Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blessed Enough to be Speechless

Image "Mother Giving Hand to Child" Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net
While he was saying this to me, 
I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless.  Daniel 10:15  NIV

A few weeks ago we were at an ophthalmologist's office.  My daughter was meeting this specialist for the first time as she has several eye conditions which include, but are not limited to; aniridia (no irises in the eyes), and glaucoma (high pressure within the eyes).

If you've never seen how doctors measure the eye pressures in children and infants, they typically use an item called a tonopen.  This pen must be placed directly on the eye ball, right where the iris and pupil are located.  The pen takes several readings which reflect how high the pressure in the eye is. 
Because my daughter doesn't have irises, she is photosensitive; meaning, she has extreme sensitivity to light.  She wears sunglasses at all times when she is outside, even if the sun is low on the horizon or behind clouds. 
Keep in mind that my family just moved from the Midwest to the far West under a year ago.  We have become acquainted with all of our new doctors, but don't know them NEARLY as well as we did our doctors in Wisconsin.  Often, I just assume that the doctor knows what he or she is doing; but that's not the best thing when it comes to rare diseases.

For example, when the doctor was trying to check my daughter's eye pressures with the tonopen, she made her tip her head back and stare straight up into an overhead fluorescent light.  It didn't dawn on me to tell the doctor to turn the light off, nor to ask her to dim the light.  My daughter kept closing her eyes while the doctor had the tonopen set on the eye ball attempting to get a reading.  
I watched, silently, as they both struggled to do their jobs:  my daughter was struggling to protect her eye from the blinding light and the doctor was struggling to get a reading as quickly and accurately as possible.
It was excruciating to watch.  

But I couldn't say a word.  
Me.  
The woman who has lost her cool at the pharmacy, on the phone, in the hospital room...the woman who NEVER seems to be at a loss for words was SPEECHLESS.
The doctor finally said, "Okay, let's take a break." 
My daughter sat up and dabbed at the tears running down her face.  She choked on a sob and her face crumpled into the sad-wrinkled chin that hardly EVER shows up at a doctor's appointment.  "I CAN'T," she said.

Whoa...that never happens.  She would bend over backwards for her doctors. 
"I can't keep my eyes open."  She repeated.
Suddenly, it dawned on me; up until now, the fact that she was being forced to stare into the fluorescent light had alluded me.  "Oh," I said with the realization, "Is it because the light is too bright?"  

"Yes."  my daughter replied.

The doctor did her best to turn off the light and still get a pressure reading using the light coming in from the hallway.  As it turned out, this was a disappointing appointment for more than one reason, but as we drove home from California, I just couldn't help but start to cry as I admonished myself:
Why did you wait so long to say anything about the light?
Why did you let her struggle to the point of tears?
But, a verse from Daniel came to mind as I was pondering this:   

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, 
"This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: 
Your royal authority has been taken from you."  
Daniel 4:31 NIV

While I realize I'm not a king, and while I realize I don't have THAT much power to begin with...God gave me this message to soothe my soul and to remind me that I need to be speechless more often.  

God told me that if I'm always the one to speak, my daughter will never learn to speak for herself.  I won't always be here; I can't be everywhere she is.  She needs to learn to advocate for herself and say, "The light is too bright" or "my eye is too dry".  

It's not easy to watch our children struggle to become independent, but it is necessary.  Listen to God as He guides you in your parenting and allow Him to make you speechless in order to help your child find his or her own voice.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, it is so hard to watch my child be in pain, afraid, or struggling.  Help me to know when to step in and when to allow her to act on her own.  Give me the courage and strength to give her courage and strength IN YOU.  Thank you for being a sovereign and merciful God.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ohana- No One Gets Left Behind

    The words of the godly save lives..... and the family of the godly stands firm.
Proverbs 12:6,7



When we went to Disney World a few years ago- one of the highlights of our trip was a big family luau- On the wall of the entrance was this huge sign:

  3
s

Because of watching Lilo and Stitch (see- watching movies with children are educational ;) )  I knew right away that the Hawaiian word meant:

Ohana- means “family”3


and family means no one gets left behind.

s

barclay

As Bethany is getting older, I’m embracing “REALITY”.

3
When she was 18 months and learning sight words, continually meeting every milestone with success, I was “high” with the possibility that she might be the “exception”. 

Then we began home schooling; as she began learning to read and do basic math, memorizing the Pledge of Allegiance, the solar system, and the books of the Bible in order- my excitement grew!  Her speech and articulation continued to improve!  She excelled at memorizing her dance routines!
3

I can’t pinpoint the moment

that her progress started slowing down.

~
3~

(while proof-reading this, I’m laughing & feel compelled to insert that I also can’t pinpoint the moment I began slowing down ;) If we live long enough, the younger pass up the older and slower comes to us all. )

3
I remember teaching our granddaughter, Finley, how to read when she was 4 and realized that by the time she went to kindergarten she could already read as well as Bethany- who is 6 years older than her.  Then, at the end of Finley’s 1st grade year, she started learning multiplication!  Hard not to compare, but Bethany can use a  calculator for multiplication and division. Not that big of deal but it was one “moment” when I realized I needed to “streamline” what she “needed” to know vs. what she didn’t really “need to know”.

3

I could go on about the widening gap of achievement and success. But I won’t- :)

BECAUSE the point of this blog is this very important concept:

E

Committing yourself in and to Ohana- to family-


The REALITY is this:

Family is where we encircle each other with care and prayer-

no matter what.  

The family of the godly stand firm.




God puts us in Families so we won’t be alone, isolated, abandoned, cast off, ignored, forgotten, or left behind.


He wants us to learn His Father’s Heart toward us- full of grace and compassion.


Family is where we learn to be  patient with those who seemingly slow down our journey- realizing that there is beauty in slow, steady, rhythms of life!


Family is where we learn to love unconditionally, even when someone might be limited in equal loving:


For example; we lavish love on a baby or toddler in spite of the tremendous amount of commitment and work, or an aging parent whose strength or mind is diminished by age, or someone like Bethany, who will be passed up in intellectual achievements by potentially every grandchild we’re blessed with.


               Because of OHANA- no one gets left behind-
 
I’m not worried about Bethany “keeping up” -


I’m not going to stress when my grandchildren “pass” her up.


Because we’re Ohana- Family


We’re all on this journey together


We’re all headed toward the same place


We all are committed to helping each other get there


- and NO ONE is going to be left behind!


Our Prayer: Our Abba Father, thank you for making families!  Strengthen our families to live in Your Words, Your Ways, and Your will. Let us walk hand in hand on our journey- leaving no one behind.  In Jesus Name- Amen.

~ Cindy  Barclay

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

From Coping to Thriving: Hope and Acceptance



Recently I published the first in what I hope to be a series of books offering support to special needs parents. Today I am sharing an excerpt from the final chapter.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29:11

In my own parenting experience I live the tension between encouraging my son Craig to reach out for new developmental milestones and to accept the reality of life with autism. It is a fine line. Embracing a new hope for him, dreaming different dreams, comes out of acceptance of the reality of autism. What are his limits? Even as I encourage him toward new skills, are they beyond his capacity? Do I push for too much? Academically, my son has achieved levels far beyond what diagnostic testing indicated as his capacity. He has gained levels of independence we never thought possible. One of his Craig’s greatest gifts to me was a simple statement he made after he graduated high school. “Thanks for pushing me to try so hard. I did things I never thought I could do. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”

Temple Grandin, a popular speaker with autism, recently said at a conference that the best things parents can do for their kids with autism is push their abilities and keep striving for that next milestone. How much is enough? Where is the line between acceptance and hope versus denial of real limitations?

A parent recently told me that she struggled with acceptance because it feels like giving up. I can understand that. It can be hard to say, “It is what it is and cannot be changed,” because that involves letting go of parts of an anticipated future that feel very real. Hope in tension with acceptance embraces the new and different reality of special needs and seeks the new possibilities within it. The words of the serenity prayer are very wise:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It is okay to accept a diagnosis of autism and okay to hope for, and actively work toward, relief from a particular behavior or acquiring a new skill. One cannot be changed, the other can. The line between acceptance and hope versus living in denial comes with the wisdom of understanding the difference between what can be changed and what cannot. Craig has dysgraphia. Pushing my son to acquire handwriting skills that are beyond the abilities of his brain would be cruel. Encouraging him to learn his assistive technology and find creative ways to communicate empowers him to succeed within his capabilities.

That is an example of hope and acceptance in the midst of my everyday life with two steps forward and one step back. That’s a dance we special needs parents know very well. That place of hope and acceptance exists even in the hardest of parenting experiences. Recently I traveled to experience Rev. Leslie Neugent’s boundary-breaking special needs worship service “Parables” at Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata, Minnesota. It is a worship service with, and led by, families with special needs. Leslie offered a poignant message of hope in the midst of acceptance.

Her son J.J. is extremely impacted by Down syndrome and has fragile health. One of the many times her son’s life balanced on the edge of this world and the next, she asked her doctor, “Will he make it through the night?”

The doctor shuffled his feet uncomfortably, “He is a very, very sick little boy. He shouldn’t.” He thought a bit more, “But he probably will. That has nothing to do with me and nothing to do with you. We are out of the equation. This is between him and God.”

While there is always hope in Christ in all things, the acceptance of God’s love for J.J. and the need to give the control over to God brought peace in the midst of yet another bedside vigil through the darkest of nights. Acceptance of God’s sovereignty brought peace. Now for the rest of the story. Today J.J. is a delightful young man who loves to shake hands and is quite the flirt, though that may be reserved for pastors who bring him blueberry pancakes.

Perfection is Over-rated
Ours is not a perfect family and for that I can truly praise God. In Japan there is a beautiful style of art called Kintsugi, broken pottery repaired with seams of gold, as seen on the cover of Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving. Through its brokenness the pottery is made stronger, more interesting, and more beautiful. I think that is what God does through us. God pours his gold into our broken places, making us whole, making us stronger, making us interesting and beautiful in a way that surpasses what others would call perfect.
              
My hope is that through this book and the suggested tools readers find a new sense of wholeness as parents. They are tools to revisit again and again. Becoming a resilient parent takes intentional focus and it takes time. I pray that special needs parents feel the equipping power of God walking beside them on the journey ahead.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing.


God of Hope, we praise you that that there is always hope in you, even in the hardest of times. Help us to feel your presence when we need it most and to share the hope of Christ to others in all that we do. Amen

Lorna Bradley


Monday, April 27, 2015

The Big BUT


The Lord saw him step aside to look. And God called to him from inside the bush, saying, “Moses, Moses!” Moses answered, “Here I am.” 

God said, “Do not come near. Take your shoes off your feet. For the place where you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face. For he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have seen the suffering of My people in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of the men who make them work. I know how they suffer. So I have come down to save them from the power of the Egyptians. I will bring them out of that land to a good big land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now the cry of the people of Israel has come to Me. I have seen what power the Egyptians use to make it hard for them. Now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God said, “But I will be with you. And this will be something special for you to see to know that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, “See, I am going to the people of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they might say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Again He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever. By this name I am to be remembered by all people for all time. Go and gather together the leaders of Israel. Say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has shown Himself to me. And He said, “I have visited you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. I promise to bring you out of the suffering of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’” They will listen to what you say. Then you and the leaders of Israel will go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now we ask you to let us travel three days to the desert to give gifts on an altar in worship to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, except by a powerful hand. So I will put out My hand and trouble Egypt with all the powerful works I will do there. After that he will let you go. And I will give these people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. When you go, you will not go empty handed. But each woman will get from her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, things made of silver and gold, and clothes that you will put on your sons and daughters. You will take the best of things from the Egyptians.”
   
Moses Is Given Special Power

Then Moses answered, “What if they will not believe me or listen to me? They might say, ‘The Lord has not shown Himself to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” Moses said, “A stick.” Then the Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake. And Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and take it by its tail.” So Moses put out his hand and caught it. And it became a stick in his hand. The Lord said, “By seeing this they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has shown Himself to you.”

The Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your coat.” So Moses put his hand inside his coat. When he took it out, his hand had a bad skin disease and was white as snow. Then God said, “Put your hand inside your coat again.” So Moses put his hand inside his coat again. When he took it out of his coat, he saw that it had become like his other flesh. God said, “If they will not listen to you or believe you when they are shown the first thing, they may believe when this is shown to them. But they might not believe even these two things or listen to what you say. So then take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. And the water you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

Moses said to the Lord, “Lord, I am not a man of words. I have never been. Even now since You spoke to Your servant, I still am not. For I am slow in talking and it is difficult for me to speak.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes a man not able to speak or hear? Who makes one blind or able to see? Is it not I, the Lord? So go now. And I will be with your mouth. I will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “O Lord, I ask of You, send some other person.”

Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses. He said, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know he can speak well. Also, he is coming to meet you. And when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You must speak to him and put the words in his mouth. I will be with your mouth and his mouth. I will teach you what you are to do. He will speak to the people for you. He will be a mouth for you. And you will be as God to him. You will take this special stick in your hand. And you will use it to make the special things happen for the people to see.”
~ Exodus 3:4-4:17, NLV ~

"BUT" -- Such a little word with such BIG power.
We can use it as an excuse, as in, "I would love to help, BUT I am just SO busy," or "I would participate in a Bible study, BUT my child's health is just too unpredictable."

Anxiety and worry can grow exponentially with its use:  "BUT what if this surgery doesn't work?"  "I want to be a good advocate for my child, BUT what if the doctor thinks I'm being too pushy?"  "I know I should give the school team a chance, BUT I'm just not convinced that their way will make things any better for my child."

"BUT" can be a stumbling block, a hindrance, a put off, or a way to weasel out of something we want to avoid.  Just as we see Moses brazenly refuse God to His face in a litany of buts, we also attempt a bit more subtly to decline His commands to trust, love, and obey.  We prefer to be consumed by fear rather than step into something much bigger, something amazing, something seemingly impossible that God intends for our good and His glory.  We don't like the unknown.  We stubbornly want control, especially because our lives can feel so incredibly out-of-control.

However, if we are willing to take our turmoil and surrender it to the Lord, we can find ourselves in awe.  Our big buts can be transformed by the power of

BUT GOD!

The New King James Version of the Bible contains 45 of these miraculous examples of Yahweh's redeeming power.  Here are just a few:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
(Genesis 50:20, NIV)

My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:26, NKJV)

They could not find any real reason for Jesus to be put to death, but they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had done to him all that the Scriptures had said, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him up from the dead!
(Acts 13:28-30, NCV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NKJV)

But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29, NET Bible)
Each of these passages puts God's glory on display, revealing an omnipotent LORD who works against all human odds.  He proves Himself worthy of our trust, honor, praise, and obedience again and again.
What amazing things are you robbing yourself of when you throw out your big buts to God rather than awakening to the boundless truth, But God IS able?

PRAY:  Jesus, calm my anxious heart.  Remind me of how You have worked in the past, so I remember to trust in the future.  Thank You for being the God of the impossible situation.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XLIX: The Tumultuous Truancy Edition

I thought of naming today's post "The Death of Common Sense and Compassion Edition," but so many of these stories could fall under that description.  What we would call common sense seems to be rather uncommon these days.  And in a world where everyone is running at breakneck speed, compassion has become a rare commodity.

This time of year I have been hearing a great deal about truancy notices.  Despite having an IEP for my daughter that even figures in additional absences, and working closely with the school staff, I received one of these beauties just in time to celebrate Easter this year.  I know I am not the only one, because I hear from so many of you.  There seems to be a rather wooden, mechanical approach to these letters that are fired off to parents across the nation, adding to the sorrow we endure in raising their children in need of extra care.  Schools don't even go so far as to send a separate letter or make a phone call to parents of challenged children to let them know these letters are coming and should be largely ignored if arrangements have already been made for accommodating increased absences.  This simple courtesy would go so far in comforting parents like us.

Yet, today's "winner" goes far beyond the average truancy letter to inhumane treatment of a child.  While I realize full well that there are two sides to ever story, and the school is prevented from telling their side because of confidentiality issues, something just does not seem right in this situation.  Young Rose McGrath of Battle Creek, Michigan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012.  While she has the horrific treatment for this blood cancer behind her, catching up in school has not been easy.  Last week her suffering was made worse by receiving more than a truancy letter from her Catholic school, St. Joseph Middle School.  She has been expelled due to number of absences and academic performance.

Are You SERIOUS?!


Again, there definitely will be a side of this story that the school cannot tell, but this outcome seems anything but Christian for a Christian school.  Catholic academics are all that Rose has ever known.  The grief this child is experiencing multiplies her sorrow over fighting cancer by making her feel kicked to the curb for having been unfortunate enough to have this diagnosis.  No humane person would ever think it acceptable to make a child feel abandoned for having gone through cancer treatment.

Her parents state that the accommodations made for their daughter were astoundingly inadequate for a child enduring chemotherapy and all its side effects.  While private schools have neither the budget nor the full access to tools that the public schools do, our Christian faith would dictate that better efforts be made to keep this child in school.  Places like our friends over at The CLC Network are fully capable of helping private schools with inclusive education and special accommodations.

Stories like today's "winner" make my heart sink in that they besmirch the reputation of the Body of Christ.  While we are all humans, perfectly imperfect, saved by grace alone, our faith ought to have us reaching higher, doing better, extending more compassion than the rest of the world.  Otherwise, we meld into the darkness around us and push people further from Jesus.  And Jesus is just who children like poor Rose need!

~ Barb Dittrich

*View the entire story:  Young girl who battled cancer dismissed from school over attendance, academic performance

Friday, April 24, 2015

Feeling Crushed? There is Hope for That.

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8b-9).

Do you ever feel crushed by your present circumstances?

Do you ever feel like your situation will kill you?

Do you get caught in the cycle of trying harder, doing more in order to escape your present state?

Do you feel like you have to do it all on your own?

Living the life of special needs is hard. It demands much mourning, weeping, and pain. It can seem unbearable at times. It is natural for us to want to work harder to fix the problem on our own. Nothing we feel here is different from what Paul felt.

Before he states the verses above he goes on talking about how his afflictions bring those who observe comfort because God comforts us and as He comforts us in our afflictions we learn to comfort others in their troubles.

Currently I am in a state of affliction because of my chronic illness. I personally have felt all of those things above but the point of this all is the building of Christlike character.We are becoming more like Him as we die to our selfishness and learn to lean into Him.

When asking the questions above again we can with confidence say Our Savior felt crushed and was crushed by sin though He knew no sin. He was also stretched beyond His ability to endure, He endured until it killed Him, facing separation from God for the love He had for us, taking our sin. Yet that is not the end of the story for when He died, three days later He rose from the dead. He defeated our foe and took our dirty record so we could have a clean slate before Him. Not because of anything we did but because of what He did for us.

From the verse above we see the point of the crushing was so "we would not rely on ourselves but instead rely on God." Wow, if only we remembered we could rely on God in the midst of our mundane continual pain. When we do this we are reminded that He is the One and only who can raise dead things to life.

And our hope is in Him for one day we will be with Him and see Him as He really is, until then let us keep looking into the good news of the gospel, His unstoppable love for us, and His promise to never leave us. We can do all things in Him as we keep our eyes focused on eternity.

Father help us not get bogged down on the here and now. Help us live and breathe with eternity in mind. Help us serve lovingly because you served us. Help us love because you first loved us. Help us to keep our gaze fixed on your face and use that to change us from one level of glory to the next. Help us to see you are enough.

~Angela

Thursday, April 23, 2015

My First Fruits~(A.K.A. Get Off Your Duff, Tammie!)

Image "Alarm Clock in the Bedroom" courtesy of Feelart/freedigitialphotos.net




 When the day of Pentecost came, 
they were all together in one place.  
Acts 2:1 NIV

Here I am...again...10 pm the night before my post is due.  I can't tell you how many times I message Barb (our fearless leader) just before the midnight hour and say, "I PROMISE, I will get it done."

...and, I usually do...

But, how great does it turn out when I'm spent from the day of parenting, working, cooking, and cleaning?  How much of the Holy Spirit is in it when I'm answering to the clock and not to God?

Why does it take me so long to get started?

I think this is why God has asked for our first fruits.  We aren't supposed to tithe with what we have left over, we're supposed to give to God off the top of the earnings.  We aren't supposed to sacrifice the sick or lame of our flock, we're supposed to sacrifice the best for God.  We aren't supposed to read a devotional quick before bed to check it off our list, we supposed to rise up from our sleep and greet God, spend time with Him and keep Him in our hearts all day long.

My first fruits...

As I flip through magazines, skim Pintrest, watch a few re-runs on Netflix, and read a chapter in the book I have checked out on my iPad, I COULD be choosing to work on my post for the blog.  But, why am I not?  Why does it seem like a chore to take time out for God?

I actually STARTED this post four weeks ago.  I knew that God had prompted me to write about my prioritizing of things and how I needed to put Him first.  But, I just kept finding other things to do rather than to finish this post.

This past Sunday we attended Bayside Church in Rocklin, CA.  It was a fabulous service, and I was so motivated by the sermon on Getting the First Church Started that I knew I was being nudged by God. 

As the verse referenced above states, they were ALL THERE to get the first church started.

They showed up.

Why do we put off doing things just because we dread the work?  We fear the defeat?  We believe it just isn't going to work out the way we want it to?  We don't think we can write the paper or give the speech or make the point as clearly as it needs to be made?

It's not us we are doubting...it's God.

You see, even when I have waited until the last minute and I have FINALLY pressed the Publish button, and I STILL think that what I submitted was the worst thing I've ever written; EVEN THEN I end up getting positive feedback.  Do you know why?  It's not me...

It's God...

In spite of the doubts that the disciples had shown through out Christ's ministry, and in spite of the denials they made of him at his arrest and crucifixion; they all showed up to that room on the day of Pentecost.  That was all they needed to do.  The Holy Spirit came upon them and did the rest of the work. 

And in spite of my doubts regarding the power of my words to convey God's will; in spite of my last minute completion of my work...the Holy Spirit seems to show up every time and take my spoiled fruits and make them just right for someone's soul.

Does this mean we should always put off our work until the last minute?  On the contrary!  I think it would save us all a lot of worry and heartache if we would just remember to show up SOONER!  If I were to sit down and start typing with God in my heart and mind at the start of the week rather than waiting for my deadline to be looming in front of me like an expiration date on the milk carton; I would save myself a lot of procrastination anxiety.

So, what do you need to do that you have been putting off?  God is asking you to trust Him and His power to get it done in a mightier way than you could ever have done on your own.  

Give Him your First Fruits today.

                              Show up for Him today.

                                                       He won't let you down.

Pray:  Father God, time and time again I put things off until the last minute because I find other things that seem easier to do.  Help me to decide today to give you my FIRST FRUITS every day so I no longer doubt your abilities to take those fruits and make them into something extraordinary.  Amen.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Seasonal Nature of Friendships



For everything there is a season . . .
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT

Many times over the past few months I have grieved over the fact that my daughter feels like she has lost the friends she grew up with. They're not mean to her, but they seem to have "outgrown" her. In the meantime, she has developed some friendships with younger girls, and they have become very close. But she still feels the loss of those other friendships. She hurts, and she doesn't understand why they're not what she calls "true friends" anymore.

I could try to help her understand that in certain areas, her maturity is lagging behind that of her peers. In fact, I have tried, but she doesn't understand. Because she hurts, I hurt, and we have grieved together.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that many friendships are like this. Some last a lifetime, yes, but some are for a particular season of life. Then you grow apart, move on, and leave with fond memories. Often, nothing specific triggers the end of the friendship. It's just that whatever brought you together is over, and if that's all you had in common, then there's nothing to hold the friendship together.

It has happened to me many times through the years. I used to hurt for a long time, but now I realize that some relationships are like that, and that's okay. I still have my faithful few friends who have been with me through thick and thin for decades (or those who haven't been around for as long but I know will be), so having the friends who eventually move on is something I can deal with. I can enjoy the season that I have with them and the blessing of that relationship until it's over.

Rather than feeling like her peers are moving on without her, I need to understand (and help my little girl understand) that some friendships are like that. I need to help her nurture the one or two that can go on to become lifetime friendships and teach her to enjoy the moments she has with the ones who may not always be around. And we should invest in both because, really, how do we know at the beginning which is which?

Pray: Father, please help me to enjoy the friends you have placed into my life for whatever time they will be here. Help me to help my child realize that a season with some friends is longer than with others. Help us both to stay focused on you and to treat each person as we would want to be treated, seeing her through your eyes. Amen.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Feel Like a Sandwich?

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12 NRS)
I think sandwiches are great.  So much so, I have become one myself.  Yep, that’s me. Part of the sandwich generation. I have a son who is maturing and gradually needing me less and mother who has a variety of health concerns and is needing me more. My mom took great care of me while I was growing up. I’m glad to return the favor. I recently traveled to care for her during full knee replacement. I had delusions of getting writing done while there. Ha! Knee rehab is a full-time job for all involved.  I did succeed, however, in stocking her freezer to the bursting point with individual portions of her favorite home-cooked meals, plus a batch of homemade strawberry jam for good measure.
Being part of the sandwich generation is a role I’m glad to fill in the midst of being a wife, mother, pastor, writer and speaker. It’s a role that comes with choices. I didn’t want mom to know I was missing my 30 year anniversary in order to be with her, but she figured it out. She knows I keep pretty busy with my ministry, so I spared her the details on deadlines. Nevertheless, she noticed my computer was on A LOT.  Oftentimes those of us in the sandwich generation need to decide between two or more important things, choosing which is more pressing at the moment.  In this case it was not at all a hard choice to make.
Any parent in the sandwich generation feels the extra needs within the extended family. For special needs parents it is more so. We run the risk of being stretched too thin while juggling many needs. On the day of Mom’s surgery it was the fourth day in a row I had woken up in a different place across three different time zones. As my alarm clock beeped rudely I had that disconcerting sense of “Where am I? Why am I here? What time is it?”
I was where I needed to be, with mom, getting her to the hospital on time, calming her nerves and my own. Life went from hyper-speed to the speed of a walker powered by wincing baby steps. Blessings come in many surprising ways.  I took a page from my own book regarding self-care and, once Mom was to the point of having a less painful day, I got out of the house for an hour and a half to run along the coastal hills of California. When my college roommate offered to stop by with lunch I gratefully took her up on it and we enjoyed an afternoon of giggles that was far too brief.
Along about day six or seven after surgery, days filled with multiple ice therapies, massages and stretching, Mom said, “Well, one thing you certainly got right is honoring your mother.  I feel so loved and cared for.”
Yes. I’m where I need to be, and glad to be there. Truthfully, it feels pretty good to be loved and needed by both generations.
Gracious God, thank you for calling me to be where I am needed most.  Help me to be enough. Amen
Photo “Sandwich With Eggplant, Tomatoes, Peppers And Cheese” by Apolonia from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, April 20, 2015

The upside of suffering.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles,..." 2Cor.4:8a NLT

  “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.  We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus SO THAT the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”  2Cor. 4:8-10 NLT

Will there ever be relief from this storm called life?

Some parents of special needs children not only wonder this, but live this on a regular basis.  Others looking into their lives don’t really understand how difficult an average day can be.  It may be those endless doctor visits.  It may be the constant financial burden.  Maybe it’s always watching your child feel so lonely. Or it could be that fear of another call from your child saying they messed up, overdosed, or drank too much.  It could be all of the above like it was for me.  That’s where I found myself when I got that final call no parent wants, but I almost expected it sooner or later. David had overdosed for the last time.  I remember getting that last call and how much God used my suffering to point others to Him.  That call and many other scenarios are all very real and a part of life for the parent of a special needs child. 

Amidst all of this suffering in our lives can anything good come from it?

The world says no and blames God for it all.  We know better even when we don’t feel better.  If we turn from God then we slowly are crushed, driven to despair, feel abandoned by God, and feel destroyed. 

But when we turn to Him, seek Him, and ultimately trust Him, then and only then can suffering have an upside.  The last verse above tells us what that is.  “Through suffering….the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”  Did you get that?  Our suffering shows Jesus to others.  I don’t know about you, but for me that verse gave my suffering purpose.    

I wish I could say that my suffering has always had a purpose, but I can’t. 

I wish I could say that my suffering will always have a purpose, but I can’t.

I will say that when I focus on my God that I know never abandons me, and when I cry out to Him in my agony, and when I read His word, He never disappoints.  On top of that my suffering again has a purpose. 

So I have to ask myself, “Does my suffering have purpose?”  If I say no, then I know where my heart is and it’s not in a good place.  But if I say yes, then I can rejoice in the knowledge that others will see Jesus. 

How about you?  Where are you at right now? 

Prayer:  Lord, Help me to always seek you regardless of my circumstances.  Help me to show you to the world no matter what season of life I am going through.  Especially, help me to suffer with a purpose.  Amen

Ann Gapinski
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net  Stock photo - Image ID: 100279445         
To read Ann's other posts click on her name under the labels section.
 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XLVIII: The Momma's Losing It Edition

Before I am construed as being overly snarky, let me begin today's post by emphasizing that it IS critical to have research that validates our personal experiences as parents raising children with special needs.  Being able to point dismissive friends and relatives to hard data can be incredibly vindicating.  It can also be essential in acquiring the help we need and in developing strategies for problem solving.

That being said, there are times when I wonder if the copious amounts of money poured into research could be better put to use elsewhere. 

Take for example a study whose results were recently touted in Disability Scoop, "Disability Caregiving May Lead To Memory Decline In Moms."  The article begins,
"The stress of caring for a child with a disability may truly take a toll..."
Are You SERIOUS?!

Ask any parent raising a child with some sort of chronic illness, special need, or disability and they will confirm what this unique role does to them as a person.  All of the demands requiring parents to coordinate intensive medical care, additional insurance challenges, increased interventions with schools, difficult financial hurdles, and more contentious family dynamics cannot help but create mental mayhem.  A parent's brain must continually be running on overdrive to prioritize, reprioritize, and reprioritize at a moment's notice the fluidity of crises they confront.  Is it any wonder that we get distracted, irritable, overwhelmed, and forgetful?

Aside from our anecdotal personal stories, I have to wonder about the redundancy of this most recent data.  Birthed out of the University of Wisconsin - Madison's Waisman Center, a similar study in 2009 likened parenting a child with autism to the combat stress of a soldier.  While those raising a child with autism know that it is difficult, the LEVEL of stress revealed by this particular study was compelling.

On the other hand, a discovery like "Memory may suffer in mothers caring for children with disabilities," seems banal at best.  Out of personal experience, it literally made me want to respond, "Well, DUH!"

My apologies to the hard-working crew over at the Waisman Center for my snarkiness, but perhaps future research might be better directed towards something constructive like unveiling best practices in caregiver stress management, similar to ones detailed in articles like, "Special Needs Battle Fatigue," or "Handling Stress - A Guide for Caregivers."  Parents like me need more practical help in learning to build a support system than having thousands of dollars spent on the obvious fact that we need one.  We need help organizing in a life that most days feels so completely out of control.  We need access to affordable mental health care that helps us manage the stress and memory loss.

Sadly, the lion's share of dollars will continue to fund big research like this every few years, because that's what universities do.  Wouldn't it be nice if instead that money actually went to helping us? 

What do you think?   

~ Barb Dittrich