Category Archives: garden

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!!!

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 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

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