Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lonely Holiday Gatherings?

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...” 
James 1:19

Can you believe that this week is the end of October? Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. First we get to enjoy Thanksgiving — a time of thanking the Lord for the many blessings that he has given to us. We get to follow this with Christmas celebrating Jesus — the greatest blessing that God has ever given to his world. We can enjoy lights, decorations, special foods, treats, gifts and social gatherings. What could ever overshadow such a joyous season of holidays? The excitement of it all makes it difficult for children to wait.  For us, parents, though the holiday season can be difficult.

There are so many challenges for special needs families when it comes to social gatherings. There are physical obstacles for families whose children have difficulty with mobility, but more difficult than that are misunderstandings and the general feeling that we don’t fit in at social gatherings. 

Sometimes our children cannot play or follow directions the way that peers of a similar age can. Many of our children (especially ones with sensory sensitivities) are not at their best in unfamiliar situations and their discomfort can show in so many ways. Friends and relatives might make comments assessing our child. After Liam’s diagnosis we knew that he would have orthopedic and communication disabilities along with a host of medical complexities. Yet when in social settings people often made comments similar to, “He looks just fine. Are you sure the doctors are right?” As much a I wished that the doctors were wrong, having that conversation repeatedly was difficult for me on so many levels. Today if I share something about our life — like Liam’s utter obsession with his iPad and Thomas the train — friends will often say that it is the same with their own (typical) child. This leaves me feeling so misunderstood because the kind of obsession that my son has is ABSOLUTELY nothing like that of any typical child. REALLY. No comparison.  When Liam is in an uncomfortable situation he will usually sit watching his iPad and refuse to engage with those around him. This LOOKS to the general public like a perfectly behaved child. So when others comment on what an easy guy he is, that is hard for me. A big boy with total care needs is not easy, even if he has a wonderfully easygoing, gentle personality. Sometimes our friends and relatives say all the right things. They make us feel so welcome, but the utter work to be there and care for our loved one is just too much. Instead of feeling celebratory, these experiences can leave us feeling more isolated and alone in our journey than we did before we came.

Jesus knows exactly what it is like to feel alone in the midst of those who love you. During his last week alive on earth, he took his three best friends with him to the garden to pray. He was in agony knowing that he would face the cross. As he prayed, the disciples fell asleep. They weren’t with him in his difficult time. They were snoring! Later that same night, Peter went on to deny him three times. Yet Jesus loved them and forgave them.

To make things easier for our loved ones, we can be clear with them about our child’s needs. If there are accommodations that will make a gathering easier, call ahead to be sure that the hosts know about them. Being realistic helps as well. We often let friends know that if Liam seems overwhelmed, our visit will be short. Sometimes we bring a second car so that one of us can take him home and the other can keep the rest of the family at the gathering.

To make gatherings easier for me, I have begun praying that God would help me to make a conscious effort to take the words and actions of others in the kindest possible way. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...” (James 1:19, NIV)

I also ask him to remind me that His words are the only ones that matter. “Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach...” (Proverbs 22:17, NIV) 

I pray that God would soothe my heart as I read his word and pray. I pray that he would give me his love and forgiveness to apply to those around me. I ask him to make me captive to his word and to remind me that I am not alone in this journey. He is with me. The same is true for you.

May he give you his peace and true joy as you celebrate the holiday season to come.

Dear Jesus, Please soothe my heart as I read your word. Give me your  love and forgiveness to share with everyone around me. Make me captive to your word and to remind me that I am not alone in this journey. You are with me. Help me to feel your presence in the arms and presence of my loved ones.  Amen.

~Wendy Heyn

Monday, October 30, 2017

Comfort in the Midst of Chaos?

photo courtesy of pixabay
"This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life."
Psalm 119:50 ESV

I know that I am not the only special needs parent in the world who is attracted to this title.  We all feel the chaos. We all need the comfort. I have read post after post from exhausted, emotionally spent, and sometimes angry parents who, like me, need a place to process and vent. We keep writing and thinking and asking God to give us His perspective. Somewhere inside ourselves, we hope that somehow the way we go through this might help someone else.

I take my words online very seriously because someone, like you, is taking the time to read them. But more importantly, because it is a great responsibility to share Scripture with another human being. I have spent some time looking at the story of Job lately. If you have not read Job recently, I encourage you to do so. In his time of great trial and tribulation, Job's friends came to comfort him. The truth is, Job's life was in the middle of divine crisis and chaos and his friends were in over their heads. They spoke of things about God which they did not understand. The Lord rebukes them  saying, "After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7-8 ESV) Job himself called them miserable comforters! (Job 16:2 ESV)

It's because of this that today I would like to direct you to 2 Corinthians 1. It's so very important to understand the heart of this site and of its bloggers. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)

The Lord himself is  the "God of all comfort." It begins and ends with him. I pray you find some comfort here, but more than that I pray you find the God of all comfort. There is no substitute for Him. When the chaos of your life is pulling you in every direction but to God, I encourage you to run straight toward Him anyway. 

~Kimberly M. Drew

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Open Arms ~ #SacredSunday

Are you listening to God as much as you are expecting Him to meet your demands? He mercifully and lovingly waits for you to stop doing things your own way and turn back towards Him.
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Friday, October 27, 2017

The Question We've all Asked

And his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  
John 9:2-3, KJV

In just a few weeks I will be traveling to Haiti, for the purpose of ministering to the parents of children with special needs. There is no blog post for them to subscribe to, no website or Facebook group to join for their child’s specific condition or disability. It is a world I, as yet, cannot even fathom for a family like mine.   

Their greatest challenges for raising a child with disabilities in a third-world environment are not the physical ones. I mean — the physical hurdles are gigantic: no running water or electricity, sleeping on a mud floor, walking as the only means of transportation. Just take a minute and consider the accommodations your child requires and figure out how you would do it in those conditions. But I imagine the mental, emotional and spiritual hurdles are even greater. The culture in Haiti commonly holds that birth defects are curses, and babies born cursed are more often than not abandoned. So the stigma and scarlet letter that those families carry around with them, combined with virtually no support or assistance available in the community, must exact a great toll on their hearts and minds.  

As I studied and prepared my heart for the trip, God brought to my attention the story in John of the man, born with a disability - blindness. The disciples were curious as to whose fault it was that he was born disabled. I became aware, through my studies, that this belief of a birth defect being a “curse” has been around since Bible times, and even the Jews had a variety of beliefs about those being born ill or disabled, and all of them were negative and held a stigma that went far beyond the disability itself.  

Jesus cut through all their misinformation and false beliefs in an instant. And His words can cut through any doubts or questions we may still have today. “WHY?” Is not an ancient question, nor one asked only by the uneducated minds of a third-world country. We ask, in our hearts, all the time. We encounter family members, church members, and people at large who ask the same question. Maybe not out loud, or by making bold accusations, but the question is asked in hearts, all the time.  

“...but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Jesus completely avoids the conversation about cause. He goes straight to the purpose behind it. One might read the story and say, “Sure. So that he could be standing there and be healed by Jesus, so miracles could be seen.” But then what about my son? As of this day, my child has not been healed. So then, where are the works of God? I did a search on that term “works of God” and found every instance in the Bible where it was used. Do you know it was never used of miracles or physical healing? In the Old Testament it was used to label creation. And in the New Testament — every single time — it referred to salvation.  

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 (NIV)

You see, the more I studied this story, this man, his parents and neighbors, and the response of Jesus, it became abundantly clear. The reason that disability, physical defects, special needs are allowed to be present, is for the salvation of mankind. For God’s perfect love and perfect plan of sending Jesus to redeem us, to be seen in the world. The man’s blindness wasn’t allowed simply for the show of a healing miracle. It was for the purpose of a lasting transformation in his life and many many others. All the neighbors, family members and religious leaders who would see him would not be entertained, but rather they would be SAVED.  

What if, instead of looking for healing, we were looking for salvation? What if we viewed our call as parents and our child’s call as one to spread the “works of God”? If I view my son’s life in that aspect, I believe he has already fulfilled that purpose many times over. I see the difference he has made in the lives around him. I see hearts softened and turned towards Christ. This is the message I will take to Haiti with me, the message of salvation. And It is also the message I will turn my focus to here at home. By shifting my perspective to the eternal purpose that we are each called to, I can now see my son as much more typical than I did before. I can see that he is perhaps much more successful than most kids his age, in accomplishing his call. I don’t need to know what happened to cause the genetic disorder, but I am certain of why God allowed it, and that empowers me to take up the call more emboldened than ever before.

A prayer for today: Lord, I have so many questions and things I don’t understand. Help me, today, to shift my focus on the answers that you ARE providing. There is a clear path you have designed for us, and I need your help walking it out. Give me the confidence to follow where you lead, and the boldness to know that you have a divine plans for your works to be made manifest in my child’s life.

- Melanie Gomez

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Maybe If You Weren't Such a Jerk...

Copyright: sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo
Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap  burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 ~ Romans 12:14-21, AMP ~

Seventeen years ago, when I was first trying to figure out this tenuous journey of parenting a child with a severe bleeding disorder, I had a good idea of what I DIDN'T want to look like.

Only one month after our son's birth we were thrown into the overwhelming social mix of parents on the same journey at a secular conference. What I saw in their midst wasn't pretty. Parents seemed to fall into the category of either being an angry, "I'm going to tell you how it is," type of person or being a very nice, pleasant person who was out to squeeze every freebie out of others that they could. It didn't mesh well at all with my worldview.

Instead, I was hungry to connect with others who had their eyes fixed on Jesus and who wanted to reflect His glory through every trial.

Unfortunately, since that first conference, I have run into far too many mothers and fathers who have a chip on their shoulder because they are parenting a child with less-thank-perfect circumstances. And in serving and leading teams to serve those same parents, I have found the same pervasive attitude in many, MANY people facing trials of every kind. The common, worldly attitude pukes out, "I can do what I want and act however I want because I am facing difficulty." Or, "I have been through hell, so the world owes me."

Not only is this attitude of entitlement toxic, it is unbiblical. For starters, THIS AIN'T HEAVEN! (Check out the archives for my 2009 post, "This Ain't Heaven.") Our culture creates the false narrative that pain or difficulty is bad and to be avoided at all costs. It sets up the false expectation that we can have heaven here on earth. Yet, Jesus irrefutably told us right before he walked into his own sacrificial torture and death, "...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b, NIV)

Furthermore, when we act like a jerk, who in the WORLD would want to help us? (See my 2009 post in the archives, "You Catch More Bees With Honey.") Do YOU want to help someone who 1) is so all-consumed by their own life that they never bother to ask how you are doing; 2) never answers your texts, phone calls, or e-mails in a timely manner; 3) is irritable and sarcastic every time you're around them; 4) is demanding, self-righteous, and judgmental in their speech; 5) lacks humility; 6) doesn't follow through on their commitments with total disregard to everyone around them? In his 2003 book, EVERYBODY'S NORMAL TIL YOU GET TO KNOW THEM, John Ortberg discusses "The dance of the porcupines," explaining that we can only have positive interaction with others when we become vulnerable as porcupines do when the expose their un-quilled bellies to one another when mating. It is when we set aside our crankiness for the humility of admitting our weakness that we create tender relationship with others. And it's in THOSE relationships that others want to become invested in us and walk through life's trials with us.

Finally, at every turn of His word, God calls us to live differently from the world. The world sits up and takes notice when we have every reason to be nasty, but instead sees us, "...joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12, NIV) They want what we have when they see us behave this way! It opens the door for God to use us in the midst of our trials as ambassadors of His Good News. That is why Peter instructed the early, persecuted church,

"But even if you suffer for doing right, you are blessed.
'Don’t be afraid of what they fear;
    do not dread those things.' Isaiah 8:12–13
But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed."
(1 Peter 3:14-16, NCV, emphasis mine)

So check your attitude today. Everyone has bad days, but if you find you have a prickly attitude because of your circumstances on a regular basis, pull aside for some quite time in prayer and God's word, asking the Holy Spirit to readjust your demeanor to reflect His glory no matter what is going on in your life. Stop being such a jerk and see people respond to you in much more positive ways.

Pray with me...

Merciful God, it is way too easy to take it out on the world around me when life isn't going as I think it should. Keep my eyes fixed on you rather than on my circumstances. Work in and through me so that I can be useful to You even in my brokenness. I want to reflect Your glory rather than spill my own toxicity on everyone around me.

~ Barb Dittrich

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When 1% Is as Good as it Gets

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, 
so that people are without excuse. 
Romans 1:20, NIV

This past weekend I had the great fortune of spending time with two girlfriends (child-free) in beautiful Lake Tahoe. We live less than two hours away, so all three of us knew about the salmon spawning at Taylor Creek. Hiking the creek area and down the trail to Lake Tahoe was a wonderful opportunity, and it got me thinking about life and the challenges we face as we help our OWN loved ones "swim upstream."
As always, I love a good analogy, and I know that there are many times we might say that raising a child with special needs is like swimming upstream (as salmon do during spawning season.) 
BUT, what I didn't realize before this trip was all of the changes that NATURALLY take place in the salmon during spawning season and what the entire process entails. I couldn't help but think about all of the NATURAL changes that occur in US as parents of children with special needs as God prepares us for what lies ahead: a VERY challenging and, at times, dangerous journey.
The salmon we find in Taylor Creek, which live most of their lives in Lake Tahoe are the kokanee. They didn't occur naturally in Lake Tahoe, but were accidentally introduced in the 1940s. (Cudahy, C. 2017, October. Lake Tahoe’s kokanee salmon are spawning in Taylor Creek — and you shouldn’t miss it.) This makes the kokanee the only salmon which stays its entire life in fresh water, while all other types of salmon will live in the ocean (salt water) and return to fresh water (where they were born) to breed. (Salmon Life Cycle, accessed 10/23/17.)
In order for salmon to live in salt water and to start them in a down-stream migration, they undergo a CHEMICAL CHANGE called smolting. I think this is like us as we just prepare to become PARENTS. We're moving from juvenile adolescence into a place of adult independence. We're starting to want to bring more people into our life... people who we will watch out for and train up to be adults some day as well.

Once we have our kids, and we receive the heart-wrenching news that something is "wrong" or "atypical," we realize that our dreams are going to need to change... that our lives are going to be a little more difficult than we had anticipated.  
We might find we need to return to the place from which we came (like the fish who need to travel back to their fresh water birthplace for their breeding)...we will need to depend on others again: friends or family to baby sit, depend on the government to help with medical bills, depend on a faith which may have gone by the wayside while we were developing our own independent selves.

Similar to the spawning salmon, WE may undergo some physical and physiological changes as we deal with the stress of day to day living. For example, salmon begin to change colors. This reminds me of when friends might say to us, "You look tired." "You don't seem like yourself." "What has happened to you? You never laugh anymore."

How about that comfort eating? I can't tell you how many times my weight has yo-yo'd up and down as I deal with the varying levels of stress in our lives. I always say that my daughter lost weight while she was on chemotherapy as a baby and my husband and I gained it all for her.

Migraines, anxiety, depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia... I can't even name all of the illnesses that I have noticed my friends who have children with special needs being diagnosed with. I think it's easy to see the connection to these chronic and painful illnesses and the hormones that are released and sleep that is lost as a super-stressed parent.
The male salmon will even grow a hump on their backs, develop a kype (hooked jaw) and sharper teeth (Cudahy, 2017). This reminds me of the time I was told that I was developing a condition called "mom posture." My daughter was so delayed in her walking and had been sick so much as a baby that I was developing a curve to my back caused by holding her and carrying around even as she got older and grew longer.

But, the biggest similarity I see between parents of children with special needs and the spawning salmon is the desire to help plant seeds of future dreams and then to protect them with every ounce of energy we have.
A female salmon lays 400-1200 eggs... she digs a whole (in gravel, thank you) with her tail and lays her eggs about four inches deep (Cudahy, 2017). Only 1% of these eggs will survive.
I think THAT is how we feel about the dreams of and for our children. We dig in, we dig deep, we dig with everything we've got... we lose sleep, we send e-mails, we make phone calls, and we sometimes blow our tops off with anger... and it's so we can PROTECT THESE DREAMS just as the salmon will protect their eggs.  Unfortunately we often feel like only 1% of the dreams survive. 

It's not a perfect world.  
Resources are scarce; there are never enough teachers, never enough therapists, there's never enough money and there's never enough empathy to help our children make friends easily in a culture of conformity.   
But, the salmon are still here, every year. The 1% is enough to keep them going. The 1% is enough to make the same God-given instincts kick in year after year.

Maybe we should think more like a fish! Maybe we shouldn't be distracted by the 1% number and just KEEP doing what God has created us to do. Plant those dreams, fight for them, and when only 1% survives...come back and plant more. 

Pray: Heavenly Father, I know you created every living creature on earth and I marvel at your intelligent design. You have surrounded us with beauty and I'm in awe of You and Your creation. Thank you for inspiring me with nature. Thank you for your reminder that in YOU we are victorious, and that 1% may be ALL that you intended it to be, and their is not fear nor failure in that number. Amen.

~ Tammie Hefty

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spectrum Life and Relationship Lessons

"The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out."
Proverbs 20:5, ESV

As she lay there crying, he didn't move a muscle to comfort her. Without understanding, this could tear a marriage apart.

Before you judge, there is more to the story. More that the outsider cannot see. She married a man on the spectrum. He only responds to things he can fix. It isn't that he doesn't care. It is just that crying shuts him down. He cannot fix it so therefore does not know what to do.

He feels her hurt and empathizes but just does not know how to help.

Our hearts are so tricky. It is never okay for us to assume a person's motive (1 Corinthians 4:5). When one does not draw near, it appears they do not care. But that is assuming the motive. What if they cannot draw near? What if they don't know how? What if they only need to be taught? It is a man of wisdom or understanding that can and will take the further steps to draw the person out.

We must learn how to ask good questions in order to understand, especially if someone is on the spectrum. What we see on the outside is not always an indication of what is happening on the inside.

I also have a daughter on the spectrum. The same principle applies. However, the things that shut her down are not the same things that shut my husband down. Questions are the way to understand. If we truly love people, especially those who are different, we must give them the benefit of doubt and ask sincere questions so that we understand rather than assume.

When one is on the spectrum and they are found in Christ, the same Spirit lives in them. That Spirit is the one who works out the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. What those traits look like on one person may look very different on the other. God makes no mistakes. When we seek to love and understand the differences we possess is when we really can love a person well.

In marriage, when a partner is shut down the other can try to help by trying to understand the behavior. Each party can die to self and learn to meet in the middle. All the Christian life is about becoming more like Christ. It is often that these times of discomfort are where God moves the most. So welcome them and seek to understand.

These times are also times of repentance. Times when we must confess that our way is not the better way. We must put our hope in Christ and depend on Him alone for all of our needs. He is our refuge, hope and help.

Father, forgive us for assuming other peoples motives. Forgive us for not taking the time to understand those who are different from us. Help us run to you for all of our needs. Help us to love others well and move toward others in grace and love. Help us possess wisdom to draw out others. In Jesus Name. Amen.


Monday, October 23, 2017

A Reminder That You are A Good Parent

Image source: https://mybible.com/covers/820
I took my boys to a huge mall about 40 minutes away on a hot summer day. A chance to get out of the house and kill a few hours with shopping and playing in the play area. We went into every store that would excite a 4 and 7 year old. The Disney and Lego Stores. The candy store. A Toys-R-Us outlet. The carousel in the middle of the mall. And, of course, the huge play area with tons of things to climb on and kids to crash into.

I mean the last part literally. My younger son decided crashing into the other kids would be fun, including knocking over toddlers, toddling about their own business. He also decided that the play area was the best place to learn how to do somersaults and cartwheels. I yelled at that kid so many times every single one of those parents knew his name. Even the other kids learned his name and learned to stay away. One of the other moms told me I needed to learn how to control him, that he was too aggressive. He was beginning to spend more time in time-out next to me than he was playing, but his sensory issues had kicked into high gear and there was no more calming him down anymore.  

Meanwhile, my older son was getting teased by some kids because he didn't know how to answer their questions and they had started referring to him as "the baby." While he thankfully was oblivious to their nickname for him, it broke my heart and I had to get out of there. 

Which meant epic meltdown for my younger son, since he was having the time of his life.  And tears for my older son, who was excited to be making friends. So I carried a thrashing, screaming four year old, while encouraging my dejected seven year old to keep up as we walked/thrashed/cried through the mall to our car. By the time I got to the car I was a whirlwind of negative emotions. And I was exhausted.

When we got home, I banished them to the couch and told them to watch TV while Mommy spent some time alone.

I sat at my desk, scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, feeling like an epic failure of a mom. Wondering what I could have done differently. Wondering what I should have said to that mother accusing my son of being aggressive and to those kids teasing my son.  Wondering if my older son may actually be more aware of the teasing than I realized and maybe I should say something to encourage him. Wondering if I could ever take my kids someplace fun again and it would actually be fun. Wondering if I should be doing more speech therapy and occupational therapy, and if I should homeschool, and all the other bajillion things there were to wonder about when it came to my children and my parenting abilities. I was spiraling, and before I knew it, I had convinced myself I was the worst mother in the world.

And then my seven year old walked over to me. Tentatively, and rightly so, but he seemed determined, and so I asked him what he wanted. I'll never forget the words he said.

"You gold star Mommy." On the end of my child's finger was a sticker of a gold star. The grin on his face said so much more than his limited vocabulary ever could.

Tears filled my eyes as I took the sticker, placed it on my shirt and gave that precious child a hug. I didn't feel like a gold star Mommy, but I was basing that on my own thoughts and feelings and high expectations. My child told me I was a gold star mommy and he meant it.

"Her children arise and call her blessed.  Her husband also, and he praises her." 
Proverbs 31:28 (NIV)

It's easy to do. To feel like we're failing. To feel like we're not good enough or doing enough. To see all of our flaws and think so negatively about ourselves we can't see anything good.

But we're looking through our own eyes, and not the ones that matter. The ones that love us unconditionally.

My children think I'm a gold star mommy. Their warm snuggles and grins tell me so. And God Himself tells me that He delights in me and rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3: 16). I want to believe their thoughts about me, rather than my own.

I placed that gold star sticker on a picture of my children above my desk. It is a gentle reminder that I may not be perfect, but it's not my job to be. My job is simply to love God, my children, my husband, and others to the best of my ability.

Prayer: Dear God, help me to see myself through your eyes rather than my own. Help me to not strive toward "good enough" which is ever elusive, but rather strive toward all that you have called me to do. Help me to enjoy the children that you have blessed me with, rather than worrying if I am doing enough for them or should be doing more. Amen.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Clearly Seen ~ #SacredSunday

As the brilliant yellows, ambers, oranges, and reds lift up against a shockingly clear blue sky, how can we NOT see the self-revealing God in our midst? He makes Himself known in His stunning creation, no matter the season. Draw close to Him today. He stoops down to whisper in your ear.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

the margin

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience
Hebrews 4:9-11 (NASB)

Margin - the edge of the paper, top, bottom, left and right sides that give border and definition to the page. The margin is the space that is meant to be left empty. If every word that fills the page goes from edge to edge of the paper, the eye would not be able to handle it, and the brain would not be able to read it. 

Our lives need to have margin as well. Our lives need the extra white space, which is filled with nothing. It is extra time, reserve time, that gives us borders, edges. It is an important factor in what God wants for us. God desires rest for his people. He desires our minds, hearts and bodies to rest between the work. 

We all get the same amount of it. T I M E.

But what if there isn’t?

What if there isn’t downtime, isn’t rest, isn’t margin, isn’t reserve?

Days filled to the brim, filled from edge to edge, can wear out, making the edges frayed, making the emotions raw. Making the borders unreadable, making all of it unintelligible.

The special needs parent has no margin, no reserve. The special needs parent has nothing extra from which to draw, no extra time, no extra emotion, no extra money. The special needs parent has no white space, no empty space.

Many days I find myself filled to the brim with a list beyond what I can handle. It fills my mind and heart with fear. It overwhelms me. 

I pray, God please help me leave to tomorrow the things I need to NOT do in this day.

But I want and seem to need to do them all, they all seem important, all beckoning for attention. Order the diapers, call the supplier about defective supplies, bless my family with work in the home, bless my employer with work completed, eat the right things for my health, and exercise for same reason, make sure to do the therapy Girlie needs, on and on and on.

What if?

What if I must schedule “rest,” schedule “margin,” just like I schedule work? Just like I schedule the children’s calendars. What if I schedule time in my day, saying this time of the day I choose to sit, close my eyes, and just be with the Lord, to rest in Him.

He will honor it. He will bless it. He will multiply it. AND He will help it happen.

Please pray with me:

God, I pray you would help me to schedule rest, schedule time with You. Please help me focus on what is important and put aside the things that aren't. Thank you that you work in the details of my life and want what is best for me and my family. Thank you that you desire time with me, as your daughter. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Good Ol' Days

“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” 
Ecclesiastes 7:10 NLT

I’m not sure if Solomon could have been much clearer in this verse. While I believe that we understand Jesus’ teaching to not worry about tomorrow, we often forget about lingering in the past. If you are anything like me, the “good ol’ days” were never quite as good as I remember them. I can enhance them greatly in my mind and they seem even better depending upon the depth of struggle I am currently walking through.

Whether it is the divorce that I walked through, or a medical diagnosis, or just the craziness of our current world, so many factors of life compel us to look fondly on the past and to use the “good ol’ days” as an escape from our current reality. The problem with this is that we often miss out on the opportunities to sense the presence of God. He is with us in every moment and He sees every tear. His Spirit resides within us and is constantly whispering to our hearts.

How often do I miss time with God because my mind is longing for the good old days?

I believe that God is still active in my life. He knows and He cares and He loves me. While I can type this and share this and preach this, I wonder how well I actually live this? Do I actively pursue Him even when my emotions are crying out in pain? Do I seek His face and run to His arms, or do I withdraw and imagine how great life was?

There is an oft-quoted maxim that the “present” is spelled as it is because it is a gift from God. Yesterday is gone and will never return. Tomorrow never truly arrives. All we have is the gift of today. Recent tragic events from hurricanes to deadly shootings to the pain I see my kids experience as they are navigating teenage life and all of its hurdles remind me that I must make the most of today and trust God with the rest.

May I spend more time in the reality of today than the fantasy of yesterday!

Wisdom, according to Solomon, would be to recognize the reality of life and to live in the moment. While his fatalism throughout Ecclesiastes is often unhealthy, he was at least healthy enough to recognize the futility of figuring out the past.

So, if we are not to long for the good ol’ days, what should we long for?

Let’s start with God. We must long for the presence of God. We must guard our sacred space and spend time with Him. Maybe you are able to wake up early and enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee with your Bible and journal spread out neatly. Maybe your morning looks more like mine and we go flying out the door, dropping kids off at school, and enjoying quality time in gridlock traffic on the way to work. Regardless, let us not give up battling for time with God.

We should long for more time with our families. Meaningful conversation, laughter, and truly doing life together. It is too easy to become focused on the tasks of life and living with the mentality of survival. Jesus has called us into an abundant life, but I know that I need to be intentional about this, otherwise the cares of the world overwhelm and sweep me away.

We should long for the opportunity to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. This might happen at our jobs or in our communities, but our ultimate purposes are typically found in family. My kids are growing up quickly and I am short on years where they still want to hang out with me and be seen in public with me. I must cherish this time and be the best father that I am able to be. God commissioned me fifteen years ago with the responsibility to raise kids in the ways of the Lord, to set them up with tools and experiences to know the voice of God, and to steer them to a life as Christ-following adults. This is not a simple task. It takes the grace of God combined with my own intentionality.

So, what do you long for? Is it just a few moments of peace and quiet? Is it for the never-ending stream of doctor appointments to stop? Is it for a glimpse of God in the midst of your storm of suffering? Just remember that He loves you, that He is for you, and that wisdom is not found in the “good ol’ days” but is found in pursuing God as best you can right where you are.

Dear Lord, life is messy. It is often overwhelming and heartbreaking. All too often, we retreat to memories of the past, good or bad, and miss what You are doing in the present. Help us, Lord, to pursue You every day…to make space for You every day…to hear Your voice every day. Bless us today, strengthen us, and overwhelm us with Your grace. Amen!
~ Mike

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When did you last pick up a pine cone?

The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. 
(Psalm 19: 1-3)

When was the last time you or I went on a scavenger hunt? You know, make a list, grab a bag or box to put treasures in, and head out to explore the garden.

Autumn is so very beautiful! Here in England the trees are just beginning to show us their colours. Reds, yellows, orange and browns. Today was a windy day, and colourful leaves were landing like confetti on us as I walked with my little one on the way to school. We looked up and watched them twirl down gently, dancing with the wind beneath them and wondered at the God who made them.

It is as if creation is calling out to us to stop and wonder, to pause in our day and consider the Maker. To pick up the pine cones and conkers, to kick the leaves and watch them dance; to gaze up at the tall trees and see the one they live to lift high.

Everything God made speaks of the Creator, pointing to his attention to detail and his care. Reminding us of his passion and extravagance. Showing us his delight and joy at the vast and the tiny. Giving us glimpses of his reckless love and eternal faithfulness.

So, when was that last scavenger hunt?? Maybe the next one could be today? What treasures will we find if we pause and look?
  • What can we see?
  • What can we hear?
  • What can we smell?
  • What can we feel as we explore, expectantly?
And when we bring those treasures back into our homes, as we lay them out to look at and admire I wonder, what we will see of the Creator? What detail will make us stop and wonder at his craftsmanship, his love, his patience, his exuberance?

Every single one will reveal his love and care for creation and for us. Every single one will tell of his delight in each unique creation, and remind us of his delight in us; each uniquely made in his image. God looked at the world he had made and he saw that it was good!!

Father lead me today to find treasures that will speak to me of your greatness, your tenderness and your care. Remind me of your delight as creator for all you have made. Amen