Monday, August 31, 2015

I'm Overwhelmed!

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you" (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

I wish I was up to my neck in the crazy busyness of life.

Because that would be a reprieve. A respite.

Truthfully right now I feel absolutely and completely overwhelmed. I’m a human pinball bouncing around and simply reacting from moment to moment.  I don’t have time to think, process, or even plan. I’m just hoping to hang on until this season passes.

I’m a husband, a special needs dad, a ministry leader, a boss, an advocate, a fundraiser, a son, a writer, a speaker, and a volunteer. In my spare time I am battling some serious and time-consuming personal health issues involving doctors, therapies, treatments, and tests.

Next month my son with profound special needs turns 18 which involves conservatorship, court, and legal documents.

If stress were a jackpot, my life would be all cherries at the moment. My responsibilities are stacked up and my emotions are jacked up.

Torn, worn, weary, and overwhelmed.

You too huh?

Just when you think your life cannot get more hectic and more unbalanced, it does.

As Norm from the old TV show Cheers once said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing milk-bone underwear.”

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but remember, I have overcome the world.” I get so wrapped up and consumed in fighting the trouble, that I forget the promise of the last half of the verse.

In desperation I find myself collapsing in my bed and proclaiming, “God I am overwhelmed!”

And in the quiet and stillness of the brief moment, I sense His Spirit convicting me of the real problem.

The real problem is that I’m not overwhelmed enough.

I’m not overwhelmed by God’s grace. I’m not overwhelmed by his promises. I’m not overwhelmed by his presence. I’m not overwhelmed by his assurances of provision. I’m not overwhelmed by his love. I’m not overwhelmed by his commitment to me.

I am absolutely overwhelmed with all the wrong things. I’m overwhelmed by the difficulties and challenges of this world. I’m overwhelmed by the struggles of living in a fallen world. I’m overwhelmed by stress and anxiousness.

But I’m not overwhelmed enough by the bigness of God.

God is bigger than any giant in my life, and in your life. And if we were simply overwhelmed by that notion, then the giants in our life would seem so much smaller.

Our giants would appear as if they were ants.

“Come to me all of you who are tired and weary, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says.
“Greater is He who is in you than anything in this world,” the scriptures promise us.

When we find ourselves just trying to keep our heads above the water, we need to let our awe and worship of God overwhelm us again.

We need to remember the last part of John 16:33 when Jesus declares “I have overcome the world.”

We aren’t overwhelmed enough. We need to remind ourselves that the tomb is still empty and He still rolls stones away in our lives.

Whether we are in a doctor's office, the school pick-up line, our job, or our home - we need to declare wherever we are to be holy ground, take off our shoes, stare at our own burning bush and remember the God who said "I AM WHO I AM."

We will get through this. Not because of our own strength, and not because of who we are. But because of his might, who He is, and what He did for you and me.

Let Him overwhelm you today. Let Him wrap His arm around you and soak in His presence today. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed.

PRAY: "Father I ask you today to overwhelm me with your love and with your presence. Father as I sit here in the stillness of the moment, reveal yourself to me in a very real way."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume LXIII: The Private Schools Edition

As with many previous posts, I will start today's story by cautioning you that we only know one side of a multi-faceted issue.  Having a sister who is the principal of a private school, I know that while we parents can run to the media with our complaints, schools of every kind are held to a different standard, frequently unable to defend themselves publicly.

I would also remind you that I am neither an attorney nor a licensed special education advocate, so my facts are gleaned from other resources that I have found to be reliable throughout my years as a parent of unique kids and as a leader of special needs parents.

That being said, today's "winners" offer a unique opportunity for us to examine the law regarding complex kids and private schools.  This is especially helpful considering the wave of popularity with School Choice.

This week finds us in the State of Texas where the parents of two girls with "invisible disabilities," that include things like ADHD, sensory processing challenges, and anxiety disorder, are suing their daughters' Catholic school.  According to the parents, several attempts were made to have their daughters' school make simple accommodations for the girls to no avail.  These accommodations included extra time on homework, written instructions for assignments, a "safe room" or quiet space for times of sensory overload, and a computer for the younger daughter when writing was difficult.

Despite multiple meetings with authorities on all levels of the school (teacher, principal, pastor, diocese) the parents claim that these requested accommodations were largely ignored.  As a result, the two girls were failing school.


Image courtesy of stockyimages via
Having had two of my children receive similar accommodations in their public schools, I can tell you that for them, these were fairly easy adjustments that yielded huge results in the classroom.  I can also tell you that often, when our children have these sorts of "invisible" diagnoses, we parents are not taken very seriously, sometimes being erroneously accused of being a "bad" or permissive parent.

While we don't know the other side of the story or the resources available to the Texas school, it breaks my heart to see supposedly Christian establishments treating kids with diagnoses worse than the secular world.  On the flip side, I do know from my sister's experience, that sometimes private schools will openly confess to parents that they are not equipped to give challenged children the extra measure of care that they need.  

So, the big question in this story is, Did this Catholic school break the law?  Aren't private schools exempt from IDEA 2004 and granting IEPs?  The answer is complex and nuanced.  Yes, private schools ARE exempt from IDEA 2004. These schools are not required to offer IEPs for special students along with things such as occupational or speech therapy.  On the other hand, these schools ARE bound by Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This prohibits discrimination against students with special needs and may require the school to make some modifications for the student under the law.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of this law suit.  Situations like this one are never pretty.  It seems that no one comes out a winner in the end.  Feelings are hurt and disdain seems to increase.  One would hope for better between those who call themselves followers of Jesus.  Ultimately, it seems the law suit will expose which side is merely pretending to follow Christ in the end.

~ Barb Dittrich

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE:  CLC Network (Christian Learning Center) - Working with schools, churches, & families to create inclusive communities for people at all levels of ability & disability.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Life in the Desert Place

Photo Credit:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Gen 50: 20 (NLT)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.Rom. 8:28 (NLT) 

Our Eyes Lie

I can’t see how this is good at all!  My 14 year old daughter looked at me with exasperation and some anger, in the midst of desperate tears.  She had been processing coming of age anxieties for a few months, and had become impatient with the depth and extremity of her anxious thoughts, along with the apparent temporary nature of the calm resolutions she had arrived at.  As I walk beside her through this necessary period, I'm excited about the process that she’s going through.  While I pray fervently that she does not get swept away by the emotional tsunamis when they hit, I’m overwhelmed by her tenacity and desire to see God in this process.  The intensity of her experiences has made her desperate for God.

See What He Sees

She can't see the purpose of her pain.  The complexity of the challenge and the struggle to overcome feels unnecessary.  Most days, my heart breaks.  Pain is pain.  It's awful. But, after more than a few such experiences myself (anxiety is contagious in our home, experienced by the neuro-typical as well as the rest of us) my perspective is different from hers  She can’t see what I see.  She can’t see the way she’s growing, the muscles she’s developing, the intimacy she’s gaining with God.  I can.  As I watch as the pieces of a masterpiece come together under God’s watchful care, I wonder with excitement and some trepidation, what is He preparing her for?

Growth in the Desert

In my last devotional, I mentioned that faith can die in the desert seasons.  But, faith can grow in the desert seasons.  Actually, incredible growth can happen in the desert seasons.  The beauty seen during times of peace and rest is usually a reflection of shaping that happens in the desert, as a result of our interactions with thorns, snakes and other desert creatures.  I find it interesting that Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tested by the devil (Luke 4, Matt. 4).  The gospel of Mark’s version of that story says Jesus was ‘compelled’ by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12, NLT).  Could God be directing me into these shadowy times for my own benefit?  And in preparation? According to the scriptures, YES!  As a mommy, listening to her daughter, I can say a resounding, YES! This is GOOD! 

I remember being in labor with my son and beating back panic in the face of relentless labor pains every 90 seconds, by thinking about the following verse: Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. (Is. 66:9, NIV)  No, He Does Not! God is birthing something in us during these darker moments and thankfully, HE is doing the birthing.  Our job is the allowing.  And just like with Joseph (Gen. 50:20), the things He will birth, will be for good, and for the rescue of many others. 

Good Father, Thank You that You are the GOOD Father, patiently creating a masterpiece from our lives, orchestrating everything for our good, as we yield to You.  Please help us to notice Your presence in every dark moment today.  Fill our hearts with faith for the good that You are working, for the fruit you are producing, from our lives while we sojourn in these shadowy places. Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paradox Defined ~ The Light Burden

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/
  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

God, how does that even make sense?

You have given me these burdens and yet I'm supposed to believe that they are "lighter" because I have you in my life?
Work, doctor appointments, therapy appointments, meltdowns, extra time for homework, extra time for the "much needed routines", pets, housework, friends, spouse, volunteer tasks...
God, how am I supposed to believe that YOU can help me with ANY of this?  I cannot see you, hear you, nor feel you.

But wait...what was it you said here in the beginning?  Jesus said, "Come to me...".
When was the last time I CAME to YOU? 
When was the last time I scheduled time with YOU the way I just scheduled lunch with my girlfriend, or scheduled a phone call with my daughter's teacher? 
When was the last time I made sure to read YOUR WORD before I went to bed rather than scrolling through Twitter or Facebook "one last time"?
When was the last time I CAME to YOU? 
How can I see, hear or feel God if I never COME to Him?  How can He be a prominent being in my life if I never give Him the time that He deserves?  I will never lighten my burden if I don't make my relationship with God my ULTIMATE priority.

Jesus said in this entry that we should take His yoke upon us.  He says HIS yoke is EASY.  But, while we would normally picture an actual YOKE here; the thing that is placed over the oxen in order to share the load that they are carrying together, according to Strong's concordance, the term YOKE here is actually referring to: 
troublesome laws imposed on one, esp. of the Mosaic law, hence the name is so transferred to the commands of Christ as to contrast them with the commands of the Pharisees which were a veritable 'yoke'; yet even Christ's commands must be submitted to, though easier to be kept (Strongs G2218)
Wow...He really means it when He says His yoke is lighter...I don't have anything to fear no matter what is going on in my life because I know I am victorious in Christ.  He has covered my shortcomings, my sins, my faults; He has covered it all with His blood and has made me righteous. He is merciful and loving and I can REST in HIM.  

On Monday morning, after a Sunday sermon on how to carve out time for God every day, my daughter and I took the time to read the first part of Psalm 107 together:   
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1 NIV
That was a great way to start the thanks, and reflecting on how He has carried us through hard times.  So, Tuesday morning I pulled up my Glo Bible app and selected a reading plan to read the book of Psalms. The app set a goal for me of 7 minutes a day (to finish the book in 49 days).  Now, if I can't give God 7 minutes a day, I'm in pretty bad shape.  (Truly, His IS a light yoke...)

So, both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I started my day by reading through the first few Psalms in the Bible.  Tuesday morning, this verse jumped off the page at me:  
 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. Psalm 3:5 NIV
What an amazing verse to meditate on throughout the day.  And it was a very challenging day; those words carried me, and kept me hopeful.

Wednesday, this verse resonated with me, and it turned out I had several friends who really needed it! 
 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;  you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.  Psalm 10:17 NIV
And this is how God can carry our burdens when we choose FIRST to come to Him.  We may think it sounds too good to be true, but God stands by His promises.  If we run to Him, He will wrap His arms around us and comfort us.  He gives us everlasting hope.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, Jesus my Savior~you are ALWAYS there, waiting for me to come to you so you can take my burdens and lighten my load.  Why do I fight so hard to meet up to everyone else's "laws" when YOU have given me a new yoke; a lighter yoke?  Help me to remember you FIRST; that you are second to no one and nothing.  I want to schedule you in as my priority meeting each and every day.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What is God Doing? Hope for Our Darkest Days

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

My child has another migraine, another infection. I'm facing another diagnosis. Bills pile high, with no money in sight. Our family fractures. I'm going through some of my darkest days ever.

I haven't asked God why. I haven't begged and pleaded for a certain outcome. Honestly, I don't know what to pray anymore and have thrown myself on His mercy, pleading for His will and His way to be accomplished. I am trusting in His goodness, His love, and His faithfulness in ways I never have before. I am believing in Him wtih all I have because He is all I have.

A friend texted me Isaiah 43:19, and I am clinging to that promise. Even in the darkness, even in the dismal circumstances in which my family finds itself, God is there, and He is working behind the scenes on our behalf. He is doing something new for us, making a way for us where there doesn't seem to be one.

I am praying for eyes to see it as He brings it to pass. I'm taking one day at a time, trusting Him with each step I take, asking for wisdom and guidance beyond what my mind can come up with on its own. This thing called life is not for the faint of heart, and it's not for the weak.

I am stronger than I think because of Him, and I will see His goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). By faith I move into the future, knowing that He is already there.

Pray: Father, I thank You that You are the answer that I seek and that I can trust You with everything that is going on in our lives right now. I am so glad that You see the end from the beginning and already have everything worked out on our behalf. Thank You for guiding me each step of the way so that I can reach that point. Thank You for loving me no matter what and for seeing me through this crisis. Amen.