Loving From Afar: A New Perspective on Christmas

I sat on my couch, just inches away from my little boy who was playing with his trains on the coffee table. We had been home from school for at least four hours and he had yet to make eye contact with me, touch me, or acknowledge my presence in any way. So there I sat, just inches apart from my little one. I so wanted to scoop him up and snuggle him, to kiss his precious face all over, or to tell him how much I had missed him while he had been at school that day. But I know better.  I know that in moments like these, he needs silence and to not be touched. That’s just the nature of this thing called Autism.

So, I sat. I watched him play with loving pride swelling up inside of me. He’s so beautiful, such a precious soul, a most wonderful blessing, and treasured gift. It takes an unbelievable amount of self-control for the mother of a child with Autism to learn to love from afar. Often times, that’s exactly what I must do.  

I began to think of another of another parent who had to love from afar. The thought had never crossed my mind before.

I have heard beautiful songs and sermons written about Mary and the beautiful perspective of the young virgin mother of Jesus Christ. What a huge responsibility. What fear and excitement she must have felt. What joy must have flooded her soul as she cradled her baby boy in her arms knowing that He was the Messiah, the Son of God.

I have listened to stories about Joseph, the young carpenter man.  What an exercise of faith it must have been to take Mary at her word and to take her as his bride. What must it have felt like to have been chosen to father the Savior of the world? I’m certain he found his heart overwhelmed at times as he found himself plunged into the very middle of God’s story of redemption.

I have even listened to accounts of the spiritual battle between heaven and hell on that not-so-silent-night. While angels sang “Glory”, all of hell shuddered at the birth of the New Born King. Never before had the birth of a child brought forth such a commotion as the countdown to the cross and Christ’s victory over death came rushing into the world on that starry night in Bethlehem.

But what about God the Father? Certainly, it is His gift, the gift of His son Jesus that we celebrate each year. But I just wonder how He must have felt as He watched Jesus, His one and only Son, be birthed into this world. I wonder how His heart must have raced as He beheld that tiny babe lying in the manger. How His soul must have swelled with all the joy, love, admiration, and awe that a parent feels at the sight of their newborn child. Was there a collision of emotion as He watched Immanuel, knowing what the birth of His child meant for the world and what this sin cursed world meant for the life of His child?

As God the Father watched from His heavenly throne, with all the delight that fills a new parent, did He long to hold His precious Son? To kiss His soft cheeks? To hold His tiny hand? Friends, the Lord is capable of the most complete and unconditional love. Therefore, I can only imagine the love He felt for His Son, Jesus. As God the Father shared His Son with the rest of the world, as He made the ultimate sacrifice for you and for me, He chose to love His baby boy from afar as Jesus was wrapped in clothes and placed in a manger.

This thought struck me as I sat watching my own sweet boy who was busy playing with his trains; as I was loving him from afar.

 How thankful I am that Christ does not ask us to conquer temptations without having been tempted Himself. How thankful I am that we do not experience the shame of sin and guilt without Jesus having borne the sins of the world and fully understanding the weight of which it carries. How thankful I am that we do not experience the deep pain of losing a loved one without God the Father knowing what it is like to have His one and only Son sacrificed for all of mankind.  He has walked our roads, feels our pains, knows our joys, and understands our struggles. God has never withheld Himself from our everyday circumstances but rather He willingly thrusts Himself into our world with all understanding and compassion.

As I sat there loving my child from afar, I felt a peace come over me. I am so thankful that I can come to God with the longings of my heart. When I long to touch my son, long to hold him, long to kiss him, long to hold his tiny hand, but instead must muster up all the strength that is within me to withhold these gifts that are so precious for a mother to bestow upon her child, I turn to Christ.  And in a way, I wondered if just maybe the Lord understands what it must be like to love your child from afar.

Whatever your Christmas may look like this year, whatever you are facing, whatever turn your life has taken this year, may I encourage you that God is so very near. He is Immanuel, God with Us and He cares for you!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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/

When Comparison Kills Contentment

Comparison. We all struggle with it. And how could we not? Flashing before our eyes every day on social media are pictures of everyone’s best moment, best self, and best “story.” We know these images are momentary and do not always represent real-life, and yet we somehow permit them to seep into the crevasses of our heart and allow them to make us feel as though our lives just don’t quite measure up. None of us are exempt from the pitfall of comparison. 

We compare occupations, vehicles, vacations, and schools. We compare our accomplishments and the accomplishments of our children. We see a picture of Susie and Bob, and based on this one picture we assume that they must have the greatest marriage on earth. Perhaps we are even tempted to wonder what we could to differently to gain what they have. We compare our homes. We compare our clothes. We compare our bank accounts (or at least what we think might be in someone else’s). And really, there is no end to this game of comparison. 

I am no stranger to this snare. I willingly admit to you that as the parent of a child who has special needs, I sometimes allow comparison to creep into my heart. I see other children, the same age as my son, laughing and playing with one another, and my heart breaks for my little boy who is unable to do the same. I see families frequent restaurants with ease and go on elaborate vacations while our special needs family struggles to venture into public some days. And even though it’s been our choice and honor to trade a fancy home or other luxuries for the ability to provide our child with the therapies and special services he needs, I sometimes find myself comparing our “stuff” with the “stuff” of others. As a special needs parent, there is no quicker way to lose hope and lose heart than to begin the game of comparison. 

Comparison is the silent killer of joy and contentment. 

When we find ourselves sinking in the quicksand of comparison, we must quickly begin working to dig ourselves out before being overcome. 

First, we must remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12, NIV). Satan is actively seeking to steal our joy. The enemy loves to kill our contentment by keeping us busy comparing rather than counting the many blessings God has placed in our lives. Make no mistake, if Satan can keep you focused on the muddy waters of comparison then he knows you will have little time to realize the provision of grace that God has so wonderfully blessed you with. 

Second, we must find beauty in the life God has given to us. There is no perfection here. We are all so beautifully broken, and each of us are fighting our own private battles. If we traded our life for another, we would only find a new set of struggles and joys, hopes and hardships. Let’s not forget that God has specifically designed each of us with purpose. Why would we ever compare our life to someone else’s when their life is void of the unique purpose God intended specifically for us? God knows the plans he has for you. They are plans “to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). Let us never be so preoccupied with the lives of others that we miss out on the hope and future God intends for us! 

Dear friends, comparison kills contentment. Don’t let the enemy rob you of your joy and your purpose. Let us each press on in our God-given purpose, throw off the shackles of comparison, and cheer each other on as we pursue the hope and future God has gifted us!

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

http://irresistiblechurch.org/comparison-kills-contentment/

Ezra and I at church! It doesn't look the same as everyone else, but he loves to go to church to see his friends, sing along with the music, and hear about Jesus...and look at that happy face!

Ezra and I at church! It doesn't look the same as everyone else, but he loves to go to church to see his friends, sing along with the music, and hear about Jesus...and look at that happy face!

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. 

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/

 

This is Your Story: 3 Important Truths

Everyone loves a good story. We allow ourselves some vulnerability as we cry or share a good laugh over another person’s tale. However, when confronted with the pages of our own life, we are often discontent, desperately wishing we could re-write a few pages. We might even wish we could completely make over the main character, ourselves. The hardships, sleepless nights, medical conditions, or struggles just weren’t what we had in mind to fill the pages between “Once Upon a Time” and “Happily Ever After”.

Have you ever felt this way? Many of us have. Sometimes the Lord writes on the pages of our lives with permanent marker. Try as we may, we cannot blot out, color over, or erase His pen and are eventually left to embrace the marks of our Savior. It’s at this point of surrender that we discover He is the greatest story teller there ever was. He is the Master Story Writer; fashioning your story for His glory and for your fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Here are three important truths to keep in mind as you trust the Lord with your story.

Comparison kills contentment. Every time. This is your story! Do not be concerned with the story the Lord is writing for someone else. He has a very specific plan and purpose for your life. One of the fastest ways of discouraging yourself is to compare your story to someone else’s.  Count your blessings, and not theirs. Do not miss the beauty written on the pages of your own life.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30

There is beauty in brokenness. Many times, the very things that you would not have willingly chosen for yourself, are what make your story most beautiful.  Life is not always easy. When you are faced with disability, you learn to rely on the Lord’s ability. When you face trials, you learn to rely on faith and trust. Sometimes tears precede triumphs. You must remember to give Satan no opportunity to discourage you from the purpose the Lord has for you. Have faith that you will be able to one day flip through the pages of your story to find that heartbreak brought hope, struggles produced strengths, and that beauty came from brokenness.

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

There is joy on the journey. Each day you have the opportunity to choose joy. Our God is not the author of gloom and doom. Do not miss out on the joy of this life. Rest in the assurance of the Master Writer’s pen. The Lord longs to reveal Himself to you. Find comfort in His care, strength in His sovereignty, and peace in His presence.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

God is crafting your story. There is no other story like it. Once you open your heart to the authority of His pen, trusting that He knows best, there is peace in resting between the pages of life. This is your story!

First posted on IrresistibleChurch.org  Blog.

Thank you, Lord, for our story.

Thank you, Lord, for our story.

Asking for the Healing of a Loved One: To Touch the Hem of His Robe

Have you ever prayed desperately for someone’s healing? I mean the cry-from-the-bottom-of-your-heart pleading with the Lord for deliverance, freedom, and healing.  After all, God is fully capable of full healing. Doesn’t he see this great need? Doesn’t he feel the heaviness of your cries as they fall one by one before his throne? I know you are able, Lord. Please, I am asking for healing. It’s as though, in the corner of your heart, you hold out hope that if you just plead hard enough, you might somehow will your loved one to healing. I know this desperation. I know this cry.

As I laid in bed next to my little boy, he wrapped his tiny arms around my neck and drew in me. He kissed my cheek with his baby-soft lips and then laid his head down on the pillow. I continued to hold him as tears filled my eyes and a rush of emotions filled my soul. It’s crazy how this Autism thing works. When my son has struggled through a particularly hard day, I am crushed. However, this day he had not struggled at all. In fact, he had made wonderful eye contact, had snuggled, and talked to me throughout the day. It was a beautiful day of clarity and freedom from the chains of Autism that so often bound him. It may be hard to believe, but sometimes the wonderful days break my heart almost as much as the hard days.

I had seen glimpses all day of the little man that he is. We had shared smiles and giggles. His bright personality had lit up the room. We had played together and he had spent part of his day in a tent with his sister making choo choo train noises. He was able, for the most part, to communicate his needs and wants. It had been a beautiful day. Now as I laid in his bed holding him, I felt so very grateful for the blessing of this day, but I was also overwhelmed with sadness. As the parent of a child with Autism, I fully know that just as a ray of sun will peek through the clouds and then go back into hiding, this bright day of clarity would not last. Tomorrow would be a new day and I would once again be left searching for the little boy I know is locked somewhere deep inside my sweet boy. This thought ached deep in my heart.

I pulled my son closer; as though I was trying to hold on to him as tightly as I wanted to hold on to this day. Please heal him, Lord. I know you can. Without even thinking, I closed my eyes and imagined reaching out just to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. If I could just touch Him. If I could just hold my son in my arms and touch Jesus. Just touch the hem of His robe.

You know this story, don’t you? The bible tells a story in Luke 8 about a woman who was sick. She had been sick for many years with an illness that would have alienated her from society and caused her to feel miserable. And there was Jesus. He had just calmed a storm at sea, restored a demon possessed man, and He was on his way to heal a twelve year old girl who was dying. Yes, this woman knew who this “Jesus” was. I can almost feel her desperation. Jesus, this man who professed to be Messiah, this healer of so many, was passing through. In complete abandon, I imagine her rushing out her door, desperate to see this Jesus. I know you are able, Lord. Please, I ask for healing. As she approached Jesus the crowd pressed in on Him. Was this it? Would she get this close to healing and complete restoration just to lose Jesus in the crowd? With her heart pounding in her chest, she pushed through the masses and was able to squeeze her hand through a small break in the crowd. If I could just touch Him. If I could just touch Jesus. Just touch the hem of His robe. With twelve years of sickness behind her and the thought of an eternity of pain, exclusion, and embarrassment ahead of her, she reached out and grasped just the hem of Jesus’ robe. Healing. Complete healing. Trembling, she came before Jesus and He told her, “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).

Desperation. Faith. Healing.

So, as I held my little boy, desperation rose up inside of me. If I could just touch the hem of His robe. I know you are able, Lord. Please, I ask for healing.

It’s very rare that I ever ask God to “heal him from Autism” anymore. My prayers have shifted. I believe that some parts of Autism are a very special gift. My son sees the world in different ways than you or I could ever imagine. In many ways, Autism gives my son a unique and special gifting and personality that I would not ever want to lose. It’s the frustration, the inability to communicate, the aggression and impulsivity that I pray he would be released from.

I have seen the Lord work miracles. I have seen babies live who were said to have no chance. I have seen cancer disappear when the doctors have no medical explanation. Yes, He is in the business of miracles and He is able. So I reach out to Him, to touch the hem of His robe, to ask for healing. Maybe one day He will answer “Your faith has healed your son. Go in peace.”

I have great faith in a great God, but I also have faith that He is sovereign and that He may not have plans to heal my son. It takes an equal amount of faith to trust that God is capable of healing, as it does to trust that He is sovereign and may withhold healing for a greater purpose that we may never understand this side of heaven.

Until the Lord lays it on my heart to quit asking, I will plead for healing on behalf of my son. If I could just touch the hem of His robe. I know you are able, Lord. Please, I ask for healing. I will also not stop trusting that the Lord knows best and that His ways are perfect. I find myself in the in-between; between desperation and dependency, fear and faith, helplessness and hopefulness, tears and trust.

If you find yourself in the in-between, just like me, remember these things: Our prayers do not fall before an unable God or an empty throne. He hears you, so ask. Our prayers do not fall before a limited God. He is able, so trust. Our prayers fall before an all mighty, all powerful, all knowing God. He is sovereign, so have faith.  Have faith even if it means trading your hopes for His perfect plan.

On those days that you are weary from the fight, remember that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). When days come that you wish so badly you could hold on to for forever just to see them disappear, remember that His ways are higher than ours and that He is not a God of mistakes (Isaiah 55:8-9). We must have faith enough to touch the hem of His robe and faith enough to trust if He responds with a “not now” or a “not ever”. If you are praying for the healing of a loved one, I’m sending you a hug. You are not alone.

 

 

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 

I Ask God to Come Sit With Him A While

When I lay him down to sleep, I pray to the Lord his soul to keep…then I kiss my little boy, say “goodnight”, shut the bedroom door, and wait for what is usually a very long night.

I almost forget that our nights do not look (or sound) anything like most other people’s nights. The double-diapers, zip-up pajamas on backwards, hospital bed with netting kind of nights. The singing-at the-top-of-his-lungs-for-hours, screaming, kicking the walls, laughing hysterically, or “scripting” kind of nights. Yep, I almost forget these things are not “normal” because this is our normal; it’s just part of the way we do life.

We never know what the night will bring. Sometimes, there are nights of quiet rest. Other times we get very little sleep as we listen to our son wrestle through the night.

But every night begins in the same way. I lay down beside my precious son, and pray. I have prayed for him while his tiny hands push against mine. I have prayed for him as he tries to hit me. I have prayed for him as he snuggles up close. I have prayed for him through his tears and tears of my own. I have prayed for him through happy chattering and smiles. Regardless of the behavior or the evening, I pray. I pray for Ezra’s future, that he will have a restful sleep, for his safety, for him to know how much his mommy and daddy love him, and most importantly that he would know how much Jesus loves him.

One particularly hard night, my prayer shifted. Ezra was wound up. He could not focus on anything. He was everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. I continued to whisper softly to him “I love you, Ezra. I love you.” My whispers were met with even wilder thrashing in his bed. My momma’s heart was breaking for my son. What was this thing that seemed to be so much greater a force than he or I were able to control? I sobbed through my usual prayer over my son as I dodged an arm, a leg, and another arm. And just before I could no longer utter a prayer between heartbroken tears, I asked God for something I had never asked for before.

Please Lord, come sit with him a while. Come and sit with him. Fill his room with your presence. Reveal Yourself to Him.

There is such a feeling of helplessness when you are the parent of a child with special needs. My son is often times a prisoner in his own brilliant mind. At night especially, his body seems to betray him and I find myself at a loss for how to help. There are just some things that I cannot do. This thing, this Autism, seems far bigger than me some days. But I know who is even greater.

So, in this small bedroom with its hospital bed and toy covered floor, I asked God to come sit. I placed my trust in the reality of God’s presence and power.

In Exodus 33:14, God reminds Moses of the power of His presence as He declares “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Rest. That is what I want for my precious son. Not just sleep. Rest. I want him to rest in the comfort of security. I want him to rest in the knowledge that God does not ever leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). I want him to rest with a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). I want him to rest in the presence of the Lord.

Now, each night as I lay Ezra down to sleep, I still pray over him, but I always ask the Lord to come and sit with him a while. I have a very beautiful picture in my mind of Jesus coming and sitting at the foot of his bed. I ask God to reveal Himself to Ezra in ways that only He can. And I trust. I trust in the reality of God’s presence.

Do we still have some hard nights? Yes we do. This isn’t some halfhearted trial to see if my child will sleep better if I say “the magic words”.  Definitely not. This is faith. This is faith lived out by acknowledging what I already know to be true about God and His promises. This is me declaring that I have very little control when it comes to this thing called Autism. This is me remembering that God loves my child with an unconditional, sacrificial love. This is me offering up all of my best efforts and asking God to work in ways that I cannot and that He is completely able. This is me reminding my son each night that he is never alone.

This is me declaring the reality of God’s presence and power as I ask Him to come sit with Ezra a while. Thank you Lord, for using my little boy to remind me of your faithfulness and the power of Your presence.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

 

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!





I Stopped for a While

The last few months have been a whirlwind for our family. Such a whirlwind, in fact, that I was ever so slightly swept away by all that October, November, and December had to offer.  God called, we acted. As the Lord quickly opened one door after the other with an almost audible “go”, we obeyed.  It was not what we had planned, but knowing that His ways are higher than our ways, we trusted and found ourselves in a new town, with new jobs, new schools, a new home, and a new adventure.

You, my blog reading friends, have not heard from me in a while because at first, I was just so busy.  Then, you did not hear from me because I felt it necessary to not be so busy.  Every once in a while we must stop. That is exactly what I did.

Certainly, life continued. There were classes to be taught, bills to be paid, clothes to be washed, homework to be done, and many other daily tasks to be attended to.  But besides the most necessary things, I stopped.

I needed some time to not only pour into others, but to be poured into. I needed some time to make sure I wasn’t just writing about life without living in it. I didn’t want to just capture moments with a camera or with my pen, but I wanted to bask in each second of the day.  I made sure to listen to my daughter’s hour long, amazingly detailed stories with full attentiveness and to watch my son play with even deeper wonder and amazement at the complexity and beauty of his life. I took in the cuteness of little freckles, tiny toes, and silly giggles. I wanted to soak in the gift of the mundane.  I wanted to not miss a moment of the extraordinary.  I needed to be sure that time was taken to incorporate praises of thanksgiving for each and every blessing that the Lord has so graciously bestowed upon my life.

There are times, I believe, that we must stop to shake off the things that might possibly be clouding our view of the “life to the fullest” that God promises us in John 10:10. I have been reminded that a “life to the fullest” may not be full of accolades, great accomplishments, or highly “notable” moments according to the world’s standards. A “life to the fullest” is not one of superficial relationships, haphazard conversations, or rushed routines.  Instead, a “life to the fullest” is lived with intention. God says that He came so that we could “have life and have it to the fullest!” He didn't come for our lives to be full of “good things”, but of “God things”.  I want to shake off the things that keep me from developing a deeper faith. I want to shake off the things that destroy my hope.  Most of all, I want to be so filled by the Holy Spirit that I am a reflection of Christ’s unconditional and unfathomable love.

So, I have been busy shaking things off. I've been busy about making sure that I do not allow life to just happen to me. I have been busy about living in each moment and soaking up the abundance of blessings hidden in the routine, mundane, extraordinary and even the busy moments that are unique to my life. I am thankful for our whirlwind and now, I am thankful to have shaken some things off, and to refocus for the New Year... It's good to see you all again! 

Ezra gave Grace kisses. She was so excited! He has allowed her to kiss him before, but this time he was the one looking for kisses!

Ezra gave Grace kisses. She was so excited! He has allowed her to kiss him before, but this time he was the one looking for kisses!

Treasuring this beautiful girl and hours spent building her castle.

Treasuring this beautiful girl and hours spent building her castle.

Ezra has "noticed" our puppy and loves to pet it. This is HUGE because he is learning to be "gentle" and have "soft hands." He does a great job!

Ezra has "noticed" our puppy and loves to pet it. This is HUGE because he is learning to be "gentle" and have "soft hands." He does a great job!

Grace and Ezra have begun to play together more. They have little games and jokes between the two of them. It fills this momma's heart with joy!

Grace and Ezra have begun to play together more. They have little games and jokes between the two of them. It fills this momma's heart with joy!

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest." John 10:10

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!

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!

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!

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