Friday, July 29, 2016

Problems with Spontaneity

"Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!'" Isaiah 45:9, NLT

Two friends texted me today asking if my child wanted to do something. That is fantastic! I love to cultivate room for social interactions, especially is someone is requesting it, however, in our family with our special needs, spontaneity is not a luxury we can always allow. I really wish it was. I try to make it possible but it continually ends in some sort of melt down.

I try to understand this anxiety my child has with spontaneity but I have trouble putting myself in her shoes. I am a control freak by nature. I do like to know exactly what my schedule will look like and I get irritated with deviations but it has never caused a melt down. I also like to do things with others at the last minute if I can because it holds special surprises in my otherwise mundane day.

My child on the other hand, cannot handle changes, even good ones. This has been an ongoing issue for 13 years now and I don't see it changing. It does make me sad as a parent because it doesn't seem "right" to me that she cannot enjoy the "spontaneous" joys of life but she seems happy anyway.

I am learning that I don't need to try to make her fit my perceived mold. God made her perfectly the way she is and that is beautiful to Him. Honestly, what it all boils down to is in light of eternity, will this issue with anxiety over spontaneity really matter that much? No. It really won't. Except that God uses it in the here and now to sanctify us both.

As we experience this issue of spontaneity we both must choose to look to Jesus and trust Him with it. Whether I make her endure spontaneity of an event or I die to self to just let her stay in her comfort zone, in each occasion we have the opportunity to grow in the grace of Christ. We are conformed more into His image as we die to ourselves in this area. God is using every bit of it to make us both more like Him and that is the goal.

So today, with hesitation, I turned down the requests because she has been a sport about last weeks events. We compromise, so today I do the dying but as I do I look to the One who made us both. The One who knows us best and is making us more and more like Him as we trust in Him.
Have you experienced situations similar to this? How did you handle it?

Father, thank you for molding us and making us exactly as you see fit. Forgive us for arguing or protesting your good ways. Help us to turn to you and see what Christ did for us. Help us see the beauty of Christ so as we die to self, we joyfully follow His example and trust He is making us more beautiful. In Christ's Name. Amen.

~Angela Parsley

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Divine Call of Dignity

Photo Courtesy of grandfailure/

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.
~ Luke 8:51-56, NIV ~

There is so much to the two stories captured in Luke 8: 40-56.  (I just listened to a sermon on this passage at church this past week, and was completely absorbed in the message.)  We learn about a woman being healed, and a girl being raised from the dead in this very short, concise part of scripture.  

But, these stories didn't speak to me because of the healing or the resurrection...they spoke to me because of what they reveal about the nature of God; that He places a priority on the DIGNITY of each individual, and that He takes into consideration the PLACE that people hold in society.


In the first story, we see a woman healed from her 12 year "bleeding" disease...a disease which would have made her unclean in her society.  All she did was reach out and TOUCH Jesus's robe, but because she believed she would be healed through that act, she was.  Jesus, knowing that he had been touched, and knowing what had happened could have just carried on through the crowds on his way to Jairus's house to see his dying daughter.  But, Jesus stopped...and drew attention to this particular healing.  Why?  

So he could give her back her dignity in front of her peers...

When she was sick, similar to a leper, she would have been considered an outcast; untouchable.  But Jesus made a point to pronounce her HEALED in front of the crowd that surrounded them.  He decidedly stopped and asked what she had done, and then declared that her faith had made her well once she had proclaimed her healing in front of EVERYONE...he wanted her to TELL EVERYONE.
But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8: 46-48 NKJV
He gave her back her dignity in front of her entire community...

We quickly move on to Jairus's dying daughter.  Only, the terrible news arrives that she has already died.  But Jesus carries on; why?  Is it so he can perform a resurrection and tell everyone about it? After all, he had just made sure the woman he healed PROCLAIMED IT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.  Surely this is his chance to continue performing miracles and establishing himself as the Son of God!

But what actually happens here?  Jesus says the girl IS ONLY, he THEN limits the number of people he allows to witness this miracle.  Why does he do this?  The reason is something I'd never considered until Pastor Josh's message on Sunday...


Really...think about it!  What LIFE could this girl go on to live if she is always known as the "dead girl?"

So, instead of bringing in a large audience and saying, "Look at what I can do?  I can raise her from the dead!"  He takes only those who are necessary into her room (v. 51), while telling everyone else that she's just asleep (v. 52, 53):

 Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along...
And he raises her from the dead, behind closed doors, and instructs EVERYONE to TELL NO ONE what really happened.

He gave her back her dignity so she could go on to live a normal life.


It tells me that as parents of children with special needs we are called to give DIGNITY to the special needs community.  (Indeed, give dignity back to ALL of society...but, you see where I'm going here.)

The tasks of running to doctor appointments, IEPs, therapies, support groups...the tasks of appealing when insurance denies it, paying the bill that comes in the mail, and helping fundraise for a variety of special needs non-profits...
...These may feel like mundane tasks, and may often feel overwhelming...but WE ARE CARRYING OUT THE WILL OF GOD.
THIS is why I believe we should END THE R-WORD.  Because we need to end the language which has marginalized a group of people and continues to perpetuate the archaic believe that intellectual disabilities make someone wrong, less, or backwards.   

Just this past week, the day after I completed my first draft of this post, my world was shattered when I heard of the brutal slayings in Japan which left nearly 20 people with disabilities dead and 25 others injured...the 26 year old murderer actually asked the Japanese government for MONEY in return for these slayings saying that he was doing the world a favor.  
Oh my goodness...there are still people in this world who believe the world would be better off without our children who have disabilities?  Lord, have mercy...for we are all made in your image, and we are each a masterpiece.
THIS is why I believe in the DIGNITY REVOLUTION.  Because we are all seeking to belong in our community, and we ALL want to feel accepted and loved for who we are in our core.  We need to get into our schools and tell those who are crying out for love and affection that they ARE loved and they ARE cherished in the eyes of their Creator.

If JESUS made the conscious decision to proclaim one woman healed in front of everyone and ensure she told everyone around her, but then raises a girl from the dead in front of only the girl's parents and a few disciples and instructs them to tell no one... 

...then the CHARACTER of GOD includes the desire to restore dignity to individuals and to help them be VALUED in their community.  

Pray:  Heavenly Father, Giver of Life, thank you for giving us your WORD so we may continue to learn more about YOU and about your WILL.  Help me to be better at restoring others and helping to give them dignity, love and respect.  Help me to encourage others to do the same.  As a parent of a child with special needs, I know you have called me to the task of helping to give dignity to my child in a society that will often deny the value of her.  Father God, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and help me to forgive them too.  God, protect us, and protect our vulnerable loved ones.  Help us to speak your Truth in this world even when we may feel our lives or our reputations are threatened by doing so.  Amen.

~Tammie Hefty 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Gentle Journey

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

He will take care of his flock like a shepherd;
 he will gather the lambs together and carry them in his arms; 
he will gently lead their mothers.
Isaiah 40:11 GNT

I have heard "I can do that; I'm good at that" and "I can handle that" in the past 24 hours. Both of these were spoken about areas of struggle for my precious daughter. I have cried, prayed, and struggled myself through these first eleven years of her life. I have encouraged her to look at her progress and not compare herself to others.

As she has looked more at herself and the progress she's making, she sees what I do - that she is making tremendous strides in a lot of different areas. She believes in herself and in her future. She knows she still has room for improvement, but she also realizes that with hard work and dedication she can continue to make progress.

Most importantly, she loves the Lord and is working to become closer to Him through prayer and His Word.

When our special needs journey began, I had no idea how I would teach her what she needs to know. I didn't know how to help her have a better opinion of herself and her abilities. I didn't know how we would make it to bedtime some days. But we did. One moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

Our journey isn't over, and I'll keep taking one day at a time. God has been faithful to lead me so far, and I know He's in it for the long haul.

Pray: Father, thank You for gently leading me on this journey with my daughter. There have been many days I didn't think I would make it, but You have seen us through every one. Thank You for leading me through the years to come and for helping us both to lean on You through each day. Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I Am What I Am

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV

I had some time alone this past weekend.

By alone I mean no husband and no children. I still had the two dogs and my twenty year old was home, but between her work and going out, I was basically alone. Like many of you, that is a very rare occurrence for me.

I have to tell you, as much as I get nervous when my children travel , I was a little excited about the alone time.

I had plans.

Big plans.

I was going to eat and watch TV.

I was going to do what I wanted to do.

And I was going to do it uninterrupted.

But it stormed, and there was no power.

I can deal with this...

I prayed.

"Dear Lord, why? Why did you do this?  I only get one night. Did it really have to storm tonight?"

I suppose it wasn't a prayer as much as it was a discussion.

Ok, so it was more like whining.

I'm human.

Eventually, the power came back on, I warmed up my dinner and settled in with a movie.

It was very enjoyable, and I was able to relax. As parents of children with extra challenges and special needs, I think we learn to adapt and find unique ways to recharge. But I was grateful to have a chance at what I felt was a "normal" thing.

A night alone, to do what I want.

As the movie went on I decided a little watermelon would be nice so I paused my movie and walked into the kitchen. I was filling my bowl I thought to myself, "What if I was one of those people? What if this was my life? What if I just worked and came home and watched TV and ate, uninterrupted? What if..."

As I placed the watermelon back into the refrigerator, I paused and took in the contents...

Cooper's blueberries.
The tuna salad that Myra loves.
Ava's favorite drink.
My husband's coffee creamer.

And I realized...

By the grace of God I am what I am.

There is not a lot of easy in living, and I suppose that is for the best. Easy slides by you, you don't always remember easy. It doesn't often leave an impression, it rarely changes and shapes you.

But hard, hard presses against you. Hard is felt. Hard scrapes past your life and it leaves a mark. It changes you and creates places in your existence. You remember hard.

By the grace of God....

The things we have been through, our experiences, our struggles, our circumstances, our reactions...

our life.

Those things, by the grace of God, have shaped us into who we are.

And I am thankful that...

I am what I am.

My prayer for you:

God our Father, our Creator, I pray that our hearts remember and our eyes are always focused on that fact. You created us, You created our children. We take comfort in knowing that you also shaped the paths our lives are set on. Help us not to loose sight that there is a purpose for every hard moment that presses against us in this life. Open our eyes Father, so that when we look at the imprints and scars of hardships and struggles on our lives we see Your Grace. Amen


Monday, July 25, 2016

My Motivation Is In The Lord

The world has been plunging into dark times once again, and evidently so. Worldwide, terrorism has been afflicting people all over Europe, the Middle East, and here on our own soil; employment rates are down; poverty rates are up: and all of these horrors stack atop our already hectic or grim personal predicaments. Readers here may already know the toll these circumstances take on us, from anxiety, to depression, to one toll which I have noticed more frequently as of recent, a complete lack of motivation.

A brief example, if I may: In my second semester of college, there was a student in one of my classes who had a dog back at home who helped with her anxiety and depression. While she was at school, life happened with her pet running amok, and her parents sadly called to say that the dog had disappeared in the midst of winter. Their neighborhood and friends searched high and low, struggling to find her precious friend, but came back empty handed. Despite those closest to her assuring that her pet would turn up soon, her light of hope was dramatically snuffed out. The world seemed to crumble about her during that time. She soon lost all motivation to complete assignments, barely wished to leave her room, and when she did, she rarely showed a genuine smile. Nothing about her emanated a desire to keep moving forward in life, and no amount of support could restore her motivation to keep searching for her pet. By God's grace, her clownish dog returned home just as mysteriously as he had disappeared the week before. It was a joyful time which brought the best out of her once again, even though she had been in such deep despair only a few days prior.

While I was overjoyed to hear her fluffy friend had returned, the whole situation disappoints me in this way: It seemed this classmate had completely given up her motivation for everything when being motivated was the most critical element of resolving her struggle. She is not an isolated case either. I see motivation lost when my brother sees another terrorist attack on the news, or when his spontaneous nose-bleeds never seem to end; I see motivation lost in special needs parents when their child has been hospitalized for the good part of a month; I see motivation lost in parents who just can't seem to pay the bills, or in college students who feel they will never receive enough financial aid to keep themselves out of debt. It is a strange and tragic turn of events, when those who feel hopeless succumb to their hurts instead of taking from the wellspring of hope which God has promised to us.

When we refuse to hope in God's plans for us, we choose to kick motivation to the curb and feel devastation over our circumstances. On the other side of that coin, however, isn't it hope in God which keeps us positive and more motivated to make right, through His power, the things in this life that have gone wrong? Though life may seem to be bleak, and the last thing we want to do is hope in something we feel so unsure about, God's word says to us:

 "...hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love," (Romans 5:5, VOICE).

Placing our hope in this world leads to devastation. If we rest our hope in the government to resolve terror, we will be let down; if we give our hopes to the school system to fix a child's persistent behavioral problem, our hope will likely be lost; if we rely on the broken things of this world to resolve our troubles, will we lose our hope and lose our motivation to change our circumstances. Thankfully, God only asks that our hope rest in Him, and through Him, we will soon see brighter tomorrows.

Sure, our circumstances may not change overnight, but when we hope in Christ and His promises, we are guaranteed a perfect solution, whenever it may come. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV), and when we hope in His perfect plans, we are granted the motivation to see a new day, to fight against our anxieties and troubles, and fight for the goodness of His grace, wherever our battle leads us to.
Pray: Lord, in the midst of all that is going wrong in my world, I ask that you remind me of the hope I have in You. Keep me motivated to continue in this life, knowing that the world's troubles do not surprise You, nor are these troubles too big for You to handle. You know every worry and grievance we harbor, so keep me strong and hopeful for the outcomes of your perfect plans. Amen.

~Alexandra Dittrich 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Life and Down Syndrome Deconstructed

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
- Philippians 4:9 NLT -

I was caught off guard when my daughter, Moriah, shared a couple of recipes with me.  One was Deconstructed Lasagna and another was Deconstructed Apple pie.

Deconstructed?  Doesn't that mean you take it apart?  Aren't you wanting to "construct" a recipe.

This new buzzword in cooking didn't make sense until Moriah began to explain.

"Mom, like you know how you don't really like making lasagna because it's time consuming and a bit complicated?  When you deconstruct your recipes you reduce it to its simplest forms and decide how you want to put it back together."

Deconstruct - reduce (something) to its constituent parts in order to reinterpret it.  Break it down and re-invent.
Light Bulb moment.

It made me realize that I "deconstruct" things ALL the time.

Especially in the area of Life - and even more so because of our daughter, Bethany, having Down Syndrome.

I've learned to simplify - or deconstruct my schedule - breaking it down into tasks, analyzing each action and asking myself
"What is the best of the best things that make life beautiful and peaceful?"
"How can I deconstruct my day to make it productive but not chaotic?"
credit facebook/DoreenVtrue444
I know my day goes so much better when I connect with God. So I pray while I drink my first cup of coffee and I read my Bible during my 2nd cup. I've learned over the years, this woman cannot make it on caffeine alone, but I need a "power" fill up to get me through the day!

I know if I sweat today I'll smile tomorrow.  So I simplify my exercise routine to walking on the treadmill and watching HGTV at the same time! Win-Win!

And so go my days and weeks.  Weeding through, discarding, re-prioritizing; in other words deconstructing life. Re-inventing and practicing until I find what works best for me - for Bethany.

Disabilities, and in my case, Down Syndrome, are the perfect situations to deconstruct, reinvent, and reconstruct.

With Special Needs, I've learned to deconstruct everything from going to the store to teaching tasks:

  1. Determine my end goal
  2. Break down task into easy steps
  3. Don't assume anything - Make sure she understands my instructions
  4. Evaluate what works and what doesn't
  5. Keep it fun (ditch the frustration)
  6. Repeat until I find the special "recipe" that works for Bethany to learn and move forward

It's kind of like my own personalized IEP but better. 

Because I'm in charge of re-inventing the content, form, speed, mastery, steps, of Bethany's learning.
God of Grace, Joyful Journey, Special Needs Parenting, Christian Famiily 
Content - 
The "content" may be familiar to every person, but to a child with special needs, learning might be streamlined and simplified. Or it might need to include multi-steps before mastery can be understood or achieved.

Form -
Everyone learns differently. I have to figure out what combinations help Bethany learn best: visual, kinesthetic, auditory, reading-writing. 

Flash cards, apps, hands on demonstration, books, YouTube, unit studies, comprehension sheets, tutors, math manipulatives, charts, rewards, lists, learning games, older brothers and sisters -  are some of the ways I've employed to help Bethany deconstruct life so she can reconstruct her own recipe for success.

Taste - perhaps this is the most important thing for me to remember as I try to simplify and reconstruct a life that works for me - for Bethany.

I can't skip the "seasoning" that makes learning and life delicious; joy, love, praise, and satisfaction in a job well done. 

I've found, the Lord is the sweetest ingredient of all. Without Him laced throughout our doings, our life is flat, boring, tasteless. He's the sweet that is lasting, giving us strength to journey on!

Cindy Barclay

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When Vacation Seems Overwhelming

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Genesis 2:3 (ESV)

Vacation - for many of us, this might seem like a foreign concept. Or maybe vacation simply means more packing, more laundry, more logistics and more exhaustion. Unfortunately, we live in a very busy and stressed society that often jokes about returning from vacations more tired than when we left.

When did we forget how to relax, to unwind, to just do nothing? When did we start feeling guilty for sleeping in and laying on a couch and reading a book?

Maybe we are putting too much emphasis on vacation as an event, rather than ensuring that our lives are filled with mini-vacations. What would it look like to have a break every week, every day?

I know for myself that my goal is to have quiet time with God every day, to have a Sabbath day every week and to have a weekend getaway once a quarter to just rest, decompress and ideally return refreshed. While I have yet to achieve my ideal rhythm, if I don’t at least have a goal then I know I will never gain some downtime.

May I encourage you to consider the following “vacation” ideas to add to your rhythm of life?

1) Daily quiet time and solitude - this doesn’t need to last an hour or even thirty minutes (although that would be so nice, right?). Rather, it might be ten minutes, or five, or even just 60 seconds. Lock the door on the bathroom, go hide in the garage, or take a slightly longer shower. And I would encourage you to not use this time to make a to-do list or to think about things to do. Let the Holy Spirit whisper to your heart, take a moment to pray and worship God, and maybe just enjoy the sunset.

2) Weekly breaks - I know this starts to get really challenging, but our bodies and spirits are designed to enjoy some downtime. Whether you need to lean on family members, friends, or your church, don’t be afraid to ask for help in order to gain a few hours of alone time. Whether this becomes a time of great spiritual refreshment, or uninterrupted grocery shopping, it is important to have in your rhythm.

3) Regular getaways - sometimes we just need to say no and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. A quick drive to the beach or mountains, an overnighter in a different city or even just visiting old friends can provide so much refreshment to our souls. If your life is anything like mine, these getaways must be put on the calendar or they will never happen. I will never have the time to rest and relax - I must make the time. And don’t ever feel guilty for enjoying your getaway!

Maybe if we were all a bit better at the smaller breaks in life, we would be able to better enjoy and embrace our bigger vacations. Maybe if we practice how to ask for help, how to enjoy solitude and how to say no on a regular basis, we can then embrace a long vacation without anxiety and guilt. Now, I wish I could guarantee that airlines and TSA and traffic and such won’t add to anxiety on vacation, but at least you will enjoy some inner quiet and rest that so many of us are yearning for.

Lord, You never designed us to run at full speed 24/7. Rather, we are built for rhythm. A time to run and a time to sit. A time to work hard and a time to rest. A time to keep a schedule and a time to get lost in the moment. Help us to find this balance, to embrace rest and relaxation and bless our vacations this summer. Amen!

~ Mike

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Full Life God Intended for Caregivers

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:7-10 NIV

Photo Credit: Special Purposed Life

Without even trying, our daily lives can become busy.

Meals always need to be cooked. Messes need cleaned up. Everyone expects their clothes to be washed. And that dishwasher won’t unload itself. Then there is the work that is done that actually pays the bills.

There are also extra things that happen in my household. These are the jobs that come with raising a child with special and medical needs. The medicine needs to be given twice a day. The nebulizer is turned on and off twice a day. My daughter is placed on her vest airway clearance twice a day with my help. The bi-pap must be turned on every night and checked at least once after she falls asleep. Appointments for specialists must be scheduled and kept.

A few years ago, I was struggling. I felt very busy moving from task to task never quite feeling like I was ever getting ahead. The day ended, I mentally applauded my efforts and then sighed knowing a slightly different version of this day will come again. Years of caring for a child with medical issues weighed on me. I had always hoped my daughter would grow up with decreasing health needs. But, more (not less) diagnoses and their treatments were added over the years.

Yes, my life seemed very, very full.

Is that the full life Jesus wanted for me? Did Jesus want me to fight my way through the days serving my daughter with a sense of being overwhelmed?

Nope. It was easy to know that I shouldn’t feel that way, but it was harder to change it.

There were many changes I made in my attitude and heart to stop feeling like my life was too full. The main thing I had to do was refocus. Jesus wanted to be my gate. He wanted me to come to him into a place of pasture where I could go about my day, care for my child, and enjoy my everyday life. It is through him, that I could find a place of mental safety to allow myself to better serve my child.

Jesus does not want our days stolen away by cares, worries, and chores. Focusing on what needs to be done means that we aren't focused on the life giver. God wants our days lived to the fullest in every way assuring us peace when we feel like our life is too full.
God, I thank you for giving us life and life to the fullest. I pray that those of us caring for a loved one will find balance and hope in you. Help us not to be distracted and overwhelmed by the work we need to do daily, but help us to thrive in the place you have called us to be. May our lives be lived to the fullest potential as we help our loved ones reach their fullest potential too. Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's How God Sees You

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!” Luke 12:6, MSG

“The world is just going crazy, Aunt Deb.”

“I know Mags, I know,” I replied to my niece a couple weeks ago at a family graduation party.

We talked about our views on current events. What a great topic for a party!  With Dallas, Minneapolis, and New Orleans on both our minds—not to mention events in Orlando, France and Baton Rouge--we are still reeling, processing and trying to pray through one tragedy when a new one hits. At least that’s how I feel. As my 16 year old Brandon said, “It’s terrible that all these events start to blur together.”

What does any of this have to do with being a special needs parent?

We need only to go back and read Michele Bovell’s post to see how having 5 black sons, one with moderate autism, affects her and her family.  Michele writes, on April 17, 2015, 
“My husband and I have taught the rules loving black parents share with their children and pray to God they remember when confronted by law enforcement and adrenaline is flowing: hands where they can see them, no sudden moves, absolute compliance, no resistance.” 
She teaches these rules to her sons but wonders if Daniel, her gifted son with moderate autism, will be able to remember what to do during a heated situation and she fears for his safety.

For my part I have two sons who are white (like me) and am married to a wonderful Christian man.  One of my sons, like Michele’s son, has autism. I too fear for his safety for MANY reasons, but have never been afraid for him, or for Brandon, my neuro-typical son, in relation to law enforcement. It has NEVER crossed my mind to talk to them about “the rules.”  And not just because my husband has been a police officer for 21 years, but because we are all white.

Mike being a police lieutenant these days in a large city does make me more worried and afraid than I used to be with the current racial tension. Besides a great sadness, I feel helpless.

Thinking about all this recently I had a light bulb moment. It won’t sound like much, and it isn’t profound, but the words that I believe God gave to me were, “It’s how others SEE YOU.”

Let me try and explain with this example. As a parent of a non-verbal son with autism I long for others to see Luke as an individual and not just someone who is “special.” I want them to see beyond his different stimming movements and sounds. When we go in the community I want folks to see him as an individual -- someone who is created in God’s image and deserves respect -- and not just his autism.

Don’t we all want to be seen as the unique people God created us to be? To be given the benefit of the doubt and to be loved and respected? Isn’t that what we all want for our children and loved ones?

As a white woman I am positive that I don’t know or understand the half, or (even a quarter of it) in terms of what people of color go through. But I do know that just as in racial hatred, our loves ones with disabilities can be judged and looked down on in an instant. 

I’m guilty of this too and it grieves my heart. More importantly, it grieves the Lord. In Luke 11: 37-53, Jesus is invited by a Pharisee to eat with him. What does this religious leader do right off? He judges Jesus because He did not do the ceremonial cleaning before eating. The Pharisees judge others by what they see on the outside.

Sound familiar as people with different skin colors or differing abilities are judged in a nanosecond?

Right off Jesus knew the Pharisees thoughts and he laid into him saying he washed the outside but inside he and the other Pharisees were wicked.

Jesus rebuke continues, and according to Luke 11:52 He says to them, “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You took the key of knowledge, but instead of unlocking the doors, you locked them. You won’t go in yourself and won’t let anyone else in either.” (MSG)

That shatters me because how often do we as a church stop those who are different from entering into a relationship with Him or from entering our fellowship communities?

Much better news comes in Luke 12 after Jesus leaves the Pharisees and starts talking to his disciples and a crowd of thousands.

Again, in Luke 12: 4-7
“I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There is nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” (MSG)
No one can do anything to harm our souls. God holds our entire life in his hands. God sees us and he knows how many hairs we have on our heads. He created so many beautiful people of all different types and abilities. We are all made in His image. He sent His one and only son to die on the cross for our sins and Jesus rose again conquering sin and death.

Thank the Lord that He made us, He sees us and He loves us. Because in this crazy world all those things are in short supply.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see each other as you see us and to love each other no matter what our race, age, ability level.  And continue to keep Your watchful eye on our first responders.
~ Deb Abbs

Monday, July 18, 2016

Being Still & (not) Knowing

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
and your right as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; [1
Ps 37:5–7

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. [Selah] [2]
 Ps 46:10–11

I am a person of many contradictions. During the blistering heat of a Georgia summer, I long for cool breezes from another season. Yet in that very same longed for season, I will dream of flip-flops and long, warm days. I long for rest and respite, but often become restless once fully immersed in it.

As much as I wanted to rest and repose this summer, it is the summer before my son begins high school. My mind simply will not rest. This week has been the Summer Bridge Program, which allows him to visit his new 2000+ student school for orientation daily. As the special needs school bus (you know the “short one”) pulls up in front of our home each morning and he climbs aboard, my soul cries out “Wait! I’m coming too!”

I want to crawl on that bus because they don’t know him. Sure they’ve said he is ready for small regular education classes, but they didn’t know him when the doctor’s said he’d never speak or read. Oh yeah, they can’t think of a reason why he won’t be able to manage the social setting, but I can’t fathom how he is going to manage the cafeteria each day. Because I know him.

I worked on a ministry staff with a very wise man who said to me once, “If you knew what I know you’d never smile again.” That is how I feel about managing my child’s IEP sometimes. It is a delicate balancing act. Anything new is terrifying. During the first two weeks at any new school, we usually crash and burn. My phone hasn’t left my side during this orientation because I am expecting the call. All because I know things. [insert deep, exhausted sigh here]

I finally collapsed in my existential fit, sprawled in my hammock and stared at the trees in my backyard today. “Why do I keep thinking about all the things I know about him Lord? Why can’t I let him try and grow up and have faith that you are on that bus and in those halls? Why don’t I believe that you are in that cafeteria?”

From the same depths of my soul that had been crying to ride on the bus, I heard a new voice saying, “Be still and know” about me.”

I focus a lot on the potential result of any given scenario. Parents of special needs children learn to be proactive. After twelve years of managing this IEP, I am prolifically proactive. Always six steps ahead of everyone else in the room, watching for each possible downside to every choice we make, and then promptly solving that problem. Then doing it again.

When I was told last spring that he could “handle” the regular education setting (after all, he had been on Honor Roll the entire semester) I began to unravel. I think it is because it begins a very different story from the one I have known. I have felt unsettled ever since.

God would have me stop knowing in my own certainty and try a different approach. It goes something like this:
  • Be still and remember who I am. Think about knowing me, and all I have brought you through. I was at the doctor’s appointments with you. I have walked into IEP meeting with you when you thought you were alone. (Ps. 46:10)
  • Take refuge in me. Be still and let me fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)
  • Stay still and be patient as I act. Your son is older now and must learn many ways to advocate for himself on his own. You must learn to be more still and let me be by his side as I have been by yours, and you by his. I am with him.
  • Trust me. I will act. (Ps. 37.5)

Honestly, I don’t know how I am going to make the shift. I’ve been doing this a long time the way I’ve been doing it. And I think God gifted me to do it that way when I needed to. But my almost 16-year-old boy speaks, reads, writes and stays on Honor Roll at school. It’s time to be still and know.

Looks like I’ll be spending lots of time in the hammock.

Father God,
    Thank you for the reminder to be still and remember your greatness. Help me adjust and grow along with my child's needs. I'll need you to be ever near me as I learn to wait for you and to trust you to act. I take refuge in you, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

- Vangie Rodenbeck

[1] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 37:5–7.
[2] The Revised Standard Version (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971), Ps 46:10–11.