Category Archives: Faith and Spirtuality

Take A Break!

Even busy bees need a break.

Take a break featured photo 2 God autism and me 10-2015 devotionalI found this bee napping in my flower pot. He was very much alive, just resting.

We had a chance to rest this past week as my kids enjoyed their Fall Break. And I must admit, I enjoyed it too!

The break relieved me and my husband from our normal sleuthing duties of determining if there is homework, has the homework been done, and you have how many exams this week?!

There was no morning rush to get out of the house on time and with everything essential.

Staying up late to finish homework?  Didn’t miss that either. Band practices that linger into the night?

Pleasantly absent.

Lan enjoyed his “vacation.” He could always study more for sure but at a certain point enough is enough.

The progress report he will receive upon returning to school Tuesday isn’t half bad. It’s not exceptional, but at this point “not bad” is great!

You see, this is a year to“stretch” for Landon. He is accountable for much more such as harder classes, band competitions, the practices that go with them, in addition to those other things we are trying to impart in him to make him more mature and self-reliant.

As he watches his older brother prepare college applications, Lan is increasingly giving thought to his future. He has made it very clear on many occasions he doesn’t plan on living with me and my husband.

We’ve told him that goal will take maturity, growth and much effort on his part. His response has been to act more mature and look at a larger picture he’s never bothered to view before. Trying to get him to this goal has put us all in a whirlwind it seems.

Yet, sometimes when so much is required of us and it feels like everything is swirling around in every direction, the only way to get on top is to stop.

Stop running.

Stop worrying.

Stop relying solely on our own abilities.

We can’t continuously go, go, go if we don’t take time to recoup and recharge.

We often push our loved ones so they can do more and be more but those efforts must be balanced.

BALANCING ACT BLESSED DEVOTIONAL 9-2015There have been times in my life were I wasn’t balanced at all. My sense of urgency didn’t move Lan any farther ahead. In fact, it was when I finally relinquished the control I “thought” I had that we both made huge gains for the better.

So if you haven’t been given a break, take one.

When our final days do come, I doubt any of us will wish we spent more time running around like crazy people trying to meet arbitrary goals dictated by people we will never meet.

Instead, take time to appreciate the color of fall leaves.

Live in moments of laughter.

Cast your cares.

Be still.

Rest.

Follow God’s example. If He took time to rest, we should too!

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Genesis 2:2 NKJV

Exempt!

Junior year has been one of conquests and challenges. Lan conquered the trials of marching band. He not only survived but thrives in the experience.

Yet, challenges loom as well. Lan is in harder classes this year. Thankfully, his teachers wants him to succeed as much as we do.

The most daunting challenge was getting Lan’s class schedule “fixed.”  

Last year, I proactively met with Lan’s counselor to ensure that his classes were appropriate. The counselor suggested anatomy instead of chemistry. Lan has already taken the mandatory sciences required to graduate. We thought it was a great plan.

Well, about three weeks ago we learned Lan was in the “wrong” anatomy class!

When he came home saying he needed scrubs for lab, I knew something was not right. Apparently someone enrolled him into the class for kids pursuing a degree in healthcare.

Panicked, we contacted the school and they changed his class. I figured we would muddle through catching up on the five weeks he missed.

I was not looking forward to it.

Another week later my husband meets with the “new” anatomy teacher. We learn his class is identical to the one Lan just left! The new teacher changed the scope of his class to mirror the other class.

Out of the furnace into the fire.

Eventually, we get Landon placed in an Environmental Science class. I ask him about his teacher. The only answer I get is “She’s cool.”

Visions of late nights, unending homework and struggling to catch up haunt me. I ask if his teacher gave him any work to start on so we can catch up.

He looks at me with a pained face and utters, “She exempted me.”

I nearly shout for joy.

He is responsible for learning the material but she isn’t going to make him to complete past assignments.

Webster’s defines exempt as “being free or released from some liability or requirement.”

Grace and mercy came to mind.

Grace kept me sane as we went back and forth with the school.

Grace kept Lan’s biggest advocate at the school long enough to get this rectified. She informed us yesterday she’s leaving for a promotion.

Grace is what the ES teacher gave my child when others couldn’t be bothered.

Exempt God autism and me 9-2015Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

I admit that there have been times I didn’t go boldly to the throne.

I may have been drug there.

Hopefully, I’m wiser now.

I never doubted God would resolve our “dilemma,” I just wasn’t expecting a painless resolution.

Merciful.

Our scheduling fiasco was a timely lesson not to anticipate the worst, but to instead acknowledge and receive God’s grace in all situations.

I must also remember to give grace as eagerly as I receive it.

Schools in!

May the Lord make me eager to learn.

Labor Less!

“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

In my struggle to relinquish my control freak tendencies, I rely on this scripture time and time again. I learned that I don’t have to conquer my corner of the world in my power.

There was a time in my life where I was working very hard to give my children all my attention. I worked long hours. Then on my days off would I try to cram days of lessons in with Lan, never wanting him to fall behind his peers.

These efforts only brought forth fatigue on my part and frustration on his. When I was at a point when I could no longer do this, a funny thing happened. Lan’s grades improved.

I had no choice but to trust God. I didn’t have the time to prep Lan for those standardized tests. All those practice books went unused. I was at the mercy of his teachers to give him everything he would need.

I was tired. My job was wearing me out. I was trying to balance the needs of two kids who are polar opposites. I was attempting to be a real life “wonder woman” meeting unrealistic expectations I had imposed on myself.

Finally at this point of burn out, I stopped struggling so much and gave it a rest. I prayed more and worked less.  I found the more I trusted God, the more He did for me.

When I finally stopped running myself ragged and was still, I could hear Him.

I found comfort in the fact that I really don’t have to know it all.

When I don’t have an answer, I now trust God first. Whatever I need will find me.

It wasn’t the quickest transformation, but I don’t want to revert back to where I was.

Casting my cares has been liberating. I am sometimes amused, wondering just how God is going to work certain things out.

black butterfly blessed devotional 8-2015So, If you are tired, burned out, or at a loss, don’t wait years like I did.  You will accomplish more when you trust God instead of your own efforts. Choose to rest and labor less!

Upperclassmen!

The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15 NKJV

My kids just left the house for their first day of school. It is the last year they will do so together. This year, there are no first day jitters (for them or me). The transition to upperclassman is quite welcome.

Lan’s head is up with confidence. In fact, I think he is relishing no longer being handled with “kid gloves.” I’ve finally learned I don’t have to micro manage every detail.

Upperclassman God autism and me 8-2015He will be in the same music class as his brother so that should be…interesting!

They have both done well “detaching” their identities from one another. Yet, I hope this year as they share their marching band experience it will leave them closer than before.

We’ve both come a long way from that first day of high school when I started this blog. We have stretched a bit and hopefully grown wiser.

So, for those of you anxious about your school year, here are a few things I learned along our walk along the spectrum.

God can provide exactly what you need. It may not come how you expect it but any void that is lacking God can surely fill. God put the people we needed in our lives years before we really needed them. If you have faith, God will direct your steps.

There are angels among us. We have received favor and help from the least likely of sources. The people you think will ignore your child will later go to bat for him. Teachers, support staff, janitorial and other students all helped us along the way.

Advocate for your child. No one is going the extra mile if you aren’t leading the way.

Your worse fears rarely materialize. I am ever prayerful. I am also ever watchful! We’ve had to navigate a few bullies, but we survived unharmed.

Be involved! If you can’t be involved then don’t be a stranger. If your first time at school is due to a problem, rarely will things go your way.

Cut yourself some slack. If your child falters in some area it isn’t the end of the world. Stressing out only makes it worse.

Be willing to change. What worked one year won’t necessarily work the next. Kids grow and change just like we do. Don’t waste time trying to reclaim yesterday.

Utilize your resources. Lan has been the only student in tutoring class many times. On the upside, it got him one on one instruction!

Learn to step back. You will never know what your child can do if you don’t allow him to succeed and fail. This was hard for me. Still, Lan learned to thrive and not just survive!

Lan learned to work smarter.

My faith stretched farther.

My youngest wasn’t the only one learning these past two years.

And for that, I am grateful.  

God, autism and me Upperclassman 2 8-2015If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 NKJV

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!

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!

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

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!!!

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!

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.