Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out With The Old - In With The New

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

Every year Snappin' Ministries stretches farther and wider to provide "Special Care for Special Caregivers."  The 2015 calendar year has been no different in that regard.  What HAS changed is the number of parents we have mentored and families we have served at our social events.  Let's applaud what God has done in 2015 and take a look ahead at where He is guiding us in 2016!

Here are some of the exciting things that happened:

Because of YOU, we were awarded GreatNonProfits' Top-Rated status again for the 3rd year in a row! 

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Church and family dynamics seemed to be readers' favorite topics in... 

2015's TOP 10 BLOG POSTS
  1.  Special Needs: A Gospel Litmus Test for Churches by Sheri Dacon, published October 22, 2015 
  2.  Making Room for the Disabled by Sheri Dacon, published June 2, 2015
  3. When Your Child Is the Elephant in the Room by Sheri Dacon, published May 5, 2015
  4. The Sibling Saga I Didn't Anticipate by Barb Dittrich, published September 4, 2015 
  5. Fifteen Years Ago Today by Barb Dittrich, published April 11, 2015
  6. I'm Overwhelmed! by Jeff Davidson, published August 31, 2015
  7. The UGLY Church by Barb Dittrich, published March 9, 2015
  8. INFIDELITY - It's About MORE Than Sex by Barb Dittrich, published March 11, 2015
  9. "Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume LXV: The Ignorant Church Edition by Barb Dittrich, published September 12, 2015 
  10. Every Child Welcome by Barb Dittrich, published September 14, 2015
Our blog also added new contributors and began a regular weekly link-up for all with our Snappin' Saturday Share.

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 ANNUAL IMPACT 

  • Throughout 2015 we continued to partner with Community Bible Church, San Antonio, TX, and each Sunday evening offer accessible worship for all via their internet platform http://onlinechurch.com.  Through this opportunity, parents and families worldwide were able to attend church from the convenience of their home or even at the hospital.
  • January 11, 2015 – Our signature event to begin the year shifted to our first Winter Water Park Adventure at Country Springs in Pewaukee, WI.  Attendance increased by 54% with 100 people enjoying a nummy lunch and splashing fun they could never otherwise afford.
  • January 12 – February 13, 2015 – We offered our first ever collaborative book study with our friends at Rising Above Ministries, Cookeville, TN.  A group of 63 parents nationwide dug into Jeff Davidson’s new release NO MORE PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES.
  • February 18, 2015 – We began a Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group entitled “Living Lent,” offering 40 days of encouragement and contemplation on Facebook.
  • February 22, 2015 – A group of 20 parents began a 5 week online journey via Facebook as a Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group studying Laurie Wallin’s new release GET YOUR JOY BACK.
  • March 26, 2015 – Fiesta Cancun Mexican Restaurant, Oconomowoc, WI, generously hosted us for our “Friend, Can You Spare a Dine?” fundraiser, raising $250 for our work.
  • April 12, 2015 – We began a Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group at Orchard View Alliance Church, Janesville, WI.  For 5 weeks 6-8 parents gathered each Sunday morning to go through Snappin’s self-published study “GOD HAS A PLAN.”
  • April 15, 2015 – We began a 7 week Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group using Zoom Video Conferencing with about 4 parents who studied Rev Doc Lorna Bradley’s book SPECIAL NEEDS PARENTING: From Coping to Thriving.
  • April 25, 2015 – Our event schedule once again changed by hosting our first ever “Spring Into Spring” event at Skyzone, Waukesha, WI.  Trampoline fun of various kinds was enjoyed by kids of all abilities with lunch by Cousin’s Subs afterwards.  About 40 people attended, which was a 48% increase over our previous year’s spring event.
  • April 28, 2015 – We began a Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group studying Laurie Wallin’s new release GET YOUR JOY BACK at Elmbrook Church, Brookfield, WI.  For 5 weeks, 7 participants gathered for encouragement and study. 
  • April 30, 2015 – We began a Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group studying Laurie Wallin’s new release GET YOUR JOY BACK at Crosspoint Community Church, Oconomowoc, WI.  For 5 weeks, 4 participants gathered for encouragement and study. 
  • May 15, 2015 – We held our 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Retreat at the Cedar Valley Center in West Bend, WI, offering our first overnight for guests.  A group of 33 mothers enjoyed guest speaker, Gillian Marchenko, the entertainment of Comedy Sportz, dinner, breakfast, and lunch, massages, manicures, crafts, a marriage workshop with Ann Gapinski, and time to enjoy the beautiful grounds all helped to refill the tanks of mothers raising kids with special needs.
  • June 25, 2015 – Culver’s of Oconomowoc, Watertown, and Fort Atkinson, WI generously hosted our “Friend, Can You Spare a Dine?” fundraiser.  Through the kindness of Tammy & Mike Derynda, over $1,970 was raised at all 3 of their Wisconsin Culver’s Restaurants.
  • August 17, 2015 – We were named as a Great Non-Profit Top-Rated Non-Profit for the 3rd year in a row as a result of the positive praise of parents, volunteers, and donors alike.
  • August 21, 2015 – Our newest Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Group launched in Peoria, IL under the leadership of Amy Dunaway.  A group of 9 mothers met both in person and on Facebook to encourage one another and go through Sandra People’s study, HELD.
  • September 13, 2015 – Our Fall Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Groups launched online, via video conferencing, at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI, and at Root’s Coffeebar & CafĂ©, Oconomowoc, WI.  For 7 weeks 26 parents in these various mentor groups studied Beverly Linder’s UN-SPECIAL NEEDS: There’s More To Your Child Than “Special Needs”!
  • September 27, 2015 – Kids and adults alike were THRILLED by Batman, Robin, and the flame-throwing Batmobile at Lapham Peak State Park for our Awesome Autumn Outing – Superheroes Edition.  Games, lunch, crafts, and our special guests brought smiles to approximately 70 guests.
  • September 30, 2015 – Our Foundress, Barbara Dittrich, was named as one of three finalists as an Innovator for the Right Wisconsin Right Women Awards.
  • November 15, 2015 – Our Christmas Season Side-By-Side Parent Mentoring Small Groups launched on Facebook, via video conferencing, and at Elmbrook Church, Brookfield, WI.  This early start to prepare for Advent dug into Ann Voskamp’s THE GREATEST GIFT for 4 weeks with 18 parents.
  • November 21, 2015 – Our 3rd Annual Christmas Mini-Mall benefit moved to Crosspoint Community Church, Oconomowoc, WI, this year. In spite of the weather, the ministry made a net profit of over $2,700, up 158% over our previous year’s event.
In addition, we distributed $2,000 in gift baskets & gift cards to 27 parents in need.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
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First Bank Financial Centre, Brookfield West Branch added their support to parents raising children with special needs by their gift to Snappin' Ministries during their Holidays of Giving Program.

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  • We're so grateful to have you join us as God offers HIS special care to special caregivers through our ministry!
    ~ Barb Dittrich

    * Your tax-deductible donations to keep this mission going are always appreciated.  Please give today at  gofund.me/zs3qywzc

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pressing On into the New Year


Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21, ESV)

The last week of the year is typically a time of reflection and anticipation, but too often for me, those days become filled with regret and dread--resolutions unmet and so much work left undone, particularly in my roles as mother and home educator. There has so often been a tension between feeling as though it all isn’t working out despite my best-laid plans, and remaining convinced that if I try just a little harder I can emerge from this slump to accomplish greater things on my boys’ behalf. Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas—seasons of grace, hope, and celebration—offer sweet diversions, but then, typically, the respite draws to an abrupt close. The turn of the year potentially offers a clean slate, but the gray days of winter deal a preemptive strength-sapping blow. I start the New Year feeling uncertain and vulnerable.

I’m in that space again, and 2015 has had its share of failed ventures to bemoan. Nothing’s quite where I want it to be at home. I am still weak, and lurking again is the temptation to fret, to self-condemn, to give up. But I won’t. I find this year that I have been challenged by the truths of Scripture and find my heart at rest in a way that is new and comforting.  I’ve spent this past summer and fall, and now into the winter, completing a study through a single epistle—the book of Philippians. It was meant to be a ten-week venture, but life, distractions, and competing demands have extended that threefold. The extended time with Paul’s words has proven to be good for me. Over the course of these six months, I’ve come to see God’s power to transform heart and mind into conformity with his, and to strengthen resolve towards perseverance in faith and mission, even in the face of persecution and great trial. It was true for Paul and the Philippian believers in their mission to proclaim Christ and stand firm in the faith; it is true for me as I seek to live out the gospel in the mundanities of life.

In several ways, this Hebrews 13 benediction summarizes the truths that Paul expands upon in Philippians: It tells of the great grace of God to us through Jesus Christ. The grace that transformed Paul’s life and ministry is the same grace that meets us in our weakness and stagnation to accomplish through us the very will of God for his glory. The word of God reminds me that I am eternally reconciled with God. He is near and active in my life—in the crucible of caring for a child with autism, while teaching my little ones, and when counseling my young adult children. He gives strength and wisdom, for these are among the good works he has willed for me. Jesus is my living and active Shepherd, and so at the beginning of this New Year, I remember that I am not directionless and not left to my own devices. He is the guiding force in my children’s lives, in my husband’s, and in mine, and I can never be so inept as to frustrate his plans for any of us. Knowing these truths—that I do not work alone but in union with Christ, that God himself equips me and is the very energy at work to do his will—becomes the confidence and motivation to press on, all the while, praying for his strength and counsel, and the full supply of the Holy Spirit. Like Paul, I am working towards eternity and for the glory of God, and I work knowing that in God’s hands it is sanctifying effort, transforming me into his very image.



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Celebration Leads to Anticipation

"Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! Celebrate your festivals, Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed." Nahum 1:15 NIV



I remember graduating from high school. It was a huge celebration both for my family, but also together with my friends. We laughed and cheered and threw our hats in the air before we took off for Disneyland and Grad Night! While the celebration was a culmination of school and a celebration of the completion (woo hoo for no more finals), it also ushered in a wave of anticipation for the future. I was off to college...what would that be like? Where would I go? What would I major in? Could I handle the class load?





This scenario has repeated itself so many times in my life. Celebration that leads to anticipation. College graduation celebrations led to the anticipation of a full-time teaching job and, eventually, my first steps into full-time ministry. Wedding celebrations led to the anticipation of becoming a dad. Graduating with a Master's degree recently led to the anticipation of new levels of leadership and influence.



Celebration leads to anticipation!



How often have you considered this process? So often, I believe we look at celebration as more of a jaunt down memory lane than a launching pad into the great unknown. But consider the great power on December 31 of celebrating the New Year - we never yell "Happy Old Year!" The entire celebration is centered on the hopes and dreams of the pending calendar year and all that might be accomplished.



So, what can you celebrate today? Remember, it doesn't have to big as "large" as a graduation ceremony. Where are the victories in your life that cause a moment of pause to celebrate? Celebration happens in our marriages, in our children, in a healthy diagnosis, in the inclusion of our families into church. Celebration occurs when a single dad can pay the bills, when a son or daughter scores their first point, or when we see God at work in the midst of dark times.



While I am sure that there is plenty to worry and stress about (holidays somehow make the struggles even more pronounced), I know that there is just as much, if not more, to celebrate and cheer. May I encourage you to set aside just five minutes today to write down your causes for celebration. No activity is too large or too small to fit into the celebration circle. Then, take your list and share it with those in your life who matter - let the celebration spread from yourself and become contagious to all who are blessed enough to cross your path.



Then, having done all of this, allow your celebration to grow into anticipation. Anticipation for how God plans to build on the faithfulness He has already displayed. Anticipation for the positive reports from school, the blessings at work and the encouragement received at home. Anticipation is a wonderful part of life as it is grounded in hope. Hope keeps us going, leads us to more times of celebration which in turn brings about a greater sense of anticipation. Isn't God good the way that He designed this?!?



Here's hoping that you have much to celebrate which will allow you to anticipate even more which will result in greater celebrations down the road.



Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness in our lives. We are so blessed and have so much to celebrate. Let us not overlook the small victories in life, but rather celebrate each moment so that You might grow within us a deep sense of anticipation. Anticipation that is founded upon the truth that You are God, You are faithful, and You are walking with us through life. Bless us this day and beyond, amen!



~ Mike

Monday, December 28, 2015

God Steps Into Our ChristMESS

Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Luke 3:5,6 NIV



Christmas is over.  After shopping for months and wrapping for days, the gift giving was over in an hour and we took bags of paper trash out to the curb.


So much preparation and work.  So much blessing.  


So much mess!


Reality.


It was just Bethany and me, snuggling on the couch, drinking hot chocolate and talking about what she wanted to do for the rest of Christmas break.


As we talked, my anxiety began to ramp up as I realized all the "stuff" looming before us! The first week of the New Year brings dental work for Bethany and she's scheduled for ear tube surgery.

On top of the immediate, Jeff and I needed to make some crucial decisions about what  Bethany's "high school" years are going to look like.   

Those thoughts opened the flood gates of stress to all the other impending decisions we needed to make concerning our aging parents, failing health, foster care decisions, and some financial juggling thanks to unexpected expenses. 


My joy began to fizzle and my mind began to turn to mush!


In the wink of an eye, my life went from blessed to big mess.


But I heard a gentle whisper- an offer, really.


"I'm the Master over Messes. Give me every mess and I'll breathe a miracle into it!"




Christmas is over but God is inviting us to celebrate ChristMESS all year.  Jesus must not be afraid of any mess we might encounter- or even the ones we make ourselves!


The world He created started out as a voidless mess.  And He hovered over it and spoke life and purpose. 


The people He created stepped into the "sin" and "death" mess and yet- God overcame sin and death by sending His Son to restore and redeem humanity!

Jesus' life was not easy or pampered.  His parentage was questioned- that's messy!  He was born in a cave with animals- that's stinky messy!  He put on human flesh and walked in real life dirtiness, surrounded by sinners and sickness- His whole life He the Holy One walked in messiness- but He never drew back in fear or revulsion. 

He walked in purpose and victory.


In fact- we learn the most from our messes because that's where we see miracles happen!







Can I learn to let Emmanuel- God with us- walk- work- and win over my everyday messes?


Instead of trying to "do life" on my own- I need to humble myself as a child and cry out for my Abba Father to come in and "miraculize" the mess I call life.


And the bottom line is no one can "do messes" better than our Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace!


No matter how messy life gets-
His grace and love is more.


So rejoice and celebrate with me- Christmas may be over 

but CHRISTmess - 

celebrating CHRIST overcoming our messes- 

can be celebrated every day of our life!


Prayer:  Help us Lord! We invite you into our messes and ask that Christ makes His blessings flow to every part of our life- every day of the year!  Be Lord of our messes and reign in our lives!
In Jesus' Name
Amen!

 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Unstable

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
~ Philippians 2:5-11, MSG ~

Christmas isn't as I expected this year.

While forecasters warned of the El Nino winter, Southeastern Wisconsin has felt more like spring than anything closely resembling winter.  The clouds have held onto the characteristic November gray, confusing as they deluge with rain rather than snow.  Winds have gusted like an Easter gale instead of a blinding blizzard.  

Unfortunately for my husband, this has meant that he has had to get out in our front garden several times this season, reconstructing the little stable that houses our outdoor nativity scene.  Though he anchored the structure, the muddy soil has proven to be no match for the whooshing winds.  The sad little stable keeps getting blown over.

It has left Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus looking awkwardly exposed, vulnerable, and unprotected.

This has been a good meditation for me in this year of the unexpected -- considering the un-stable.  My elderly mother's health has been failing, leaving my siblings and I walking through each day as a new minefield of crises and challenges.  Too much need and too little help with work has left me stretched thread thin.  Additional difficulties with our son's health the past four days has left me on edge as well.  All of this has me feeling like I am sleeping with one eye open, on high alert waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So many of you also live through Christmas like this.

What draws me in close and anchors me in safety during these times is a Sovereign Savior who can most assuredly identify with my shaken life.  Jesus can relate to the rocked and blown-down unstable.  He stepped out of the certainty of heaven -- that place we longingly aspire to -- assuming every pain of being an average human like the rest of us.  He constrained all of that infinite power and glory into the tiny, tender frame of an infant.  He went through the trauma and pain that occurs when we are born into this fallen world.  He did so without the usual family and amenities typically present at such an occasion.  He was hated, marginalized, and his destruction sought from the minute he drew his first earthly breath.

Yet, those very uncertainties and instabilities all worked for our good and his glory, just as they ALWAYS do for those who love him.  (See Romans 8:28)  He is the God of the in-spite-of, the even-if.  "But GOD," is the Good News of the Bible from start to finish.  He redeems the gust-leveled troubles of life, not only in the next life, but HERE... NOW.  

This is the JOY to the WORLD we sing of at Christmas each year -- Despite the UNSTABLE, He is an anchor for our soul.  People disappoint.  Pressures squeeze.  Circumstances confuse.  Yet, the holy eternal infant hands are enough to catch us, to hold us, and to see us through every turmoil facing us in this world.  Chaos and uncertainty MUST yield to Him.  And while we may hate the process of enduring and pushing through the parts of life that we would not have chosen for ourselves, we can rest in full trust of our Christ.  Because He intimately knows our misery, we can be comforted that He is fully equipped to escort us along the rocky, ankle-twisting, blister-marked paths.  This Coach not only cheers us to the finish line, but opens our eyes to miracles and laughter along the grueling route.

This is HOPE.  If He had not descended into our breeze-buffeted lives, we would have to persevere through the present miserably, only biding our time until eternity.  Our present would hold nothing but bitterness and duty to get us through to the other side.

How thankful I am this Christmas that, no matter the outcome, His presence is better than any of my expectations, plans, or desires.  

Praise You, Jesus!  You are the GOD OF THE UNSTABLE!

Where would we be without You, Jesus?  You are our only hope!  Thank You for stepping into our mess and giving it infinite meaning.  Remind us to treasure these things in our hearts, especially when we make Christmas about ourselves and our expectations rather than about Your crazy gift of love.

~ Barb Dittrich

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas is Ruined!

Image Courtesy of njaj/freedigitalphotos.net

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:4 NIV

We have watched the movie Good Luck, Charlie-It's Christmas! well over 30 times in the past four years.  It's no wonder that my husband and I have integrated many of the lines from the movie into our daily conversations.
One of our favorite lines comes after the melodramatic mother, Amy, has discovered that she can't find the star for the top of the Duncan's Christmas tree.  She tearfully declares, "Christmas is ruined!"
(I've inserted the clip below in case you want to imagine us saying this in the same "melodramatic" way...)



Jeff and I will say this whenever we realize that our attitudes have gone negative...it tends to lighten the mood and gives us a chuckle.
It's occurred to me, however, that many people are feeling a little less than "Christmassy" right now, and rightly so! 
It's the first Christmas since the death of a child.
It's the first Christmas since the death of a parent.
Divorce...
Job loss...
Battling diseases...
Selfish and ungrateful family members who create pressure in the gift-giving process...
Traveling stresses...
No snow...
No magic...

In a world where tragedy abounds and greed runs like a river, how do we get in the Christmas spirit and NOT declare that Christmas is ruined?

Can I first suggest that we focus on the CHRISTMAS STORY...the actual events as they are recorded in the Gospels?  If we look at the story, we see the SAME things happening over 2000 years ago as they are right now. 

Mary was fearful of what was happening to her.

Joseph was frightened and confused about what was happening with his wife-to-be.

Plans were TOTALLY disrupted!

No magic-Not the beautiful setting for your "dream" Christmas.

Someone wants to KILL the BABY!

Nobody likes the presents God gets them...it seems PERFECT to God, but the recipients don't show the enthusiasm that He would hope. 

God always plans the perfect Christmas out of love for those on earth, but many never appreciate it.

Yes, if you think Christmas is ruined...then take a look at the CREATOR of Christmas...of how the very first Christmas took place, and you can see that Christmas is ALWAYS a surprise to us-it's not OUR way, but it's GOD'S way.

The other thing I can suggest to those who need to find joy in this Christmas season is to focus on ONE thing...I had the pleasure of singing two words over and over again at church last week when I was on worship team...
COME, ADORE...COME, ADORE...COME, ADORE...
Can we approach THIS REDEEMER baby with the same enthusiasm that we do the babies in our families or circle of friends?  We want to snuggle up to them, kiss their noses, feel their fingers wrap around our fingers, and hear their little baby coos.  We want to ADORE them.

And, THIS BABY, this baby is God incarnate.  This baby is the fulfillment of prophecy. 
This baby is our Messiah and Savior. 
This baby, above all, will be celebrated and adored.  Regardless of our circumstances, Christ was born for us to be saved from the bondage of our sins.  We want people to remember and celebrate our birthdays, or our children's birthdays every year...shouldn't we give Jesus AT LEAST that same respect? 
Hallelujah...Come, adore...

I know this is an "oldie" now, but it might help us come to this point of ADORATION for our Savior and Redeemer...take a listen, and see if it doesn't put you in a mood to adore Him...


Pray:  Jesus, Precious Lamb of God...You came with one purpose, TO SAVE.  Hallelujah.  We ADORE you.  Cover us with you saving blood, and make us pure and holy.  Send your Spirit into our hearts TODAY, Lord, that we may CELEBRATE in the midst of pain, and find our COMFORT in the midst of the CHAOS of this world.  We praise your holy name.  Amen.


~Tammie Hefty



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas for the Unseen, Unloved, and Insignificant

Photo Credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:8-11 ESV

When I read this passage in Luke, I usually focus on the angels, forgetting about the shepherds. While everyone else was sleeping, the shepherds were sitting out there in the dark, watching over the sheep, a job that was despised yet necessary.

I wonder if any of them were having a pity party, wishing he were snug and sound asleep at home. Did one or two of them wish for a different lot in life? I'm sure this was true of at least one of those shepherds. It seems to be the human condition to wish things were other than they are.

But then God showed up not far from them, and He made sure that the shepherds knew it. They weren't left out there alone in the fields while everyone else got to see the newborn Savior. No, while most people slept, God announced His coming to the socially unacceptable, the outcasts. He told them that this was "good news of great joy" for everyone. The shepherds got to be the first ones "in the know," some of the first to worship the Baby, and the first to share what they had seen and heard with everyone they met.

There weren't any talk shows, tabloids, or entertainment websites to make them instant worldwide celebrities, but I can imagine that those shepherds treasured that night's events for the rest of their lives. They had been some of the first witnesses to God's great love - Jesus' arrival in human form.

And even if everyone else eventually forgot about their part in that night, even if their lot in life never changed, the shepherds knew that God had honored them in a way very few had experienced, and He saw them and loved them, just as they were.

And He sees and loves us too.

Father, in a world where we often feel unseen, unloved, and insignificant, thank You for reminding us that You see us and invite us into relationship with You, just as you did the shepherds. In this time when we feel so lost and alone, we need the assurance that You are aware, and You are near. Thank You for giving us a glimpse of that in the shepherds who worshiped Christ the night of His birth. Amen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grace and Truth, The Gift



I want to share with you one of my favorite verses, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." John 1:17 NIV

Grace and Truth.

What incredible gifts we have been given with those two, there was so much contained in their delivery. They arrived in such a small unassuming package. A package that was delivered by a humble girl and laid in manager.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

I love those last words...

Full of...

Grace and Truth.

You know where I see the gifts of God most displayed?

In my children, in my son.

There is love, forgiveness and inspiration for change that can only be found in the hearts of children.

With our uniquely challenged children those gifts are sometimes so simply displayed that we are left changed forever.

I was reminded of this story today when my husband came home and Cooper walked up to him announced "This is my friend."

When my husband came home yesterday afternoon Cooper walked into the living room. I was standing there and Carlton had just walked into the kitchen…

Cooper walked toward the kitchen and said…”hide my bread”. Or at least that is what it sounded like he said. I looked at him and said, “what did you say?”

He walked over to me, took me by the arm and said it again…”hide my bread”.

I looked at Carlton, “hide my bread?” I said. Carlton raised his eyebrows, lifted up the lid of the dutch oven that was sitting on the stove to reveal…a bag containing half a loaf of bread. We would shortly come to realize, this was in fact, just a strange coincidence.

I looked back at Cooper, who had no interest in the newly exposed hiding spot or it’s contents, and he seemed to be working very hard to get his words out the right way. Very often when he is trying hard to talk, he closes his eyes and you can see the physical struggle to form the words.

Carlton looked at him and said, “spell it”.  

And Cooper spelled these words…

"Hi my friends"

To stop for a moment in our busy lives and focus on that statement, to know that our son looks at his daddy, at us, as his "friends"...

well, it's a humbling, heart changing gift.

My prayer for this Christmas season is that we all have open eyes and hearts for the gifts from God. They do not always arrive in the packages that we are looking for, but they will always be exactly what we need.

~Beth

Monday, December 21, 2015

Priceless, Imperfect Gifts

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. 

Psalm 127:3"

wrapping paper
Don't you just love a beautifully wrapped present?  

Have you ever opened a present and been disappointed to discover the gift was broken and irreparable?


What should we do with it- toss it?  glue it?  put it away in a closet?  try to find out if there's replacement insurance?


Broken "gifts" are sad, but it didn't come close to what I felt when I realized our 7th child had come wrapped a bit differently than our other "gifts".  And Bethany's genetic testing confirmed what we had suspected- her DNA was "broken" into 3 chromosomes- more commonly known as Down Syndrome.
wrapping box



These two truths helped me embrace the journey of discovering what we should do with our surprising little gift named, Bethany.


Children are a gift from God! (all children)
And God is the Giver of Good gifts.(always)

Bethany 18 months

I loved my gift but my heart wondered what was I to do!  I couldn't glue or fix her DNA and there wasn't an insurance replacement plan.


At first, I cried.  I grieved.  I was broken-hearted. Jeff and I grieved for the dream of the child who never was or never would be.


But when I began to realize the Sender had chosen the wrapping of this wondrous gift called Bethany, I began to celebrate the gift! I just hadn't discovered the treasure hidden underneath the wrapping.

I didn't know she was going to become one of the best gifts I never knew I needed.

I say "needed" because this "imperfect" gift has shown me the absolute Love of God for His children. Though we are broken- He deems us priceless.



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That's why I love, love, LOVE, CHRISTmas!

We're seeking to celebrate and make room for our marvelous God who loved His imperfect, broken children so much that He wrapped Himself in flesh and "disabled" Himself to enter our world.  


He willingly took on brokenness and weakness that He might say-
"I know what you're going through.  I care and understand.  I am going to do everything so you can be wholly restored back to Your Father."


We should never again say that God doesn't understand our pain, our suffering, our brokenness, our limitations or our struggles.
Because our great God did the unthinkable.


He counted our broken estate as priceless to Him- and paid everything He had to restore us back to His glorious purposes!



He count us priceless!


Prayer: Oh Everlasting Father and Giver of all good gifts: Thank you that you counted your broken creatures as priceless and valuable.  We celebrate your love that wrapped Your Son in the frailty of humanity. We praise You that Your Will and Plan is to restore your children to wholeness and restored by Your love and grace!

In the beautiful Name of Jesus- the Savior of the World- Amen.