MARCH ON GOD AUTISM AND ME 7-15 DEVOTIONAL

March On!

Lan completed a daunting band camp last week. To say he was thrilled is an understatement. Last week’s practice involved twelve hour days that quite frankly I wasn’t sure he would endure.

However, older brother said Lan managed just fine and didn’t once complain about the scorching temperatures. I guess all those years of karate strengthened his body and God miraculously managed the rest. Lan was probably the only kid disappointed that the rigorous camp did not continue into the next week!

Years ago, camp with a hundred or more students would have been unthinkable. Now, many years later, it’s no big deal.

I think as we pray for the changes we desire that will help our kids succeed, we often feel disappointed because we don’t always see the changes.

Still, just has the calm surface of a lake hides the activity beneath, our loved ones can change mentally and emotional as we are none the wiser. When we don’t see the changes we seek, it doesn’t mean they aren’t taking place. Just as we don’t always “see” God, it doesn’t mean He is not in our midst.

MARCH ON 2 GOD AUTISM AND ME DEVOTIONAL 7-15Talents and interests we may be completely unaware of may actually become a catalyst for change. I probably didn’t realize just how much Lan enjoyed music until a few short years ago. Now his musical interest has given him the opportunity to become a participant in something larger than himself and to do so successfully.

Marching band is an enjoyable physical outlet that forces Lan to stay focused on the expectations of good grades and study skills required for his participation. More and more, he is beginning to realize just how capable he is.

I’m not sure if Lan will follow a “traditional” path of high school and then straight to college. Nevertheless, I hope his love for music and art will find him a place where he can not only develop his talents but even get paid for them.

Do I have concerns about his future?

Most certainly I do.

However, I am learning to step out of fear and look forward to whatever God would do with Lan and through him.

Could I have imagined his current success all those years ago when school left us both in tears?

Not even close.

Yet, prayer and faith have opened doors we never would have dared knocked on before.

As God has been faithful in so many things, I must trust Him with our future.

Prayerfully anticipating whatever lies ahead, Lan and I simply march on!

I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.  Ecclesiastes 9:11 NKJV

Lucky Raphael God autism and me rip

Lucky!

The following is an abridged version of story I wrote about our cat “Lucky.” His full impact on us and our journey along the spectrum can’t fully be put into words. Lucky prompted Lan to initiate conversation. Lucky also taught him responsibility. I strongly recommend parents of any special needs children to consider a pet. Their contribution is often priceless. 

One Lucky Cat!

I don’t like cats. 

To my dismay, the children I was desperately trying to get ready for school abandoned their oatmeal to see the pretty kitty.

Annoyed, I began shooing it away with a broom, and trying to coax it off my deck. I glanced beyond the cat only to find both boys staring at me like I’m Cruella Deville.

I take a deep breath and bite my tongue. At this point in my life I’m mentally fried. Two kids under the age of four, a husband who travels all week and I’m running late for my new full-time job!

I grudgingly decide I can teach my kids a lesson in compassion. Besides, the last thing I need is for Cam to go marching into school and telling everyone I tried to kill a cat. From previous experience, I’m confident that would have been his translation of the morning’s events!

So… I grab a can of salmon and stick it outside the door. By this time it seems that the cat is gone. I’m grateful, yet annoyed I just wasted a can of salmon.

When we return that afternoon, the first thing both kids do is run toward the back door. No cat, but the food is gone. I’m thinking the cat has found its way home.

No such luck.

Over the next couple of months this cat increasingly comes to my house. It doesn’t just come, it lingers.

Reluctantly, I finally concede. How much trouble can one outdoor cat be?

I never get to find out.

I come downstairs one morning to find my husband standing in the kitchen holding the cat….and a litter box!

By the way, he doesn’t like cats either.

One huge vet bill later, I name the cat Lucky. It’s a bit of a stretch for a black cat, but it saves him from being named after a Ninja Turtle.

By now, you’re probably thinking what does this cat have to do with God, autism and me?

I learned God sometimes answers prayers in the most unexpected ways. It is around this time that my four year has prayed for his brother Lan to talk.

Lan would occasionally say a word here and there. Yet, once Lucky entrenched himself into our home, Lan became more talkative.

“Where’s the cat?” “Can I feed the cat?” “Lucky where are you?” 

Lucky Raphel 7-15-15 ripLucky helped draw Landon out of his shell.

He hasn’t been a perfect cat but he’s come close.

As the kids watched television, I was horrified one day to find Landon’s pillow wasn’t a pillow at all. It was the cat!

I started to fuss but then realized Lucky wasn’t trying to get away. He looked up at me with those big yellow eyes as if to say “it’s okay. I don’t mind.” He then he turned away from me and back to the kids.

His kids.

Lucky worked his way into my heart.

The world didn’t end when I found him snoozing on my “good” sofa. Or, when I woke to find him asleep beside me… in my bed!

Did I mention, I don’t like cats?

I don’t know that I’ll ever consider myself a “cat lover” but I certainly love this one.

God’s answers to our prayers aren’t always how we expect them. Blessings and miracles often arrive in disguise.

I almost chased away one of mine.

Not all angels have wings. Some have paws, of this I am sure.

Lan is now a teenager and talks up a storm.

I look back on it now and realize we didn’t do the cat a favor at all.

We were the lucky ones!

**Rest in Peace “Lucky” Raphael, you loved us well!

A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22 NKJV

believe God, autism and me devotional 6-15

Believe!

Today my youngest son will attend his first day of marching band camp. To say he is thrilled is an understatement. I will admit I’m rather proud of him and share his enthusiasm. Getting to this point was a long time in coming.

You see, he has watched his brother perform for the past two years all the while longing to be on the field himself.

Freshman year marching wasn’t an option. We had a huge transition from middle school to high school without the familiar safety net of teachers to watch after him. There was no way my little grasshopper among giants could have withstood the onslaught of people, sounds and orchestrated chaos that comes with marching band.

Fast forward two years later and my grasshopper is now one of the giants. Now six feet tall, my “little” guy has grown not just physically but mentally as well. He is no longer overwhelmed by the masses of students. He can now manage his classes with the help of tutors.

It was only a few years ago that I couldn’t imagine his participation was possible even as I prayed otherwise. Thankfully, my prayers preempted all “rational” reasoning.

Years ago all the “facts” dictated that Lan was hardly a candidate for marching band.

He was uncoordinated, not very strong and easily distracted. The rigor of long practices with a hundred or so other kids would have been impossible.

But with God all things are possible.

Sometimes we rely so much on reports, grades, IEPs and diagnoses that it prevents us from imagining what God would do for us.

I am slowly learning that the sum of my blessings is proportional to my faith. My only limiting factor is me.

Time and time again God surprises me when things look hopeless. My audacity to dare and believe creates a “yes” when everything else points to “no.”

I’m learning not to allow how I feel to dictate what I believe.

Feelings are fleeting.

God’s Word is eternal.  

If we allow the imperfections in our lives to overcome us, we will never have faith enough to recognize and receive God’s best!

We may allow ourselves to be labeled by autism yet, it is crucial to have faith enough not to be limited by it.

Dependency on ourselves will always leave us wanting. However, God is more than enough when we trust that He can and He will.

beleive 2  God, autism and me 6-15 devotionalOur “situations” don’t have to leave us hopeless. We can instead allow them to direct us to different viewpoints and possibilities.

Listen to your gut.

Listen to God.

It is only what He says that truly matters.

His Word and our faith create the best outcomes.

 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23-24 NKJV

blsd qb10

Father’s Day!

For all those Dads who manage through with IEPs and special needs,

Whose love lasts long, you look so strong when things around us feel so wrong.

I wish you peace and heartfelt love, God’s greatest gifts from up above

In gratitude for ALL you do, this special day is just for you.

DSC_8006 (2)    Happy Father’s Day!

 

    “But now, O LORD you [are] our Father; We [are] the clay, and You our potter; And all we [are] the work of Your Hand.” Isaiah 64:8 NKJV

 

***Dedicated to one Awesome Dad!  Rod Raphael, you do it well!  We love you!!!

home and nest bradford pear blessed devotional 2015

Empty Nest!?

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to visit a college campus with my oldest son who is a rising senior. Lan, who will be a junior when school resumes in August also tagged along. To my surprise he didn’t get bored, asked pertinent questions and even dared to answer a few.

Lan is finally doing well enough with his classes that the idea of college is increasingly a part of his conversations as well.  Would I have imagined this even just a few years ago?

Not hardly.

However these past few years have taught me anything is indeed possible.

It was just two years ago, I practically swore Lan would never go away to summer camp. I didn’t trust him not to get distracted and wander someplace he shouldn’t. I also didn’t trust anyone else to keep tabs on him the way I would. We were dropping his brother off at a college campus and Lan asked when was he going to go away for a week.

“Not going to happen,” was the only response that popped to my mind though I was wise enough to keep that to myself.

Fast forward one year later and I was happily driving Landon to Clemson University for a week of summer camp.

Lesson learned. Never say never.

As I’m searching out options from my oldest child, my youngest is quite vocal about his own college plans. Lan is increasingly asking me and the hubby what he needs to do to prove he is mature enough for college. Thus far, he is doing a great job making his case.

My husband and I have always ironed Lan’s clothes for him, initially out of fear he would burn himself or ruin a fair number of the graphic tee shirts he loves. Only recently did I realize we’ve been doing it out of habit.

Lan finally asked when he would be allowed to do that for himself.

Shortly thereafter, Lan also asked me why he needs supervision using our gas stove. In truth, he is probably the only person in the house who has not left it on!  Another point for him.

Lan can manage the grill on the deck better than I can.

He hasn’t lost the cell phone he received for his birthday as we once feared he would years ago. In fact, he has used it responsively and appropriately. It certainly took him little time to begin texting us a grocery list of things to bring home from the store!

I’m realizing more and more my six foot tall “baby” isn’t so interested in being my “baby” but in trying to find his way in the world.

I once thought there was no way this kid could manage without me even though I prayed for just the opposite.

God has been faithful in so many things. I never doubted God was able. In watching and waiting for God to make Lan “ready” I’m beginning to realize the only person needing to get “ready” was me!  empty nest God autism and me devotional

I’ve got to move out of “protect” mode and into “prepare” mode.

Protecting Lan is something we have always done because we had to. It is an engrained habit. Some changes I couldn’t see because I was not looking for them. Every now and again it’s good to reexamine and reevaluate where our loved ones are and where they need us to be.

I need to mentally progress as Lan has, shifting from “once was” to the “here and now.” The final eye opener was when our oldest son recently chimed in and said “Mom, he’ll be just fine. Just let him be.”

“Let him be.”

Only time will tell the path Lan eventually takes. He is quite insistent in pursuing a career in graphic design. Lan may or may not follow a traditional path or leave for a distant college. Yet, I have faith that whatever the future holds, it will be the best possible path for him.

I’m not preparing for only one child to leave the nest, but possibly two.

How ‘bout that?

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NKJV

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 NKJV

 

BLOOM AUTISM DEVOTIONAL 2015

Bloom!

My inspiration for writing my this blog turned sixteen this month!

As I look back, I realize the progress we have made is miraculous. My tears are no longer out of frustration but from joy.

I’m not sure exactly when I was able to breathe without fearing a phone call from the school. Yet today, my youngest is increasingly independent and learning to solve problems on his own.

He began this school year taunted by bullies and almost removed from his favorite class because of them. Yet, he finished the year on the honor roll earning the opportunity to play in the marching band next year with his brother.

Somewhere among the midst of IEPs, after school tutoring and endless hours of homework, Lan and I both began to bloom.

We are no longer closed off from others but rather optimistic instead of dreading what lies around the next corner.

Lan’s symptoms haven’t disappeared. However, we now manage them instead of stifle them.

Here are sixteen things God has taught me via autism.

How to improvise

How to find hope in all circumstances.

I am not in control. God’s got this!

How to open my mind up for the improbable

How to open my faith up for the impossible

Love and encouragement produce more than strict regimens

It’s okay not to be okay

I don’t have to be perfect

Perfection doesn’t exist on this earth

What once worked won’t always work.

With God, I am stronger than I ever imagined

My child is tough, resilient, and aware of everything!

How to bend without breaking

Sometimes you just have to make your own way.

Angels are among us in the guise of teachers, counselors and others

God’s not done with us yet!

You see, the photos of the flowers featured here “should” have bloomed nearly two months ago. My lilies have always bloomed around Easter no matter what. Yet, here they stand blooming far later than usual, lovelier and stronger than ever before.

God autism and me devotional bloom 2015We can do the same.

Sometimes we give up our joy when we don’t meet expectations created by others. It is easy to close up and fail to discover the gifts God places within us. We can’t acknowledge our talents let alone nurture them if we always focus on the “negatives.”

I challenge you to “open up” to possibilities you may have never considered before. Explore alternatives you may have once dismissed. Dare to reach out to new people and see if God doesn’t reveal fresh solutions to old problems!

With every passing year, my lilies grow taller and stronger. The dormant bulbs weather the frozen ground. Their strong stalks withstand spring storms. Their colorful blooms don’t wilt under the sun.

And that is exactly what God wants for us.

Like lilies, we go through seasons of dormancy where it looks like nothing is happening. But under the warmth of the sun, there is always the potential to produce something beautiful. Unlike the lily, we make the choice either to bloom or withdraw from the Son.

I choose to trust God.

Lan chooses not to be defined by a diagnosis.

What about you?

Choose to Bloom.

Mother Mary mother day 2015 autism

Mother Mary…

 Mother Mary 2  mother day 2015 autism

Can you imagine being an unmarried virgin receiving the news “you are going to conceive the Messiah?!”

I suspect at some point Mary struggled with her responsibility.

I’ll readily admit I’ve at times struggled with mine.

Yet, Mary was faithful and nurtured the potential within her child. John 2:9 describes one of the first miracles Jesus performed. He turned water into wine. In verse four Jesus says “my hour has not yet come.” However, Mary had other ideas. She told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Upon His mother’s insistence, Jesus had the servants fill pots with water which He later turned into wine.

It is our responsibility to speak to the potential in our kids as well. This may mean IEPs, tutors, therapy, doctor’s visits and whatever it takes to pull out the potential we know is there. Many doubted Mary and will doubt us as well. However, that’s hardly reason to give in based on our own weaknesses and give up on what God can do in spite of them.

Mary’s had God’s grace for her assignment. God gives us grace as well.

Mary was forced to witness her child tortured and vilified for the sake of the world. She could not help her child; the crucifixion was something Jesus had to do alone.

The struggles our children face upset us as well. Yet, we are available for our children and God is available to us!

Grief over what could have been can often keep us from believing in what can be. Circumstances can appear hopeless. There are often reports and diagnoses that confuse and condemn. Yet, we have been chosen to stick it out and stick with Him.

A mother’s love will do that…follow through until the end. Mary witnessed her son’s crucifixion but was rewarded with joy in His Resurrection.

Sometimes we may feel like our path is overwhelming, unbeatable or even insurmountable. Many of us stay stuck on the “first day” or the death of our dream when faced with a diagnosis and the realities of parenting that lie before us. Yet thank God, there is nothing too hard for the Lord!

If Mary teaches us anything, it is to hold fast until the end. What looks like the end isn’t necessarily so. Hang in there with your child, cling to what God has promised you!

Every child has some special need. Some needs are just more obvious than others. Some are revealed early in life. Others won’t manifest until years later. God equips us to do what we have been called to do. Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. We were chosen to parent the children God has blessed us with as well.

“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” Mark 9:37 NKJV

Now as Jesus passed by He saw a man who was blind from birth. and His disciples asked Him, saying “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. John 9:1-3 NKJV