproduct of this training.  Parents like me learn to get out ahead of a situation or how to avert a crisis.

If this is true of an average, old mom like me, then IS IT TOO MUCH TO EXPECT THIS FROM OUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS?

Let me tell you what I'm talking about.  About a week-and-half ago, I posed a question in a private chat group for those raising children with hemophilia.  I asked, "Given the nature of Ebola, has anyone discussed with their hematologist a protocol for treating someone with a bleeding disorder on the outside chance that they might contract this virus?"  I was afraid that other participants would think I was nuts.  I'm not an alarmist.  I merely want to have a plan of attack in place, should a serious illness confront my child.  I was SHOCKED to see what a great interest there was amongst my other parents/patients.  As many as 43 comments were left on this post, with 25 more interested in the answer.  Sadly, a few noted that they had spoken to their doctors and were either dismissed, or their professional had no plan.

 Are you SERIOUS?!


I also have a daughter with asthma and severe allergies.  As we know, there is an outbreak of EV-D68 currently spreading in this country.  When I spoke with an internist about it, they told me there is no vaccine for it, and merely shrugged it off.  I have heard nothing from my daughter's specialists on her care regarding this serious virus.  The only thing of use to us?  The above infographic from the CDC.  I don't know about you, but our family already does all of those things as a matter of habit.

My point is this, as frequent medical consumers, are we not reasonable to expect our medical professionals to at least be THINKING about these prevailing issues?  Isn't part of coordinated patient care helping the patient to be proactive in maintaining their own health?  Yet, that is exactly what we are not seeing as we jump with both feet into the cold and flu season.

At the very least, I would hope that our doctors could simply talk out a potential plan of treatment without being dismissive.  We love our kids, and it's normal for us to have concerns.  Our kids do best when we all work as a team.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have a plan for your child(ren) when it comes to serious communicable illnesses?  Have you pressed your doctor for a treatment plan should your vulnerable child be a victim of the flu or other circulating viruses?  Do you feel comfortable with the preventative care your specialist has recommended for your child?  I am not suggesting worrying yourself needlessly.  (See my post from October 3, 2014)  There are countless things in this world we cannot control.  However, prudence should be a hallmark of how we operate as parents.  God's word makes it clear -- When we fail to plan, we're planning to fail.

~ Barb Dittrich

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Problem with Fear and Anxiety Disorders

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." ~2 Timothy 1:7

Fear. It has a way of dealing with us in the most deceptive ways. It can come at you in full force without hiding or it can just sneak up on you like a ninja ready to fight. However, I think the worst kind of fear is the low level, day by day, fear that is fed to us little by little by the media or other constant fear-mongering sources.

We don't need help with fear. The media exposure just enhances that for us. Our minds will hold on to fear all on their own. Yet the outside influences of this present age could be petrifying.

Yet, we see that God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. Did you hear that? The only fear we should have is fear of God. God gave us a spirit of power, such power by His spirit that resurrected Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). That power lives in us. That kind of power has no need for fear.

Also, by His spirit we are given a spirit of love. Scripture tells us that God's perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). The Father chose us before time began, knew we would need saving, sent His perfect Son Jesus to restore us by taking our deserved punishment only to make us right before God. What kind of love is this?! We don't deserve it, can never earn it, but just because He so chose us, He did all we needed to be right with Him. He is a pursuing and rescuing God. He put that amazing spirit of love in us. In that there is no room for fear.

Then the passage says He gave us a spirit of self-discipline which also can refer to a sound mind. In HIM, we do not have to submit to fear. God by His promise and the Holy Spirit that indwells within us can move us from the bondage of fear.

I write this all today because I have a high anxiety child in my house and when the articles start coming out about terrorists, children being beheaded because of their faith, the spread of Ebola and Ebola scares this induces a grand amount of anxiety and bondage to fear.

But these type of trials do give us opportunity to trust God and His promises. An opportunity to learn to take those anxieties and make them obedient to Christ and His word. We must practice and discipline our minds to not stay focused on fear. By disciplining our minds to focus on the cross and what Christ did for us, little by little we will be set free from fears grip.

PRAY:  Father, we thank you for being our stronghold. We thank you that you are in control of all things. We thank you we can trust you! Help us to hold tight to your promises and focus on You alone. In Jesus Name. Amen.

~Angela

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Devoted to Doing Good

Photo Courtesy of Gualberto 107/freedigitalphotos.net
Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.  Titus 3:13-14

This week we embark on a new adventure.  For 10 years we were seeing the same doctors in Madison, WI.  They had seen us through good times and bad.  They had delivered us both exciting news and devastating news.  They had become trusted, loyal, and steadfast companions in our WAGR Syndrome journey.  

But that chapter comes to a close and we now turn our eyes to the medical professionals in California.  They don't know us.  They don't know our history.  They don't know I'm a blogger.  They don't know we're Christians.  They don't know that we count on prayer as much as we do medicine.  They don't know that Evie still rocks back and forth to sooth herself so she always has snarled hair on the back of her head.  They don't know how amazing she is at singing and dancing...or that her speech didn't really develop until she was 4 or 5...that she didn't walk until she was closer to 3. 
They don't know.
I have to remember this. 
I also have to remember that God has instructed us, through Paul, to devote ourselves to doing only what is good.  That means I cannot easily become frustrated, nor quick to anger as we acclimate ourselves and our doctors to this new chapter in our lives.  

This could be the most challenging part for me, because when I feel confused I get frustrated, and when I get frustrated I panic, and when I panic I cry and can't hold my emotions in...it's hard to DO GOOD when you can't control your thoughts; when you can't control your emotions.

I think I'll write out a note card for the binder that I carry to appointments ~the card will read:
Do ONLY what is GOOD in order to LIVE a PRODUCTIVE life. 
I'll give you a brief example of what I've already had to do concerning one of the appointments.  

I received a call from the oncology group we will see in California.  The person who called to get us scheduled gave me a date which was only about 3 days away from when she called.  I said, "I'm sorry, but I can't pull her out of school this early in the school year.  Can we schedule something for October?" She offered me a date in October, but it was quite early in the morning which led me to ask, "Will she have an ultrasound performed before the appointment?"  (After all, why meet with an oncologist if you don't have a current "picture" of the area that once had cancerous tumors, right?).  She told me "no" that "we don't schedule those without a referral."  I said, "Okay, I'll give our primary doctor a call and get that referral."  Her tone was quite huffy with everything she said, so I even tried to smooth things over by saying, "Please, don't be offended.  We are new here, and everything was done in one hospital in Madison.  This is new to me."  

To make a long story short, every conversation I've had with this person has felt "yucky".  She's been short with me; inflexible, and sarcastic.  "Do you have a copy of your daughter's ultra sound to give to the oncologist?" she asked the last time I spoke with her, "I KNOW you don't want to see the doctor without it...". 
Do ONLY what is GOOD in order to LIVE a PRODUCTIVE life.
I'll admit; I'm afraid to meet her face to face.  I'm afraid that I'll lose my cool.  I'm afraid that I will lose the filter that holds all my biting come-backs inside of me.  When this post publishes at 6 am CST, we will be just leaving our house to drive the 2 1/2 hours to our appointments.  
If you could, please say a prayer for me.  

Pray:  Father God, I need the Holy Spirit to take over my heart and my emotions.  When I'm not focused on you, my human side takes over; the selfish, threatened, bitter part of me that says "Why do we have to go through all of this???".  Take my heart and soften it as I communicate with the professionals with whom we come into contact.  I want them to see Jesus through my words, actions, and faith.  The only way I can do that is by doing good, and living a productive life with a legacy of peace, forgiveness and patience behind me.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In the Storm


When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)


My family is in a storm now. It’s scary, and we don’t know what the outcome will be. The situation is spiraling out of control, despite our best efforts to keep it in check. It’s in God’s hands, and we’re struggling to stay focused on Him and trust that He will tenderly care for us and see us safely through to the other side. As I contemplate our situation and try to struggle through to the peace beyond comprehension (Philippians 4:7), I remember another storm I faced . . . .


Last week, I had to travel to a conference to fulfill some contractual obligations. Severe weather was predicted for later in the day, but I kept hoping and praying that the weather would hold until I got home. I had gotten up at 4:00 am to travel two hours to the conference. I was tired and hungry, and I didn’t feel very alert.


To try to remedy those issues, I stopped and got something to eat (along with some caffeine in the form of iced tea). Then I stopped to put some gasoline in my vehicle, and I headed home. The problem was that the skies had gotten very dark and were filled with ominous clouds. I could see flashes of lightning in the distance. I began praying that I would get through the mountains and to the interstate before the bottom dropped out.


God heard my prayer. I made it safely through the twists and turns of the mountains, where there was no cell phone signal. I called my husband to let him know where I was, took a short break, and got back on the road. It was interstate all the way, and I was praying that I would make it home before the weather got worse.


I made it five miles before the bottom dropped out.


It rained so hard that I could hardly see. I kept begging God to let me see the solid line on the shoulder. That was my guide for driving in the storm. I stayed focused on that line and drove right alongside it to keep myself in my lane. The rain let up periodically, but the lightning was terrible. The bolts splitting the sky from clouds to ground in the darkness made it very difficult for me to see. My eyes couldn’t adjust quickly enough from dark to light to dark again. The flashes were going off all around me. Then the rain would start up again. I was tired and terrified.


I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed, and then I sang every praise song that came to mind---as loudly as I could sing it. I’m sure I didn’t remember the words or tunes perfectly, but my heart was in the right place. I wanted my Creator and Redeemer to know that I remembered Him in the middle of the storm, that I was crying out to Him with everything I had, that I knew He was all I had and all I needed.


He met me there. He reminded me I wasn’t alone with a peace that made no sense in the rather desperate situation I found myself in---alone in a rural area of Southwest Arkansas, a raging storm, no street lights, and so tired I was almost ill. The peace was real, and so was the assurance that He was going to see me through the storm, that I wasn’t alone, and that He had the whole situation in hand.


As I look at the storm my family is entering now, I remember that storm and the sense of relief I felt when I finally arrived home to my family. I know we will come through this storm with that same sense of relief. I know that God will see us through. What we need to do now is turn to Him with all that is in us, giving Him all that concerns us and then praising Him with everything in us, reminding ourselves that He is with us, He is powerful, He loves us, and He is good.


Pray: Father, thank You for Your peace and the assurance of Your presence during life’s storms. Help us to keep our minds and hearts focused on You so we can receive that peace that doesn’t make sense, the peace that keeps us going when we can’t see the way. Thank You for Your love and care for us. Amen.

~ Jennifer A. Janes

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Perseverance Through Seasons of Change

Photo image courtesy of Arnel Manalang via 123rf.com

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his. 
He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him..."
~ Daniel 2:20-22 ~

Have you ever found a really great teacher for your child?  Someone who discerns just how much to push, while still maintaining incredible compassion?  Someone who is so effective that they just bring the best out of your child?  Then the school year comes to an end.  A new one starts, and the current teacher that leads your child is nothing like that one who had your child thriving.

Or have you worked on figuring out a part of your child's treatment, one that's given you trouble?  After years of learning your child's rhythms or physical cues, you finally get it down.  The difficulty is controlled.  Crises are far less frequent.  Life is normalized.  Then suddenly, your child goes through a growth spurt, or puberty, and you are right back to square one, feeling lost, confused, and upset at returning to an unpredictable life.

CHANGE...  It is an inevitability of life.

While there's so much of us that wants change for our children, there's also a huge part that doesn't.  Change signifies growth, increased ability, hope, and newness.  However, change can also bring turmoil, bewilderment, uncertainty, and fear.  Often times the ugly parts of these seasons of transition lead us to the good ones.

That's where life gets icky for parents like us.  Face it, there's an extra measure of exhaustion in parenting children like ours.  Problems are a bit more complex.  We CRAVE for something to be simple... dare I say it, normal...  even if it is our own, revised standard of normal.  The challenges of change upset that apple cart, often robbing us of that elusive desire.

Because parents like us are frequently in this precarious season of change more than once, we are in a unique position to learn God's deep truth in ways typical families are not -- Circumstances may change, but our faithful God remains constant.  

In today's devotional passage, Daniel is at a crossroads.  Taken into captivity to Babylon with Israel's best and brightest, Daniel faces execution along with all of the other wise men of the kingdom, because no one can describe the king's dream to him or interpret it.  Rather than fixing his eyes on the dire circumstances swirling around him, Daniel turns to an unchanging God, who he knows is capable of intervening in this situation.  A confession of praise goes out from his mouth, proclaiming God's faithful reliability, even through the tumult of change.

If the Lord is so clearly reliable in a major situation affecting an entire nation like this, can we not trust him in the changes of our children's lives?  He assures us in James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (NIV; Emphasis mine)  We may have no clue what is going on with our child or how to exactly improve things in the immediate-term, but our Maker does.

When we feel battered about by unwelcome change, God is there not only as our anchor, but also to help us adapt.  No other hope can establish our perseverance like this constancy of our Eternal Father.

PRAY:  LORD, happy are the adaptable!  Thank You for offering the hope of that adaptation in me.  Holy Spirit, remind me when changes and turmoil discourage, that You are there with unshifting reliability.  May Your Name be praised for such faithfulness!

~ Barb Dittrich



Monday, October 20, 2014

The Prayer I Was Scared to Pray

"Overwhelmed" by puck90 via Flickr
Oh, that you would bless me, indeed,
and enlarge my territory.
That your hand would be on me
that you would keep me from evil
that I might not cause pain.
~ 1 Chronicles 4:10 NLT ~

The first time I read the Prayer of Jabez, I was horrified. That second phrase - and enlarge my territory - sounded like the scariest prayer I had ever heard; almost as terrifying as praying for patience. 
I am a Step-Mom/Mom of four boys: two of which have multiple disabilities (ages 10 and 18) and two of which are just starting to act more like humans, rather than wild animals (ages 3 and 4). I can not imagine why anyone would ask for MORE areas of responsibility. I was certain this would be a disastrous prayer for me to pray. Yet, as the day progressed, I could not stop thinking about Jabez's prayer. Finally, I gave in to researching the prayer further, even though I was still not ready to commit to praying it.
God took that one "inch" I gave him and made it a mile in the very first resource I stumbled upon. The Prayer of Jabez 30 Day Challenge broke the prayer into five easy-to-digest parts with clear explanations. I jumped right to the phrase that concerned me the most and was shocked and immediately revived beyond belief at what I read!
"Ask God to allow you to do more for him and his kingdom.  As your territory (opportunities to serve him) expands, your ability and resources supernaturally increase, too.  All he gives us to do, he will empower us to do by his Holy Spirit." - Sharing Hope Ministry Amarillo, TX
I am not asking for more exhaustion, more dread, more toil, wear and tear on my day.  I am asking for more opportunities to SERVE HIM. This is his yolk and his burden, which are easy and light (Mt. 11:28-30)!  And God doesn't just leave me alone to serve him, he increases his power and influence within me so that I may serve in power, love and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7)! This prayer is layer upon layer of the very things God promises us in the New Testament!

This prayer is already at work in my life and these words are the primary reason I am still able to smile (even if it's an internal, not external display) at the end of each day. These words are his own promises and gifts he wants for us. When I pray along with Jabez, I am basically saying to God that I want what HE wants for me. I want his promises. I want to be fulfilled by his ways, not my own. 

Now every day I voice this prayer with confidence and joy rather than fear and uncertainty. And every day it becomes just a little bit easier to see things from HIS perfect perspective, which makes my territory a little less painful and the temptation to "check out" a little less appealing. 

PRAY: Dear Lord, bless me indeed and enlarge my territory.  That your hand would be on me, that you would keep me from evil, that I might not cause pain.  Amen. 

- Emily Krill

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Are You Serious" Awards - Volume XXXV: The Repugnant Politician Edition


I know my expectations are not realistic.  We live in a fallen world.  Our behavior is so far from the loveliness of heaven, some days it isn't even funny.

Nevertheless, there are some roads I wish we humans just wouldn't venture down.

Attacking a political candidate on the basis of their disability just ought to be one of those things, in my mind.  Yet, that is exactly what Texas gubernatorial candidate, Wendy Davis, did this week.  You can watch her controversial political ad on her YouTube channel

This commercial opens by focusing on her opponent's wheelchair, made necessary by an injury accident.


The ad, which frames his paralyzing injury with a dark voice, then goes on to attack Greg Abbott's voting record on a number of issues, including disability rights and tort reform.

What I find truly sad is the fact that these points all could have been powerfully made without casting Greg Abbott's paralysis in a negative light.

Are you SERIOUS?!

This particular ad is so beyond distasteful because it carries a dark, implied undertone.  It's as if the underlying message is, "Don't vote for this man because you feel sorry for him.  He's not really inspiring.  He's just using his wheelchair, his disability to trick you.  He's really evil.  He wants to hurt people who are injured like he is.  What a horrible man!"

I don't know about you, but I get tired of being caught in the cross hairs of ugly politics as I advocate for my loved ones with chronic illness or special needs.  I really don't like that the disabled are considered to be a voting block that is largely controlled by one political party.  No one side is right 100% of the time.  Reasonable people should be able to disagree without all of the venom and vitriol that have overrun this nation in ever-increasing measure over the past four decades.  

What sort of sad descent have we taken in embracing our utter depravity when we cannot disagree with a person's ideas or point of view without completely assaulting them personally?  Adding to that an attack shredding a candidate's character because they had a disabling accident should be considered beyond what any decent person of any political persuasion would think acceptable.

Frankly, this political ad goes too far.  And for that, the Wendy Davis campaign is the most unenviable winner of this week's award.

~ Barb Dittrich