He Makes Me Lie Down

Sometimes life is just hard. Sometimes our hearts cry out with a deep longing for clarity, direction, and peace. There are times when the weight of life’s circumstances cloud our perception of our blessed reality. There are times when the Lord allows a shift, a speed bump, or even a road block to interrupt our everyday lives. What happens when our well formulated plans are completely ruined and our everyday rush comes to an unexpected halt?

 I am so thankful that when, in our most broken moments, the Lord still is near. Many times we miss Him in the midst of trials because we have mentally allowed our circumstances to become larger than God, the Creator of the universe. When we do this, we will find it hard to crawl out of a pit of despair. But you see, we are promised that “He will never leave us nor will He forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:8).  God is with us even in our greatest struggles. We have a choice to look for Him in the midst of our trials. Do not underestimate the Lord, He loves to reveal Himself to His people when they earnestly seek His face.

This verse was recently spoken over my life by a complete stranger: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me to lie down in green pastures…” (Psalm 23:1-2 NIV) This verse hit me in a way that it never has before. For the sake of context, please allow me to share these first two verses in their entirety.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-2 (NIV)

These verses have always sounded so peaceful to me. How peaceful it would be to lie down in green pastures and to be led beside still waters. I have never really paid much attention to one particular word in this verse…makes.

“He makes me to lie down.” This word “makes” implies an involuntary action. Sometimes the Lord causes us, or makes us to “lie down”. Sometimes He makes us hit our knees. Sometimes He allows trials to make us cry out to Him.  Sometimes He allows our plans, our goals, or our dreams to fail so that we are made to stop, to “lie down”, to slow down, and to seek His face.

You see, before the Lord can “lead me beside still waters”, lead me to the place He has planned for me, or lead me to the mission He has prepared in advance for me, He sometimes chooses to make me “lie down.”

What will you do when the Lord makes you to “lie down”?  Will you wallow in self-pity? Will you ask “why?” without truly seeking His will? I believe many of us “lie down” and we choose to not get back up. When the Lord makes us to “lie down” it is not always comfortable.  We are not accustomed to stopping. We have agendas, we are rushing, we are doing, and we generally do not like it when our plans are messed with.

What if the Lord wants to ruin our plans in the best of ways? When He makes you to “lie down”, will you seek His face? His voice? His will? His “why”? His way?

I believe the Lord sometimes makes us to “lie down” to remind us to depend on Him.  Sometimes He makes us to “lie down” to protect us. Sometimes He makes us to “lie down” so that we can stop and realize how truly blessed we are. Sometimes He makes us to “lie down” because it is the only way He can get our attention.  There are many reasons He may cause us to “lie down”, but when He does, my prayer for you and for myself is that we would be quick to seek His face.

You see, the Lord doesn’t want to leave us “lying down.” He wants to “lead us beside still waters.” God calls His children to be actively led by His spirit.  But before He can lead us any farther, sometimes He may cause us to stop, and “lie down.”

His word says “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing…”( Psalm 23:1)The Lord will equip you with everything you need for life’s journey and He will “refresh your soul” (Psalm 23:2).

Hang in there dear friend. If you are going through a desperate time, if life’s circumstances seem to be overwhelming, if your plans have been ruined, if your heart is so heavy you can hardly breathe…He is there. He has not left you. He will not leave you. Listen for His voice. He is inviting you on a journey. He will give you everything you need. He wants to lead you and refresh your soul.

There are blessings in the “lying down.”

Speaking of "lying down". guess who got into bed to snuggle with us for THE VERY FIRST TIME EVER!!!!? That's right! Ezra's new "thing" is to snuggle as a family in mom and dad's room! ...I can get used to that!

Speaking of "lying down". guess who got into bed to snuggle with us for THE VERY FIRST TIME EVER!!!!? That's right! Ezra's new "thing" is to snuggle as a family in mom and dad's room! ...I can get used to that!

Thank You Lord For Ice Cream!

Ice cream. It’s the All American Dessert, right? What kid doesn’t learn at an early age about the beauty of a cold, dripping ice cream cone?  …that would be my child.

If you remember correctly, about half a year ago (at the age of four), my sweet, sensory overloaded, autistic son learned that he likes ice cream. Though he was reluctant to eat the cold, creamy substance, its yummy sweetness won and Ezra began to enjoy ice cream. He had been completely terrified to eat anything cold, drippy, or sticky so this was a great achievement. We were so excited! Such a simple task. Something that most kids master at an early age.  Such a huge obstacle for him to overcome!

The beauty of the way Ezra’s mind works is that once he loves something, he is ALL IN. If Ezra is not interested in something, you will have very little chance of getting him to engage.  Because Ezra loves trains, his world very much revolves around trains. He plays with trains, he is motivated by trains, and his vocabulary revolves around trains. He says “Thomas, Percy, James, and Gordon” much more often than I hear him say “Momma.”

Well, guess what? Ezra now loves ice cream. And he is ALL IN.  Therefore we capitalize on this love to help further develop his vocabulary. I just could not wait to share this video with you! My precious boy, not just eating ice cream, but now saying “Ice cream cone! Swwweeet! Mmmmm!”  Music to my ears! Thank you Lord for Ice Cream!

Nothing Wasted

It was his shoes that first caught my eye. They were the light-up-when-you-walk kind of shoes and they looked very similar to a pair of shoes that my own little boy has.  Except, this little boy’s shoes weren’t lighting up. Both of his feet were fixed in a special kind of stroller and I quickly noted the braces coming up from his shoes and wrapping around his little legs. He was sort of laid back in his special chair and his momma was very busy about making sure he was positioned correctly and that he was comfortable.

I noticed how she very rarely looked up to make eye contact with the many people staring at her son. Instead, she just busied herself with him, though he seemed pretty content and comfortable. I felt a tug at my heart. I knew this scenario all too well. I wasn’t sure exactly what their story was, but I know what it is like to have a child with a disability and to have strangers stare and make comments.

The announcement was made for all pre-boarding passengers to begin boarding the plane.  This momma very carefully moved forward with her son in tow, and the rest of us pre-boarding passengers followed behind.  

I had prayed very specific prayers for my trip. If I was going to be traveling and giving up time with my precious family, then I wanted to be sure to make every moment count and for nothing to be wasted.  I had prayed specifically for whoever I might sit beside on the plane…not just because they had to sit beside me, but I prayed that there would be purpose in our meeting. I had prayed that I would sit beside others who I could learn something from or maybe others that I could pour into, encourage, or pray for.  Nothing wasted.

As I boarded the plane, I saw this mom and her son situated in their seats. I knew. I just knew that I was supposed to sit next to them.  I took my seat on the aisle and almost simultaneously, the momma shifted in her seat so as to block me from her son who was propped up next to the window. Protection: I recognized this gesture very well.

I wanted so badly to put her at ease. I wanted so badly to let her know that I was no stranger to this. I was so excited, literally bubbling over because all I could think was “Thank you Lord! Nothing wasted!” At the same time, I knew I couldn’t push. I knew I needed to give it some time. I knew that if I came out with “I am so excited to sit with you! Don’t you worry! I have a special needs child too! Did you know that I asked God for the opportunity to sit with you?! Nothing wasted!” …well, she would just think I was plumb crazy. So I waited.

About ten minutes into the flight the little boy began to whimper ever so slightly. His momma struggled to get his bag from the overhead compartment to get him a snack out. About this time, our stewardess whirled by and fussed at her harshly because passengers were not to be out of their seats. The momma began to explain that her son had just had spinal surgery, they were headed home, and he needed something to eat. The stewardess shrugged and walked off in a huff.  Frazzled. This momma became frazzled and understandably so. She fumbled with the snack trying to calm her son and get him something to eat…but she just didn’t have enough hands to do it all.

“Can I help?” I asked.  The momma politely said “no” but when the snack began falling on the floor and the little boy kept sliding down in his seat, she handed me his cup. Her eyes were misting as she said “some people are not very understanding.”  “No, they’re not. I’m so sorry,” I replied.

Finally, we began to talk. I learned that the little boy’s name was Peter. He was four years old, just like my little boy. Peter has a disease that is quickly causing his body to deteriorate.

I was also able to share with this momma about my two children and about the fact that my son, Ezra, has Autism. I literally watched this women transform from protective to relieved as we shared some common ground with one another.

We talked therapy, disability insurance, schools, and surgeries. (This is what we special needs parents do.) We talked every-day life, what it is like for the siblings of a special needs child, and we even talked about our dream vacation destinations.  My new friend had let down her guard. She was warm and easy to talk to.  She was very real and it was refreshing to visit with someone who understood “life” as we know it.

Then, I asked a question. I knew this question might shake things up a bit to ask, but I was willing to try.  “Does your family go to church anywhere?” I asked. I instantly watched the warmth be sucked right out of this momma and sadness was left in its place. “Our family isn’t welcome at any of the churches we’ve been to,” she said in a quivering voice. She went on to explain that many churches in their small community aren’t even wheelchair accessible, which immediately rules them out as options for her son to be able to attend church with his family. She continued explaining that the other churches their family of four had attempted to visit, met Peter with sharp glances, stressed out nursery workers, and even declarations of “we just can’t help your son here.” As this precious momma shared, I could watch a bitterness rise up in her; understandably so.

I wanted her story to not be true.  But I knew better. As she shared about one bad experience after another of all their family’s attempts to find a church that would accept them and their special needs child, memories of my own family’s experience visiting churches flashed through my mind.

I remember the dirty looks and stares. I remember the inconvenienced attitude of the nursery workers. I remember the panicked look on one of the volunteers face when she saw my child struggling into church one Sunday morning and she worriedly declared “Oh, Ezra’s here.” And I even remember the church-going man who was sure to let my husband know that he believes our son’s Autism is a result of sin in our (Ezra’s parents) life. No, many churches are not kind or welcoming to families like ours. I know this to be a very harsh and true reality.

Peter’s momma went on to explain that, although they very much would like to go to church, when they are having to fight for Peter to get a good education, fight for the doctors to give him the attention he needs, and fight for the insurance companies to cover all of his surgeries, the desire to fight for a church to welcome him had been long since lost.

Fighting is a way of life for special needs parents. How sad that (many times) we must fight for a place for our children in God’s house. The fact of the matter is, not too many parents of special needs children have enough fight left in them to try to find a church that might welcome the needs of their precious family.

Peter’s momma and I visited more. I was able to pray for Peter’s little body to heal and for his family. His momma prayed for me as well. It was a sweet time. I was so thankful to have met Peter and Peter’s momma. I hope that in some way she felt encouraged and not so alone on our big plane. I know I did.  Thank you, Lord. Nothing wasted. When our plane touched down, we went our separate ways. Peter was ready to be home where his daddy and little sister were waiting for him.

As I waited in the airport for my connecting flight, I thought about my visit with Peter’s momma. I thought about the sad fall in her countenance at the mere mention of church. It wasn’t that she had had a look of anger or hate, but rather a look of defeat. This should not be.

Church, we have an opportunity. Not a little opportunity, but a huge opportunity that beats in step with the very heart of God. We have an opportunity to welcome those who are often times cast aside by society. We have an opportunity to love those who are not always shown love by the rest of the world. We have an opportunity to take the fight out of life for just a moment, for those who must fight every single day of their life.

It all boils down to this: What kind of church are you? Are you a church that has fallen into the belief that everything must look pristine, rehearsed, and without flaw? Do you only welcome those who might bring something to the table? Are you more excited about a doctor joining your attendance than a person from the homeless shelter or maybe someone in a wheelchair? May I challenge you that church was never meant to be this way?

God’s love is all encompassing. He loves all of His children regardless of ability, disability, social status, or size of our wallets. He welcomes all of His children with open arms. Oh Church, that we would imitate the heart of Christ! Oh, that we would desire to do real-life with one another. When we do real-life, things get messy.  So, I pray for messy churches. I pray for churches that are willing to get into the trenches of life with the children of God. All of His children.

Our family is so thankful to have found a church that welcomes us and our son with open arms. Such churches do exist. Our church doesn’t have the latest and greatest equipment for special needs; it has a lot of opportunities for growth in this area. What it does have is a heart and developing awareness for special needs children. For a family like mine, this means the world to us.

Somewhere out there is a little boy named Peter.  Peter’s body is frail and his family has a lot on their plates. This family has a need. They have a need to be loved and accepted. They have a need to not be so very alone. There are countless others who may look different, act different, smell different, or even dress different, but they all have one thing in common: Their Creator, God the Father, loves them. He believes they have great value. He created them exactly the way they are for a purpose.

We have an opportunity, Church, to try our hardest to create a place of refuge for ALL to learn about the great love of our Heavenly Father. We have an opportunity, Church, to love deeply and to be the Bride of Christ we are called to be. We have an opportunity, Church, to leave nothing wasted. Nothing Wasted.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”        

John 15:12

Perspective from 20,000 feet off the ground. Nothing wasted.

Perspective from 20,000 feet off the ground. Nothing wasted.

We Sing at the Table

Step inside my home, walk these toy scattered floors with me, pull up one of our old oak chairs and I will pour you a glass of southern sweet tea. In our home you will breathe in the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice; my two favorite flavors regardless of the season (I just can’t help myself). Our home is not much different from everyone else’s. In our home there are hugs and kisses, laughter, tears, prayers, struggles, and imperfections which are all covered under a banner of love.

But, in our home we sing at the table. It’s true. In fact, not too many meals go by where we do not sing some sort of ditty. This is just one of the ways that we celebrate life with our children.

You see, the dinner table represents a great many things for our family. The dinner table represents God’s provision, it is a gathering place for loved ones, and some days (let’s just be honest) it represents the fact that we survived another day! However, the dinner table also represents struggle, frustration, and can (at times) represent a battle ground as we work to teach our son (who has Autism) to feed himself …and some days to have him eat at all.

From the very beginning, my precious daughter did not like to see her brother struggle so at the table.  Because her baby brother loves music, Grace began singing to him. His eyes would light up and his body would relax. Grace made it her personal goal to have her brother laughing, singing, or smiling throughout our meal times…and it stuck.  Sometimes our greatest teachers are our children. Grace celebrates life with the fullness of a joyful spirit and the love she has for her brother is encompassed by this. So, we sing. And we laugh. And we share. And we celebrate together.

There are still many meals that are difficult. In fact, just the other night I had to dodge a flying fork! My son still struggles with feeding himself and eating certain things. Although he has made so much progress and we are so very proud of him, mealtime is not always easy. But, we have long since let go of what the traditional “dinner table experience” might look like and we celebrate the best of our unique family.

I want my home to be a place of refuge for my “people.” I want to teach my little ones to celebrate not only the big moments of life, but all the little moments that are shaping their life story. I pray that our hearts would be joyful and our home would be joy-filled.  

So, pull up one of our worn old oak chairs, sip on some sweet tea, and celebrate life with us. You may have to dodge a flying fork or piece of food, it may be one of the most imperfect examples of a mealtime you have ever seen, and there will be singing… but there is love. And you are welcome.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”

Psalm 98:4

Did I mention that we eat with royalty every meal? Grace is dressed in her princess clothes 95% of the time. We also eat with Thomas and Friends. So, as you can see, all are welcome! 

Did I mention that we eat with royalty every meal? Grace is dressed in her princess clothes 95% of the time. We also eat with Thomas and Friends. So, as you can see, all are welcome! 

Sometimes

Sometimes it feels as though the world is spinning out of control. I feel I am at the mercy of people I don’t even know, who are making decisions I don’t support, who have a very different perspective on life than I do. My heart finds itself weighted down by the current events of the day. I long for a more simple time. Sometimes I feel compelled to hide my little family in a bubble of self-preservation. For if we were to shut out the world, hunker down, and protect our innocence, surely we would remain unscathed by this whirlwind of a culture. Sometimes I think about what might become of my children’s generation. I look at my precious daughter and son, and pit forms in my stomach for all that they might have to endure. Sometimes I think about the fine line between obedience to my God and obedience to a governing authority and how I pray for a day when that line isn’t so fuzzy. Sometimes the future seems to be surrounded by an ominous fog that is threatening the very existence of life as we know it.

Sometimes God has to send me a reminder.

Sometimes He reminds me that He spoke this very world into existence. Sometimes He reminds me that He is the one who allows nations to rise and fall. Do I have such little faith that I would allow life’s events to dictate the level of anxiety in my heart? Sometimes He reminds me that He placed me here on earth, at this point in history, for a purpose. Sometimes He reminds me that if I were to hide my family in a bubble of self-preservation, that in turn, I would be neglecting His very purpose for me to be a light in the midst of a very dark world. Sometimes the fears I have are a very real reflection of the faith I practice. Sometimes I must stop, for just a moment, and remember that He holds me in the palm of His hands. Sometimes He reminds me that the victory has already been won. Sometimes He calls me to live for a purpose greater than myself.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is bigger than any obstacle, any war, any circumstance or event. Sometimes these are opportunities to exercise our faith, pursue His purpose, and to truly seek His face.

Be encouraged friends! The victory is already won!

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

So, we press on!

So, we press on!

Love in a Different Language

I have learned that no words are necessary between two hearts. I have learned that brokenness can truly turn into something beautiful. I have learned to let go. I have learned that some things are more important to hang on to than others. I have learned to dig deep and pray hard. I have learned to Love in a Different Language.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of parenting, Autism, and sharing about the faith that holds it all together! 

Alone in a Crowd

It can happen to any of us, and it does. It can threaten our grasp on reality, and it will. It makes us feel overwhelmingly unique in our struggles, though many times we’re not. It has the ability to suck the joy right out of our lives, and we let it. It’s the feeling of “Alone”.

I will be the first to say that I have allowed the feeling of “Alone” to take control of my life at times. The trouble is that when we allow “Alone” to take the wheel of life, it can be a very dangerous ride. “Alone” gives us a false sense of reality. Although our natural desire is to connect, we begin to build walls of protection around ourselves as “Alone” whispers, “No one else would understand”, “No one wants to hear about this struggle”, “What would people think about you if you told them?” , “Yes, you are completely alone.” So with each lie that “Alone” whispers, we add another brick to the wall of protection we are building around ourselves until we become trapped in a self-made fortress of loneliness, feeling cut off from the rest of the world, and longing for connection outside of its towering walls.

Yep, that’s me. As a little girl who grew up in a broken home, I built walls. As the victim of abuse, I built walls. As a young girl with an eating disorder, I built walls. My college years were a time of healing and a time to discover who I truly was in Christ. The Lord gave me strength to tear down some of those bricks that I had worked so hard to put up (my “hedge of protection” that in reality was a fortress of isolation).

I have found that in adulthood “Alone” still offers its fair share of opportunities for wall building. Financial struggle? Put up some bricks. Trouble at work? Put up some bricks. Struggle in a relationship? Put up some bricks. Job relocation? Put up some bricks. Health problems? Put up some bricks. Because surely “I am the only one going through this right now” and “No one wants to hear about this” and “No one would understand.”

I admit to you that just as quickly as I have found the strength to tear down walls of protection, I have just as quickly re-built them with new bricks handed to me by lies from “Alone”. Maybe you struggle with this as well?

But then something happened. Something forced me to decide whether I was going to allow myself to suffocate in self-built walls of protection and the feeling of “Alone” or to break down walls of loneliness and come to grips with the fact that we are all in some way struggling with something- I am not alone.

Our son was diagnosed with Autism two years ago. I cannot begin to describe the loneliness a parent can feel as the parent of a special needs child. I instantly began to build walls of protection with bricks handed to me by lies from “Alone.”

Who could possibly understand what it is like to hear your child’s unsettling screams deep into the night? To have the constant fear that he might elope? Fear of self-harm? Fear of him never being accepted? Fear of what his future might hold- or might not hold? Who could possibly understand how much effort and hard work it took you to change his diaper, brush his teeth, get clothes on him, keep clothes on him, and go somewhere? To watch him struggle? Who else has felt judgmental glances? Who else must try to filter through rude whispers about their child?

Who could understand the overwhelming joy you have when your child makes eye contact with you? Who could possibly comprehend the excitement of holding hands, the triumph of playing appropriately with a toy, or the praise that floods your soul when you make a connection with your child-no matter how small. There are tremendous blessings, joys, and triumphs of being the parent of a special needs child, but who else would understand or want to know about them?

And so the wall building began…I was very busy about appearing to have it all together while building walls of protection and buying into the lie that I was completely alone.

What’s sad is that in a world of social mediocrity, we can get away with this. It’s not hard to look fine, feel completely alone, and get away with it-without someone taking the time to ask, truly care, or invest. It seems we all have full plates, are too self-absorbed, and are too busy building our own walls to stop and ask how the other person is doing.

A friend of mine, who also happens to be the parent of a special needs child, recently wrote this after attending a Sunday morning church service, “So, it is possible to feel completely alone in a room full of people.”

Ever felt that way? Alone in a crowd? I sure have. But my friend’s comment got me to thinking… if she felt alone in her struggles that day, and I felt alone in my struggles that day, is it possible that there were hundreds of other people who felt alone in their struggles that day as well? Thousands? Millions?

And just before I let the walls of “Alone” overtake me, I decided to break free. Having a special needs child has been one of the hardest, most beautiful things that has ever happened to me. You see I finally realized, after a life full of wall building and buying into the lies of “Alone”, that the fact of the matter is: I am not alone.

Each of us have struggles, a past, wounds, triumphs, and joys. None of us are alone. But we are buying into the lie from the enemy that we are “Alone”. It’s the same enemy that the bible says is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).  Do not let the lies of “Alone” steal your joy or your hope.

Maybe we could all stand to do some “demolition work” in our lives. To break down our walls of loneliness. To invest ourselves in other people’s lives. To have real conversations about real things with real people. I believe what we would find is that, in fact, we are not so unique in our struggles.

Maybe the church, as a body of believers, could stand to do some “demolition work” in the midst of its people.  To break down walls that “Alone” has worked so hard to build up. To unmask the hearts of its people and invest itself in authenticity. Because truly, the church was never meant to be a place for perfect people, with perfect lives, who handle life’s curves perfectly. I believe what we would find is revival.

Friends, do not buy into the lies of “Alone.”  You see, not only are you not alone in the fact that we all are trying to make it through this thing called life together, but I want you to know that God promises to never leave you or reject you! He goes before you. He wants to walk with you on this journey. The greatest desire of His heart is for you to have a relationship with Him, to talk to Him, to lean on Him, and to ask for His strength as you break down life-long walls of protection you have built around yourself. He so desires you that He felt it was worth giving His Son’s life for you.

God pursues us with His love and longs to fill up those holes in our heart that we mistake for opportunities to build walls with bricks handed to us by an enemy who’s goal is to destroy us.

Do not buy into the lies of the enemy! Do not lose your hope or your joy!  Stay strong in your faith. Take some time to invest in others, be authentic, be willing to share, and be open to accepting others just as they are. Dear friend, you are not alone!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

We took Ezra with us to Kids Camp last week. They were great about letting Ezra be "one of the kids" as much as he possibly could...including going down the water slide with his daddy!

We took Ezra with us to Kids Camp last week. They were great about letting Ezra be "one of the kids" as much as he possibly could...including going down the water slide with his daddy!

In the Waiting

"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 a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I remember my son’s tiny little hands and how he would move them in the air as though he was conducting an orchestra.  I remember how he would sway back and forth in his excersaucer and how cute we thought it was that he was “dancing”. I remember his far-off smiles and giggles at nothing. I remember waiting for him to look me in the eyes or smile at me. I remember how precious it was how he would rub his little hands against the skin on my arm for long periods of time.   I remember noticing that my son did not respond to things the way that other babies did. I remember the heaviness in my heart as I told my husband for the first time that I believed something was “different” about our child.

 I remember the gut wrenching prayers, sleepless nights, and endless searches on Google. I remember the doctor’s visits. I remember having to fight for my child to have the attention he needed from specialists. I remember the waiting… I remember one particular doctor telling me not to come back and that my son was “fine”. I remember tests and scans and paperwork. I remember the waiting…I remember being given the young-mother-who-is-just-paranoid-about-her-son treatment. I remember waiting for the doctors to finally come to the conclusion that my husband and I had long since come to grips with- our son has Autism.

Our son was given an actual diagnosis of Autism (at age two). Even after all of the waiting, all of the already knowing in our hearts what the outcome would be, and even after feeling  well “informed” about Autism, the final diagnosis hit us like a ton of bricks. It seems that no matter how prepared you are or how much you already think you know, a final diagnosis can break your heart.  It was a final word and a “new beginning” of sorts. That season of waiting had ended and a new one began.

Now we are waiting…waiting on Ezra to connect, waiting to see a glimpse of his sweet personality, waiting for words, waiting for milestones to be crossed.  Each day brings forth an element of waiting. We wait to see if Ezra will have a “good day” or a “bad day”. We wait to see if (just maybe) he will want to touch or snuggle. We wait expectantly for his eyes to meet ours. Even though Ezra has been making more and more eye contact lately, our hearts cannot help but skip a beat each time he looks at us because it is something we have longed for for so long. As the parents of a special needs child, we are no strangers to waiting…

I have learned that it is what you do while you are “in the waiting” that matters most. Waiting can be excruciatingly painful. Waiting can bring forth doubts, fears, and questions. But waiting can be a different kind of beautiful. Waiting can also cause you to dig deep, pray more fervently, and can truly reveal the condition of your heart.

Waiting is never easy because (generally) if you are waiting for something it means that there is an element of the unknown in your life. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always know what the diagnosis will be. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold. We don’t always have control of our circumstances…it can be hard when you are “in the waiting.”

When I am “in the waiting” I must remember that although I am waiting for an answer, or a breakthrough, a diagnosis, or a solution, my God is in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. How quickly I seem to forget that the same God who set the world in motion, holds me in the palm of His hand. He goes before me, He walks beside me, and He hears me when I call His name.

There can be peace “in the waiting” for us believers! Do not let your hearts be troubled! Waiting is never easy. May our faith never be so weak that we are unable to remember that our sovereign God loves us with a complete, unconditional, and sacrificial love. He did not give up His one and only son to die for our sins just to leave us on our own in a world of unknowns and waiting. Be encouraged! Our heavenly Father loves us and does not leave us “in the waiting”, by ourselves. He is ever-present and longs for us to cling to Him and His promises. I can find peace “in the waiting”. I am able to praise Him in the midst of the unknown.

Thank you Lord, that you hold my topsy-turvy world in Your hands. While I am waiting, You already know. While I am trusting, draw me closer to Your side. Thank You that you are with me “in the waiting.”

 

 

Making the Most of Mud Puddles

It’s summertime and everywhere you look there are people talking about, posting pictures about, and planning their family’s summer activities. My husband and I recently had a conversation where we committed ourselves to not just letting the summer days slip by, but to be intentional about “making memories” with our children during this time. Make no mistake; I said “making memories” not “spending lots of money.” So, we did what every great set of parents do who are on a shoestring budget for summer…we bought a kiddie pool.

We set the red and blue fish-themed pool up in our backyard and ran the water in it. We even went “all out” and bought a tarp to put down underneath the pool so our children would have a place to step when getting in and out of their water wonderland of fun. Oh yes, memories are going to be made here! We had the kids dressed in their bathing suites and turned them loose! Both kids lit up with excitement as their eyes beheld their new “making memories” pool. Summer had officially begun!

I began to notice something about Ezra. Although my sweet boy (who loves the water) had a great time splashing and playing in his little pool, he started dumping buckets of water outside of the pool. He was very busy. Instead of giving into the “Corrective Momma” side of myself, I watched. I watched as he worked very hard. It didn’t seem as though he was carelessly throwing water out of the pool, he obviously had a mission to complete…I wanted to know what it was! Finally, Ezra set his water bucket aside, climbed out of the pool, and huddled himself into a perfect little mud hole. He was so proud of himself! He grinned from ear to ear as he sat hunched over in the mud puddle he had worked so hard to create. Periodically throughout our playtime he would jump in the “making memories” kiddie pool we had bought, but most of the time he preferred his very own, Ezra made, very full mud puddle.

That’s when it happened. He came and got me and led me right to his very special, very large mud puddle. Now, for those of you who have never met me personally, I am not exactly a let’s-go-sit-in-mud kind of girl. But can I tell you something? When your four year old, Autistic son says “Come!” and leads you to a mud puddle, and when he pulls your arm down towards the mud puddle, and when he plops himself down in that mud puddle and looks back up at you with big please-come-sit-with-me eyes…YOU ARE GOING TO SIT IN THE MUD PUDDLE!

So, I sat in Ezra’s mud puddle. A look of complete delight filled my son’s face. It was as if he was saying “Yes Mom, you get me! This was exactly what I was wanting. I wanted to share my puddle with you! Isn’t it great?!” He sat down in my lap and gave me great big kisses…while we sat in the big ‘ol mud puddle, beside the “making memories” pool.

As I sat in the mud puddle (Ezra kept me there for quite a while), the Lord laid something on my heart as He often does through everyday life circumstances. Here we were, sitting in mud, next to a pool of clean water. It only makes sense that the desirable place to be would be in the pool where the water is clean, and clear, and where you can see all the little creepy crawler things that crawl around outside (amen?)! …But the blessing was in the mud puddle. There in the mud puddle was “connection” between me and my mostly non-verbal son. There in the mud puddle were hugs and kisses that I would have otherwise missed out on. There in the mud puddle I sat never having been so thankful to be covered in mud in all my life.  It wasn’t comfortable for me. I didn’t like the mud. I HATE bugs…and you know they had to have been swimming in that puddle somewhere with me. Sitting in the puddle did not seem to make the most sense…But the blessing was in the mud puddle.

Can I tell you that there are some other “mud puddles” in my life right now? They are situations or circumstances that are just not comfortable. I don’t like some of these circumstances that I find myself in.  Some of the “mud puddles” in my life feel very threatening. Some of the “mud puddles” look like they could possibly be giant sink holes. Many “mud puddles” in life do not seem to make sense.  But what if there are blessings in the “mud puddles” of life?

I do not want to miss out on all that the Lord has in store for me and what He wants to accomplish in and through me, all because I am too focused on the “mud puddles” around me. I do not want to miss out on the blessings that the “mud puddles” hold.  What if the purpose of the “mud puddle” is to share my faith with a doctor or radiologist? What if the purpose of the “mud puddle” is to reach out to someone I otherwise may not have spoken to? What if the purpose of the “mud puddle” is to teach me to depend completely on the Lord to supply our family’s needs?

Certainly, there is joy to be had and thanksgiving to be given when life is clear and much less muddy. My prayer for you and for me is to be encouraged to find the blessings in the midst of the “mud puddles”; when life is a little less…clear.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. "                James 1:2-4

Grace and Ezra in their "making memories" kiddie pool. I would love to have taken a picture of Ezra in his mud puddle for you all, but every time I got near the puddle he would pull me back down into it!

Grace and Ezra in their "making memories" kiddie pool. I would love to have taken a picture of Ezra in his mud puddle for you all, but every time I got near the puddle he would pull me back down into it!

But Even If

I have spent a great deal of time listening lately. I have had friends come sit on my couch as they poured out their heart and I poured out mine. I have had phone calls and conversations that broke the barrier of superficial “how’s the weather” type talk. It’s refreshing when people are real. It’s refreshing to listen as well. As I have listened, I have felt such heaviness for many of our friends. It seems we all have our struggles, don’t we?

If you read my last blog post, Breaking the Silence, then you know that our family is also struggling through a tough time. The Lord has been so gracious to remind me of His never-ending love! He has surrounded our family with a loving church family, friends, and family members to encourage us along the way. Most of all, He has been teaching me that He is a God who Is Able! Let me share a little with you...

Most of us know the bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We know that King Nebuchadnezzar built a large statue and ordered everyone to bow down and worship the image he created. We also know that he made a proclamation that whoever did not fall down and worship the image would “immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (Daniel 3:6).

So, having just heard the herald’s proclamation, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew they had a choice to make. These three friends, being resolved in their hearts to follow the Lord, refused to bow to the image that the King had set up. Of course, King Nebuchadnezzar was furious when the three would not obey his commands. He gave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego one more chance to bow down to the image he had created and warned them that if they refused again, they would be thrown into the blazing furnace. He finished his warning by saying “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:15).

And here is the amazing response of faith that these three friends gave to the king:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve IS ABLE to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. BUT EVEN IF He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17

This response friends, is one of great resolve. They had it set upon their hearts that God was bigger than all of this! If He chose to deliver them from the fire, He was able. If He did not choose to deliver them from the fire, they were willing to submit themselves to the WILL of the Lord. “Lord, have your way with us!”

This response is one of great faith in a God who IS ABLE. Do you know that our God is able?!

These three friends were also willing to trust God with their “BUT EVEN IF”.  I am learning that it takes great faith to trust the Lord in a time of “But Even If.”  Here are some possible examples of “But Even If” situations…

-“Lord, please deliver my family from this financial pit we are in! …BUT EVEN IF You will not, Lord we trust You and we know that You will provide.”

-“God, please show us where our family is supposed to move right now! …BUT EVEN IF You will not, we are going to trust in Your timing and Your plan.”

-“Father, help me to find a new job and get out of this terrible work situation! …BUT EVEN IF You will not, I am going to resolve to be Your light and Your voice in the midst of this dark atmosphere.”

-“Lord, please give us a child! …BUT EVEN IF You will not, we will trust You because You are Sovereign, and because You love us with an unconditional love. So, we will trust in Your will and ask for Your peace.”

…I don’t know what your “But Even If ” is, but I want you to know that HE IS ABLE. Do you trust Him in the “BUT EVEN IF?”

I will tell you, very honestly, the last few years have been the most beautiful, hardest years of my life.

I don’t know about you but for me, it is not always easy, but it is easier to say “Lord, Your Will be done in my life! No matter the cost! No matter what it takes!” But when you bring your children into the picture, when their health or future is on the line…it brings forth a whole new kind of meaning to the words faith, submission, and trust.

If you read my blog very often, then you know a little about our son, Ezra’s story. You know he has Autism, you know just how much we LOVE this precious child, you know that he has taught us so much about life, love, priorities, and what matters most. You also know that this journey that my family is on is not an easy one.

Having a special needs child has caused me to learn how to pray bold prayers. I am unafraid to approach the throne of God with my heart. Because here’s deal, He knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our thoughts, and He collects every tear that we have cried! Yet so many times we are scared to share these things with Him. We act as though we are scared to boldly come before a mighty God and ask for mighty things in His name! I don’t know how a mother’s heart couldn’t break for the deep struggles of her child.

So I stand and I pray “Lord, would you please heal my son? Would you please give him words so that he can speak? Would you please take his frustrations away? Would you please take away his aggression? Would you please calm the storm that at times seems to be raging inside of him? Would you please calm him so that he is able to rest? And I boldly pray these things to You God, because I know and I trust that YOU ARE ABLE!”

...BUT EVEN IF you will not, then Lord, may my family be a living testimony of Your goodness and Your glory. Lord, Autism does not win! We are going to lean on You for the strength we need every minute of every day. We are going to call on Your name in the midst of Ezra’s aggression and ask for peace for our souls.  We are going to rejoice with You over the smallest of Ezra’s accomplishments. We are going to run to You when our hearts are breaking for our son so much that we cannot even utter a sound. Lord, use us! Use Ezra’s life to somehow impact others in a way that they would be drawn closer to You. As much as I love Ezra, Lord You love him with a love far greater than I could ever comprehend! So, I am going to entrust his future and his life to You. God you are bigger than all this! I am putting my trust in You. Whatever Your Will, it is well with my soul.”

Friends, do you trust the Lord with your “But Even If”?  I promise you, He Is Able! May He reveal His faithfulness, unconditional love, and grace to you in very real ways as you place your trust in Him!

Ezra and Daddy play guitar! Thank You, Lord, for moments like this!

Ezra and Daddy play guitar! Thank You, Lord, for moments like this!

Breaking the Silence

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."                        2 Corinthians 12:9

After nearly four weeks, I’m breaking the silence. As many of you know, the last four weeks have been very difficult for our family. The last four weeks have caused us to dig deep, pray hard, ask tough questions, and wait for answers. While I am generally a very transparent person, I have not shared about our struggle with the masses for several reasons. First, I have both physically and mentally not had the strength. Secondly, we are not exactly positive what it is that we are up against. With that being said, I now have enough strength and feel led to share at least what we know so far. I feel led to break the silence…

There has been in decrease in my health for quite some time. Without going in to all of the little details of symptoms, aches, and pains, I will just save you some time by saying “it” hit me hard this last month. (Whatever “it” is) I spent several days in the hospital for testing and have spent the remainder of my time at home. Just yesterday, I spent the day at a (neuromuscular) medical center in Dallas and will be returning there several times within the next month for even further testing. I have “good days” and “bad days”. There are days when I have energy and there are days when I have very little strength at all. This is not the place for me to list out all of my symptoms (the last thing I need is for a thousand people to get on Google and to try diagnose me). However, this is a place to share with you what the Lord has been teaching me through all of this and it is a call to prayer.

Let me share something wonderful with you: When your body fails you, the Lord is there. When all you physically have the strength to do is lay in bed, the Lord is there. When you are in pain, the Lord does not leave your side…So, I have had the wonderful opportunity to have a whole lotta Jesus Time!

There is one word that the Lord has continuously given to me throughout all of this: RESOLVE. Resolve is a very strong word. Other words for Resolve are determined, firm, to be set upon. The Hebrew translation of the word Resolve actually implies that you set something “upon your heart”. Such a good word in a time of weakness!

In a time of weakness, we are prone to wander in our thoughts…Why me? Why is this happening? What is it I should really be doing? What do I need to quit? What is the cause of all of this? Did I do something?

Reflection and inventory of our hearts is wonderful and something that God’s word calls us to do, but doubt and discouragement can quickly rob us of peace and joy. We must discern between the two.

Therefore, I have Resolved in my heart that regardless of any sickness, regardless of discomfort or weakness, that I will remain faithful to the calling that I believe the Lord has placed on my life.

There are just some things that I believe the Lord has called me to do. I believe He has called me to live with transparency and to share with others about His unconditional love and grace. I believe He has called me to be a voice for His name and His glory. I believe He has called me to be the best wife and the best momma I can possibly be. I believe He has entrusted my precious children to me as a gift, so that in everything I do, I may point them back to Jesus Christ. I believe that the Lord has called me to consider each and every life as one of great value and great worth and to love everyone like Jesus.

There are just some things that I believe the Lord has called me to do and guess what? These things do not change just because I am weak. These things do not change because I am facing a trial. Instead, I will Resolve to hold firm to what I know about God’s word, about God’s character, about God’s unconditional love for me and I will press on! I know that in my weakness, He Is Strong!

Have you lost your Resolve? It’s so easy to do. Don’t let Satan win that battle. Let’s you and I join together. Let’s both Resolve in our hearts to not let our joy be stolen, to hold firm to the calling the Lord has placed on our lives, and to persevere even in the midst of great trials.

…Several months ago I was asked to speak at a women’s conference with the date being set for May16th and 17th. I absolutely love speaking at women’s conferences and felt led to do so and responded with a “yes!” I cannot begin to tell you how excited I have been about sharing the messages the Lord has laid on my heart. However, as my health issues increased, we began to watch the calendar and were just not sure if I would be physically able to make it to speak at the conference.

I can tell you that I have gained quite a bit of strength in the last week and am praising God for this! But I am still very weak.  I began to make this a huge matter of prayer. RESOLVE. That word. It’s like I couldn’t get away from it. I felt an overwhelming tug from the Holy Spirit that I was to speak at this conference. You see, I feel that it has a whole lot less to do with me and a whole lot more to do with God teaching me that if I would Resolve (hold fast) in my heart to what He is calling me to do, then He will take care of the rest.

So I am asking, would you pray for me? I am asking for a supernatural strength. I am asking that His power would be made perfect in my weakness. I am asking for a sound mind and a sound heart. I am asking to be used as His mouthpiece- that all glory and honor would be brought to His name! And ultimately, would you pray for healing? Because our God is a God who is able!

...and if you are in the Longview area, I would love for you to join me!

...and if you are in the Longview area, I would love for you to join me!

Autism Awareness: More Than Pennies in a Jar

Cashier: “Mrs. Huggins, would you like to make a donation to “Autism Speaks” today?”

Me: “No thank you, not today.”

Cashier: “Are you sure Mrs. Huggins? Every dollar donated goes to help a family affected by Autism!”

Me: (Smiling) “Oh, thank you for that. Actually, I am one of those families! My little boy has Autism. So, I guess you could say I make a pretty big donation every day!” (Insert awkward smile and laugh)

Cashier: (Responding in blank facial expression and harsh tone) “So, do you want to make a donation or not?”

Me:  “Nope.”

Please don’t judge me. If I had had some change or a few extra dollar bills that day, I might have donated to the cause. It’s a great one!

And as for my cashier compatriot, he was just doing his job. Maybe he needed to meet a quota. Maybe he doesn't even really know what Autism is.  But the irony of the whole situation struck me as sort of funny. Judging by the body language and harsh tone of my cashier compatriot, I believe it’s safe to say that although his store was helping to promote “Autism Awareness”, he just doesn't get it.

In case you were not aware, April is “Autism Awareness” month. You have probably seen collection jars at cash registers, heard a little more about Autism and statistics on the news, seen t-shirts with the Autism symbol (a puzzle piece), there have been  “Buddy Runs”, and possibly you have seen blue light bulbs (the slogan is “Light it Up Blue for Autism Awareness”). This is all so wonderful! I am so thankful for Autism Awareness month. I am so thankful that there is a month dedicated to helping others understand and support families who walk this Autism journey on a daily basis.

While all of this lends itself to great publicity and the raising of funds, my prayer as the parent of an Autistic child is that for every person who gives and listens that it would not just end there.

Autism Awareness is so much more than pennies in a jar, a puzzle piece t-shirt, or a blue light bulb. True Awareness is a change of heart. It’s the realization that not everyone is the same, and that’s a beautiful thing. Autism Awareness is not passing judgment, it’s acceptance and understanding that some are “different but equal”, it’s the true belief that everyone has been “fearfully and wonderfully made”. True Autism Awareness is thinking outside of our “Cookie Cutter Culture”, and embracing those who may live and act differently than what has been considered “normal”. It’s the understanding that every life has purpose and value. Autism Awareness is the knowledge that some people are facing some very large battles on a daily basis-and doing something about it. It’s digging deep, a shift in perspective, and the ultimate display of unconditional love.

Giving to organizations and institutions that help families affected by Autism is wonderful. We need these organizations and institutions. They are so very critical to families just like mine. But please don’t let that be the extent of your “Awareness”. Can I plead with you for a “heart-change”? Because I can tell you, as the parent of a special needs child, a “heart-change” is what our culture needs.

Love deeply. Be accepting. Be willing to shift your perspective. And be ready for your heart to swell with a new kind of love and “Awareness”.  True Autism Awareness could be a very beautiful thing!

Lighting it up Blue for Autism Awareness!!

Lighting it up Blue for Autism Awareness!!



The Window

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There he sat starring out our living room window. He sat there for at least thirty minutes. Some of the time he was silent and some of the time he chattered away in his own little language. I wondered what he saw. I wondered what it was that had so captivated his attention.

It’s interesting isn't it?  It’s interesting how two people (regardless of ability or disability), can look out of the same window, and yet they see such different things.  

I love to keep my windows open. The first thing I notice when I look out my window is the sky. I love how the heavens declare the glory of the mighty God that I serve with their inaudible praise. Then, I might notice how the sunlight perfectly shines on each drop of dew on the grass. I notice the motion of the wind and I notice how the leaves have been swept across the drive from the night before. I take all this in and it refreshes my soul.

And so I wondered, on this day that my precious son sat beside the window, what is it that he sees? Because he cannot tell me, I speculate…Does he take it all in as one beautiful picture? Or does he look at each tiny detail? Every blade of grass? Every cloud in the sky? Does it bring joy to his soul as it does to mine, to marvel at the beauty of God’s creation each day? Or does it overwhelm him to take in so much? What does he see?

In many ways, this is what life is like when you have a child with Autism. You are both looking out the same window, and yet you are both seeing such different things. Ezra and I live in the same world, but the way we experience it is so very different.

As much as I want Ezra to see what I see, experience what I experience, feel how I feel, learn the way I learn, and love the way I love, it is not always that easy. What’s even more, who says that there is one “right” way to experience life? I have learned far more, grown far more as a person, and have developed a deeper level of compassion and love by trying my hardest to learn about Ezra’s world instead of demanding he conform to mine.

Certainly there is an importance for him to learn from an educational and behavioral standpoint. I am so very thankful for the group of amazing teachers and therapists that have rallied around our sweet boy to help him achieve his very best. But as he learns from us, we must never forget that there is so much for all of us to learn from him. He has a beautiful mind that is constantly at work. What a tragedy it would be for us to take for granted the blessing of a precious child because he does not fit into the cookie cutter of what society deems as “normal” or “acceptable”.

I want to become a student of my children. I want to see what they see when they look out the “windows of life”.

About a week after my little boy had sat so fascinated at the living room window, my little girl sat with her play computer at the very same windowsill and was “working” hard. I asked what she was working so hard on and she replied “I’m working on my blog”. (I have no idea where she got that from)

As she sat and banged away on the keyboard of her little toy computer, she began to “read to me” the blog she was working so hard to write…

“My brother has Autism. I don’t know why God let him have Autism. But that’s ok. I guess He let him have Autism so that I could help him and love him. Sometimes my “Ezra Brother” struggles, but I am here to help. The end.”

Grace lives in the same world as you and I. Grace sees the world differently than most six year olds do. Why? Because our family has embarked on a beautiful, but sometimes very hard, life-long journey of Autism. Grace’s experiences as the older sibling of a baby brother with Autism has caused her to think about things, pray about things, and see things differently than many children her age.

Sometimes, it’s good to try to “see” what others see when they look out the windows of life. We can all learn so very much from each other.  Our faith, our life experiences, our victories, and our defeats all contribute to how we each “see” life.  We would be wise to become students of one another. We would be wise to celebrate the beauty of a mind that “sees” differently.




Little Victories are Never Little

Our family loves Mexican food. LOVES IT. Like, probably in unhealthy proportions. Interestingly enough, one of the very few restaurants that Ezra will “allow” us to go to is a Mexican food restaurant. Of course, Ezra brings his toy trains along for our fine dining experience and will keep them lined up perfectly during our meal! 

We have been working very hard with Ezra to teach him to feed himself. It has not been easy and we still have a lot of work ahead of us…but we have come so far! We took this video of Ezra last week. Notice that he is not only feeding himself tortillas, but he is dipping them in guacamole dip! He doesn't like to get his fingers messy, so every time he does you will see that he wipes his fingers on either his shirt or in his hair...a mess I am more than happy to clean up later if it means that he is learning to eat independently!

Little victories are never little! We thought we would celebrate this BIG “little victory” with you all. Go Ezra Go!

Until That Day

Friends, there is a very special day coming. There will come a day when my son will speak in fluent sentences. There will come a day that Ezra will not live bound by overwhelming sights nor sounds. There will come a day that his frustrations will give way to complete victory. There will come a day that aggression is no more. Yes, there will come a day! Ezra’s story has just begun. The Lord is not finished yet! Whether on earth or in heaven, there will eventually come a day that Ezra will be completely “able” because our God is able to do all things! Putting my faith in this, I realize that what matters most is what we do Until That Day.

Until That Day, it is grace and unconditional love that I want to lavish on my sweet boy. I want him to know without a doubt that my love will never be limited to his abilities or achievements. I offer up this deep kind of love with complete abandon. I want to be the greatest reflection of Christ’s love for him.

Until That Day, I will consider every little baby step with him as a huge victory. Each day presents an opportunity to learn and grow. I often feel that I am the one learning and growing from Ezra more than he does from me. There is nothing too small or too insignificant on this journey. We will celebrate life together each day!

Until That Day, we will struggle well. We are not promised easy. It would be foolish of me to act as though this Autism journey is not hard. On the contrary, my husband and I both have shed many tears and I know there will be more to come. But you see, the Lord has chosen us and entrusted us with the life of our precious son.  God does not call us to do something that He will not equip us for. So, we will press on and daily ask for strength, perseverance, and peace. Let it be that we glory in His name for His mercies are new each day!

Until That Day, we will pray bold prayers. I am unafraid to approach the throne of God with my heart. I’m not sure a mother’s heart couldn't break for the deep struggles of her child. Because the Lord is my Heavenly Father, and because I know that He is indeed able, I will continue to offer up bold prayers of healing and freedom from frustrations for my child. I also pray boldly that His Will will be done, knowing that even if He does not heal Ezra here on earth, it is well with my soul.

That Day will come. Some day. But if I set my focus on That Day, it would be very easy for me as the parent of a special needs child to become so very overwhelmed. There is beauty in the Until that Day. The Until that Day gives me the opportunity to understand the fullness of unconditional love. The Until That Day develops a daily faith. The Until That Day produces songs of thanksgiving that may have otherwise never been sung. The Until That Day causes us to slow down in a world full of instant gratification. The Until That Day is the foundation for bended knees. The Until That Day continues to glory in the sovereignty of a mighty God regardless of His answer.

I don’t know what your That Day is.  Can I encourage you to not give up on your prayers? Our Heavenly Father hears each one of them. Can I also encourage you to not have your sights so focused on That Day that you miss out on the Until That Day? There is beauty to be found in the Until That Day!

Ezra loves to play on his I PAD...something that he was terrified to even touch this time last year! Little victories are never little!

Ezra loves to play on his I PAD...something that he was terrified to even touch this time last year! Little victories are never little!

Snapshots

Let’s do some real life together today, shall we? My family’s reality probably looks a little different than most. That’s because we have a precious little boy who has Autism. Today I am sharing some real life pictures that help to explain some of our day-to-day “normal”.  Our Ezra is an amazing little boy! He is my “little puzzle” and each day I have the wonderful opportunity to learn from him and learn more about him

Ezra barefoot trains.jpeg

Ezra’s “thing” is trains. It is very common for a child with Autism to become attached to a particular character or interest. Ezra loves to line his trains up. He always puts them in a particular order, has to have them lined up perfectly, and will literally spend hours reconfiguring their order and placement. Also notice the bare feet! Ezra has Sensory Integration Disorder and struggles to keep shoes or socks on for very long-they are too constricting. Have you ever seen a mom with a barefoot child in cold weather and mentally judged her for not properly covering her child’s feet? Have you ever stopped to think that there may be a reason that she just absolutely cannot keep shoes and socks on his/her feet?

Ezra in tub.jpeg

Ezra spends a lot of time sitting in the bathtub…without water…with his clothes on. There is something about the tight space and tall walls that calms him. When Ezra becomes overwhelmed, many times he will take himself to go sit in the bathtub. He doesn’t generally take toys with him. He just sits. And the simplicity of the solid color walls and closed in space soothes his sensory overloaded mind!

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Ezra likes to study objects from very different angles. This is a form of “stimming”. Stimming is one of the symptoms of Autism. It is a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. 

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Ezra can ride a bike too! With the help of Ezra’s AmTryke, Ezra gets to ride his bike along with his big sister. There are special straps that help to secure him in his seat and straps that keep his feet from slipping off of the pedals. There are also special straps that hold his hands on the handle bars but he is just not ready for that yet…and he is not yet willing to let go of the trains in his hand! The AmTryke has a bar that extends from the back so that we can push him. We have faith that one day Ezra will be able to ride a bike all on his own!

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Ezra loves to play in water…even muddy water! We encourage this sort of sensory input, especially because for so long he was absolutely terrified to get any dirt on him. To some, this is just a cute picture of a kid in a mud puddle, but to us, this is a victory!

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This is Ezra’s very special bed. It zips up completely and the zipper is on the outside. This is for his safety. Ezra is unable to sleep in an open, standard bed. When put in a “regular” bed, he jumps all night and is unable to bring himself to go to sleep. Ezra also tries to elope. (Both insomnia and elopement are typical with many children who are “on the spectrum”) Ezra finds comfort in his cozy bed and will often times “request” to be zipped in so he can calm down and give himself rest. 

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I love this picture. Besides the fact that it is just sweet, this picture represents Connection. It is often times hard for Ezra to make eye contact, let alone to allow someone into “his world”.  We captured this precious moment this last week. The key to making a connection with Ezra is to make yourself available. We usually are most able to make a connection with Ezra when we lay on the floor. Then, he will usually come and sit near us. Connection is not something you can force. Connection happens by patiently pursuing and by waiting for Ezra to invite you “in”.

I am no Autism expert, but I have learned that the key to life “on the spectrum” is letting go of “normal” and embracing the unexpected, sometimes crazy, very special life that the Lord has blessed us with. These little snapshots of our life give just a glimpse into our every-day “normal”. 

No Greater Love

I became a Christian at the age of twelve. I was a very broken little girl who came from a very broken past. The Lord became my Heavenly Father, my shelter, and my peace. Jesus became my all in all and filled up all those broken places in my little girl heart. His unconditional love for me boggled my mind then and it still does today. I praise the Lord that I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! There is no greater love than the love the Lord has for you and for me.

I have stood in amazement at the Lord’s unfailing love for his children for a very long time. Then, I had my first child, and the Lord’s love for me took on a whole new meaning. As a new parent, I gained a whole new perspective of what it means to love someone unconditionally. I held my sweet little girl in my arms and a love welled up inside of me, deeper than I ever thought possible. I held each of her tiny little fingers, kissed her toes, memorized each tiny freckle, and marveled at the beauty of my little girl. I can remember thinking This must be how the Lord looks at each of us, His children. This is how precious each of us are to Him.  Just as I have pursued my little girl with my love, cheered over her accomplishments, and cried over her hurts, so the Lord does for each of us. It is by no merit of our own, but because He is our loving Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally.

Then, I had my second child. Again, the amazement of how deep a parent’s love can run overwhelmed me. I held each tiny finger, kissed his toes, memorized each tiny freckle, and marveled at the beauty of my precious little boy.  Not much time passed before we realized that our sweet boy was struggling. I have shared before many of the details of Ezra’s diagnosis and the long journey of our discovering that he has Autism, so I will spare you those details for today. But as Ezra’s life story unfolds, the Lord continues to reveal Himself to me in ways that take my breath away. Having a child with Autism has even further taught me about what it means to love deeply, passionately, and unconditionally. Having a child with Autism has even further taught me about my Heavenly Father’s love and the way that He pursues His children.

You see, the love I have for my special needs child is a pursuing love. There is a driving force inside of me that causes me to consistently pursue my precious little boy with a deep kind of love. This must be so, because often times my love is not received or accepted by him…So I wait. And try again. And again.

Do you know what it is like to have your child spit in your face? Do you know how it feels to have his precious tiny hands shove you away? It is heartbreaking. It hurts my heart much more than my body when he becomes aggressive and tries to hit me. But my love for him is a deep love. It is deeper than any wound.

When he hides from me in tiny, dark corners, it takes all that I have not to drag him out of his hiding place and hold him tight in my arms. When he covers his face with his hands and turns his head from me, it grieves my heart because I want so badly for my child to look me in the eyes. My love for him is a jealous kind of love; my desire is to have a relationship with him. But my love for him is also a patient kind of love, so I wait for him instead.

Can you imagine the joy that floods my soul when he allows his eyes to meet mine? Can I tell you how my heart swells when he snuggles me or gives me kisses? Or when he notices me? I am overjoyed when he is able to overcome obstacles. I rejoice in his accomplishments. I take such pleasure in discovering each little piece of his personality as he allows it to be shown. Oh how I love my little boy! My love for him is an unconditional love.

How much greater is the Father’s love for each of us! Since I have had Ezra, the love of my Heavenly Father has become more and more real to me.

How many times have I spit in my Heavenly Father’s face? How many times have I shoved Him away? How many times have I become angry with Him for things I do not understand? How many times have I wounded Him with my words? But His love for me is a deep love. It is deeper than any wound-even death on the cross.

When I hide from the Lord in tiny, dark corners, He calls my name. He never loses sight of me. How it must grieve His heart when I turn my face away from him. How he yearns for me to have a relationship with Him. His love for me is a jealous kind of love. But His love for me is also a patient kind of love, so he waits. He waits as long as it takes because I am His child.

Oh the joy He has when I call on His name! When I notice Him! He is overjoyed when I am able to overcome obstacles. He rejoices in my accomplishments. Oh how He loves me! His love for me is unconditional. His love for you is unconditional too.

Friends, there is no greater love than our Heavenly Father’s love for us, His children. It is a pursuing kind of love. It doesn't matter how far you have strayed, how ugly the condition of your heart, how many times you have spit in His face, He loves you unconditionally.

I praise the Lord for the awesome way He uses my little boy’s life to encourage me, and reveal Himself to me. I hope you are encouraged as I am. I hope you are able to experience the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father. There is no greater love!

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God." 1 John 3:1

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Reading a Thomas the Train book...sort of! At least I got some snuggles!

I Asked For Help

I have struggled through this blog post. Seriously. Every. Single. Word. That’s because this particular blog post has caused me to be very vulnerable, very transparent. What’s wrong with vulnerability or transparency? Absolutely nothing.  In fact, I consider myself a pretty transparent person. I strive to live with authenticity as much as I can. I certainly don’t shy away from opening up about things and sharing my story…or so I thought.

I thought I didn't mind sharing until it came to this. This one thing that, until the last few weeks, I didn't realize was such a struggle for me. It would be very easy for me to tuck “this thing” away, keep it to myself, and not share it will all of you. But that wouldn't be holding true to the very purpose of my blog which is to offer encouragement to parents who are living with children “on the spectrum”, but also to offer understanding and insight into the life of a special needs family- the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, I have decided to share…

I did it. I asked for help.

 Just so you know, I do not struggle with asking for help in most areas of my life. If I have a question at work, I will ask it. If I need help on a project, I will ask for help. If I have a problem with my car, I am certainly not about to touch it. It has never been a goal of mine to portray myself as “Miss Independent”. I have no problem asking for help!

…except when it comes to taking care of my home and my family. To me, this is one area that I should be able to excel in without someone’s help. It is my honor and privilege to take care of these things. In fact, I love it! I love cooking, cleaning, ironing, and folding laundry. There is something about seeing fresh lines in the carpet from the vacuum cleaner that makes my heart happy. I love being home when my children are out of school. It fills my heart with joy to snuggle up with my two kiddos to read a good book or to play a game. But the fact of the matter is, it is really hard to do all this as a parent of a special needs child.

I hope by now (if you have read my previous blog posts) that you have no doubt how much I absolutely love my precious little boy (who has Autism). I consider him one of my most precious blessings. I also consider it such an honor that the Lord would entrust such a special child to me! Having a child with Autism has given us a whole new perspective on life, love, and what matters most.

That does not mean that it is not hard.

In our particular case, being the parent of a special needs child means that as soon as I try to make tea for dinner, my little boy is trying to pull the boiling water of the stove. It means that I cannot turn my head for very long for fear that he might try to escape out the door. It means that there are fewer home cooked meals and lots more fast food meals because we have to ride in the car to calm him down.  It means many sleepless nights. It means that while trying to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, my precious child is throwing his toy trains at the walls, the windows, the TV, and at his sister. It means occasional aggression, frustration, and anger spewing forth from a little four year old boy. It demands monthly paperwork and logs enough to be considered a full time job. It means that by the time my little ones are asleep in bed, I don’t have the energy left to accomplish all the many things that need to be taken care of.

It’s not all the time. But generally, if I am occupied with anything other than him, he begins to fall apart. Because he does not have the language to express himself with words, he tells me with his body that he just does not know what to do with himself.

Because both of my children are so very precious to me and out of obvious necessity, I chose them first.

So, the dishes had begun to stack up. The floor sometimes looked like a treasure hunt. There came days that my entire family was going to have to go our various ways naked, stay home-naked, or wear three-day-already-worn clothes. There were a lot of unwritten blogs. Chili Frito Pies became a delicacy in our household. Once evening came, I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I am supposed to be able to manage all this! I am supposed to be able to control my child’s behavior. This is my number one job! Why do I feel as though I am doing nothing well? The one thing that I had taken so much pride in doing, I realized I wasn't able to do. I had to ask for help. I had to let go of some pride-something I thought I never really had an issue with.

Here is something else you should know about us special needs parents:  #1 We trust very few people with our children.  #2 There are few who we would feel comfortable with having come into our home on a consistent basis. This is not an issue you can push. It is what it is. We are protective of our little ones and protective of our not-so-ordinary lives.

I prayed and prayed for the Lord to provide just the right person. I knew it would have to be a person who understood the situation, who understood Ezra, and who had a very big heart. The Lord provided.  A very dear friend of ours agreed to be my “helping hands”. She has come in and helped me with laundry. She has helped with the dishes and with cleaning. She has been my second set of hands during the kids bath time (this activity always requires two adults). She played with my little girl so she would not have to play by herself during her little brother’s in-home therapy session.

The first time I walked in to a clean house and an unloaded dishwasher, my eyes welled up with tears. You may think I’m trying to embellish this story, but I’m not. The time I was able to have help bathing my kiddos, our family was able to spend extra time in the evening playing together. In the last week, I have been able to bring my children home from school and just play with them and give them the attention they need without the heaviness of wondering how on earth I was going to have all the other things done that needed to be done for my home to function properly. There has been less chaos and more order.

 Yes, it was very hard for me to get to the place of having to ask for help. Yes, I have been a bit embarrassed to admit that I can’t do it all.  But I am now realizing that it just might be an ok thing, healthy even. I find it almost liberating.

Believe me, there are still many things this special needs mom has to take care of, but what a blessing it is to have someone help to lighten my load. I praise the Lord for my sweet friend and her “helping hands”. I am truly thankful that the Lord continues to use this Autism journey to mold me and refine me…even when it’s not easy and sometimes requires me to let go of some things, such as pride.

If you know a family that has a special needs child, pray about how you might be able to minister to them. Don’t expect a thank you card-they are deeply grateful, they just don’t have an extra second to sit down and write a complete sentence. Even the smallest gesture is a big deal. A word of encouragement, a trip to the grocery store for them, or a cooked meal can make such a huge difference in the life of a special needs family. Just be there for them. Let them know that it’s ok to ask for help!

 

Playing in the backyard: Ezra loves the sound of the wagon crunching the leaves underneath! Grace loves blowing bubbles for her baby brother! ..note her very unique sense of style! 

Playing in the backyard: Ezra loves the sound of the wagon crunching the leaves underneath! Grace loves blowing bubbles for her baby brother! ..note her very unique sense of style! 

The Lights are Off, but Everyone's Home

The lights are off in our home more and more lately and it’s not because we are trying to save on our electric bill (though that would be nice). It seems that just about the time we have struggled through a particular behavior with our sweet boy, his Autism begins to manifest itself in some other new way. In the last two weeks, our son has begun a new set of behaviors that are taking some getting used to…and are keeping us in the dark.

Ezra used to walk through the house making sure that every light switch was turned on. Darkness seemed to frighten him. Our entire home would be lit up whether there was one person home, or an entire house full of people. So, I found it peculiar when one afternoon I realized that the lights in our house had not been turned on. I wandered back to Ezra’s room where he had been playing with his trains to find my sweet boy curled up in a tight little ball, in the darkest corner of his room, with his hands over his ears, eyes shut tight, and he was rocking back and forth. I panicked. He had never done this before. I just knew that he must have gotten hurt or something must be very wrong. So, as any good momma would, I got down on the floor with him and tried to comfort him. Ezra did not want comfort. Ezra did not want to be touched. And he made that very clear. I sort of staggered back down the hallway with an aimless walk…what was I to do? So, I just waited for my little boy to come out of his protective little ball. Two hours later he came out and it seemed he had recovered from whatever “it” was that had bothered him so.

Ezra used to show that he was overstimulated or on “sensory overload” by spitting, throwing, screaming, or aggression. He still does these things but as the days have gone on, his new behavior of sitting in dark corners, in a tight ball, with his hands over his ears have increased. This may seem strange, but I have found myself thinking – I liked it better when he would just spit. Or I wish he would just throw something instead. Why on earth would I think this? There just seems to be something so defeating about a little four-year old boy seeking out the darkest corner so he can shut the world away – his momma included. At least with his previous behaviors there was contact. Too much contact? Yes. Were the previous behaviors frustrating and destructive? Yes. But I was able to be hands-on in helping him to calm himself and overcome. Now, I am finding myself fumble through the house like an awkward teenager who doesn’t know what to do with their self. I want to help and comfort and my son is very clearly letting me know that he best way to do that, is to back off.

Then, one day last week, it took two full hours after Ezra had gotten off of the bus before I saw his face. He kept his face buried in his little hands and was softly whimpering. I took him home where he positioned himself in a corner of the kitchen until he was ready to “come out” of his hiding. Once he was done, the day went on as usual. He obviously just needed that time.

The next morning is what tipped me over the edge. As our usual routine goes, I woke him up, got him dressed for school, and we were walking hand-in-hand out of his room to go eat some breakfast. Ezra stopped at his door way, he released my hand, reached up and turned off his bedroom light, and looked me straight in the eyes as he closed his bedroom door…shutting himself in, and me out.

I did not know what to do with myself. I stood staring at the closed door for quite a while. I listened. I waited. Finally, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I cracked the door open just enough to get a peek. Ezra had crawled back up on his bed and was sitting in a tight ball, eyes closed, hands over his ears, and he was rocking. I closed the door. As much as I wanted to go into his room and try to hold him and help calm him, I knew I had to respect the fact that he had very clearly sent me a message that he needed some alone time. About thirty minutes later, he came out and was ready to take on the day.

I was so sad. To me, this new behavior was so dis-heartening. I had to talk to someone…I called one of the many special people who work with Ezra on a consistent basis. I needed to know what to do. I did not get the response I thought I would.

This is a “good thing”. Yes, we talked about Ezra for a long time, but the main “take away” for me was that Ezra’s new behavior is actually his new coping mechanism. Ezra has found something that works for him! He discovered it on his own and it’s a way that he can cope with all of the sensory input that tends to overwhelm him. It is not destructive. It is not harmful. In a way, this is a victory.

Perspective. That was exactly what I needed.

So, if you happen to venture our way, and you see that the lights are off…it doesn’t necessarily mean that nobody’s home. It is very likely that my sweet little man is working. He is working to overcome, working to cope, working so that he can bring himself out of his hiding place to enjoy the rest of his day.

It’s different. It’s new. It will take some getting used to. But I am beginning to appreciate the darkness. The darkness offers him comfort right now. It’s a comfort that I cannot offer. It’s a step of independence. Even though the Momma in me wants to hold on tightly, I am so proud of Ezra for finding a way to independently sooth himself.

I have no idea if this will be his forever coping mechanism or if it will change again. For now, the lights are off, but everyone’s home!

Some rocking chair therapy with Dad! I am so thankful for moments like this!

Some rocking chair therapy with Dad! I am so thankful for moments like this!






A God Who Sees

Lord, you are near.

When my son’s disability weighs upon my heart, I am reminded that You have the ability to accomplish every purpose you have planned for him.

I do not fully understand the world in which my little boy lives, but You do. I do not know his thoughts and do not know all his ways, but You do. You love him with a love that is beyond all comprehension. You go before him. You know him by name. Even when he hides himself in the darkest corner, You see him. There is no place he can run that would escape the view of his loving Heavenly Father.

You rejoice over the smallest of his accomplishments. It brings a smile to Your face when he dances to songs of praise. And oh, how it must fill Your heart with joy when he whispers one of the few words he knows by heart, “Jesus.”

Yes, he is fearfully and wonderfully made. He was made in Your image. He is Your child. I praise You that You are a God that loves with an unconditional love in a world full of conditions. I trust that You reveal Yourself to him and that he knows You in his own very special way. Lord, I ask that You wrap Your loving arms around him so that he may feel secure, calm his mind and his heart so that he can experience peace, and give him the strength to break through the barriers that overwhelm him so.

Lord, I thank you that I am not on this journey alone. When I feel stretched in every direction, You calm my spirit. When the demands of life begin to overwhelm, I am reminded that You are life. I can trust in Your word. I can claim your truths in my life.

As I strive, stretch, and search for daily strength, I am never on my own. My prayers do not go unheard. You collect every tear that I've cried. When my son softly touches my face with his little hands, You are there. When he flashes his beautiful smile, You smile too. Every step taken, word spoken, kiss given, and hug offered is a victory that You rejoice over with me. When I lay awake in bed and listen to my child’s unsettling screams and sounds, You are there. Though I can sometimes be physically worn, You are the healer of my soul. When frustrations and fears creep in, it is You who offers peace. You know my heart even when I cannot put into words the burden it carries. No words are needed in the presence of the Lord Almighty because You know your children.  

I praise You that You are a God who sees. There is nothing that goes unnoticed by You. Even with all of the cleaned up spills, picked up toys, kissed boo boos, refilled sippy cups, and sandwiches made, You are there. In the moments of aggression, meltdowns, stares from strangers, comments, crying, and throwing, You do not turn Your head. You are near. You are ever constant.

This journey of Autism is not an easy one. This journey of Autism is a life long journey. Lord, I thank you that we are not in this alone. I praise you for the sweet victories. I praise you for the storms. Thank you that You are a God who sees. Let this be a journey that brings glory, honor, and praise to Your name. Amen.