Category Archives: Faith and Spirtuality

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

 

Thorns!

We all have our fair share of thorns in life. Even the apostle Paul who spread the news of Christ’s resurrection and the promise for a new life was literally afflicted with a thorn in his side.

Some “thorns” manifest in the form of physical or mental illnesses. Others appear when we are forced to deal with a tragic loss. A sudden diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s and even autism can become our personal thorns that distract us from all that is beautiful in life.

In my garden, I don’t get “stuck” by thorns as much as I used to. I have learned to watch for them. I handle my roses with care. I now wear gloves instead of bemoaning about cuts and scratches. I can now appreciate the beauty of the flower without concern for the thorns that go with it.

At one time I focused solely on my thorns. More than a few things in life did not turn out the way I “planned.” I’m confident I dismissed some wonderful moments because I chose to fixate on my problems instead of the grace God gave me to deal with them.

I’m a bit older now and hopefully wiser. My thorns don’t occupy my mind as much. They are still there, but I enjoy life. I am practical and tackle tough situations with care, yet I do so looking up from where my help comes from.

I’ve learned to treat autism this way. I’m quick to acknowledge the gains my son has made. I choose to focus on the good things instead of being blinded by areas that need improvement or whatever “skills” society deems he may lack.

I now seek the beauty in our days. Lan and I continue to learn how to manage our thorns. Choosing to keep them in perspective, our thorns for the most part are often an afterthought!thorns autism devotional 2 2015

Our thorns may shift or completely change from time to time. And as much grief as some of them can bring, like Paul, God may choose not to deliver us from them. 

What if our thorns keep us humble? What if our thorns teach us dependence on God? What if our thorns are necessary for our greater good?

Some would argue God would not give us the trials that cause so much pain. And I can agree with that.  My argument, instead, is what if God uses our thorns, not allowing them to break us but build us into the people we were meant to be?

We may shed a bit of blood in the process.

However, Christ shed more that we can be healed from our hurts.

We may never know why some thorns are thrust upon us. But, that doesn’t matter.

Like Paul, I’ve learned God’s grace is sufficient for me.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Looking in From the Outside…

When Lan was younger, I often worried about him. Not merely about his development, but also his loneliness.

He and his brother shared common friends in elementary school. But as their friends grew older, their interests drifted toward those things middle school kids do. However, Lan’s interests remained with Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers or whatever he deemed cool at the time.

Lan’s longtime friends looked out for him in school for sure, but they didn’t “hang” with him.  Very few called to ask if he could come over or go places with them. This became more apparent as his older brother accepted invitations from kids while Lan remained at home.

I think we can all relate to being an “outsider.”

Maybe you’ve been the new guy on the job or moved cross country without knowing a soul. There may be times you don’t get the joke. Yet, most of us can eventually move from the outside in.

Being an outsider can hurt. It often lasts longer than expected. When Lan was first diagnosed with that vague “pervasive developmental disorder” I certainly felt alone.

Who could understand my wants and fears while watching other kids move along carefree?

God understood.

His child was viewed as an “outsider.” Jesus didn’t talk like everyone else. He saw things differently. He broke the rules. Even as part of a larger plan, I can’t believe any parent is “okay” watching their child suffer or hurt.

Not even God.

I don’t doubt God was with us even when it didn’t feel like it. I’ve learned feelings can be deceptive. I don’t allow them to smother my faith!

Yes, Lan and I were a bit melancholy that first year of high school. I was standing in faith that God would bless him with one “good friend” his freshman year. Despite my prayers, that didn’t happen.

I now realize that first year “alone” was a blessing in disguise. Or, more accurately, a lesson in disguise.

I initially feared Lan would be taken advantage of in high school. I didn’t want him blindly following others just to be included. Instead, that first year taught Lan he could live on the “outside” and still be okay.

I also learned that lesson.

My normal doesn’t have to mirror everyone else. We can deal with autism. Our lives may be a bit different from the “norm” but then again what is normal?

God was with us.

We were never really alone. We didn’t break under the pain. Crack?

Maybe.

However, we are still in one piece and Lan is lonely no more!

Lan spent yesterday at an arcade with his best friend. They met this school year in a visual arts class. They both have their quirks. They “get” each other. They have a shared love for “Hero Up!” and its superheroes. There is no need to “conform” when they are together.  DSC_2934 (3)

God is good like that. His timing is perfect.

So whatever you are going through, remember you don’t have to go it alone. God is the Father we can run to! Better yet, God carries us until we find the strength to walk again.

It is often the loneliest times that make us stronger.

And should you see someone peering in toward you, show a little love! Act on that urge to take the new guy out to lunch. Stop and say hello to the new neighbor. You don’t have to move out of your comfort zone.

Sometimes, all God really wants is for us to let someone into ours.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

 

Who Do You See?

A tiny bud precedes the bloom.

Kid’s are no different. On the spectrum, off the spectrum, I’ve seen kids time and time again who don’t outwardly exhibit the potential that lies deep within them.

Some people can’t see hidden potential because they believe others who tell them to “stop looking.”

As I celebrate the approaching Easter season I am reminded that few people acknowledged Jesus Christ for who He was until after His resurrection. He often spoke of His death and resurrection but even His disciplines did not fully understand the reality of His words.

After His resurrection, Jesus’ disciples did not readily recognize Him. They were looking for Who He was instead of seeing Him for Who He had become

I have been guilty of this with my child.  spriring bradford pear 2015 bloom devotional

We can see someone close to us for so long that we become blinded to the changes or potential within them.

I always thought of college in regards to my oldest son, Lan’s big brother. Yet over the course of this year Lan has spoken more and more of where he wants to go to college. If I had listened to naysayers, doubters and even my own dull thoughts I would not now have started vetting majors, schools, and financial aid for him.

I now see through Lan’s growth and the wisdom of others that Lan isn’t who he used to be!

Faith allows me to now glimpse with spiritual eyes the potential God has for him. Technology that exists today I never could have imagined when we received our first diagnosis. Back then, through prayer, I pushed and prodded for the best. Yet, I couldn’t “see” what God could do with our situation.

Now, I push and prod with faith for the new thing God will do next!

Is life along the spectrum perfect? Hardly.

But neither is it perfect on any path that I’ve ever been privy to.

I am willing to look a bit closer, think a bit broader and allow my mind to embrace whatever possibilities come our way! In doing so I not only celebrate the resurrection of my Savior but the resurrection of my spirit!

There was a time not many years ago that I felt dead. I went through the motions and “kept going” because I didn’t have a choice to stop.  People depended on me.

Now, I depend on God. Completely.

I once felt spiritually barren, dry and defeated. Maybe even killed. Yet, God in His grace stirred up a hope within me.

God’s faithfulness fueled my personal “resurrection” and allowed me to see His goodness instead of mourning “what is not.”

As spring breaks forth, I challenge you to look at your loved ones a bit differently. Don’t view them from the same unchanging perspective.

Dare to really see them as God sees them and perhaps dare to pray “Why not?”

“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

 

 

 

 

Anticipation!

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

In years past, now would be about the time of year my brain went into overdrive striving, trying and failing to prepare my youngest for the slew of standardized exams necessary to proceed to the next grade level. Despite all of my worry, there was absolutely nothing I could do to help Lan with those exams.

It was simply out of my control.

As I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I realize how very much in “life” is out of my control. When I was younger I was taught if you “do the right thing” you will end up with a “good result.”

That hasn’t always proven true.

Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to “bad” people.

There is seemingly no rhyme or reason as we all navigate very distinct paths in life.

Some “stuff” like autism, cancer, ALS and Alzheimer’s come upon us out of nowhere and debunk any illusion that we control our own lives.

The problem I had with this is that I expected to control my life. I sought to plan, plot and otherwise chart my destiny. And I expected to do so with minimal obstacles in my path to “success.”

Little did I know how years later my entire illusion of “life” would crash and burn. There was a small window in my life where I had to process two births, two deaths, two cross country moves, a new job and finally that pervasive non-developmental disorder diagnosis which was the equivalent of “wait and see.”

Wait and see!?

That’s what the psychiatrist said as we left his office with more questions than we arrived with.

Worry became second nature. What if this? What if that? What in the world are we going to do? I felt broken trying to hold together the fragments of my life that kept shifting away from me. Only when I gave up and surrendered to God could I breathe again and live.

Not exist, but live!

Now the uncertainties that would haunt me as Lan talks of college (college!) are where, how and at what cost? How is he ever going to survive the “real” world?

My answer now nearly fourteen years later is again, “wait and see.”

However, I now “wait and see,” with optimism. I anticipate a good result without the logistical nightmare of trying to “fix” everything that is imperfect in my life.

Just like in the old days with those exams, I couldn’t help Lan. Yet, God did place in our lives wonderful teachers, tutors and support staff that could!

anticipation 2015 atsm blog.jpg panzy 2I’ve seen God place the right people in the right positions to advocate for our child. God provided solutions for high-school years prior in elementary school!

I simply sit back in amazement over how far God has not brought us! Why would He remove His favor from us now? 

I am no longer constrained by fears for the future.  I trust Him and let go.

So I “fret not” and “fear not” over my lack of “control.” God does a far better job with “me” than I ever did.

Fear is anticipating the worst.

Faith is anticipating the best!

can control which one I allow to dictate my thoughts and actions.

Which do you choose?

Face Forward!

“Don’t let something in the past trip you up!”

I read those words on a church sign driving home last night. Not scripture, but wise words nonetheless.

Sometimes we can allow a loss to make us lose sight of all we have gained.

At other times we would do well to change things up a bit and break away from the familiar and open ourselves up to something fresh and new.

Just because something was, doesn’t mean it always will be.

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5 NKJV

In the past, I was plagued with fear. Much of that concerned Lan’s future. He always struggled in school. The constant struggle was something I’d become accustomed to.

This year, through hard work and lots of prayer, has been different.

Yet, I found some old mindsets could still creep in. Doubt. Uncertainty.

I could become fixated on old struggles of just scraping by to earn the required credits.

Freshman biology with the toughest teacher in the school was a struggle. It is still fresh in my mind.

When I met with his guidance counselor last week, I was informed that chemistry was designated as his science for next year when Lan will be a junior.

Instead of looking forward, I was momentarily caught in the anxiety of the past. Lan’s study habits and grades have vastly improved. Yet, chemistry is unforgiving. It is absolute. Abstract.

I asked, solemnly, “Is chemistry required to graduate?”

The counselor’s answer was “No.”

Freshman biology and the physical science Lan is currently taking will suffice for his “required” sciences. He can finish high school taking zoology and anatomy both of which will also help him with graphic design.

If I hadn’t asked, next year could have been very frustrating.

In the past, I wouldn’t have thought to ask if there was an alternative. I would have just accepted the status quo. And struggled.

“you do not have because you do not ask,” James 4:2 NKJV

Sometimes instead of allowing our experiences to make us wiser, we can allow them to encase us in fear. Fear paralyzes. It doesn’t allow us to look forward toward a positive future.  DSC_9566

Now, I’m motivated to explore opportunities as the nation slowly realizes there is a vast need for resources and alternatives in higher education.

One friend who is a university professor informed me there are individualized education programs for college students with special needs. Accommodations for people on the spectrum are increasing.

Instead of my “ideas” about the future, I am learning to trust God and allow Him to reveal His plan for Lan moment by moment.

This isn’t easy for me, but most things that are best for us are never easy. Or quickly revealed.

They require faith.

And in my case, the ability to leave past disappointments, struggles and preconceived notions behind me.

“Face forward.” That’s what Lan said to me last week. Not exactly scripture, but wise words nonetheless.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV

 

 

 

 

Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

We lost one of our furry family last night. To say it was traumatic is an understatement.

My oldest took it better. He volunteers at our local vet and has witnessed animals euthanized first hand. Lan, who inspired this blog, had no idea what had happened until it was all over.

Lan was out with a friend when my husband and I rushed Noel to the emergency vet. Hours later, we came home without her. He was asleep.

This morning he cried as we expected, just like us. But for Lan, the death of this dog is something more than the loss of a “pet.”

Taking care of our animals really helped Lan come out of his shell. It was his job to feed them. It was his responsibility to let Noel in and out in the morning. She enjoyed Lan’s tendency to over feed her all the while she was stealing the cat’s food!

Ten years later, we have tears. I explained it’s okay to hurt and cry. Lan asked if he could pray for Noel. I figured it certainly can’t hurt anything. He also asked if dogs go to heaven.

I don’t know.

Yet, I figure since God allowed her to take such good care of us, He would take good care of her. If there is a dog heaven, I’m pretty sure she is there.

Given a bit more time to think, Lan asked about our cat. He looked up something online and decided Lucky should live four more years.

He googled cancer after my poor explanation.

He proudly proclaimed that if Noel could talk she would have said “tell Cam and Lan I love them.”

And she would have.

Years before we gained our initial pet menagerie (three dogs and one cat in less than six months!) I didn’t want any animals. I was adamant. I had enough to do with two young kids and Lan’s diagnosis. My husband traveled seventy-five percent of the time.

Pets would just put more work on me.

Little did I know?

Yes, our animals did give me more work to do but we were blessed by the effect they had on Lan.

Lan was interested in his surroundings, wanted to interact more, felt pride in feeding and tending to his animals. He told people about them! That was a very big deal ten years ago!

I didn’t want pets but God knew what we needed.  last happy Noel picture

Lan talks fine now. Noel taught him about respect, love, compassion, death and loss.

Today he said we should “face forward.”

Not bad advice.

I will be ever grateful for our dear Noel and all she did for us. She was indeed very beautiful inside and out.

Sometimes God gives us what we ask for. Then at other times, He gives us just what we need. 

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. Psalms 106:1 NKJV

Frozen!?

Last year when I was dredging around in the ice, I was mesmerized by the beauty in the midst of our “storm.” Sure, it was messy, inconvenient, cold and even brutal. However, I was able to focus past all the media hysteria and acknowledge what a beautiful picture God created.

My pear trees were coated in ice. To say it was a Winter Wonderland is such an understatement yet, there it was. An event that had been hyped and feared by us southerners was very much a reflection of the beauty within our own personal storms.

I took hundreds of pictures but was continually drawn to the buds on my trees that were encapsulated in ice. Those buds looked practically ripe to begin blooming. Yet the icy beauty that covered them kept them isolated, frozen and helpless.

february 2014 ice storm 127

The buds trapped in ice reminded me of our kids who can appear to be trapped by autism. The beauty is within these children; the potential is there. There is just this layer of “ice” that dares to keep us from seeing that potential. It is almost as if the child gets frozen behind the layers of autism.

Some kids may have more layers than others. Some children may appear to be under a layers of “ice” so thick; one would fear that the bud would be crushed beneath the weight of the ice.

Yet, in the quiet after the storm, the sun came out and melted the ice.

The layers did not evaporate quickly but the tiny drip, drip, drip signaled they were leaving. This process mirrors how I’m dependent on the warmth of The Son, to melt away layers of a diagnosis that threatened to freeze the potential lying dormant in my child.

The ice of autism isn’t holding us hostage. I’ve learned to find beauty in what others consider a storm. I’ve allowed The Son to melt layers and break the barriers that would threaten the potential bloom.

It isn’t important that the ice doesn’t melt all at once…I’m just grateful it melts.

Whenever those icy diagnoses, amended IEPs and “layers” come our way, I won’t allow them to linger. I have faith that the Son is still shining on us and everything will eventually be okay.

Take a Break!

This week my kids are out of school for the break. So, earlier this week my husband and I took the kids to Lan’s favorite restaurant. This place is easily an hour away from our home and it takes a concerted effort on our part to get there.

The kids loaded up in the back of the car eagerly. We laughed and were silly and had a grand time. On the way back home, my oldest son stated he was glad we did it and that we should do it more often. Once I got over the shock that he actually enjoyed hanging out with his parents, I thought more about what he said.

I really should take a break more often.

I am guilty of trying to maximize my time and efforts as much as the next person. I have become a fairly decent multitasker. This ability has probably pushed me to do more than necessary at times when I really should have been recharging instead of using up all of my energy.

I don’t know if it is the fast paced culture I’m living in or my own self-delusions that leave me thinking I should always be accomplishing something, but I am feeling God’s nudge to let go many of my own efforts and to rely instead on His.

There is a difference in being busy and being productive. Sometimes “busy” becomes a habit that isn’t producing much more than anxiety, stress and physical ailments that stem from trying to do a week’s worth of activities in a day.

I am glad I heeded the prodding of the Spirit to “do lunch” instead of tackling my “to do” list! The time spent produced laughter and joy, strengthened family ties, and provided clarity of mind. I could have used that time; instead, to tackle some things I needed to get done but the time wouldn’t have been nearly as productive.

Many of us caring for people with special needs or family members suffering with a long-term illness often burn ourselves out because we don’t rest when we should.  Sometimes we are so stressed and feel mentally compressed that we tackle everything head on when sometimes bit by bit is actually more efficient.

I will take my oldest son’s advice. I am long overdue to take a break from stress, over scheduling, and unrealistic expectations.  I’m going to take breaks more often, getting over those things I allow to hold me hostage and even myself. Only then can I enjoy this life to the fullest. What about you?

Are you overdue for a break?

“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 is light.” Matthew 11:28-29.

Growth Spurt!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I had to pull the boy hiding behind me into the grocery store. Lan would hide behind my legs and didn’t dare look forward or at the people inside.

Yet, Friday night at the last home game of the season, this same boy now tall and lanky talked with the other teenagers, danced on the side lines and mingled quite energetically with the marching band.

My baby boy isn’t quite so little any more.

It isn’t just his size I’m referring to as he teeters just a bit shy of six feet tall.  His confidence has grown immensely. He’s looking for people he knows in any crowd so he can wave or speak to them. He mingles enthusiastically at the football game not at all deterred by the people. Instead of hiding behind me he is more likely walking away as quickly as possible to keep me from cramping his style.

The small trembling kid once so easily startled, shy and afraid stands tall, asks questions and wants to have is voice heard.

Lan seeks the independence his brother enjoys and is finding a confidence all his own.

He challenged one of his classmates in band and is now third chair with his eye on the second. The young boy who once hated school now actually cares about his grades and takes pride in doing well.

I’m not quite sure what happened and when but my baby boy has grown.  DSC_6826 (3)

And he’s not the only one.

I’ve grown more trusting in God’s ability to handle whatever hiccups come our way. I’ve grown more confident in Lan’s abilities as he takes it upon himself to initiate more of his school work without prompting from me or my husband.

I’ve grown out of the need to have my hand on everything. I can trust others to get the job done and if it isn’t the way I would have done it that’s fine too.

I’ve become less anxious as I’ve seen that the worst case scenario rarely happens.

I’ve grown more thankful as God continues to answer prayers for good breaks, good friends and faithfully provides opportunities I could never have come up with on my own.

Sometimes the most growth occurs when it appears that nothing is happening at all.

A lot of times we pray for things and think that nothing is changing. Everything looks the same. We wait for the answers we have hoped and prayed for to manifest. Sometimes we wait so long it feels like God has forgotten us.

But God is faithful.

I have found the answers I’ve sought in unexpected people, places and things. God has allowed me to grow in my expectations of Him. I can now recognize the unconventional ways in which God has answered some of my prayers.

Lan has grown taller, stronger and more confident. I like to think something has “clicked” as he tackles more challenges with determination instead of fear.

I’ve grown mentally tougher and spiritually stronger as our walk along the spectrum has forced us to enlarge our vision and look for what “can be” instead of settling for “what is.”

We’ve still got a ways to grow both him and me, but thankfully, we are never alone in our journey.

God’s got us.

And for that, I am very, very grateful.

“But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him [be] glory both now and for ever. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18 KJV