Armor Up

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In the stillness of the morning, before sun awakes, I find Him there. I stagger to my chair, coffee in hand, and pull up my soft, checkered blanket around me. This is our meeting place.

I shut out the day that is to come – with it’s changing of the sheets, daily sanitizing, picture schedules, and behavior charts – and allow God’s presence to envelop me in peace.

I can’t tackle the day on my own; in my own power. This journey of our son living with severe Autism can at times be all consuming. From sun up to sun down, our life is a whirlwind of love, pain, laughter, frustration, and perseverance. Therefore, I must daily equip myself for whatever may lie ahead.

In Ephesians 6:10-11 it says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (NIV).

This is what I must do. In the stillness of the morning, while sitting with my checkered blanket, I must “armor up.” Satan would love nothing more than to paralyze me with worry for all that this autism journey entails. The enemy would love nothing more than to make me feel defeated, ill-equipped, depressed, or full of dread for what is to come.

Friend, I don’t know what kind of journey you are on but let me encourage you to “armor up” each day.

The Helmet of Salvation: Protect your mind dear friends. There are so many times that I leave my mind unprotected and allow my thoughts to run wild. I begin to worry about my child’s future, his aggression, and fearing for the unknown. Instead, I must remember to surrender every thought to the Lord and to remember that He is sovereign. Do not forget that Christ died for you and for your child!

Breastplate of Righteousness: Protect your heart. Satan likes to remind us of all the times we have failed as parents. Goodness, have I messed up. There is no manual for this special needs parenting gig and sometimes I fall short. When Satan beings to attack our heart, emotions, or self-worth, we often times freeze with shame. Protect your heart, friend. Remember that you are forgiven and dearly loved by God. God has entrusted your precious child to you for a reason and He gives us grace to do better each day.

Sword of the Spirit: Trust in the truth of God’s word. The enemy will tempt us to feel as though there is no hope on this journey called life. Find your meeting place with the Lord each morning. Wrap yourself in the truth of His word so that you are ready for the day ahead. When we stand firm on the truth of God’s word and we daily glean from its pages, we are able to wield it against all lies from the enemy.

Shield of Faith: Cling to hope in Christ. When the enemy attacks with insults and setbacks, it is easy to fall into the temptation of defeat. As a special needs parent, I must be sure to keep my shield up so as to protect myself from being hit with lies such as “He will never overcome,” “Your child will always be alone,” “No one understands what you are going through.” Put up your shield friend and keep faith. Do not doubt the promises of God.

Belt of Truth: Know God intimately so that you know His truth personally. Satan fights with lies. He is an accuser. He sends messages that contradict the very heart of God. When the world says that my son is an outcast or gives little hope for the future of my child, I can stand firm knowing that God’s plan for my son is to give him a “hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace: Be available and ready to share the good news of Jesus Christ! The enemy wants to cloud our vision so that we are so overwhelmed in this special needs parenting life, that we forgot the very purpose for which we (and are children) have been created. We are each created to bring glory to God and to lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Armor up friends! There is no “special accommodation” or excuse for not living a life sold out to Jesus Christ, special needs parenting and all. What if this special child you have been gifted with is the very way that God intends for you to share Christ with others.

Find your meeting place with the Lord each morning. Remember that there is purpose in this life God has gifted you with. Fill up on the pages of His word. Stand on His promises and protect yourself against an active enemy. It’s time to armor up!

First Published for my partners at Joni & Friends and Irresistible Church at

https://irresistiblechurch.org/armor/

What if it's not "Just a Season"?

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Seasons come and go. They are ever changing. Although winter might drag on for what seems to be a little too long, eventually spring comes pushing through with it’s new growth and life.

For most of us, there are seasons of life that ebb and flow. For example, we try to hang on to the sweet memories of the “infant stage” when the nights with our babies are long but the snuggles so sweet. Although the early years can be hard, we are encouraged to cherish them knowing that this season of life will pass all too quickly.

There are seasons of life people look forward to with expectation – whether it be the young family season, empty nest or retirement season, we know that life is ever changing.

But what if it’s not “just a season”? What if the predictability of life’s ebb and flow for most people looks nothing like the life you’ve been handed?

This is where we find ourselves. Maybe some of you do too? As the parent of a special needs child, maybe you are coming to terms with the fact that there may never be a “diaper season,” “feeding tube season,” “baby toy season,” or “empty nest” season. This may always be our normal. No seasons, just life.

We pray for the best and make plans for the forever. We dream up house plans we would have never thought of before – the one with the built in apartment for “someday if he’s independent enough” or the protective padded walls “because he’s getting bigger and stronger.”

We say goodbye to seasons and learn to embrace a unique ebb and flow all our own. Growth and milestones are celebrated as they come. We love fiercely, cry often, and learn to maneuver an entirely different world; a world with no seasons.

So what if it’s not “just a season?”

Look for the God Moments: Our God is a God who pursues the hearts of His people. He is never absent from our every-day-less-than-glamorous, messy lives. If you have gotten to the place that God feels far removed, it is not because He’s not there, but because you have taken your eyes off of the Savior. It is easy to get so caught up in a world with no seasons, that we forget to look for the ways God is at work in our everyday lives. Look for the God moments. Look for the many little ways He reveals His presence in the midst of life. His whispers of love are in the hand held, eye contact made with your child, the song that filled your heart, and in the friend He was sure to put in your path today. In the midst of the never-changing seasons, God wants to meet us in the middle of it all. Look for the God moments to spur you on and lift you up.

Trust God’s Sovereignty: Do you trust in the sovereignty of God? I hope that you do. If you find yourself in a world with no seasons, this fundamental question is of utmost importance. Hold on to the knowledge that God does not make mistakes. Your child’s disability comes as no surprise to Him. Furthermore, God handpicked you to be the parent of your special needs child. This means that however ill-equipped you feel to live in a world with no seasons, God knew you were up for the task. Although at times we feel like cowering in the circumstances of life that come crashing down around us, we must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. Walk in a boldness knowing that if God has called you to this way of life, He will see you through it.

Find Gratitude: Although the days are hard and the nights are long, I have found a place of gratitude to rest my weary soul – so that when I breathe in the grace that God has so delicately covered the fragments that are our life, I can see the work of His masterful plan and find peace in trusting Him through the process. You see, if we didn’t know the pain of falling apart, we would never know the joy of being held together by the Lord. If we didn’t know the desperate heart cries of a parent on behalf of their child, we would never know the victory found in trusting God’s sovereign plan. If we didn’t know what it’s like to earnestly pray for healing, we would be less likely to notice even the smallest of ways that God is moving and the milestones or small victories made. Be thankful for the lessons discovered in having to depend on Jesus as your only source of strength, for some have never discovered the joy that can be found in doing this.

If you find yourself in a world with no seasons, take heart. God is working in the midst of it all. When we begin to look at our season-less world as a gift, the heaviness in our hearts begins to dissipate. Do you trust Him enough to embrace a life that is so unique, so dependent upon Him, so broken and yet so beautiful, that if lived in obedience to Him…it just might point others to Jesus? And if so, dear friend, wouldn’t it be worth it all?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

First written for my partners at Joni and Friends and Irresistible Church

https://irresistiblechurch.org/just-season/

To the Warrior Parents

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You get tired of the fight, don’t you? The constant that is our lives. For all the articles written about how special needs parents should make time and care for themselves, you’d think the world would realize that these are luxuries we special needs parents often cannot afford. We are set to the tumultuous beat of the world’s drum that dictates a never-ending battle for our children. And if we skip a beat, it feels as if the system is poised so that everything you’ve worked so hard to put in place for your child comes tumbling down; then we must start over again. Fighting. Pushing. Trying. Praying. It is not a fight for the “extra” in life, for privilege or preference. On the contrary, we are in a fight for our child’s basic needs: equal education, the ability to communicate, medical equipment, health coverage, to become functioning members of society, and on and on the list goes.

To the warrior parents who have children with special needs… Don’t allow the fight to consume you. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” The fight can be exhausting can’t it? The battle of the mind is as real as the physical battles we special needs parents face day to day. Discouragement sets in. We begin to wonder if anyone else cares about these giants we daily face on behalf of our children, who are oftentimes unable to fight for themselves. In the midst of it all, dear parents, do not forget that God sees you and that “his compassions never fail.” Great is His faithfulness to never leave us. When we find ourselves overwhelmed from the fight, we must fix our eye on Jesus.

To the warrior parents who have children with special needs… Don’t lose your fight. There is a careful balance we must find between ensuring our child is given every opportunity to reach their greatest potential (whatever level that may be), and just being so battle weary that we allow the fight to overtake us. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring are a reward from him.” Parents, do not forget that our children are a reward from God, entrusted to us. In our weakest, most exasperated moments, we must remember this and continue to persevere in making a way for them. I know how easy it is to become worn. Don’t give up. Fill out the paperwork for the one hundredth time, reapply for services again, meet with the teacher, ask the questions, and speak up for the child who has no voice. Our children are worth it; they are our greatest treasures.

To the warrior parents who have children with special needs… Don’t lose your hope. As a parent of a child who has special needs, we must have a double dose of hope; hope enough for ourselves and hope enough for our children. In a world where “awareness” is lacking in action and our children may seem to be falling through the cracks, a hope big enough to sustain can only be found in Jesus Christ. Psalm 121 says, “I lift my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Parents, lift your weary heads and set your sights on Jesus. He is where our strength comes from as we daily fight to make a place for our children. He is the maker of heaven and earth and is fully able to see us through – to give us hope for ourselves, hope for our children, and hope for the future. Even more, he loves us and our children with a love far greater than we could ever comprehend. We can trust Him.

First posted by my partners at Joni and Friends and Irresistible Church

http://irresistiblechurch.org/warrior-parents/

 

When we are Broken and Poured Out

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I had to restrain my child today. This is the part of severe autism that no one likes to talk about. As well as he is doing and as much as he has overcome, everyone has a bad day. This was his.

He had stubbed his toe on the corner of the wall hard enough that it bent back the nail inside his sock. It must have been very painful. How frustrating it must have been to have been hurt and not be able to tell anyone about it. How terribly painful it must have been when I was asking him to put his shoe on so we could go to school. How was I supposed to know his nail was bent back inside his sock? And he couldn’t tell me. Not with words anyway.

Do you know what it feels like to have to move in such a way to keep your child from hurting themselves or others? Can you possibly imagine what it’s like to have to set up a barrier of mats between yourself and your child so as to protect yourself (and him) until he is able to harness his rage?

I can tell you, in that moment, all hope seems to be sucked right out of you. As the parent of a special needs child, you are left feeling drained, defeated, and depleted as a darkness sets in like no other. All the good, everything your child is working so hard to overcome, all the strengths, all the victories and accomplishments seem to fade in the gravity of the mere sixty seconds of rage that feels like an eternity.

I was finally able to figure out why he was so upset. Once he calmed, I helped him with his toe nail and we were able to get his sock and shoe on. He pulled me in and gave me a big hug and kiss as if to say “Thank you, Mom. That’s exactly what I was trying to show you but didn’t know how. I’m so sorry.” But by the time we got in the car and he walked into the school building with his little happy-go-lucky, step-hop that he does, I was worn out.

Just that morning I had spent time alone with the Lord. I had asked him to fill me up! And now I already felt like any “filling” that had been done had been spilled out. I was done with my day. And it was only 8:30 in the morning.

How quickly we allow our circumstances to dictate our perception of reality and steal our joy.

The Lord gently reminded me of the verse I had studied earlier that morning. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him,” –John 7:37-38.

Whether you’re a special needs parent or not, there’s such a good reminder in these verses.

“Come to me and drink” – God never forces Himself on us. In the midst of life’s chaos, we must seek Him to fill us and quench our thirst. The world will throw those things at us which are sure to leave us feeling parched and worn. All of the “positive thinking” can fill us with a temporary and counterfeit hope, but it is a weak alternative to the living water God offers to sustain us with.

“Whoever believes in me” – Is your trust in Jesus Christ? Friends, our joy and hope will never be found in our circumstance. When our focus is taken off of the Lord, when our lives reflect that we are functioning in our own strength, when we have allowed ourselves to settle into a faltering faith, we will surely be overcome.

“Streams of living water will flow from within him.” – Water is powerful. Get enough water with a large enough current, and a river can overcome barriers with little effort. Do not forget that the river of the Spirit of God can overcome all obstacles. When we depend on the Lord for our strength, the matters of this world pale in comparison. Keep your eyes fixed on the source of the river of life within you.

My son’s occasional aggression is heartbreaking. We all have real, very sharp cutting struggles in our lives. God does not ask us to brush off our battles. He does, however, ask us to come to Him. Our hurts are His hurts. He longs to fill us up and sustain us with His joy, grace, and peace that surpasses all understanding. When the waves of life crash around you, keep your eyes fixed on the source of living water. He will get us through.

First Published for my partners at Joni & Friends and Irresistible Church

https://irresistiblechurch.org/broken-poured/

When They Say, "I Don't Know How You Do It."

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“I just don’t know how you do it.”

I get this a lot. It is usually accompanied by a very sympathetic shake of the head with wrinkled brow. Or “I couldn’t do what you do.” Insert here an overwhelmed and far off look.

These things are frequently shared with me by friends and family who know our story and who have a front row seat to our autism journey. But before you offer up these familiar phrases, here are three things you should know…

1. I can’t do this on my own. We parents of high needs children don’t have some sort of hidden superhero cape. There is no extra dose of strength or stamina that the Lord has measured out to us. I have to daily depend on the Lord and ask for His strength.

There are times when I become so completely overwhelmed as a special needs parent. I have had my own meltdowns and breaking points. There are times when my heart feels so completely broken for the struggles of our child that I just cry and feel helpless…and that’s when I usually realize I’ve been doing life on my own, in my own strength. I’ve been forgetting to give each day, thought, and moment to God. Once I remember that God is in control and completely sovereign and that He has a perfect plan and purpose for my life and the life of my child, I can operate out of a much more confident and peace-filled place. It doesn’t mean life becomes easier, but it does mean that I don’t have to face struggles alone. So, the next time you see me rocking along on this journey of having a child with severe autism and you think, I just don’t know how you do it…I don’t. I don’t do it. It’s a me and Jesus thing and without Him, I’m a mess. Thankfully, we were never meant to shoulder the weight of this world on our own. 

2. Others make all the difference. Parenting a child with autism is never a one-person job. I am not equipped to meet my autistic child’s every need. I am, however, equipped to do my very best to diligently seek out those who can help me meet his needs in the best way possible.

Ever since our son was two years old and received his diagnosis, he has had a team, also known to us as “Ezra’s entourage” if you will. There have been therapists and educators all along the way who have partnered with us in helping our son to reach his full potential. When educators crossed our path who did not truly believe in our son, he regressed and it was heartbreaking. When educators crossed our path who believed in him and pushed him to do more, he rose to the occasion every time. There have been therapists in our home for years who have shown Ezra love and care. These people helped us to not feel so alone. Ezra has a team built around him who are there to challenge him and cheer him on. When educators, therapists, and the family work together, it’s a beautiful thing.

There have also been family members and friends who have come alongside of us on this autism journey. A simple meal brought, someone to help you with groceries, or just a text to check in can brighten a special needs parent’s day. For those who have poured themselves out to support and love our family, you have made all the difference.

3. You can and would do what I do. Many times people say, “I couldn’t do what you do.” But the truth is, yes, you would. There is no manual for this special needs parenting life. I didn’t go to college for this, wasn’t prepped or prepared for this. But every day the sun rises and we make sure to the best of our ability that we do the very best we can. We love and care, we fight for our child’s rights, we push him to do his best, we surround him with those who believe in him, and we pray. We pray big, God sized prayers. You just never know what you are capable of doing until it’s the very thing you are given to do.

We don’t operate out of some sort of special needs expertise, but rather out of a place of unconditional love. We depend heavily on the Lord to see us through and others to encourage and support us along the way. It is because of these things that we are able to walk this autism journey. We are not alone.

“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 uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10

First published for my partners at Joni &Friends and Irresistible Church at

https://irresistiblechurch.org/say-dont-know/

The Importance of Breaking Through Roofs

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Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.”
–Luke 5: 18,19 NIV

Special needs parents, when it comes to church and your child, I want to encourage you to break through roofs. I know how easy it is to stay under the comfort of your own roof. It’s safe here. We can do “home church.” We aren’t accepted by the crowd. Home is best.

Boy, do I understand where you are coming from. Taking our son who has severe autism to church can be quite a challenge. We’ve not always been welcomed at churches. Even at our church now, we are welcomed with open arms, but that does not mean that it’s easy. We have successful times at church and we also have meltdown disasters. It’s a toss-up each week! …but we will keep trying. Why? Because our child’s faith journey is worth breaking through roofs.

“To lay him before Jesus…”
We can learn a thing or two from these men Luke writes about. These men knew the importance of being in the presence of Jesus. They obviously had determined in their hearts that this disabled friend of theirs needed to be in the presence of Jesus as well. Not only is it important to be in the presence of Jesus, but Hebrews 10:25 reminds us that it’s also important to be around other believers “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We need each other! You need the encouragement and love of a church family and they desperately need to learn what it is to embrace the beauty of the disabled. How can this ever be unless we determine in our hearts the importance of functioning within the Body of Christ?

“Could not find a way to do this because of the crowd…”
Crowds don’t always seem to understand disability. We watch as our son is overlooked, pushed to the side, or excluded. This man was no exception. Parents, I know how hard it is to constantly fight to make a way for your child. I want to encourage you not to give up. I find more and more that it’s not that the crowd is always hateful or discriminatory, but rather it’s just that they do not know or understand disability. Misunderstanding can lead to uncomfortableness. Make a way through the crowd for your child, lend understanding where there is none, share your life with others so that they can embrace the unfamiliar.

“They went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles…”
Desperation. That’s what this was. This was a won’t-stop-at-anything, climbing-up-the-roof, breaking-through-roof-tiles kind of desperation. I can only imagine that this kind of determination was birthed out of a tremendous love for the disabled man. They knew he needed an encounter with Jesus. When was the last time you were this desperate to make sure you found a way for your child to join in worship, to be a part of a Faith Family, to bask in the presence of Jesus? It’s not easy. It takes desperation. It might take breaking through roofs one tile at a time. It may look like just only making it through the door of church the first Sunday, maybe the next Sunday you make it down the hallway, maybe the next Sunday your child loudly makes their presence known during the middle of the worship service…and there might be looks and there might be misunderstanding. Because ministry to those with disabilities is messy. But parents, do not give up on making a way for your child in the church. The Body of Christ is disabled itself when not ALL members are represented and a part of its work.

“Into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.” 
I want to encourage you that after a little over a year at our church, my son now asks “Church Please?” “Church?” “Sunday Please?” It doesn’t always look perfect. Some Sundays are a flop. But I trust that God’s Holy Spirit is going to meet him right where he is at. Our son knows that there is something special about church. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but I encourage you parents, don’t give up. Your child’s faith journey is worth making a way for…one roof tile at a time.

First written for my partners at Joni and Friends and Irresistible Church at https://irresistiblechurch.org/importance-breaking-roofs/

 

Ezra and his daddy praying together during Vacation Bible School at church. 

Ezra and his daddy praying together during Vacation Bible School at church. 

A New Year and a New Thing!

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Do you dare to trust that God is going to do a new thing in 2018? Now is the time of year when everyone makes resolutions, new promises, and sets their expectations on the future. But what about us? What about the parents of a special needs child? Many times, we grow stagnant in our hope that God might have new and exciting things planned for our child with special needs. The world beats us down, and we find ourselves barely crawling into the new year. Our day-to-day life can be so tedious that somehow, we miss the reality that God wants to do a new thing in our lives and in the life of our special needs child as well. Dear parent, do not lose your hope. 

Trust that God Can Reveal a New Thing: Our God is a God who pursues a relationship with His people. He so desires a personal relationship with us and wants us to experience His power in our lives. He wants us to allow His Holy Spirit to fall fresh on us and for us to grow in our knowledge of Him. Our special needs children are not excluded from Gods desire to meet with His children. Let us pray and trust that God will pursue the heart of our child and will reveal Himself in ways that only He can. 

Trust that God Will Allow New Things: Sometimes, we grow weary in our never-ending attempt to help our special needs child achieve new things. The extremely exhausting road of fighting for your child’s needs and trying to find those who just might give your child a chance can leave you feeling very lonely. This year, let’s commit to not losing hope. Let’s keep pushing, keep trying, keep cheering, and keep believing that God will allow new strengths to be developed. 

Trust that God Wants a New Thing: Our God is not a past-tense God. He is ever present and always working. As you begin a new year, trust that God wants to use you and your special needs child in new ways. It’s time to be transparent—help others to understand this journey you’re on. It’s time to be daring—do not become so overwhelmed by the limitations the world has placed on your child that you give up. It’s time to press on—set new goals for yourself and your child. Many special needs parents feel so bogged down by the “can’t” that we lose sight of the “could.” Please don’t quit, let’s believe that God can do a new thing in the life of our children. 

As you look forward to this new year, I pray you find peace in knowing that God can make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” No situation is without hope. No child escapes His view. No disability is too great. He sees each of us in our struggles and declares that He can do a new thing! 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

First Published by my partners at Joni and Friends and Irresistible Church http://irresistiblechurch.org/new-year-new-thing/

Keep My Running Shoes On

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I love to walk around my house barefoot. I like the feeling of soft carpet on my toes and feel more “at home” without the restriction of wearing shoes. But more and more it seems that I forgo this comfort for the functionality of keeping my running shoes on.

You see, our home is different than many people’s homes. Because our son has autism, our home is louder; he is always singing, making noises, or quoting movies (in the world of autism it’s called “scripting”). Our house is in interesting order; you will find trains lined up on the kitchen table and strategically placed books open to strategically chosen pages. Currently our back door is always open. Our son loves to run outside and play, but it is also his current belief that the back door should remain open at all times—even if he is playing in a different part of the house. Living in this world of autism has caused our home to be a sometimes chaotic, but always beautiful haven for our family. And for now, living in the world of autism has caused me to keep my running shoes on.

For many, running and autism go hand in hand. People who are “on the spectrum” are often runners. Our kiddo is no exception to this pattern. Although he frequently overcomes his urge to run, our son’s current impulsivity requires me to jump up and move quickly at any moment. I have to be ready, so I keep my running shoes on.  

I love how the Lord uses my son’s autism to gently sharpen me in my personal relationship with Him. The Lord has recently reminded me that just as I have to keep my running shoes on, the same applies in my walk with the Lord. I need to keep my spiritual running shoes on.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible reminds us to sanctify our hearts and “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” We need to keep our spiritual running shoes on! It is easy for us to slip our shoes off and run our toes through the carpet of comfortability in life, but that is not the calling of Christians. Life was never meant to be about our comfort, but rather exalting our Creator.

It’s my prayer that people around me will be able to see that my hope is in Christ. May I be quick to help and show love to others. May I be a reflection of Christ in all that I say and do. I pray that I am sharp and “ready to run” this great race called life. Sometimes it’s easy to let our spiritual shoelaces come untied. We become comfortable Christians, and it’s easy for us to get tripped up. I am thankful the Lord can use my precious son to remind me that I need to lace up my spiritual running shoes and be prepared for this sometimes chaotic, but always beautiful life. So, what condition are your running shoes in?

1 Peter 3: 15 (NKJV)— “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

First Published for my Partners at Irresistible Church

 http://irresistiblechurch.org/keep-running-shoes/

 

 

 

What the World Does Not Yet Know...

There are things the world does not yet know about you, but we do… 

We know the joyful heart you have; how you love to smile and make others smile. Jokes are not lost on you, you are fully aware and very capable of sly humor in your own way. Your belly-laughs and wide grins are gracious blessings on this journey of autism. One day the world will understand that children who have autism feel deeply too. 

We know you have unique intelligence. We watch you absorb every detail of life through hungry eyes of exploration. We find it incredible that you play trains in your room to the movie script on the TV three rooms away; you hear everything. We are baffled by the fact that you can listen to a song once and match the melody and pitch perfectly. You seem to memorize people by their smell. You can read a heart from a mile away; you know if someone wants to be around you or has to be around you. And quite frankly, you don’t have time for the naysayers. You know roads and routes, and you are quick to let us know if the upcoming destination is pleasing to you. You are detail oriented in every way, and you are so aware of the conversations, noises, and activities going on around you. One day the world will recognize that children with autism have an incredibly and uniquely wired intelligence. 

We know your behavior is communication. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, behavior “for no reason” does not exist when it comes to you. We watch the battle rage inside of you between impulse and control; it’s so visibly real. And we have learned that every, tiny impulse has a cause. It is our prayer that one day you will be able to explain with your own words what you think and feel, but until then, we must listen to your actions. What if the world began to look at behavior as more than just a problem or discipline issue? What if we began asking WHY? If every behavior was considered to be a conversation, perhaps we could look past ourselves and help unlock the mystery of what you are so desperately trying to communicate. When the world begins to understand this significant key, true acceptance might become possible. 

We know that purpose does not pass over you. We believe that God has a very special plan and purpose for each and every individual. Just because you have been given the worldly label of “autistic,” does not mean that God’s purpose has passed over you. Therefore, we will press on. We will continue to help make a way for you and try to give voice to your life and who you are. With every trial and triumph, we will hold true to this belief. There is nothing wasted in your struggles and nothing wasted in your victories. You are perfectly made. When the world also begins to assign purpose to children living with autism, there just might be a chance of a cultural heart change. 

“Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”—John 9:3

First Published at IrresistibleChurch.org  

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When it All Goes Wrong

I know your heart, dear parent of a special needs child. I know how it feels when it all goes wrong. I understand those moments that make you hit your knees to plead with the Lord on behalf of your child. I know the cry of the parent who feels they have tried it all and yet frantically searches for anything that might provide a new breakthrough.

I’ve been there when it all goes wrong. When this year’s obstacle was last year’s victory.  When one step forward seems to make everything else take three steps back. You find yourself scrambling to hold it together. We want to fix it, try this, and try that. We collect our tired bodies and heave ourselves into bed just to try it all over again tomorrow—cleaning up the brokenness when it all goes wrong.

Dear parent of a special needs child, we can find ourselves on a slippery slope, you and I. Dark moments can lead to discouragement and despair. There are two things we must establish in our hearts and minds early so that when it all goes wrong, we stay strong.

1 Flaws today do not determine failure in the future.

As my son struggled to the ground in an aggressive meltdown, my heart sank. In that moment, I was consumed with worry for his future. My head began to spin with all the what ifs. We often believe the lie that our child’s rough moment equals a rough day, that his rough day means he had a rough week, and one rough week ruins our entire month. We fret about the future as we evaluate the flaws. When it all goes wrong, one moment turns into an eternity. When it all goes wrong, we must pick ourselves up and remember that this was just one moment. We must press on. We must spur our children on and help them overcome. We must remind ourselves that God holds the future of our children in His sovereign hands, and we need to trust Him with that. Flaws today do not determine failure in the future, instead they cause us to readjust and trust.

“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 uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

2.God’s got a bigger plan than you.

When everything goes wrong, it’s easy to try and grasp at ways to get a handle on things; to control them. It seems reasonable that if I just try hard enough, challenge my child to overcome, search for all the best “ways,” that we should end up as one of those success stories you hear about on the news. But what if God is writing our stories differently than what we expected? What if His blessings lie in the burdens? What if the story He has planned for you looks much more like unconditional love than any success story on the news? We must be willing to accept His perfect plan, even when everything seems to be going wrong. We must be willing to trust God with the pages of our lives. Even in our weakest moments, God is not taken by surprise nor is His sovereign plan shaken.

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

I know your heart dear parent, do not be discouraged. Even when it all goes wrong and everything seems to be falling to pieces, the Lord is holding everything in place. He is the one in control of the future, and His plan is bigger than ours. And because I know your heart, I know you probably need that reminder as much as I do.

First Published for my partners at Joni & Friends and Irresistible Church  http://irresistiblechurch.org/goes-wrong/

Some days are just meant for play. No cleaning, no working, no demands. Just breathe deep. Breathe in the closeness. Savior the small things. After it all goes wrong, playing trains for a day is exactly where we need to be. 

Some days are just meant for play. No cleaning, no working, no demands. Just breathe deep. Breathe in the closeness. Savior the small things. After it all goes wrong, playing trains for a day is exactly where we need to be. 

Parenting with Grace

I have a confession to make. I parent with a tremendous amount of grace. Not in a “oh-look-how-gracefully-she-parents-her-children” type of way. No, I mean I am constantly asking the Lord for grace to try again, thanking Him that tomorrow is another day, and full of gratefulness that my children are also generally forgiving and fairly resilient. 

This parenting gig is no joke. The older I get and the more life throws our direction I realize that most of us parents don’t really know exactly what we are doing. We can arm ourselves with God’s Word, stand on His promises, ask for wisdom and discernment… and yet, many times it still feels like we are shooting from the hip. These tiny little humans that the Lord entrusted to us didn’t come with manuals. So sometimes in our weaker moments we are left feeling ill-equipped and do a whole lot of praying that we don’t mess this whole thing up. Can I tell you something? You can multiply this feeling by a thousand for the parent of a child with special needs. 

We’ve got one shot at parenting, and we don’t want to mess it up. As parents of a child with special needs, we find ourselves in the very unique position of being our child’s medical coordinator, educational advocate, therapy coordinator, records keeper, and insurance protector. We work hard to make a way for our children and to try to give them every opportunity to reach their highest potential. In a world where “raising awareness” has become more about the t-shirt, ice bucket, or bumper sticker than about true heart change and acceptance, we find ourselves grasping for ways to make a place for our children. Compile this with everyday things like having a job, being a wife and mother, and parenting other children besides your child with special needs, and shooting from the hip quickly becomes an understatement. There. Is. No. Manual. For. This. 

Having a child with disabilities is a tricky little dance. It’s two steps forward and two steps back. Many times, as we delight in our son’s newfound accomplishments, we see an old one slip away. It’s easy to get caught up in the daunting task of grappling with what has been gained and what has been lost. We are trying desperately just to communicate with our child and to make sure he knows he is loved. Most parents of children with special needs function on about three to four hours of sleep because disabilities like autism have no time zone. Our emotions run high and our energy low. This is the perfect recipe for imperfect parenting and the need for grace. 

Dear Parents, I hope you will remember that we can parent with grace. I’m finding more and more in this role of a special needs parent, that if I just offer up all I have and as much as I can, the Lord will cover all my imperfections with His grace. 

I’m willing to bet that we all get a little snippy, lose our cool, throw patience out the window, burn dinner, miss the appointment, and wonder what-in-the-world we are doing. I’m also willing to bet that the deeper issues we occasionally struggle with are not foreign to fellow parents who walk this journey with us. So, breathe deep and let yourself rest just a little knowing that you are not alone and that in all our inadequacies, God’s grace is sufficient. 

There is such a thing as imperfect progress. Thank the Lord! 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

First published at Irresistible Church

http://irresistiblechurch.org/parenting-grace/

 

When Words Are Few And Tears Are Many: The Heart Cries Of A Special Needs Parent

The ache was so deep and the pain so raw, that I could not utter a word. There I was, on my knees in desperation, poised to cry out to Jesus. But trying to sift through the emotions that flooded my heart only rendered me more speechless.

It was too much. I had no words.

There in our tiny living room I knelt, eyes closed, as I imagined myself at the feet of Jesus. And even though I had no words, even though the hurt of our circumstance had overwhelmed me, I continued to kneel there weeping.

I was doing business with Jesus. No words necessary.

In our culture, we place a great deal of value on words. Sometimes our palms begin to sweat as we are asked to offer up a prayer in front of a crowd. We try so hard to say the right things. Sometimes we worry about sounding “spiritual” enough.

But God has never been a God of many words. He is a God of the heart. He has the sovereign ability to look past our inadequate words, and even past our weeping, as He peels back the curtains of our heart to reveal our true selves.

So, when words are few and tears are many, He sees your heart.

As I knelt on my living room floor, pouring out the heart cries of a special needs parent at the foot of my Savior on behalf of my son, no words were necessary. The Lord promises that even when our words fail us, His Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”  Romans 8:26 NIV

The truth is, I was feeling helpless. I was trying so hard to make a way for my son.  I was overwhelmed by the lack of understanding the world seems to have for a little boy like mine. It seemed as though even the very people who were supposed to be advocating for the success of our child just didn’t quite get it. Is there really no place for a seven-year-old, blue-eyed, wide-smiled, precious little boy who happens to have autism? I was hurt for him. And there is no other hurt like a momma’s hurt for her baby.

Although I can now quite accurately articulate the thoughts and feelings I was having that day, at the time I was left with nothing more than sobs. Sobs at the feet of Jesus. But there was no need to articulate anything because the Lord already knew.  

Dear friend, is there something burdening your heart? Maybe your words are few and your tears are many as you carry the weight of your child’s disability, or fight for your marriage, or strive to make ends meet.

Whatever the circumstance, run to the Father. No words are necessary. His Holy Spirit intercedes for you. You need only come to Jesus with your heart, He will refresh and restore your soul. He longs to exchange our grief for His grace, our burdens for His blessings, and our tears for His triumphant plan.

First Published at Irresistible Church http://irresistiblechurch.org/words-tears-many-heart-cries-special-needs-parent/

 

From One Special Needs Parent To Another: Don't Give Up

Dear Parent,

I know how easy it is to feel like you are all alone in this, but you’re not. While your child’s special needs may be different from mine, we are on a very similar journey. I want to encourage you with three words. Simple though they may be, these three words are so important for the task the Lord has given to us. The Lord has entrusted you and I with the life of a child who has special needs. So, no matter how ill-equipped you may feel, no matter the severity of the disability, no matter how weary you have become, let these three words spur you on as you care for your child. From one special needs parent to another: Don’t Give Up.

I know your weariness. I know how you sleep with one eye open and one ear listening throughout the night, just in case. I know how you wake in the wee hours of the morning to change soiled bedsheets and to wash your precious child. I know that often times coffee and a prayer is what keeps you going all day. Don’t Give Up.

I know your discouragement. I know that no matter how many times you give yourself a pep talk, you will find yourself comparing your child’s development to other children their age. I know that for every milestone achieved, it seems there are a million more standing in the wings. Don’t Give Up.

I know your fears. I know you fear for the future of your child; wondering what level of independence they will have, their wellbeing, and what will happen to them when you are no longer around to make a way for them. I know you fear for your child’s education and whether the school budget or politics will limit their chance at having every opportunity for personal growth and success. Don’t Give Up.

I know your joys. I know that overwhelming sense of excitement when you watch your child achieve something for the first time. These are moments of pure joy that others might find hard to understand like when you feel as though you have just conquered the world because your child made eye contact with you for the first time. I know how one touch from your child can make all the days of struggle melt away in an instant. I know that little things are not so little in this life of ours. I know that those moments and milestones that bring us such joy are almost puzzling to the rest of the world. Don’t Give Up.

I know sometimes you might feel like giving up. As you fight and you push and you try your hardest to make a way for your child in this world, sometimes you become weary. Sometimes it seems like an uphill battle. Don’t Give Up. No matter how battle-weary you become, you must hold tight to this task the Lord has entrusted to you. Because no matter how ill-equipped you may feel at times, the Lord specifically chose and gifted you with this special child.

Let us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and continue making a way for our children. Giving up should never be an option. Continue praying over your child, the Lord hears you. Continue those late nights and early mornings, the Lord is with you. Continue those therapy sessions and treatments, the Lord will provide. But most importantly, protect this gift that the Lord has entrusted to you and Don’t Give Up.

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

First posted at www.IrresistibleChurch.org 

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!

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!"

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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Thank You Lord For Ice Cream!

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

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

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

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

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!

Little Victories are Never Little

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

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

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