To My Son's Special Education Teacher: We Need to Talk

Dear Special Education Teacher,

It’s time. I’ve been holding this back for far too long. We need to talk.

You see, I’ve been waiting. I’ve been waiting to see if you would do what many other teachers have done before. I was waiting to see if you would grow weary, lose hope, or just plain give up. As the parent of a special needs child, we are far too familiar with the disappointment of a discouraged teacher. Now, as the end of the school years is upon us, and as many Special Education classes have simply slipped into survival mode, here you are still pouring yourself out for our little boy.

I want you to know how thankful we are that you have not given up on our son this year.

You know better than anyone else that this has been a hard year. With every milestone crossed, there has been a new mountain to climb. With every behavior overcome, there was a new behavior that seemed to take its place. As it goes sometimes in the world of Autism, this year has been a never ending journey to try to help quench the insatiable need for sensory input and curb the overwhelming impulsivity that seems to try swallow our precious little boy.

It would have been so easy for you to give up. It would have been so easy for you to maintain a survival mode mentality. It is because of your refusal to give into defeat and your determination to not just allow my child to “pass through” your classroom, that we were able to confidently entrust our child to you each day.

So, now it’s time. We need to talk. I want to make sure you understand all the reasons why THIS was my child’s BEST year of school, even though it was the hardest.

Constant Communication

There were very few mornings this year that I did not drop my child off at school without my stomach being in knots or at least a few tears streaming down my cheeks. I knew that my child would be well taken care of, but I was just so burdened for him and for how his day would go. He struggled this year. As a Momma, when our babies are struggling, it’s just so hard not to worry.

Your constant communication was what helped me to get through each day. I knew that I would receive pictures of my child and sometimes even videos.  I knew that you would keep me updated on the good, the bad, and the ugly throughout the day.

Every afternoon when I got home from work, I would go straight to my child’s backpack to check his folder to see what you had written about his day. I knew that if for some reason you were unable to write in his folder that day, you were just a text or phone call away.

Teachers of Special Education Students sometimes lose sight of the fact that our children cannot tell us about their experiences at school. They cannot tell us what made them sad or happy. They cannot tell us about their huge accomplishments or things that made them frustrated. You, the teacher, are the only link between school and home. If you had not told me, I would have never known. Thank you for your constant communication.

Honesty

You’re a straight shooter, and I’m so thankful for that. While you have capitalized on my son’s strengths and celebrated his many accomplishments this year, you also shared his struggles with us.

I’ve heard the almost mechanical, half-hearted answer of “Oh, he did so great” from many caregivers and teachers before. They are afraid they will hurt our feelings. They don’t like yucky conversations. The truth of the matter is that my child’s well-being and future are on the line, and as the parent of a child with special needs, I don’t have time for flowery conversations if, in fact, not everything is “so great”.

 This year, Autism for our child meant struggles with aggression, impulsivity, and sensory integration, among other things. Your honesty helped us to gage what kind of help our son needed. Your honesty helped to shape his Speech and Occupational Therapy sessions at home. Your honesty helped his Neurologist and Psychiatrist to make informed decisions as they worked with us to help our son learn new coping mechanisms and as they worked to develop a plan that would best serve our child.

I truly believe that the open and honest dialogue we have had with each other this year is one of the main reasons that we consider this year to be a success. There is very little progress that can be made in the life of a Special Education Student unless the teacher is willing to honestly give feedback to the child’s parents. Thank you for your honesty.

Care and Compassion

It has occurred to me that no one outside of our home has a better understanding of our life, than you. Loneliness is a common struggle amongst families who have children with special needs. We wonder how on earth anyone could possibly imagine what our day to day is like. But you know. By having my child in your class, you are privy to an understanding of my sweet boy that others just are not able to have. It is what you do with this special understanding that makes all the difference in the lives of families like mine. And what you have done is show an abundance of care and compassion.

When people think of a Special Education Teacher, I’m not sure they envision the multiple times we have sat together in a dark room beside my sweet boy as he laid rolled up in his stretchy blanket on the floor, trying to calm down. I’m not sure people think about the late afternoon phone calls when my son has had a possible seizure and you are the only person I know to call because you’ve seen him have one before. I’m not sure people realize that the only constant with Autism is change, as you have helped my child meet his ever shifting needs by finding weight and then compression, light and then dark, water and sand, walking with the service dog and then sitting in his box. I’m not sure people think about all the many times you have called to check up on my boy, just to make sure he is ok after a hard day.

Teaching my child is more than a job to you. You have invested in my child and have truly cared for him and his success in your classroom. You were not content to just let him be. Each day was a new day and my son knew that you had not given up on him. You have cared, struggled, disciplined, celebrated, cried, pushed, and have poured yourself out for my little boy. You cared enough to challenge my son and you had compassion enough to love him unconditionally. Care and compassion are not things that can be taught when you go to school to become a teacher. You either have them, or you don’t. Thank you for the care and compassion that you have relentlessly shown our little boy, and our family.

It’s true, it’s been a hard year. I am so thankful that the Lord gave us you for this season in our child’s life. I know you must have days that are exhausting and discouraging. Press on dear teacher! You are making a difference and your hard work does not go unnoticed. Because of your constant communication, your honesty covered in love, and your care and compassion, I can say that this has been my child’s BEST year of school, even though it was his hardest. Thank you for loving him enough to not just settle. Thank you for not just surviving. Thank you for being you!

Miscarriage and Mother's Day

Emptiness. That’s the feeling I remember most. In the place of where a heartbeat should have been, there was nothing; leaving my own heart with a feeling of emptiness.

It was Mother’s Day weekend almost seven years ago that I lost this precious child, but time has not made the very real memory of it all fade away. How can you be so absolutely in love with a little life that has only existed for a few short weeks? I’m not sure how to explain it, but you can. 

I remember breaking down in tears at the hospital as they drew my blood and conducted tests to further prove what I already knew to be true, I had experienced a miscarriage. And then, to my surprise, a second heartbeat. I had miscarried a twin.

I have heard of other women miscarrying a twin. I have also heard of the “Vanishing Twin Syndrome”. But I have never personally known another woman who has experienced this. Apparently the people in our community during this time were not familiar with this happening and awkwardly offered up their condolences by saying things like “I’m really sorry, but at least you still have one baby in there!”

The truth is, no matter how thankful we were that the Lord allowed us to carry and deliver our precious son, Ezra, we still grieved over the loss of our other child. I still dream of what it would have been like to have twins. I still wonder how life would have been as “Huggins party of five.” We have never forgotten.

Because we had picked out both a boy name and a girl name for this pregnancy, and because we were able to deliver our boy, we gave our lost baby the remaining name, Abigail. And we have never forgotten her.

For our family, a life is a life no matter how small. Every year as Mother’s Day approaches I can’t help but be so very thankful for the family God has given me. Every day, and especially on Mother’s Day, I also can’t help but remember all of my babies, both here on earth and in heaven.

Going through the experience of having a miscarriage has given me a new perspective and a depth of understanding that I believe some people just do not possess. So, as Mother’s Day approaches, here are just a few things I hope you will keep in mind:

We Never Forget Our Babies:

I can remember the shirt I was wearing, the sterile smell of the doctor’s office, and the nauseating pit in my stomach. I vividly remember the long trip from the doctor’s office to the hospital as my husband and I were clutched hand in hand. I remember my mom driving eight hours to be by my side as I laid crying on my living room couch. I remember the feeling of loss.

It’s not every day that I think about Abigail, but it’s often. Probably more often than you might think. And I would venture to guess that if you know someone who has had a miscarriage, whether early on in pregnancy or further along, they never forget. Our children are a part of us forever, even if they were with us for only a short while.

This Kind of Loss Can Be Lonely:

It was my experience that people did not know exactly what to say, so for the most part, they said nothing at all. Because I was only a few weeks into my pregnancy, I remember feeling as though others might believe I was making too big of a deal about our loss. As if somehow I did not have valid reason to fall apart for a while after this loss of life, especially because I still was carrying the surviving twin.

I will tell you, this kind of loss can be lonely. So, I implore you friends, if you know of someone who has experienced a miscarriage, be there for them. If you worry about what to say, say that you love them through your actions. Sit with them, cook for them, and acknowledge the life that you know they have lost because it is very real to them. It is a different kind of lonely to go through a miscarriage alone.

Our God is a God Who Sees:

To the mother who has lost a child, God sees you. We may never know this side of heaven why the Lord gives and takes away, but I am thankful that He sees us through our pain and grief. I am thankful that He acknowledges the life of our little ones, because He is the giver of life and is infinitely aware of our loss. God sees our sorrow. He sees our broken hearts and is able to mend them. We are never alone. The Lord is good to carry us through those times when we feel others just cannot see or possibly understand. He sees you.

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I hope you will remember those who have babies both here on earth and also in heaven. I promise you, they are remembering all of their babies on this special day. Because a life is a life no matter how small and each child reserves a special place in its mother’s heart, forever.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Teacher's Aide in My Son's Special Education Classroom: I See What You Are Doing

As the parent of a child with special needs, I cannot help but be an overemotional ball of overprotectiveness most of the time. I have decided that this is not a downfall, it’s my job. I must be my child’s voice, until he finds his own. I must be my child’s eyes, until he can tell me what goes on around him each day. I must be wise and very discerning of the people I allow to surround my child, because he cannot tell me for himself how they treat him. I must be my child’s advocate on every front, because that is the sacred calling that the Lord has hand-picked for me.

It is because of this sacred calling, that I watch and I protect. And I want to send this message to the teacher’s aide in my son’s Special Education Classroom: I See What You Are Doing.

I see you early in the morning as you greet my little boy in the drop off lane at school. I see how you smile with excitement about another day as he wraps his little arms and legs around you when you lift him out of our car. I see you in class pictures sitting with my child in your lap. I see how he loves to give you hugs and kisses your cheek. I see the gentle hand you use to help guide him into the classroom and how you keep a watchful eye on him to make sure he is always safe. I see the pre-cut triangles and squares that you helped to prepare for my little one to learn with.

I know that you have been there for my child as he struggles to the ground in an Autistic meltdown. I heard how you placed your hands under his head to help protect it from the hard ground. I know that you have walked the empty halls a million times with my little one to help calm his overwhelmed mind. I know that you help my child with the smallest of tasks such as cutting up his food, drinking from a cup, eating his food, going to the bathroom, and washing his clothes after a sensory activity that he had a little too much fun with.  You have learned his personality, his quirks, his strengths and his weaknesses.  Yes, I can see what you are doing.

You are building a relationship with a precious child that longs for connection. You are growing trust in a little boy who feels as though the world is coming at him every second of the day. You are pouring yourself into a child that can rarely offer up a “thank you.”

Let me remind you of something that you already know: my child is brilliant. He can sense love and compassion a mile away. On the other hand, he also knows immediately if someone feels uncomfortable around him or if they are working with him because they have to verses if they want to. Ezra does not learn well in a hostile or begrudging situation. He has to feel comfortable with the people that surround him. You are partially responsible for creating an atmosphere that is conducive to my child’s ability to learn. Thank you for loving him so well. Yes, I can see what you are doing.

I know you have days that are rewarding. I can see the love and trust my child has for you and I hope you can see that too. I also know you have days that are exhausting and so very discouraging. Thank you for not giving up. Because of your unconditional love for children like mine, my little boy knows that each day is a new day and that he is worth showing up for.

Yes, I see what you are doing. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. My child notices you. I notice you. Because God has given me this incredible gift of being the protector of my special boy, I watch so very carefully. Because my precious child cannot verbally tell me about his experience at school, I cannot help but take in every little detail about what I see. And I see what you are doing.

I am not sure what the world’s perception is about a Special Education or Life Skills Teacher’s Aide. I’m not sure if people realize all that you do. I believe that one of the most overlooked and underpaid positions is that of a Special Education Paraprofessional. If I could, I would give each one of you a big raise and a superhero cape. But because I cannot, all I can offer is my heartfelt gratitude. I want you to know that I see what you are doing, and I am so thankful for you.

As I write this, I count myself so very blessed that it brings tears to my eyes. Ezra has such an amazing PPCD teacher who works tirelessly with Ezra and with our family to make sure that he succeeds (more about that in another upcoming blog). But, over the years Ezra has also had multiple teacher’s aides in each of his classrooms who have had a tremendous impact on him and his success in the classroom. Each of them have thrown themselves in 100% to loving and caring for children like mine. They could have not cared so much, but they did. It is because of these amazing professionals (and his awesome teachers) that my son has had an environment of support and love. I have no doubt that Ezra would not have overcome and learned as much as he already has without these incredible educators. If you work in a special education classroom, PRESS ON! Your work does not go unnoticed. I see what you are doing!

 Ezra at school. As I understand it, it was the normally scheduled time for Ezra's class to go outside. Ezra lined up, on his shape, all on his own because he is super smart like that. I can just imagine him thinking "Don't they realize what time it is!? They are going to make me late!"

Ezra at school. As I understand it, it was the normally scheduled time for Ezra's class to go outside. Ezra lined up, on his shape, all on his own because he is super smart like that. I can just imagine him thinking "Don't they realize what time it is!? They are going to make me late!"

When it Rains, it Pours

In the last two weeks, I have sat in more doctor’s office waiting rooms than I have in the last two years combined. Some of this was for “well checks”, some for my daughter, some for my son, and some for me, but it all just seemed to hit at the same time. Just the other day, I found myself in waiting room number six, sitting beside a sweet elderly woman. We struck up a conversation and it seemed as though she and her family were having a rough month of health as well. At one point in our conversation I found myself saying “when it rains, it pours!”

Super. Glad I could be such an encouragement.

The truth is, I had allowed myself to let the “Why Me’s”, “What If’s”, and “Could Be’s” overwhelm me by waiting room number six. I would love to tell you that I offered my new friend some super “Christianese” lingo, but I didn't. Don’t worry, I wasn't all “gloom and doom” either, but I mostly just sat and listened to her, smiled and nodded, and offered my profound “when it rains, it pours” two cents in. The conversation could have led to so much more. It could have been deeper. It could have offered hope. But I was tired, self-focused, and just really wanted to sulk in waiting room number six. (Totally embarrassing)

Anybody else ever been there? The overwhelming weight of the “Why Me’s”, “What If’s”, and “Could Be’s” can take such control over our hearts and minds if we are not careful. My words to this sweet lady have rung in my head since I spoke them- When it rains, it pours. Was my heart really so heavy that I could not see beyond that present moment? Had I really allowed the “things” of life to overshadow all the many blessings the Lord has so graciously given me?

I needed a shift in perspective. I needed to allow the Lord to “refresh the weary and satisfy the faint” (Jeremiah 31:25) that I carried in my heart. I needed to remind myself that God is much bigger than waiting room number six or any other circumstance I am facing.

Can I tell you this, friends? “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Easier said: “When it rains, it pours”….that’s right, the Lord doesn't just sprinkle His blessings and mercies on us each day. No, He pours them out! It is so very easy in our human flesh to overlook all of the beauty and blessings the Lord has poured over our lives, and to feel consumed by the many circumstances of life.

I will choose to count my blessings. Let me tell you how I was about to leave for work Wednesday morning, knowing I had a doctor’s appointment later that afternoon for which I was not sure how I was going to be able to pay, and in our mailbox sat a one hundred dollar bill for “The Jake Huggins Family”. (The Lord provides!) Let me tell you how after a week and a half of my Autistic child struggling terribly with aggression, he let me hold him last night at bedtime and gently touched my face with his little fingers. (The Lord is merciful!) Let me tell you how the Lord has open up opportunities for meaningful, adult conversation this week with dear family and friends- something that we are not always able to do. (The Lord is right on time!) …I could go on with a multitude of blessings that the Lord has poured over us in the midst of the trials of life.

 It’s true, “When it rains, it pours”.  The Lord pours out His love, grace, and mercy on us each day. He offers us promises and hope that far outweigh the “Why Me’s”, “What If’s”, and “Could Be’s” of this life. There is nothing that better cultivates a heart of thanksgiving than remembering the sovereignty of God. He is so much bigger than any surgery, bigger than any test result, bigger than Autism, or any other trial that may come our way.  Thank you Jesus!

I needed this reminder. Maybe you did too?

…and if you see a sweet little old lady in a doctor’s office waiting room, please give her a hug for me and tell her “God’s got this!”  

 Ezra had an EEG a few weeks ago. We have more testing coming up.  Prayers for our little guy are appreciated!

Ezra had an EEG a few weeks ago. We have more testing coming up.  Prayers for our little guy are appreciated!

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22 

Is There Room At Your Table For Me?

I watch my son’s eyes constantly. He may be mostly nonverbal, but his eyes speak loudly. Even when he cannot bring himself to look at me, I watch his eyes and often times, they tell me what I need to know.

I watch them dart from one thing to the next in rapid motion: this usually tells me that he is overstimulated. I watch his eyes cut mischievously at me to sneak a quick glance before he does something he knows he is not supposed to do: this reminds me that despite Autism, he is “all boy” and is testing his boundaries. I am crushed as I see the frustration in his eyes: he wants to be understood. I watch his eyes light up in wonder or excitement when he sees something he desires: he notices his environment. I see the sparkle in his eyes when he is able to stare back into mine: I can see his love for me and my heart melts.

Certainly there is impulsivity and many unknown factors on this Autism journey. There are days when I stare into my son’s eyes and all I can find is a lost little boy, trapped in his own reality. But more often than not, I can find him. So I watch. I watch ever so closely. I anticipate. I wonder. I take him in.

Because I naturally watch my son’s eyes, it’s no wonder that I was watching them closely as we entered my parent's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I often take for granted the fact that not everyone understands what all the holiday season entails for a family with a child who has special needs, so let me give you a quick rundown of all the thoughts that were going through our heads as we joined our family for a Thanksgiving feast.

How long do you think we will be able to stay? He is already a little overstimulated today. Oh goodness, there are pretty decorations everywhere. We are going to break something. Or even more, we are going to throw something and then break it! I hope they don’t mind him singing at the top of his lungs- he loves “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” right now. This may be too many people. We may have a meltdown. Will the other kids or adults acknowledge him? Hopefully he will keep his shirt on the whole time. Do you think everyone will mind if we watch “Signing Time” or “The Little Engine that Could” for about fifty times in a row? Maybe this was a bad idea. Stop thinking negatively…Maybe this will be a great Thanksgiving experience! Oh gosh, he just threw his cup into the already decorated Christmas tree…awesome.

It’s true. No matter how cool, calm, and collected I try to act, there are a flood of thoughts filling my mind during large family get- togethers. Thanksgiving was no exception.

So, as my anxious thoughts rose and we walked in the door to this Thanksgiving feast, I watched my little boy’s eyes for a cue.

I watched him as he did his little step, hop around the large living room and on into the dining area. We have a very large family so there were three beautiful tables set to welcome their guests. Ezra noticed these tables and stared. I watched as his eyes inspected every inch of these tables with their beautiful plates and crystal glasses. He nodded his head at each place setting as though he was mentally counting the places in anticipation for all the guests to arrive and be seated. I took him in as he took in the unfamiliar tables.

Ezra finally moved on from inspecting these tables and began playing with his toys on the floor nearby as we waited for other family members to arrive. I noticed that periodically, he would glance up from his toys to see if the tables were still there.

As each family arrived bearing trays of food and hugs for all, my boy was not left out. Our family has embraced Ezra in such a loving way. My momma’s heart swelled as each niece and nephew greeted Ezra with a “Hey Ezra!” or a sweet pat on the back. Although my son hardly glanced up from his busyness with his toy trains, he knew his cousins were there and he knew that they had included him in their greetings.

As our families sat down to eat, I asked where Ezra should sit. Without hesitation the answer was “Right here!” as I looked at a place setting with a glass plate and crystal cup; just like everyone else’s.

It was as if Ezra knew exactly where to go. He walked to the table and once again nodded his head as though he was mentally counting each place setting. When his nodding made its way around the table, he stopped at his own chair and a smile spread across his face. He knew. There was a place at the table for him.

He was not asked to sit at a table off to the side. He was not left to roam around the room and graze from a plate. He was not given a “special” plate in the event that he might break one of the nice ones. There was a place at the table for him, and he knew it.

Was I nervous about the beautifully decorated table? You betcha. Did I have visions of him possibly pulling the table cloth with all of its adornments into a messy heap on the floor? Yep. Was it a possibility that he might break something? Yes. But my parents knew this. It was more important to them that Ezra have a place at their table than for him to be excluded or pushed to the side.

And Ezra knew it. I could see it in his eyes.

We didn’t have some magic dining experience. We still had to help Ezra feed himself. We still had to remind him to “Sit down, Ezra.” We still had to use his i-pad to help calm him while he was in an unusual setting. But our Thanksgiving meal was complete because there was a place at the table for Ezra.

I keep thinking about my little boy as he nodded his head at each place setting when we had first arrived that Thanksgiving day. I just can’t help but imagine that he was mentally counting the chairs and wondering Is there a place for me at the table?

I have heard too many stories of children with special needs being unwelcomed by friends and even family members. I know that many times precious souls just like my Ezra are brushed to the side. They are excluded. 

You know, it was a possibility that Ezra may not have even been able to sit with our family at the table this Thanksgiving. Some days are just not good days. Some days leave him sprawled out on the floor in a sad or even aggressive mess. But even if he had been too overwhelmed to join us at the table, he would have had a place there, saved for him, just in case.  He would have known that there was a place for him at the table.

Could it be that a true reflection of your heart might be revealed by whom you would welcome to your table?

As the Christmas season approaches, I encourage you to make room at your table for everyone. Just because a person can’t speak doesn’t mean that they desire no communication. Just because a person cannot make eye contact doesn’t mean that they wish to not be acknowledged. Just because a person seems to be in a world of their own doesn’t mean that they are unaware of their surroundings and the things being said and done around them.  Just because a person may not comment on your beautifully decorated dinner table does not mean that they do not greatly value being welcomed at it.

As the Christmas season approaches, I encourage you to create an atmosphere of hospitality for everyone. This sounds easy until you take into account that “everyone” may mean that you need to be ok with singing at the table, the possibility of a broken plate, a wheelchair in the place of one of your wooden ones, a feeding tube, an oxygen tank,  or an i-pad on the table. We should search the crevasses of our hearts to see who truly has a place at our table.

It seems to me that the people you welcome to your table are also the people you welcome into your heart.

Won’t you welcome sweet children like mine to your table? Won’t you welcome those who are often cast aside? Won’t you welcome those who are least likely to be welcome at someone else’s table?

They are waiting. They are waiting for you to welcome them. I know. I can see it in Ezra’s eyes.

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angles without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2






Please Overwhelm Me!

With black streaks of mascara running down my face, I sobbed into my husband’s arms, “I’m just so overwhelmed,” I finally admitted.  Can I tell you what gut-wrenching pain it took for me to admit this? As if it is against the “Christian-code” to be overwhelmed by life? Well, forget the “code.” Forget the social stigma of having to have it “all together.”

Instead of buying into the idea that it is just not ok to fall apart from time to time or to be overwhelmed by life, I decided to turn to truth. I turned to the scriptures and found that I am not alone in my feeling overwhelmed. I have come to the conclusion that it is perfectly human to become overwhelmed by life at times…and it is perfectly God to love us in spite of our overwhelmed hearts and to love us enough to see us through until the other side of our grief, hurt, busyness, or whatever your “overwhelmed-ness” may be.

The last several months have been extraordinarily hard for us. We have moved, bought a house, started new schools, and began new jobs. It was a good move, and we love our new home, but uprooting your family and starting over is anything but easy. And it was all a little overwhelming.

We hunted for a new church in our new community (no small task for the family of a special needs child). We were met with ugly stares and even uglier comments. We left several church services with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts…but we will save all this for another blog. We have finally found a church that will love and except all of our family, including our son who has Autism.  And it was all a little overwhelming.

We fell absolutely in love with a precious young man from Ukraine. We had made plans. Big plans. Life changing, family altering plans. We were so excited. In one year, this boy changed our hearts and our family in a wonderful, crazy-love kind of way. How one teenage boy from Ukraine could so captivate our hearts in such a big way could only be a God thing. Even our son (who has Autism), who scarcely acknowledges others or makes eye contact, would hurry over to Pasha and snuggle up to him as soon as he entered the room.  His presence made life just a little bit brighter.  Then, in one night, with one wreck, he was gone, taking a little piece of our hearts with him.  I have found it so hard to bear that the world somehow has the audacity to just keep right on spinning in the midst of tragedy or turmoil. Each day we find the strength to keep going but it is not without pain.  And it is all a little overwhelming.

In the last few weeks, our son’s aggression has intensified. I cannot even begin to describe the pain this momma’s heart feels to have my precious little boy struggle in this way. The hurt in our hearts far outweigh the physical hurt of being pushed away, bitten, scratched, or hit. We work through, we press on, and we overcome. There are moments that are so precious; when he kisses our cheeks or snuggles up in our arms. We cherish these moments and truly just soak them up because we don’t know how long they will last or if he will offer this kind of affection again for days or even weeks. And it’s all been a little overwhelming.

Add these things to the every-day pile of bills, therapy sessions for our son, homework, dirty dishes, lesson plans, end-of-the-school-year madness, parent-teacher meetings, ARD meetings, and award ceremonies, and my “keep-it-together-ness” has flown right out the window. And it’s all been a little overwhelming.

I do not share all this to give you my list of woe’s or to write a sympathy seeking blog. I share all this because I just wonder if maybe there is someone else out there who feels overwhelmed by life as well?  And I just wonder if maybe you also have been trying to act as though you “have it all together” even though you don’t? 

Might I just encourage you with this…If we had it all together, we would not need a Savior. If we were strong enough to withstand the heartbreak that life sometimes throws our way, we would not need to depend on Jesus. If we were resistant to trials, there would be no need to depend on the Lord for our strength, to call on His name, or to fall down at the foot of the cross.

I’m willing to tell you that I have been hanging on by a tiny emotional thread these days. You could probably tell me a story about a hot dog and I would cry. I’m ok with that for now. I don’t plan to stay in this spot forever, but for now, I am allowing myself the admitted humanity of being a little overwhelmed by life.

Just the other day I was reading in Psalms. I was reminded of the continuous pattern to which David wrote many of the Psalms. David was under persecution, he was running for his life, he had lost everything, and many times, he was a little overwhelmed. Understandably so.  But if you read through the Psalms, you will find a pattern. It is a pattern of being overwhelmed by afflictions, turning to the Lord for help, and turning a psalm of despair into a psalm of praise and thanksgiving. David was human, and he became overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Psalm 22:1  

However, David had a secret weapon. He knew what power there was in turning from his bleak circumstances to God’s amazing Sovereignty.  Just a few verses later he says, “I will declare your name to my brothers in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Psalm 22:22-24

And so this has become my prayer: Lord, please overwhelm me.  Overwhelm my soul with your goodness, grace, mercy, divine plan, and love. May I be so overwhelmed by You that all earthly circumstances seem to fade in the presence of Your powerful glory.

That’s right. I want to be overwhelmed. I want to trade my overwhelmed heart- overwhelmed by life’s circumstances- for a heart that is completely overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  When was the last time you let Him overwhelm you?

Being overwhelmed by God and who He is, is no easy task. I guess it should be, but it is just so easy to let life sweep us away in its unforgiving messiness. I believe that choosing to be overwhelmed by God is a day by day, moment by moment choice.

God does not ask us to pretend. God does not ask us to just “be ok” with life’s circumstance. God does not say that it’s not ok to be overwhelmed from time to time. You are no less a Christian if you find yourself at a point of sorrow or if your “keep-it-together-ness” is just a little off kilter.  But God does call out to each and every one of us in a plea for communion with Him. I want to make sure I am bringing my broken, overwhelmed, or messy heart to Him each day. After all, He is the only one who can truly heal it.

So yes, I want to be overwhelmed. I want to trade a heart that is overwhelmed by the world for a heart that is overwhelmed by the Lord. That is how I will find the hope and strength to make it through each day!

In a world of “keep-it-together-ness” I just want to say that you are not alone.  Because really, we all have stuff that overwhelms us from time to time. Because really, my “Keep-it-together-ness” is just a “keep- it-together-MESS”.  So, let’s work on this together. Let’s take our vulnerable, life-weary hearts to the Lord and ask Him to overwhelm us in the best of ways!

 So, this is real life! Toys on the floor, kids shoes, dog toys, teacher bag with ungraded papers...writing my blog in my grandma sweater...in the middle of my keep-it-together-MESS!

So, this is real life! Toys on the floor, kids shoes, dog toys, teacher bag with ungraded papers...writing my blog in my grandma sweater...in the middle of my keep-it-together-MESS!





Love: It's Not What You Think It Is

Today is Valentine's Day. Today we will see a flood of pictures of oversized teddy bears, boxes of chocolates, kids wired from an overdose of red food dye, and beautifully lit dinner tables to be shared with that special someone. Today is a great day to celebrate love.

As we celebrate love, my heart cannot help but feel just a little heavy. Love. What a word. It's a word that holds so much meaning. It's a word that means so many things. Unfortunately, it is also a word that is becoming more and more overused and abused. The word "love" (in many cases) has become a careless word. This ought not be so.

As I work with this generation of teenagers, my heart breaks as I watch them search for this idea of "love" that the world tells them to embrace. It is a counterfeit kind of love. It is a cheap impersonation. It is a word built on fleeting emotion and not on truth. Little by little, I watch these students give themselves over to this careless version of "love". It is a kind of love that is conditional. It is a kind of love that takes. It is a kind of love that is fleeting. And I am watching this idea of "love" leave these students confused and empty.

But you see, it's not just our teenagers that have been fooled by this diluted version of love. The world as a whole has dressed "love" up in a glamorous suit, and has paraded it around as though it is something that can be put on and taken off, only used for opportune times, can be shared with whomever, and can be thrown away if another more glamorous opportunity comes along. No wonder our students are confused. No wonder more and more marriages are falling apart. No wonder society has become bored with this word called "love."

Friends, true love is not glamorous. It's just not. In fact, I would go so far as to say that true love is the complete opposite of glamorous. Love is hard. True love is sacrificial. True love perseveres. Love says "I see all of your flaws and I still choose to love you." Love is a choice. Love is the commitment to stick it out. Love is forgiving. Love is helping, caring for, and making time for someone else. Love is not cheap. In fact, love can be costly. Love demonstrates patience. Love means more than romance.  Love is not superficial. True love is unconditional.  Unconditional love looks past skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or political beliefs. True love offers peace. True love offers truth covered in love. True love does not turn its head to ignore. True love is messy. True love is complicated. True love is simple.

In my own life, true love has taken on so many different meanings. In my own life, true love means pursing my special needs son with my love even when he fights, hits, or pushes me away. True love is my husband telling me how beautiful I am even though I cannot feel the right side of my face and it now sometimes droops. True love is cleaning, cooking, wiping poop, waking early to lay out clothes, kissing boo boos, and making time.  Love is making sure that my little girl understands her value and worth. Love is building my family up.

Ultimately, love is more. It is so much more than the world portrays it to be. This canned version of "love" that our world promotes is quickly leading our hearts and minds astray.

As I have the wonderful privilege to teach in the classroom, to speak from stages and to share about the love of Jesus with others, I have noticed a dramatic shift in our culture. Many times there is a sense of awe when I share about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. How amazing that Jesus Christ could love someone like me? A sinner. Broken. In need of saving. And He loves me!  And while most times, this is still a common response, I am noticing another growing response. Oh, Jesus loves me. That's cool, I guess. Though much of this has to do with a greater issue of the condition of someone's heart, I can't help but wonder if our world's watered down version of "love" has helped to create this nonchalant "whatever" attitude towards Christ's unconditional, sacrificial love.

Friends, I beg you to not let "love" become a casual, commonplace, or careless word. Romantic love should never be casual, commonplace, or careless.  True love should never be casual, commonplace, or careless. The love you have for your family or friends should never be casual, commonplace, or careless. Most of all, I hope that you realize that Christ's love for you is never casual, commonplace, or careless.

Christ's love for YOU took blood, torture, tears, and the weight of the world's sin. He saw into the very fabric of our hearts, he saw our imperfections, our darkest secrets, our deepest hurts, and He chose to sacrifice His life for us because He loves us. Christ demonstrated the ultimate example of love, and it was anything but glamorous or flippant.  He pursues us each and every day with His unconditional love.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day. I pray your heart is full. I hope you have a perfectly tender steak dinner with the one you love or receive one of those little red and pink stuffed animals that you will wonder what in the world do with come tomorrow.  But most of all, I pray that you would understand what love is. Love is not glamorous, but it is beautiful. It is beautiful because true love is deep enough to withstand all of the ugly, wonderful, messy, and complicated things that life throws our way. True Love is a beautiful thing.

"And I Pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:17-19

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When Little Things Were Big

There was a time when little things were big. The little moments that captured my heart could be found in a beautifully painted sky, the worn pages of book, or a little head resting on my shoulder. I could render time to stand still so as to capture every last drop of a precious moment.  Sometimes it was the smallest, precious moment that held more value than anything of grand proportions. I looked for these small treasures and gratefully stored them in my heart.

The Lord does not stop pouring out these little moments upon our lives. On the contrary, our days are scattered with little blessings and treasures to be noticed. If we are not careful, however, we will train our eyes and our hearts to only notice the big and to forsake the unmistakable fingerprints of God on the seemingly small blessings in life.

I have danced a dangerous dance. I have found myself pulled in every direction. Unrealistic demands, unhealthy friendships, endless to do lists, and impractical expectations clouded my already-crazy life.  Life’s circumstances seemed enormous.  Life had become a balancing act and I was striving each day just to keep up. My mouth would betray my heart by saying “Yes” to every opportunity to help or do until I had more “to do” than there are hours in a day.

Slowly, over time, I had allowed myself to be swept away by all of the “big things” in life. I allowed myself to pause only briefly to enjoy the small treasures that used to fill my life with warmth and gratefulness.  

Many times, we allow the big things in life to become so big that the little things stay little. My heart has cried “no more!”  Oh, that I might notice the blessings in the smallest of moments. I want to be aware of each second so as to not miss the blessings of the moment, for looking towards the next. I will praise the Lord for the little hand holding mine, the opportunity to kiss a boo boo, the friendly “hello”, the door held, the verse read, the sunset, and the clean smelling sheets. I will notice the burdened friend, the chance to offer encouragement, and the little eyes that watch my every movement.

My prayer is for the little things to become big again. It’s a gift I had not completely forgotten but am so hungry for more of.  Maybe you find yourself lost in the “big” as well? Let’s do this together. Sometimes this requires cutting strings, forming boundaries, or breaking free from the unhealthy. Let’s be brave. I completely believe the Lord delights in sprinkling our lives with tiny glimpses of heaven. We need only be aware.  Let’s allow the little blessings in life to become our banners of praise in the midst of our everyday lives. 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.




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!

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!

A Different Kind of Thankful

It’s that time of year…Facebook pages are filled with daily “thankful for” lines, children are coerced into saying crazy things like “I’m thankful my mom makes me eat asparagus”, there are thanksgiving programs, thanksgiving dinners, thanksgiving songs, and thanksgiving prayers.  This is a season to reflect on all the many blessings the Lord has given us. It’s a great season.

I have so much to be thankful for. The Lord has blessed me and my family in so many ways. As I have reflected on all these blessings, my heart is overwhelmed by God's goodness. At the same time, my heart is heavy for those who find themselves in the midst of a storm. You see, if you are in the midst of a storm and its Thanksgiving, there is almost a resentment that can build up in your heart. How do I know? Because this time last year, I believe that’s where I was at.

This time last year I struggled to find true thankfulness (or contentment) for the place we found our family in. Yes I was thankful that our needs were being met, yes I was thankful for family and friends, yes I knew that God was in control and that He had a plan, yes there were a great many things that I had to be truly thankful for, but for some reason the weight of my son’s diagnosis of Autism loomed like a heavy fog that I could just not break free from. Most of this was a fog of fear. Ezra’s diagnosis had not come as a surprise to us. I had known early on that something was “different” about my sweet boy. But last year the fear of the unknown and the severity of my child’s diagnosis began to set in. I was still able to find joy in life but there was just a sadness in my heart for my sweet child. The realization began to set in that this was not an illness to be cured with an antibiotic, I could not put a band aide on this or kiss it and make it all better. This time last year, I carried a heaviness and I certainly was not at the place to be thankful for any of it.

I am so thankful that the Lord does not leave us in these dark places. I can tell you now that I am thankful for the storm. It's a different kind of thankful. This year, I am able to say that I am genuinely thankful for the place we find our family in. You know what? Nothing has really changed. Ezra still struggles and there is still no magic cure for Autism. The only thing that has changed is my heart. So, (since I did not participate in the daily “I’m thankful for” lines on Facebook) here are just a few of the things that I am thankful for:

-I am thankful for a deeper faith produced by depending on the Lord for so many things.

-I am thankful for Ezra and how his life has completely changed our outlook on life, love, and what is most important.

- I am thankful for a love that needs no words.

- I am thankful for the good days. They are so sweet, so precious, such treasures.

- I am thankful for the bad days. They have taught me to find a strength I didn't know I had. Without them, the good days wouldn't be as sweet.

-I am thankful for deep hugs.

-I am thankful to have a daughter who is one of the most compassionate people I have ever known. She is such a precious gift.

- I am thankful to have a family that finds strength in the Lord and in each other.

- I am thankful for the opportunity to learn how to Love in a Different Language.

- I am thankful for the family and friends that have never left our side. Even though our lifestyle may look different from most, they have continued to cover us in their love and support. 

- I am thankful that the Lord holds me in the palm of His hands. I am never alone-even in the storm. Thank you Jesus!

I pray your hearts are full this Thanksgiving, but if you find yourself in the midst on the storm, hold on! The Lord is merciful, the Lord is mighty, He has a plan, and He never leaves us on our own. I pray that one day, you too will be able to look back and be thankful for the storm- its a different kind of thankful. 

 

 

 

 Lord, how can I keep from singing your praise?!  Thank you!

Lord, how can I keep from singing your praise?!  Thank you!

One of Those Days

This last Sunday, Ezra struggled. It was as if he was on fire in his own skin. There was little we could do that offered him comfort or calmed him. I have no idea what caused him to have such a hard day. It could have been a number of things…change in the weather, maybe he didn't sleep well the night before, maybe there was a noise that set him off, it’s possible that the tag in his shirt could have been bothering him, the list could go on and on. Many times we are left with no explanation for why he has had a good day or a bad day. Last Sunday was just “one of those days”.

After a full day of spitting, crying, throwing, hitting walls, and writhing on the floor, Ezra ended his day by getting a hold of my dinner glass and throwing it onto the ground where it broken into pieces. I honestly don’t even know if he realized what he had done. I’m not sure that he even noticed me when I corrected his behavior. He seemed as though he was in another world; completely detached from the reality of things around him.

His daddy very tenderly picked him up from his highchair and carried him to his room. He helped Ezra into his pajamas and laid him in bed. Jake laid with Ezra, prayed over him and told him how much he loved him as Ezra continued in his detached-from-reality struggle. And then, Jake zipped Ezra’s bed close and shut the bedroom door behind him. (Ezra sleeps in a special bed designed for children with Autism) Ezra was asleep within minutes. He was a tired little man.

As Jake came back out to the kitchen, I was quietly cleaning up the little shards of glass that covered the kitchen floor as I listened to Grace (my daughter) chatter on about a story from school. The glass went into the trashcan, we put Grace to bed, and we set down on our couch to finally catch a deep breath after a very long day. This is just a part of our everyday life. Not every day is this hard. This past Sunday was just “one of those days”.

Have you ever had “one of those days”?  I’m sure you have. Maybe your “one of those days” doesn't look quite like mine, but we all have days that are hard. For me, it’s what I do about “one of those days” that makes all the difference.

Let me explain. I have learned that you can have “one of those days” that causes you to not want to get out of bed to face another day. Sometimes the struggle of a situation can cause you to want to shut the world away. A common tendency is to instantly begin building walls of protection around ourselves when we have “one of those days”. Throw in a disgruntled attitude with a dash of sadness and maybe even a pinch of self-pity and you get a recipe of allowing yourself to sink deeper and deeper into the gloom of “one of those days.” It is easy for me to do this. Maybe it’s easy for you to?

Here’s the deal. Life is hard. It just is. When we depend on our own strength and resources to survive “one of those days”, we walk away with a little piece of sadness and exhaustion each time. If we continue to depend on our own strength for “one of those days” it is possible to find ourselves in a self-made pit of despair. I can’t go there. I don’t want to go there.

So, what if having “one of those days” meant that it was an opportunity to depend on the Lord more? He is able, friends. What if having “one of those days” meant that I would be in constant communication with the Lord, presenting my requests to Him (Philippians 4:6) and asking for His wisdom (James 1:5)? What if having “one of those days” meant that I ask Him for His peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)? What if all the trails and hardships of having “one of those days” brought me closer to the feet of Jesus? There is peace there. There is rest there.

When my sweet baby boy is writhing on the floor as if in pain, it is the Lord that I cry out to. When Ezra is in a disconnected struggle that I cannot help him to break free from, it is the Lord that offers me peace. When things just seem to be falling apart, when the check book just doesn't add up, when there is sickness, when there is sadness, when I am having “one of those days”, I no longer lean on my own strength. I do not have what it takes. That friends, is because the Lord designed each one of us with a need in our lives that only He can fill.

I hope you are having a great day today. But if you seem to be having “one of those days”, may it become “one of those days” that you run to Jesus. May it be an opportunity to grow in your faith, depend on Him more, and may He shower you with his peace and His grace. He loves you. He longs for us, His children, to run to Him when we are having “one of those days.”

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”   Psalm 116:1-2

Silos and Fabulous Shoes: The Loneliness of a Cookie Cutter Culture

 I have thought a lot over the last few weeks about an epidemic that I believe is taking our culture by storm-Loneliness. We have our “Pinterest Perfect Pictures” and our “Flawless Facebook Fairy tales” that are flashed before our eyes as the golden standard for living. And even though I believe most of us realize that these are not all attainable or “must haves” for our lives, they somehow still have the power over us to make us feel less. We text instead of talking-it’s more convenient and more direct; you can cut out the “fluff” and get to the point. We live in a world of fast pace and instant gratification.

Please do not shut me out. This is not one of those “let’s all go live on a mountain and eat nuts and berries” kind of blog posts. I love Pinterest and I’m on Facebook. I text probably just as must as the next gal and my schedule is jam packed with events. But I have been wondering how much all of these things contribute to the fact that in one way or the other, many of us feel lonely.

It is so very easy for the people living in today’s culture to lose their authenticity. It’s much easier to put our mask on every day as we walk out the door and to act as though we've got it all together. And even though very few, if any of us, actually fit into these cookie cutter lifestyles, we want so very much to act as though we do.

I would compare it to a lady buying a fabulous pair of shoes… The shoes are gorgeous. They are the shoes that everyone wants. Surely everyone will be envious of this pair of shoes. The only problem is that they are two sizes too small. So, this lady hobbles around in her gorgeous-too-small- for-me shoes, as she smiles and welcomes everyone’s admiration. But here’s the deal: she is in pain. She is rubbing blisters. And every night before she goes to bed she must soak her sore feet in warm water and put Band-Aids on them before she slips her tired, worn out feet under the covers to rest. And the next day, she does it all again.

I wonder how many of us do this with our hearts? I wonder how many of us are walking around with Band-Aids on our hearts because we feel we have to, or we must act as though we've got it all together.

You see, a mom crying over her special needs child and his struggles is not a very “Pinterest Pretty” thing. What about the single parent? The divorced parent? The couple having marital problems? The couple that has just lost their baby? The man struggling with depression? …the list could go on and on and none of these are “Facebook Fairy tales” but each of them are very real and happen every day.  It seems that we live in our own lonely silos believing that no one on the outside would or could understand what we are facing.

Many of us have a true failure to connect. We stuff our lives and true feelings way down deep inside because that’s what society has taught us to do. We have more connection to a social media site or a television show than we do to actual people. And then, we wonder why we feel lonely.

If only we could spark a generation of authenticity. This is something the Lord has laid heavily upon my heart. I do not have to have it all together nor must I fit into a cultural cookie cutter.

Having a son with Autism has definitely helped to open my eyes to the freedom that can be found when you toss out whatever your “perceived normal” is and embrace the life the Lord has gifted you with-the good and the hard times. I try not to worry about what everyone else’s six year old is doing or what great milestones they have achieved. For my child, every step taken independently is a victory, every word spoken is music to my ears, and every time he is able to bring himself to look me in the eyes, my heart melts.

I don’t mind telling you that it is very hard. I don’t mind telling you that there are nights that my husband and I sit on our couch and cry because we have watched our child struggle all evening. I don’t mind telling you that most days my house looks like a tornado has run through it because, well, that’s just the least of my concerns right now. I don’t mind telling you that the ONLY way I make it through each day is by finding my strength in the Lord- because I don’t have it in me to do all this alone. And do you know what? Something about being able to come to grips with this and toss out the cookie cutter lifestyle is quite liberating.

Let’s just get honest. When we take off our masks and get real with one another, that’s when we can build authentic relationships. No, I am not trying to encourage that we walk around airing our dirty laundry with whomever we meet or having a “woe is me” attitude. What I do want, is for us to no longer feel it necessary to live in our own little silos of life, feeling lonely, and only coming out when we feel we might be able to produce the very best “canned version” of ourselves, based on what the world says is acceptable. I fear that far too many of us are putting Band-Aids over all our wounds in order to achieve a false fairy tale front that will only result in loneliness.  

By the way, I’m also not necessarily trying to encourage a “fast from Facebook” or a “pilgrimage away from Pinterest”, but it is good to have a reminder that no one is perfect.  We are all imperfect. We all are in desperate need grace. None of us have it all together.  Isn't that refreshing to remember? 

So, go out to lunch with your friend. Have a real conversation. Talk about real things. Remind them that they are not alone. Instead of judgment, let’s offer love covered in grace. Let’s do life with one another! Let us safeguard one another from the epidemic of loneliness. Let’s be authentic!

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."         1 John 1:7

Thirsty

 

Jesus has a history of using those who most would consider “unusable” or “less likely to succeed”. I love that about my Jesus. He creates everyone with purpose and all of us have the opportunity to be used by Him to do great and wonderful things- even a child who has Autism.

I would spend a very long time if I were to list all the many ways that the Lord has used Ezra (my little boy who has Autism) in my life and in the life of our family. The Lord uses Ezra to constantly teach me things about love, life, and priorities. Because of Ezra, and the Lord allowing him to have Autism, my faith has grown stronger and I have learned in a very real way what it means to lean on the Lord completely as my source of strength. The Lord is always teaching me things through the life of my special needs child.

Last Saturday was no exception. Our family was scrambling to get out the door. Jake was going to help and friend with some yard work, Grace was going to a birthday party, Ezra was going to his “Lolly’s” house to play, and I was the chauffeur for the day. As we all hurried to get ready for our busy Saturday morning, I noticed that Ezra was struggling with something. I had made him juice that morning inside the blue Sippy cup with faded pictures on the side of it. (Something you should know about my little man is that he is VERY particular about the kind of cup he drinks out of. He can be so extremely thirsty, but if the drink is inside of a cup that is different, has a different kind of lid than what he is used to, or has a design that he is unfamiliar with, he will have a strong aversion for it to the point of not being able to drink, despite his extreme thirst. Yes, this is just all part of Autism) I gave Ezra this reject, faded Sippy because, well, that’s the only one that was clean (Maybe he won’t notice, right?).

So, on the coffee table this cup of juice sat, as I watched my little boy pace back and forth, trying to decide if he could bring himself to drink from this faded cup. I watched as he ran to the kitchen and brought out a couple of water bottles. He tried to open them and gave up quickly. He ran back to the cup of juice and stared at it for a while. He could not bring himself to drink.  He was becoming frustrated.  Next, he saw his sister’s cup. He immediately ran over and took a big gulp of her drink, but it was milk and he doesn’t really like milk, so he threw the cup down and began to cry. Then, it was back to the water bottles, but after a short time, he had given up again. Now he was in tears even though he knew exactly where he could get the drink he so desired. He just could not do it.

I went to the kitchen and began to wash a more “Ezra approved” cup so that my upset and thirsty little boy could have a drink. As I was washing this cup, I had a little check in my spirit. I do this too! So many times I am thirsty. I am thirsty for love, thirsty for acceptance, thirsty for peace, and thirsty for fulfillment. I busily rush around trying to “drink” from different people, places, and things that might fill me up and satisfy the desires of my heart.  All the while, Jesus is there offering me that love, acceptance, peace, and fulfillment that I so desire to have.  Just like Ezra’s juice cup, I know the Lord is there and I know what He has to offer. Why in the world is it then that I seem to run to Him as a last resort; when I am parched and exhausted from trying to “drink” from the world and what it has to offer?

I handed Ezra the “approved” juice cup. He drank and drank and drank. He was a thirsty little guy! Maybe someday we will help Ezra to be able to drink from various cups. For now, that’s just not on our radar. We have more important things to worry about like talking, playing appropriately, self-feeding, walking appropriately, etc.

As for me, I am so thankful that the Lord uses my sweet boy to teach me and to remind me of my need for time spent with my Heavenly Father. He fills my cup! I need to spend a lot less time running from one source to the other, looking for fulfillment. The Lord is my all in all. He is my source of strength. He fills me up!

Thank you Lord, for the great many ways that you use my sweet boy to draw me nearer to You. Thank you that You alone offer lasting and unconditional love, acceptance, peace, and fulfillment. May I drink deeply!

 “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”    - John 7:38