Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keep Reading!

photo courtesy of pixabay.com
I am the man who has seen affliction
    under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
    into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
    again and again the whole day long.
~ Lamentations 3:1-3, ESV ~

Over the last eight months, our youngest daughter has been receiving therapy through the Early Intervention Services in our state. This process is not new to us. Our oldest daughter has multiple handicaps, and our youngest was adopted with special needs. When they came to do evals and interviews, I smiled and nodded my head through the familiar process, but I was not smiling on the inside. 

When our oldest daughter was receiving EI, she had therapy five days a week and sometimes more than once a day. It was an insane schedule. If you add in all the doctors, labs, and specialists, it can sometimes feel like your life is spinning out of control. A little over a decade later and we are doing it all again. I have had a few moments where I felt like I just didn’t have words. I keep thinking, “God chose us to be this little girl’s parents.” I’m humbled by that and also very somber and reflective at times. You see, the first time around with our oldest was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Every aspect of my life was under pressure, and I was starting to crack. Yet, for some reason I don’t understand, God has brought me back to this place. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if I have what it takes to do it a second time around.

I don’t know about you, but there are lessons I have learned that I haven’t completely mastered. More often than not I have to talk myself out of worry, anxiety, quitting, etc. I’m a work in progress. It’s hard to get up in the morning sometimes when you feel the weight of what you have to tackle in front of you. When your child needs you for literally every aspect of their day, times two children… It would feel nice to slip in a verse like Lamentations 3:22-24 here that says,

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ” (ESV)

Isn’t that beautiful!? You know what I love just as much as I do that verse? That if you read the verses before that, they will make you want to cry your eyes out! Here is a highlight reel: affliction, wrath, darkness, waste away, bitterness, heavy chains, call and cry for help, desolate, target…Here are verses 16-18,

“He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
    and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
    I have forgotten what happiness is;”
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”

As my kids like to say, “Are you picking up what I’m laying down?” Oh my, I’m not going to sugar coat it. This road of raising children with special needs is sometimes so, so hard. Have I locked myself in the bathroom and turned the water on so no one would hear me cry, you bet. Have I screamed into a pillow? It wasn’t attractive. Have I yelled at my husband unnecessarily, isolated myself from my friends, left calls unanswered because I didn’t have the energy to care, neglected bills and responsibilities, uh huh. But you know what, none of what I feel changes the truth.  His mercies ARE new every morning. His steadfast love NEVER ceases. Great IS His faithfulness.

Lament away my friends, but never forget where your hope lies. Don’t forget to keep reading. Can you imagine if Chapter 3 of Lamentations ended with “Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!” (Vs. 19) But praise God it doesn’t! Don’t let the pain keep you from the hope, from the joy, from the rest of the story.

I’ll try if you will.

Prayer: Father give me the grace to keep reading your Word. Help me to come to you honestly with my fears and pain, but to trust your faithfulness. Help me to look for and celebrate your mercies, and to rest in your steadfast love.

~Kimberly M. Drew

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trusting the IEP Team, Trusting God

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
~ Romans 5:8, NIV ~ 

In the decade that I have been parenting my son, his educational and care teams have been excellent. It has always been hard work to coordinate Liam’s services and ensure that everything is as it should be, but I have had utter confidence in each team member. This year has been a bit different. Liam has a whole new team and as we head into the new year and new semester, it has become apparent that their investment in my son is not at all what I hoped for or what we have been accustomed to. After many situations that were poorly handled, my trust in this team is wavering. Because my trust is wavering I find myself questioning every part of Liam’s school day. When I visit school I find so many things to question. When I open Liam’s communication book, I find myself dissecting every word. My confidence in Liam’s team has been rattled by some poorly handled situations and my doubts assault me at every turn. In this situation, my doubts are warranted and I believe that they will lead to productive action as our IEP reconvenes. This situation has me thinking about how people fail us, but God does not.

Oftentimes I question God. Parenting is difficult and things don’t turn out right. I wonder why God allows things to happen to us when the lives of others look easier. I wonder where God is when things are difficult. Most of my friends whose children are school-aged have returned to their careers. Their children are independent and face the usual school age challenges. Liam’s needs continue to be all encompassing and I continue to stay at home advocating for him and caring for his needs day after day. After so many years of this, I am lonely – so intensely lonely. There will be many years of the same ahead of me. Because of this, there are times when I feel cheated by a God who has said that he is working things for my good. 

Both of these situations are difficult because without trust we question everything. EVERYTHING. If I cannot trust Liam’s staff to do the right things for him, I must dissect every school day to figure out if his needs are being met. As the mom who manages the medical file and the IEP, I want to go to God with my guns blazing too. There is a difference, though. My doubts in a human care team for Liam may be founded in real shortcomings. My doubts about God are founded in my own weakness, not God’s.

We have a God who can be trusted. The best evidence of this is that our God sent his own son to die for our sins. He loved us this much! Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loved us. He sent his beloved son to suffer for our sins. Jesus stood in our place and bore the punishment for our sins. Someday we will live in heaven for eternity because of this beautiful sacrifice. This means that we live under an umbrella of trust. We have a trustworthy God. He tells us in the Bible that he is working all things for our eternal good. We don’t need to question him as we might question an IEP team. We know that he has our best interest at heart.  We know that our God loves our children more than we do. He has their best interest at heart too. May we rest peacefully as we live under the umbrella of his trust.  

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 ~

PRAY: Dear Father,  

Your word tells us that we can come to you the same way that dearly loved children would ask their Father.  Today we come to you asking you to forgive us for all of the times that we question you and your purposes.  Please forgive our lack of trust. Please hold us close today.  Reassure us of your love.  Give us a yearning for your Word because in your Word we see you.  When we see the God that you are, we know that you are worthy of our utmost trust.  Thank you for always being trustworthy.  

 In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Be Delightfully Different ~ #SacredSunday

It's not an easy thing for us parent-caregivers... Especially when we are advocating for our treasured children. That's why we must let the power of the Holy Spirit have full control of our hearts and lives. If we let the Holy Spirit take charge, our "delightful difference," a gentle spirit, will more positively influence others than constant angry vitriol and irritation.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

When a Teacher Shows Christian Love

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
~John 13:34-35
I. was. done.

I finally put in the notice that I was pulling my child out of his present schooling situation in order to home school him.  I just knew that they did not and could not love him the way that I do. They also were failing in helping him succeed. I was frustrated with the entire experience.

Shortly after his teacher received this notice, she called me. She went on to tell me how much she enjoyed my son in her class. She went on with specifics as to how he contributed positively to the entire class. She then asked, "Would you reconsider?"

I was thrown off by this. What?! How could someone care about an impulsive kid who has been threatened with suspension and caused a bunch of disruption? Especially in a class of 19 other kids.

I was finally able to have an open and honest dialogue with her about my concerns for him being there. The shame he felt with the color system of behavior. The ever present threat of suspension. The problems with administration. All my woes, I freely discussed with her.

She listened.

 I cried. 

It is not often that you have another human being care this deeply for your child with special needs. Especially if you don't have an IEP. 

Instantly, that very day, she changed the color system for my son. She said the only purpose it had was to help these kids. If it wasn't working she would change it. So she did. She gave him some alternative things which he loved. For the first time, he came home without that feeling of shame. 

She made provisions for me to be there in the classroom to observe and help. She told me to write those concerns up about administration and she would not let my son be looked at negatively because of my concerns. She made it truly easy and evident that I can work with her and express any concerns at any time. 

This great act of love, protection, and care was evidence of the love of Christ at work. That kind of love melts you. That kind of love is what the world needs. This love made me change my mind to let him remain with her. 

Christ loves us this way. He doesn't give up on us. He is at work even now in us to make us the best we can be in Christ. He does what is needed to form Christ-likeness in us. He loved us so greatly that it sent Him to the cross. He is the great rescuer and when we emulate Him to the watching world it changes things. I am thankful to experience this in my son's school through his teacher.

Father, thank you for showing us a good example of love through yourself. Help us to love in this same way. Thank you for people who do show this evidence. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When a Friend Speaks the Truth

My friend Kathryn with my daughter shortly after she was born.
Many are the plans in a person's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21, NIV

I was driving home from the hospital with my baby girl in the car. My heart was racing and my blood pressure was high. How could God do this to us? Just when we had reached the finish-line of chemo...boom, another punch in the gut.

I dialed my friend Kathryn and she answered.

"Can you believe it, Kathryn? We just finished chemo and now she has pneumonia? Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?" I say in response to her, "Hello."

"Tammie Jo," she replied, "This is your life...stop waiting for it to change."

For a moment, I think I stopped hearing noise altogether. I could hear my heartbeat thudding in my ears, I could feel my mouth go dry. But I couldn't speak, and I couldn't even think in that moment. I was frozen, paralyzed.

"I didn't mean that to sound harsh," she went on. "But, I'm a kidney transplant survivor, and I will ALWAYS have a different life because of that. I'm going to Mexico next month with my husband and I have to plan very differently for this trip than he does. I have to have labs run, I have to make sure all my medications and prescriptions are current and that I have enough for the whole trip, and to last me a couple of days after we get back. I have to carry a different set of emergency phone numbers than other people when I go on vacation. I have to think about my medications and how I'm going to take them when I'm in a foreign country with different water and dining habits. But, I'm GOING to MEXICO on a vacation...and that is a huge blessing and I just have to accept that I am going to experience it differently than a person of "normal' health."

Hmmm...you gotta admit; she had a very good point.

Those words, the ones that felt so brutal in the moment, changed my life in an amazing way.

"Tammie Jo, this is your life, stop waiting for it to change." 

I have a child with a rare disease. She will ALWAYS be rare. We will ALWAYS be a circus show when we go somewhere new and that is to be EXPECTED. Stop waiting for that to change. Be courteous to them, and ask them to please stick to the issue at hand, and explain that having a pointless parade of doctors coming through the room is not helping to heal anyone, nor is it helping our daughter's anxiety.

Stop waiting for the people in the grocery store to NOT stare when they see our daughter with her white cane. They aren't used to it. It's not that they are rude, it's that they don't know how to respond because they don't see it every day in their world like we do.

Stop waiting for the schools to be able to meet every single desire that we have for our daughter's education. Does the law say we are entitled to it...absolutely...but there are budget shortfalls and teacher shortages and overcrowding in schools and we need to be realistic. We are all doing the best we can and I shouldn't assume that anything is being done intentionally to short-change our daughter.

Stop waiting for the medical bills to all run through smoothly. I know, in my human brain, it seems that 3 years should be enough time to get all the glitches straightened out, but they aren't, and I will continue to see rogue bills show up which Medicaid should have paid. I have the phone numbers, and I have the order of options and which "options" to select written down...just make the calls, be diplomatic about it and get it resolved.

Our sermon at church this past weekend about getting rid of bitterness in our lives. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice."  Ephesians 4:31 NIV.  

I think what my friend Kathryn 
taught me with that one phrase, 
"This is your life, stop waiting for it to change," 
was to release my bitterness; 
I had to release my bitterness toward God 
and the cup He handed us when 
He gave us a daughter with a rare disease.  

I will never know what it feels like to have a "normal" child. This rare disease world is all I know. It involves almost every "-ologist" you can name, and that's aside from the various therapists we have seen too. But, recognizing that this is the journey God designed for us helps me to recognize that I wouldn't have it any other way. And I know God has broken our hearts many times with WAGR syndrome, and each time has given us a new chance to show empathy and compassion to someone else, in Jesus's name.

If you find yourself anxious because of the constant "shoe-dropping"...maybe it's time to search really hard in your soul and see if you need to stop waiting for things to change.

Pray:  Heavenly Father, bitterness is hard to detect because it masks itself in pain, anger, and worry.  I pray, Lord, that I may continue to purge myself of bitterness by accepting what IS and praying for my heart to be in tune with YOUR will for our lives. Amen.

~ Tammie Hefty

Snappin' Ministries is a US Rare Disease Day Partner. Join us in our observance of this important day by participating in our event on Facebook

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"My Soul is Weary..."

Our youngest two daughters, now 11, and they still know they have things to do.
"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." 
Psalm 119:28 NIV

I sat on the couch the other night, casually scrolling through Facebook, surrounded by three kids, two dogs, and one husband.

I stumbled across a post by a friend and, reading a comment, I felt that all too familiar soul-wearying feeling. It was a sorrowful reminder of the world outside our living room walls. The world that views my child and maybe yours as "less than," "not normal," and an "inconvenience" to their very existence.

While many women recently marched for their rights, and I am a firm believer in standing up for what you believe in, I was saddened by what I read as some of their reasons for marching. Stealthily tucked away in their agenda was the notion that disability is an acceptable reason for eliminating the life of an unborn child. This idea of terminating these children who may need constant care or who "suffer" from lifelong disabilities, the notion that it is somehow the "hardest choice" but the "only choice" for them, this is the seed that has grown into every obstacle, every "no," every fight for services and inclusion that my son and my family has had to face.

Growing this notion in the name of self-preservation, these women have chosen not to give birth to a child. Instead, they have successfully breathed life into discrimination and hardship for every human being born, that is carefully crafted by God, but deemed less than perfect by the world.

I have a diverse group of friends with various opinions, beliefs, and stories. I like that. I welcome that. I enjoy that. God created an incredible world and filled it with interesting and amazing people, and my 17-year-old autistic son is one of them.

It does, however, take discipline when we choose to open our world to the world. We frequently have to walk the fine and delicate line of knowing when to speak and when to walk away.

So as I read those words, I sat there, for a second. 

Do I speak, or do I walk away?

I am no stranger to discrimination, to stares and comments. It was not the first time I have read comments from those I thought understood and realized they clearly don't. I sat there and read the words that indicated the value of my son's life and those like him, (you know the ones "who will never live a normal life", "who will have to be cared for their entire lives") the value of their lives was nonexistent their lives were acceptable to eliminate. ELIMINATE.

Their sentiments and feelings were clear:

"No woman should be forced to give birth to a baby that is not normal, be chained to a child she would have to care for his or her entire life."

"How dare anyone tell her what to do with her uterus, she has no desire to use it to grow a subpar human that will inconvenience her."

Do I speak or walk away?

It's your uterus, I get it. I actually have one of my own, and I've used it several times. I don't like to be told what to do either, but this isn't about me, or my uterus. It's really not even about yours.

It's about life; his life and her life.

I looked at my children, two preteen girls sitting with me on the couch completely immersed in their iPods. The other one (my 17-year-old son) sitting on the floor giggling, attempting to play with our two dogs. My husband is sitting there also, occasionally helping him roll across a giant exercise ball. He's laughing so hard at his daddy trying to help him that he has drawn his sister's attention away from their iPods, no easy feat.

The entire scene makes my heart smile.

As I read the comments of women who are choosing not to birth children but instead birth discrimination and devalue the very life that is laughing in front of me, I am drawn to the faces of the two young women sitting next to me. I see them watching their brother. I see it in their eyes, on their faces and I know, I know it is written on their hearts.

They know the value of life, of someone else's life, of his life.

My eyes filled with tears and my soul was refreshed and strengthened.

I know when the time comes they will march, not for themselves and their uteruses, but for their brother.

God our Father, I come to you pleading, open their eyes. God let them see, let them see what I see, let them see what his sister's see. God let them see what You see. We have too often sat silently by while life after life has been thrown away. Open our eyes, our hearts and when it is needed God open our mouths to speak. Amen

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2 Things a Special Needs Parent Can Never Be

Copyright citalliance via 123rf.com
He shows those who are humble how to do right,
    and he teaches them his ways.
~ Psalm 25:9, NCV ~

Parenting 3 kids with chronic diagnoses and special needs has been MORE than an adventure for me these past 20 years. It has been a teacher. God leaves moms like me with wisdom and savvy in direct proportion to how we keep our eyes fixed on HIM during the journey.

Here are 2 things the Lord has taught me that special parents can never be:

1) HUMBLE enough

  • It begins with addressing the pride involved with our lost expectations. Each of us as parents must come to terms with our broken dreams of having a "healthy" or "normal" child. There is humility in accepting where we have arrived versus where we thought we might be. 
  • I had to be humble enough to ask for and accept help when I needed it. Over the years I learned that my pride of not allowing others to help ended up robbing THEM of a blessing. It also stood in the way of building understanding and acceptance of my kids' diagnoses or our struggles at home. The more I would allow people to step into our mess, the more I was actually teaching them about other families just like mine.
  • Speaking up when I didn't understand something involved humility. It would have been too easy to act like I knew it all or had it all together, but that wouldn't have provided the best decisions for my kids. Asking other parents questions or asking doctors for clarification until I knew what was going on meant I had to be humble.
  • It may be hard to believe, but I have blown it so many times in my parenting journey. If I had not been able to apologize and admit I am wrong over the years, we never would have made progress. I apologize to my hubby nearly every day. I often admit my mistakes to my kids. More than once I have had to say, "I'm sorry," to an educator. I have been known to apologize to insurance customer service reps at the beginning of our phone conversations, warning them that I would be likely to lose it during the call and it wasn't their fault. And yes, I have even apologized to medical staff and doctors. That's a WHOLE lot of humble pie over the years!
  • Wrestling with an Almighty God has left me humble. When I get angry at my circumstances or that things don't improve, I still have to admit in the end that He is God and I am not. He knows better than I do. He has my best in mind. He loves my children more than I ever could. Trusting Him in all of these ways involves humility.
 2) FORGIVING enough

  • Here again, it begins the moment your child's difficulties surface. People say the most insane things. Frankly, it shocked me more than it should have when our son was diagnosed at birth. Friends would ask how we were, but then glaze over and change the subject once we actually told them. Family members made horrible statements to us about our daughter's behaviors without knowing all of the facts. Neighbors marginalized us through our darkest times. Even so, it was important for me to remember that A) I am a wicked sinner forgiven by a loving God; B) They don't know what they don't know. They may even have good intentions. But their comments and reactions are just out of ignorance and fear. I had to extend compassion when I least wanted to.
  • I quickly learned I had to forgive myself. So many times I did the Accuser's job for him. I felt guilty for passing on a genetic disorder to our son. Regret haunted me as I wondered why I hadn't pushed for earlier diagnosis of my daughter's behavioral issues. Buying into the false narrative that I was a bad mother exemplified the type of mistakes to which I was prone. I have had to forgive myself repeatedly, realizing that if Jesus forgives me, I have no right to hold my imperfections and errors, true or false, against myself.
  • So many times I look in the rearview mirror of my life and think, Why did I ever let that professional get away with that? Doctors, therapists, educators, administrators, all need our forgiveness and grace from time to time. Yes, we have had to "fire" certain doctors over the years or assert ourselves in IEPs. However, more often I have needed to forgive those who made oversights or didn't cooperate with interventions. Each of the people in these roles is a fallible human being just like myself. I have had to work hard to remember to extend the same grace to them as I want for myself. 
  • Forgiving strangers seems like a constant. The glances of disgust at my son's bruises, the comments about giving my child too much sugar, all of these interactions are again born of ignorance. If I can remember that God knows and sees, I can let it go rather than holding a grudge against someone I don't even know.
  • If I did not extend forgiveness to my husband every day, I don't think I would still be married. Again, this all comes back to expectations. I learned early on that it was unreasonable for me to expect my husband to understand what was going on with the kids to the same level I did. Additionally, it was silly of me to expect that my spouse would do things exactly the same way that I did. I am not a completely flawless parent. It's ridiculous of me to expect him to be perfect.
As we walk this journey as parents we are given a unique platform to point to Christ. When people see us behave differently from the world in how we respond to the challenges of parenting our kids, they notice. This difference allows them to see the influence of Jesus on our lives. We are ambassadors of hope in hopeless times. Extending boundless humility and forgiveness goes a long way towards softening others in a harsh world.

PRAY: Holy Spirit, cultivate more humility and a forgiving spirit in me. Increase my self-control when I want to lose my temper or have a quick tongue. May I be a worthy ambassador that reflects Your glory rather than propping up my own pride.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Steady, My Heart

photo credit: pixabay.com
God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I will be honored by every nation.
    I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-5 (NLT)

The Fog

One thing about living on our little hill, the fog shows up in all its glory. This morning, it was a complete white out. For the first time in my experience of driving in fog, I didn't feel apprehensive. I was cautious, careful, but calm. There was a strange peace about the morning as if the fog was hugging me. I felt the strong assurance that everything was where it should be, even though I couldn't see it. And by 11 AM, it was all clear.

So I was startled this evening when the glorious fog reappeared, in cloudy, swirling masses around the light posts at the mall where I was having a birthday slice of chocolate cake with a friend. It was interesting and mildly disconcerting to walk through the fog in the strip mall. We both knew we had to drive home in it, and I know that if it was so thick on these lowlands, what was it like on my little hill with no street lights?

I headed home, and as the highway gradually wound chill, the cloud got thicker and heavier. As I drove slower and more carefully, I began to worry about the drivers that were suffering behind me, because of my reduced pace. I exited the highway to begin the real climb, and the tiny glimmer of visibility I'd had on the journey so far disappeared. My attentiveness to the other drivers' opinions of my driving dissipated. My entire focus was on seeing what I could (Was that a deer??) and staying on track. After a few turns around the winding road, I realized that I  had missed my street! Turning around was impossible where I was (Who could see if the pond was over there and the woods over here??) so I continued at the painful crawl to the intersection with the street light, to turn around. Small twinges of uneasiness and, possibly fear played across my shoulders and in my stomach. Would I see my road coming back?

My Fog, My Clarity

The fog reminds me that I can't see what's ahead. When days are clear and bright, it creates the illusion of control and builds my dependence on my own skills. Those days feel really good. Therapies are working. School isn't calling. Kids are co-operating. The house is moderately clean. It's as if those clear days create a future prediction that I can manage what life brings. Then the foggy days come, and all the stuff I used to see clearly, I don't. I have to trust that it's still there even when I don't see it. My son is still the same incredibly beautiful, complex, philosophical human, in an uncooperative body. Nothing has changed. Except for my perception of my ability to cope. Perhaps my perception was false on the sunny days and the fog is the true reality. I can never see clearly. I must always trust that the Invisible God is in charge of the invisible.

I questioned my ability to get my car out of a parking spot that I had cleverly slipped it into, and my wise daughter, guided by the Holy Spirit, commented, 'That's future Faith's problem'. We left the car with confidence and attended to our current reality. Future Faith would handle it, with God. This entire week is invisible. Who knows what will happen? Well, that's future Faith's problem, and she will handle it, with God. And so will you. So steady your heart.

Dear Father, Thanks for the reminder that whether clear skies or in fog, the future belongs to you. You are my ready help, when I need it, resourcing me in the moment as life unfolds. So I steady my heart, and face this week, with you.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Urgency and Expectation

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.
~ Psalm 86:1-7, NIV~

I named my little kitty Indiana, after the famed Indiana Jones. She’s quite old in kitty years, about 18, I believe. She’s so old that every time she falls asleep I feel the need to check to see if she is still breathing. But even at 18, she’s still sassy and spunky and she still loves to eat. Her morning routine is always the same. She starts off the day, sitting to the side of the kitchen, head tilted slightly to the side, staring at me. And I know what she wants because we’ve been through this before.

As I go about my morning routine, Indiana scootches just a little closer.This goes on for quite a while, with Indiana slowly scootching towards me, head tilted to the side, staring in a not-so-subtle fashion. Do you know when it is that I finally stop what I’m doing and feed her? When she’s urgently asking for her breakfast. When she wraps herself around my legs until I trip over her, when she’s meowing so loudly I can’t hear myself think, and finally, when she can’t bear her hunger any longer, she stands up on her hind feet and sinks just the very tips of her claws into the fleshy part of my leg, clinging for dear life. Indiana clings only to me because she knows that when she cries out to me, I’ll meet her most basic, desperate need. Food!
King David shows us a model of prayer for when we are desperately in need. In Psalm 86, David cries out to God, urgently, for God to save Him from His enemies. He acknowledges his dependence on God, acknowledges his trust in God, he praises God, and he asks God for mercy from his enemies. He cries out to God because he knows that God will answer him.
Most of us probably don’t have enemies beating down our door to do away us with, but we do face struggle. Whether it’s work stress, or health stress, or loss, or a broken heart for a loved one with special needs, we all struggle. We want something more from this daily grind we call our lives. We all need to cling tightly to God’s mercy. We need to admit our dependence on Him, we need to believe, like King David, that God will answer our prayers and act on our behalf.

Are you hungry for something different, better in your life?  When was the last time you clung to and cried out to Him to act on your behalf? Did you get down on your knees and cry out to God for mercy, or did you stand across the room, head tilted, staring, wondering if God would hear your prayer? Did you go to Him with urgency, with expectation that He would meet your need?

Most Merciful God, I need You in my life today, but I have nothing to offer You except for my love and my trust. I am desperate for a change, for something different, something better; I need You to break me free of my struggles. Have mercy on me, God, and act on my behalf and on behalf of my loved ones who are struggling today. In the name of Jesus, Amen