Tag Archives: faith

Fragile!

I’m enjoying a plethora of blooms in my yard before the sweltering heat comes and takes hold of us here in the southeast. However, the slightest wind or harsh rains send petals all a flutter to the ground. As beautiful as the blooms are, their beauty fades quickly and doesn’t last.

Sometimes I feel just as fragile. I have the best of intentions. But sometimes my “to do” list just doesn’t get done. My mind sometimes swims through a list of things to do and should have done. Regret for lost time can intrude upon my progress and leave me feeling as helpless as my roses in the storm.

Or there are times when I’m okay but my children seem a bit battered and bruised. The struggle to meet or exceed expectations can wear them down.  Keeping them “up” and encouraged while trying to adhere to the same advice I give them is sometimes…hard.

We all go through times when we feel weak, weary and just need some relief. I’ve sometimes felt vulnerable and ready to wilt under changing demands and looming uncertainties

The picture posted above reminds me of the frailty of life.  We are often just as weak and helpless, susceptible to life’s storms.

Or are we?

The temporary highs in life are beautiful but they can’t last forever. Just like those frail blooms. It is the strong and pointed stems that support the fleeting beauty. The petals are soft but the thorns are sharp. Those painful thorns stems facilitate survival. Those stems support the blooms.

I think on this as I think back on how God has supported me through the years. It hasn’t always been pretty, but His love has never failed. Some situations were sticky. A few, quite painful. Yet through them all, God lifted us up and displayed His beauty often at times when I felt I was past done!

We don’t have to be strong all the time. We just have to be willing to be supported by Him. This will often leave us in a few prickly situations that can be painful. Some may even draw blood. But when we are supported by God, our strength then comes from Him!

When I feel fragile, it’s okay. I’m not dependent on my strength at all. God is supporting me, my trials, concerns and even my dreams. I don’t fear when one bloom fades. Trusting God eases my mind, pushes away my fears and reassures me that I don’t have to “feel” okay to be okay. There may be times when I look like I’m fading fast, but God holds me up!

Even when I’m spent, with Him lies the potential for future blooms.

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Hang In There!

I had the luxury today of spending time in my garden. I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy a welcome visitor. As I enjoyed the pleasant breeze, my friend pictured above struggled to hold on!

Yet, he didn’t particularly seem to mind as he went about observing me as much as I observed him. He knew exactly what to do to keep stable, grounded and not subject himself to wavering in the wind.

I thought about that for a moment. This last couple of weeks left me feeling like I was just holding on. With standardized testing, finals and all the other stuff that comes along with two teenagers and the end of the school year, I felt at risk of losing my grip (and maybe my mind) at any moment!

Like the dragonfly, I should have been quick to hunker down and hold on to my support. God has proven faithful more times than I can count. Yet, sometimes I find myself in the scurry mode of trying to do, do, do when I should just cling to Him and rest instead.    DSC_7885 (2)

When we have done all we can, I think many of us find ourselves at a loss and look for more to do. Instead of looking to do more, I’m convinced there are times God doesn’t want us to do anything at all but cling to Him.  When we are mature enough to realize we have done all we can and allow Him to do all He can, situations we have no control over lose their control over us!

I’m finished with the hustle of the school year for ten glorious weeks. Many of you who read this blog have a couple more to go. Even if it isn’t the end of school you’re counting down, we all have something that we are waiting on or hoping for.

I urge you to hang in there with all that you have! Your strong winds will eventually pass. Peace will come once again. Often when things look grim up to the end, God is faithful! He makes possible those things many fear are impossible.

When it looks like the end, praise God for what He has done. When it does not look good, thank Him for what He is doing. Look back and remember where you were and thank Him for getting you where you are now. Sometimes there isn’t anything more to do but hang in there with a faith that refuses to fade.

 “But [as for] you, brethren, do not grow weary [in] doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13 NKJV

“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11 NKJV

**A very special thanks for those of you who prayed for us and a good conclusion to this first year of high school. Lan passed ALL of his classes! With much prayer, hard work, the help of teachers who tutored him and lots of “tough love” he ended the semester with a 3.00 g.p.a. We’ve come a long way with many miles to go, but we hang in there!

Beauty in the Muck

There have been times in life that I was so busy anticipating potential dangers, that I failed to see the beauty right around me. Last week while working in my garden I was keeping such a keen eye out for snakes (I loathe snakes) that I almost missed the beautiful butterfly in my midst. Sometimes when we are so focused on one negative, it blinds us to the greater number of positives right in front of us.

As the parent of a kid on the spectrum, I have on occasion caught myself anticipating what “could happen” all the while oblivious to what is happening.

Lan will complete his first year of high school in just a few weeks. We are now in the midst of “test anxiety” though trying hard to keep it at a minimum. Failure to pass these exams will mean a summer of trying to restore these credits. “Credit restoration” would play havoc with summer travel plans let alone the struggle of shuttling him back and forth to school.

Lan’s teachers are proud of his work in class. He does better than many of the neuro-typicals in his classes. Yet, Lan has never excelled at standardized testing. Challenging for most, to a kid with attention deficits these exams are a very steep uphill battle.

As an ever recovering control freak, I fight my fears realizing his exams and other things lie well beyond my control. Instead of focusing on the pessimistic what ifs, I am ever searching and sometimes struggling to count my blessings now.

I am grateful this first year of high school has been a success. We had no traumatic events as I’d feared the beginning of the year. Lan’s teachers have been receptive and accommodating. Many students are quite kind to him and often act on his behalf. Lan has made a few friends. He has thrived under the direction of his band teacher. Lan is no longer nervous about the huge crowds and even learned to maneuver them well. As of last week, he no longer meets the requirements for speech therapy services.

In the muck of IEPs, core curriculum and teenage angst, I can appreciate how far we’ve come when I take time to look for the beauty.

I was once so accustomed to looking for potential snakes (bullies, indifferent teachers, additional diagnoses) that I failed to see let alone appreciate the beauty that God poured before me. Now, I am ever grateful and continually search out the beauty in life.

If you feel mired down in your muck, I challenge you to look up from where comes my help. We don’t have to walk this journey alone. We don’t even have to orchestrate every step along the way.

God is willing, available and more than able.

“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 11:29-30 NKJV

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 NKJV

 

Time and Transition

transition: “a change from one state or condition to another”   “movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another” Merriam Webster

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end,” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

I birthed this blog the first of August when my youngest entered high school. Now with less than a month before school is out, first year jitters have been replaced with a spirit of perseverance, faith and gratitude.  transitions 1

Lan has evolved from nervous freshman to actively seeking out his friends. He has moved away from the kid sitting alone at lunch to having a steady rotation of friends to eat with and interact. Surprisingly, most of these kids aren’t even in his classes.

Friday, when my husband picked both boys up from the high school, Cam made a telling remark. He said once people saw him with Lan they kept asking, “are you Lan’s brother?” Apparently, Lan’s social vine extends farther than any of us realized.

It was quite the eye opener. For years, Lan has always been the other brother, often falling under the shadow of big brother Cam. Now, in high school, the tables are turning a bit and the light is now shining on Lan.

Lan surprised me today with news that he will receive an award at Thursday’s end of the year awards ceremony. We have no idea what he is receiving an award for. He has worked extremely hard on his school work but an A student he is not. However, Lan’s tenacity to put in the extra time and effort has endeared him to most of his teachers.

A school year fraught with uncertainties looks to be ending on a good note. We have traded Georgia CRCTs (criterion referenced competency tests) for EOCs (end of course exams) so test anxiety ever looms. Yet receiving this award, whatever it may be is progress. It is one more step in the right direction, one step forward in personal accountability, one acknowledgement of doing the best you can, no matter what that best might be.  transitions title

It’s has been quite a year of change. Insecurities vanquished. Challenges met head on. Bullies thwarted. Faith in people… restored.

There has been much personal growth and maturity from fragile bud to longer lasting leaf. Lan made out just fine.

I’m referring to me.

He is Faithful!

I planted the azalea pictured above nearly fourteen years ago. I was all excited as we had moved into a new home and my love for all things green made landscaping a priority. I planted three azaleas and looked forward to the beauty they would bring through the years.

Well the bounty of blooms promised twice yearly from the “encore” variety didn’t come to fruition. In fact, the plants did very little to expand beyond their original borders. No amount of water, fertilizer, sun or shade seemed enough to make these plants thrive. In fact, one actually died. My dreams for replicating the beauty of the azaleas that grace my mother’s yard quickly faded away. Out of options and ideas, I finally resolved to put my efforts elsewhere.

Well, last year, my azaleas bloomed. Nothing spectacular yet the surviving plants actually showed some signs of life. After a decade! I didn’t know what to think. These plants appeared lifeless for so long I’d forgotten what color blooms they originally promised. I’m sure I contemplated on more than one occasion to dig them up! Surprisingly, the deep magenta color is a perfect match for some phlox I’d planted nearby. The color scheme on that side of the yard looks very well orchestrated. Little do the neighbors know!

Well, a couple of days ago I walked outside to see the shrubs have tripled in width and doubled in height! What were once small dwarf sized shrubs are alive and thriving. At some point along the way, I’m pretty sure I’d prayed that these plants would live and bloom (yes, I even pray over my plants and grass). The funny thing is I’d made that petition to God so long ago, over a decade ago, that I’d completely forgotten all about it.  DSC_0043

However, God does not forget! His timing and our timing aren’t always the same, yet He is always faithful!

I like to think that if His faithfulness can apply to something as “minimal” as my landscaping, what more can God have in store for larger matters? And what prayers I have dared to pray in regard to my children!

So, if you are feeling that God hasn’t heard your prayers, He has. He hears them all large and small.

God is larger than my doubts and fears. God is greater than ASD. Through once forgotten magenta blooms, He cares and shows His love for me.

“Let us hold fast the confession of [our] hope without wavering, for He who promised [is] faithful,” Hebrews 10:23 NKJV

Camp Sunshine!

Last summer after depositing my oldest son on a college campus for a week-long camp, my youngest child who inspired this blog asked me, “When will I go away to camp?”
My reply was “we’ll see,” all the while on the inside I’m thinking to myself ain’t now waaaayy that’s happening.

Well, it happened.

That’s what I get for thinking in absolutes. God always has other plans.

Lan spent this weekend on his favorite college campus. Camp Sunshine is open for kids who may not be able to attend other camps. I had my reservations, or rather fears, that kept trying to creep into my mind. However, we are trying to foster more independence in Lan and he was more than eager to head off on his own!

For once, he wasn’t going somewhere under the shadow of and watchful eyes of his big brother. When they were younger the boys did most things as a pair. It was usually Cam and Lan. Now as they are older Cam often experiences things that Lan can not.

Lan is always asking when is it his turn?  

Lan’s turn came by the way of a beautiful campus with Lake Hartwell as a magnificent backdrop. He was free this weekend to laugh as loud as he wanted; there was no one around to temper his excitement. This kid was delightfully happy for the time to just be. He was free to be him, idiosyncrasies and all, under the warmth of the sun.

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There was no pressure to conform to the norm, no reason to curtail his excitement. There were no standards to measure him against others. If only he could have this luxury all the time?

But our society isn’t as forgiving as camp. It confines us to standards, norms and expectations. It pushes us ever toward goals and what it thinks we should be and how to behave.

I’m not advocating anarchy by any means but I wonder how much more the light inside my child could shine if he weren’t always under pressure to confine himself into someone else’s “box.” How much brilliance and creativity are snuffed out because society doesn’t always embrace creativity in others when it is packaged differently?

We should all be able to shine under the warmth of the sun free from expectations, scrutiny and the wayward glances of others. If only.

But with God we can shine and just be. He created us. There is no defect or deficiency under Him, only love. Love and acceptance of us just as we are.

There is an old hymn, Just As I Am, we used to sing in church when I was a child. I think my favorite stanza is as follows:

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come I come!

This weekend provided not only an opportunity for Lan to shine at Camp Sunshine but it was also a reminder that we all can “just be” in God’s presence if only we would dare step out of our confines and into His warmth.

Many of us, especially us Christians, are so preoccupied about what we do (or don’t do, or what others are doing!) we fail to simply “be.”

We fail to be content. We fail to be at peace. We fail to be still be in His presence and allow God to simply and amazingly love us.

We should be joyful. We should be grateful. We should be peaceful.

The Son shines on whosoever will dare to step into the light. His light can transform us into the people we want to become if we would pause long enough and simply be with Him!

In His presence, are the answers we seek, faith and hope that renew, and the peace that passes understanding.

Lan knows how to just be and receive love. He knows how to enjoy the present without worry about the future! Lan trusted that his father would provide the overnight camp he wanted. 

I’m going to trust that my Father provides as generously for me as well!

 

My Brother’s Keeper?

 While I was away this weekend, my oldest son had an epiphany of sorts. I’m not sure exactly what sparked his revelation, but according to my husband he was very suddenly and emotionally distraught about his little brother’s future. 

Now, my oldest has always been mature for his age. I tell you he has more sense than most adults. The only common denominator between both boys academically is their band instructor. The band room is where students often hang out or practice no matter their grade level or academic rank. Music is a great equalizer. Lan, the youngest, does very well in this area despite other academic challenges.

Nevertheless, something occurred to upset my oldest. Both boys were heavily involved in a band festival held at the school last week. I suspect something was said to Cam about his younger brother. Lan could have easily wandered away from an assigned task, said something not quite age appropriate or any number of things. I’ll probably never know. All Lan knows is that he had a great time participating in the music festival. However, per Cam’s suggestion, Lan won’t be hanging out in the band room without his supervision.

I have always told the boys to love one another and be kind to each other because mom and dad won’t always be around. I suspect the oldest has now grasped the reality that his brother may not become as self-sufficient as he is. Cam has readily embraced the role of “third parent” when neither my husband or I are around.   My hunch is Cam’s worry for little brother won’t necessarily end when he leaves home for college.

It has been quite the balancing act juggling the demands of two children who have totally opposite needs. Cam has often been in the background when Lan’s diagnosis has forced us to spend more time and attention addressing it. Lan has often been in the shadow of big brother’s achievements and academic accolades which he has never matched.

My husband and I made a deliberate choice to become parents. My oldest son did not. He shouldn’t be preoccupied with what the future holds for his sibling. Instead, Cam should have the liberty to focus on pursuing his own dreams and aspirations. Cam is a very loving child and through he get’s annoyed with little brother from time to time, he has always shown a love and concern for Lan that I pray will continue long after I’m gone.

We have no way of knowing what the future brings. I am hopeful and trusting that God will just “work it out” as He has done so many things in my life. Still, I am grateful that my oldest son is mature enough and concerned that Lan is well cared for now and hopefully into the future. It is my hope that Cam can spread his wings without the worry of looking back.

I don’t know if Lan will gain the maturity and skills to live independently. I don’t know if I will have the resources to provide for his care years after I’m gone. I don’t know how God is going to resolve this issue. I…just…don’t…know.

So I must trust.  

Such a simple sentence but so often very hard to do. Yet, I will manage by focusing on the present and allow God to order my steps for the future. I don’t have to see the solution, though I admit it pains me greatly. However, we will continue along prayerfully, grateful for miracles yet to come. 

I expect great things for both my boys. Maybe Cam’s experiences with his brother will mold him into the man God intends him to be. Maybe, just maybe, Lan in his own way is looking after him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

What next?

I am sitting here today pondering, “What’s next?” in regards to Lan and his future. Old habits would have me convinced I should be preoccupied doing something to facilitate an outcome.

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I met with Lan’s teachers and counselor to come up with strategies to help his academic success. So far, so good. However, the true outcome of our plan won’t be evident until progress reports come out… next month! At this point I can only wait patiently.

I’m sure there are things I could be doing but I am confident my efforts would be fruitless. I would just be busy. Having Lan’s best interests occupy my consciousness for so long, it seems odd to be at this standstill. Yet, God isn’t prodding me to do anything right now. It is both liberating and strange all at once.

I’ve prayed long ago for my “load” to be a bit lighter or to be able to manage it better. I’m not quite sure which or both have been answered. It is as if we’ve come to yet another rite of passage, probably more for me than for Lan, that I must cast my cares (once again and continually) and trust God for the very best.

I don’t know how his first year in high school will end. However, unlike before, the unknown no longer fills me with fear or dread. My priority now is to be ever aware when God does give me instruction and respond quickly.

Abraham didn’t know what was next for him when he headed out toward the unknown. Yet, Abraham was patient, obedient, maintained his faith, and was well rewarded for doing so. I only pray that I can do the same.

Abraham even made a few mistakes as he waited (Hagar) and I’ve made mine, but I am not letting momentary failings withdraw me from God’s faithfulness or the promises He has for me!

So if you are like me and have no idea of what’s next, don’t fret!

I am less concerned as I get older in understanding the how, what and why as I am in having faith for the final outcome.

Sometimes, the answers to our questions extend beyond our comprehension. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is my child diagnosed with autism? How is my child ever going to succeed?

I don’t know.

I’ve finally matured enough to trust God to equip me to do the best I can with what I’ve been given instead of wasting time pondering how or why?

The unknown isn’t as daunting a prospect when you know the God who is in control of it all. We may think we know what is next for our circumstances, our future and our lives. However, all any of us can really do is learn to live our lives as best we can.

Perfection is impossible, that’s why we need a Savior.

We can choose to believe in Him or what this world has to offer. We can choose to speak life or death. We can choose to follow Him or fall by the wayside. Whether we choose to live in faith or fear for the future can make a world of difference. I choose to wait patiently with hope and in faith.

I guess for me, that’s what’s next!

“But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8 NKJV

 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 NKJV

Photosynthesis….lets get into this!

Lan has done a pretty good job holding his own this first year of high school. However, biology has taken a bit more time and mental energy than he ever imagined.

I try to help him as best I can to study for exams and review material. His older brother (only by 15 months) is taking Advanced Placement biology and does his best to help him also. Lan’s enthusiasm for our efforts has been lukewarm at best.

However, this past weekend, He was very enthusiastic about his biology homework. I thought that was odd but decided to be grateful instead. A couple of hours later he bounces down the stairs and wants me to hear his new song. I’m befuddled but go along with it anyway.

Pho-to-synthesis…lets get into this!

Plants take water, sun and CO2…to make the sugar that they use for food!

Now his little song continues on explaining some not so simple chemical reactions. I was first impressed that he actually grasped the concepts in his lyrics but then secondly disappointed that I hadn’t come up with the idea to help him learn these lessons!

My mind then begins to wander. I begin thinking how much better he would be if he were in one of those private (and very expensive!) schools that cater to kids with ASD or learning disorders. I begin thinking about how farther along he would be academically if I were a stay at home mom and had the time to supplement the material he’s getting at school. My mind spins off in a hundred different directions of I’m not doing enough, I’m not providing enough, what kind of sad parent am I?

I only engaged in my pity party for a few minutes until I remembered that “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:11 NKJV. I can raise this child to reach his greatest potential while I work more than full time, meet the needs of other family members and not go crazy in the process! I don’t have to be the strong one, through Christ’s strength I am able. It may not be easy, but I am able to do what is necessary.

I had to remind myself “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 NKJV. God supplies my needs not necessarily my wants! And truth be told, I probably don’t know what I want anyway. I have thought that I wanted to not work and stay home to meet every need of my child but I don’t want to be unemployed either! I surely don’t want God to meet one desire and in the midst of doing so I have to undertake a larger problem! Besides, I like the people I work with and the patients we serve. Staying at home full-time might be good for Landon (or not) yet it might be terrible for me! 

God knows what I need and what I really want even when I don’t. I remember that I am indeed blessed and the trials I feel I may have to work through are for my development and so minimal compared to what others are facing! I have since redirected my thoughts to “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer,” Romans 12:12 NKJV and turned the “what if” button in my head to OFF.

We are all tempted to second guess ourselves and even God from time to time. His timing has never been my timing and by now I should be okay with that (should be but still working on it). I am however confident His plans for our lives are better than anything I could ever put together.

I will continue to let God be…God. I will do what I can and trust Him to do the rest!

 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11

Do My Shoes Match?

As Lan is making it along in his first year of high school he is becoming ever so aware of other people’s perceptions. Somewhere along the line he has matured away from the kid who wanted to wear a sweater in the summer and shorts in the winter into someone with a true desire to be “handsome.” His word, not mine!

I find this kind of comical. Teenagers are often very self-aware and insecure about their looks, dress and a number of other things. Lan has for the most part been oblivious to all of this…until now.

He wants his shoes to match his clothes. He has even taken to swiping some of his older brother’s “cooler” clothes. No big deal for most but I am proud of him for his increased awareness of the people and things around him and his at urge to at some extent blend into the “normalcy” that surrounds him.

I have at times often wondered through the years when some major “turning point” would occur. I’ve prayed about certain things and then forgot that I prayed about them having prayed so much for one thing or another.

Progress begins in steps. Lan continues to make gains, some large and some small.  God faithfully answers my prayers, even those long forgotten.

Simple things like dressing himself appropriately and other social cues that were once so foreign to him are steadily creeping into his consciousness.

I still have a long list of things I’d like to see Lan progress in. I will admit dressing appropriately isn’t even in the top twenty. However, I am grateful for this accomplishment even though I almost “missed it,” not realizing he hadn’t asked me or his father for clothes in months! We always picked his clothes out for him but somewhere along the line he began doing it for himself and doing a very good job at that!

Sometimes our minds are so fixated on the “major tasks” we are trying to carry out that we miss those minor milestones along the way. I am grateful for my blessings, truly celebrating all the gains and successes we have had this year. My every prayer has not been answered, but I have hope and faith that God is not done with us yet!

We are blessed beyond measure even as the ASD hovers in the background. I won’t allow “autism” to rob us of our peace or joy. It only serves as a point of reference for where we were to where we are now.

We are blessed in spite of diagnoses, IEPs, and a few social hiccups.

I’m grateful for gains socially, mentally, and even physically this year. Lan is building up both mind and body going with his dad to “la fitness” as he calls it.  This child who was once weak and so uncoordinated is now hanging tough with his dad on the treadmill, elliptical and bench press. I never could have imagined this years ago!

Lan has friends at school who are nice to him. His new school is no longer a source of anxiety. High school has at least been embarked upon even if not fully conquered.

So much to be grateful for!  Too many blessings to count. God is faithful even when I fail. He lifts us up when we are weak. He has provided us with angels here on earth.

Celebrate this season giving thanks for blessings large and small. I am grateful even for those small things that don’t really matter in life.

I’m grateful his shoes actually match!