Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chasing Rainbows and the Gift of Autism




Like Hannah, I asked the Lord for him (1 Samuel 1:1-28). Well, maybe not quite the same way.

I was alone in the long stretch of a hallway that led to our bedrooms. Pictures of my children, all my children, even my little one who lived a short life, spanned the length of the wall from end to end.

And the tears poured down because another month had gone by, and I still wasn't pregnant.

I had but one child now, my Bright Girl, already a preschooler, who was napping in her room.

I thought I was being quiet. I didn't want to disturb her with my sorrow.

But, I was longing for a rainbow baby. Another son after going through the storm of losing my Luke.



Standing under his picture, another wave of grief hit me. As I bowed my head to weep, I banged into the wall.

Ouch.

Bright Girl came out of her room and saw me rubbing my aching head. I'm sure my eyes were puffy, and I was still sniffling.

"What's wrong, Mama?" She peered up at me with her bright blue eyes. "Do you need your daddy?"

Ah, the wisdom of little children.

I nodded my head. "Yes. I need God, my Daddy in heaven." I held her close and prayed, asking if the Lord would indeed give me another son.

After that I stopped asking and stopped worrying about it.

And, the Lord did bless us with another pregnancy. Through an ultrasound, we discovered the baby was a another boy.  

At about five months into the pregnancy, something went wrong.  Billy was driving, and I was
sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV.  I heard a plop behind me where Bright Girl was seated.

“Mommy, please get my sippy cup,” she pleaded.

Reaching around the seat, I attempted to grab it, but, as I picked it up, I felt a searing pain in my abdomen. 

We arrived home a few moments later, and I rushed to the bathroom.
I had begun hemorrhaging and didn’t know what to do. 
I called out to Billy, and he helped me lay down on the bed. 

As I prayed that the Lord would not let me suffer sorrow upon sorrow, Billy dialed my obstetrician.

We went in for an ultrasound that same day and discovered a rupture between the baby’s egg sac and my uterus. On the ultrasound screen, in black-and-white, I could see the stream of blood trickling down from the tear.

“Will my baby die?” I felt my brow scrunch up.

“There’s about a 50% chance of survival," replied the doctor. "But, you’ll need strict bed rest until you heal up.”

That wasn’t complete assurance my baby would be okay, but nevertheless, I followed the doctor’s strict orders—for six weeks. To keep from feeling anxious, I prayed and wrote down my favorite Scriptures on note cards.

Most days, Bright Girl played with her toys next to me, and I lay on the futon in the living room, reading and praying.  Friends came and brought me magazines, books, and movies to help pass the time. 

After six weeks, an ultrasound revealed the rupture completely healed. 

My baby boy, my Little Man, was born a week after his due date with only two hours of labor. As soon as he was born, he opened up his bright blue eyes to take in this strange new world. 

The doctor laid him on my chest, and as I held him, I rested in awe of my Father God, who had given me such a beautiful child. To be able to hold him right when he was born and take him home with me was like a dream come true.




























After his 15 month check-up and immunizations, our little boy came down with a 105 degree fever. We rushed him to a clinic and his fever came down with Tylenol, but after that day, something changed...




I couldn't seem to get a smile, good eye contact. There was an inward turn...



When we would look at him, he would turn his eyes away...




His desire to connect was fading. His growing vocabulary, screeched to a halt...



I felt like I was losing my son.



I kept thinking, this is not happening. But, it was all so subtle. Within a matter of months, he went from a happy, sociable little toddler to one who had constant meltdowns.

He became highly sensory-sensitive and couldn't even stand his own tears on his face and would try to scratch them away when he cried.


I wouldn't give him what he wanted unless he asked for it. He had to ask, either with his words or with baby signs that I taught him before he was one. He would get so frustrated with me. But, I wouldn't give in.

Looking back on that time, I know now that I was fighting for my son. To keep him from losing speech all together. To keep him from disconnecting from us.

Tiring of my pediatrician saying he was fine, I took him to a child development specialist and a psychchiatrist when he was four.


Both gave him the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And, he was referred to an occupational therapist to receive sensory integration therapy.



He started to turn around...
 
 

The therapy helped some, but I had this gnawing feeling that it wasn't the right diagnosis. Even though SPD was hard enough to have, I thought Little Man had the mysterious epidemic that is plaguing so many children of this generation.

Autism.

I pondered this in my heart, hoping that I was wrong. But, the concern grew as he did.



Even though, yes, he did talk, he flapped his arms when he was excited and still had trouble looking people in the eyes for more than a few seconds (I had to be quick with the camera to capture him at attention). 

And, he didn't seem to be "growing out of it." He needed more help.

So, when he was eight, I started asking around and connected with friends who had children with autism who had the same behaviors as my Little Man.

With a list of recommended doctors  in hand, I called until I found one that would see him. A neurologist. Surely a neurologist would finally put to rest my concerns for autism.

Before we went to the appointment, I prayed that the doctor would see it if he truly had autism.

And, she did.

She saw that he did.

So, the puzzle pieces finally came together. And, the picture was still my little boy. But, now I know he's autistic, and he has a long road ahead of him.

This is the son I asked for. My rainbow baby. I was chasing rainbows, hoping that having another son would help heal the ache of having a child who died.

But, it was a different kind of rainbow than I was dreaming of.




He has a disability. I didn't ask for that. But, I didn't ask for a child without disabilities either.

And, of course I still love him. He's mine. He's still my Little Man.

Then I saw it. In asking for another son, I was chasing rainbows, an elusive brilliance that fades away with changes circumstances like the clouds clearing from the sky, revealing the brightness of the sun. 

I didn't know it, but all along, I did have a rainbow. 

The rainbow inside my heart.

Through every sorrow, the love of God, my Father in heaven, has been shining in my heart, giving me the rainbow of a transformed life.

It's true. And, this rainbow is eternal.

In all the pain and suffering of life, when we trust in Christ, he gives us more faith, hope, and love. 

And He will do so even now.

There are always glimmers of grace if you look for them.


Evidences of our Father's presence and providence.


Our last visit to our new pediatrician, I saw a glimmer.


He asked Little Man what he wanted to be when he grew up.


"A Christian scientist." Little Man was serious.


"I believe that God divinely intervened to create us. I don't think we came from monkeys either." The doctor winked and patted him on the back.


Good answer. This pediatrician is a keeper.


And, I would agree. We are all here for a reason. God divinely intervened to create us.


We don't often think about the ways our souls have been damaged by the fall, our own sin, or the sins of others.


We need redemption...


"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39)

We need restoration...

And, sometimes, it is through the valley of the shadow of death that the light of Christ shines all the more brightly (Psalm 23).

Through Christ, the Good Shepherd, our dark valleys of uncertainty can become a rainbow valley for our soul.

As we trust in Christ, rely on Him, and look to Him for all our needs, we will become more and more like Him.


"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28, 29)


In a way, everything, even hard things like autism, can be a blessing, a gift, if we continue to trust God and offer up our thanks to Him. He knows what He's doing. And, we can keep looking for those glimmers of grace along the way.




Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sisters are Forever Friends

Growing up with four brothers, I wondered what it would have been like to have a sister, 
To have a forever friend.


To always have a playmate.





Or a friend to goof around with.






To have a friend to be silent with.





To share joys






And sorrows.

The desire for a sister was fulfilled twice.

First, when I was sixteen and reunited with my dad. I also found out that I had a nine-year-old sister.

Finally, I had someone to play with, though I was too old for dolls. Still, we tried to make up for lost time.

We roller-skated together. Did "fashion shows." Hunted for clams in the Indian River by combing through the muddy bottom with our toes.

And, later on, she became my bridesmaid, my children's aunt, and a mother herself.


The second sister is more of a series of sisters. Every time I connect to a community of Christian women who are devoted to the study of God's Word and prayer, I discover new sisters. We immediately bond because of our unity of faith in Christ.

Over time, through shared joys and sorrows, I have connected to sisters in Christ here and abroad, in person, through letters, or via the World Wide Web. 

It's a sad and lonely place when it seems like there's no one who cares, no one who understands. And, to feel utterly alone in all the pain and suffering of life can be like hell on earth. But, you don't have to do life alone.

The truth is, if you've put your trust in Christ, you are never alone. 

Christ is always with you (Matthew 28: 18-20). Tell Him your sorrows and experience His comfort and healing grace (Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

And, you have sisters in Christ all around the world.

Truly forever friends, for because of Christ, we will all spend an eternity with Him.

Ways to connect with your sisters in Christ:

* Pray and ask God for friends

* Join a women's Bible study at your local church

* Join a Christian group that fits your interests (e.g. Word Weavers International)

* Go on a short-term mission trip

* Go with your local church's women's ministry to a retreat or conference (e.g., Women of Faith)

* Serve in a group outreach at your local church

* If you live in a remote location or are homebound, you can connect through online groups (e.g., Christian Bloggers Community)

We were never meant to be alone. Being self-reliant is in our nature, but we need others more than we realize, and we may be a blessing in others' lives as well. 

May you find your forever sisters in the community of Christ. 

Here's a true story of two forever sisters...



Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Key to Facing Your Fears



Heart-shaped sugar cookies, fresh baked by Bright Girl.

My chosen instrument to quell the fear.


Something that I saw on the Internet made me think about the prospect of death, and I didn't know what to do with the feelings.


Hunger hit me, and I headed for the fridge.


How many times have I faced death, I am only aware of a few, but I'm sure there has been more.


Before I was born, my mother wrestled with the decision to have yet another fatherless child. Millions of children created under the same circumstances have been aborted. But, in my case, love won out. 


Death came knocking again as a newborn, when during my delivery, my mother's negative blood was incompatible with my O+ blood. I spent twelve days in the NICU, fighting severe jaundice as my liver worked to bring back equilibrium.


All of us at one time or another have been a moment away from death, but by the grace of God we live.

Why?


What are we here for?


To be happy?


To love?


To make the world a better place?


These are good things, but in this world, it seems like it is next to impossible to remain happy, to stay connected, to do all that much good.


What has happened to us?


Why are we unhappy, hurting, and immobilized?


In her TED talk on vulnerability, Brene' Brown shared,


"You cannot selectively numb emotion." When you numb one, you numb them all...You can numb pain, shame, fear, loneliness with let's say, a cookie, but then all the joy, creativity, gratitude and other euphoric feelings go down the tube."


When I am afraid, cookies do work for a time in helping me feel better, but do I really want to give up feeling all things just to silence the one difficult emotion that is hounding me for that moment?


Is there any other way to live?



In Christ, you can face your fears and trust in Him to do the rest.


The key to facing your fears is 

Trust.

And, we can trust in the love of God demonstrated in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8).

I can think of a time or two where I was enabled to do what I thought impossible because I knew that Christ was right there with me.

The truth is, through Christ, we have not been immobilized. 

We have been sent. 
To live, to love, to share the hope of the gospel with a lost and hurting world (Matthew 28:18-20).

And what does Scripture say Christ has done with death?



“O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)


Death no longer stings like it did, because we know that Christ paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. We are now going to spend an eternity in His glorious presence.


Death no longer has the power it once had, because Jesus took our shame upon Himself. We can now walk in freedom and newness of life.



We really have NOTHING to fear, because 

Jesus did it all. 



"if the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you. He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal body through His Spirit who lives in you.

We have an obligation, brothers, then not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die. But, if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live


For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." 



Dying to ourselves gives us the freedom to live for God and others.


Dying to ourselves means letting go of our fruitless attempt to control our world, 
which in essence is fueled by our fears and instead,  
relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to live the life that God desires.


There are still Christians living today all over the world who are persecuted for their faith. Some have even given their lives for Christ. 



If we truly believe Christ loves us, then we will not be afraid to offer our hearts and lives to Him.
For He can take even the most humblest measure of love and multiply it for His glory (1 John 4:12).

So, next time I am afraid, instead of devouring a heart-shaped cookie or whatever else might mute the fear, I think I'd rather choose to turn to Christ and allow Him to fill me with His power and love.




"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (Psalm 56:3) 









Friday, March 14, 2014

The Proof of Pi




π
The Proof of Pi.

Never changing.
Crucial for circumference,
Or the area of a circle.
Formulated by the Greeks.
Or rather, discovered.
Always existing.
As long as we have round.

Do we really need proof 
For something that just is? 
That's what geometry
 Theorems are for. 
Proofs, proofs, and more proofs. 
It's all logical....

The Logos...
The Word made flesh that dwelt among us. 
But, still we want to touch the nail-marked hands 
And put our fingers in the pierced side. 
We need to see. 
Or do we?

Touched by grace, 
Through the eyes of love, 
We've been given 
These very great 
And precious promises 
From above. 

Look upon the cross. 

Do we still need proof?

It is finished. 




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maneuvering Through Life





The Christian Bloggers Community monthly challenge(#March2014CBChallengeManeuvering) was put to a vote for March and the winner was manuevering.

There is definitely a lot of manuevering going on in the life of a homeschool mom. Manuevering through piles of dirty laundry, around lego cities (which can be murder on the feet), and in teaching four different grade levels at once. 

So, on the weekends, if the weather is right, we try to find something fun to do. 

Although I live in Orlando, Florida, the home of Mickey Mouse, I am not a huge fan of theme parks. But, still we end up going to one of the plethora of parks that grace our fair city for "fun."

Maneuvering around thousands of people on a blistering hot day with four hungry, tired children is not my idea of fun. Nor is the expense of buying tickets for such a large family. And, I can remember all too clearly the last time I got a roller coaster (not the ones for kids). That was about fourteen years ago...I'll just say that it was an experience that I would not like to repeat if I can help it.

In years past, I'd say that I did it for the kids and the Captain, who does like roller coasters. But, after many visits to different theme parks, I've learned how to slow down and enjoy for myself all they have to offer.

The gardens, the food, the festivals...can all be fun.

Life imitates theme parks doesn't it?

But, what keeps us going in this topsy-turvy roller coaster ride we call life?

It helps to be prepared, to know our purpose and when life gets rough, to pace ourselves and learn to smell the roses.

It is impossible to outmaneuver the trials of life. They will come. But, part of being prepared is being in community.

It's a small world, and people can get pretty goofy once you get to know them. But, we can't let that keep us from being in community.


True, in community we can get hurt, but it is in community that we can heal.


I don't know what I would have done without the support of my Christian brothers and sisters when my husband and I went through the grief of losing our infant son to Potter's Syndrome.

To know that you are being lifted up in prayer helps lift your spirit. A kind word, a hug, or a surprise hot meal when you can barely get out of bed helps warm the soul.

Part of knowing our purpose is knowing who we are in Christ. Being intimately connected to Jesus will bring about a life transformation. Through trials, our faith can be strengthened and when we learn to "have our minds set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5,6)," we become more Christlike.

Much like manuevering through theme parks, we go from place to place, activity to activity, barely stopping to truly enjoy all that the Lord has blessed us with. I confess I am guilty of this myself. When I have a plateful of things to do, I sometimes forget the most important thing.

Like Mary, the sister of Martha (Luke 10: 38,39), I have to remember to pace myself and sit at the Lord's feet, enjoying his company and taking in all that He has to teach me in His Word and in His world. He fills my cup to overflow with love, mercy, and grace, which is what I need to be a blessing to others in this broken world in need of a Savior.

So, what does manuevering through life look like for you?

My hope is that in Christ, you are prepared, know your purpose, and can pace yourself and enjoy all the blessings He has given to you.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Monday, March 3, 2014

Using Your Gifts To the Glory of God


Of all the Winter Olympics  games, my favorite is the pair figure skating. It never ceases to amaze me how perfectly in-sync the couples dance on the ice, leaving figure eights in their wake. And, every time I watch a male skater spin his partner in a death spiral, her head dangerously close to hitting the ice, I hold my breath until she is is upright and they skate in unison again.

These athletes are at the top of their game, receiving rigorous training for the pivotal moment when they are chosen to represent their countries to compete for the gold.
   
Some talents are apparent, like athletics, music, or art. Others go largely unnoticed. But, we all have them. And, they have been given by our gracious heavenly Father, regardless of who we are or what we believe. 

We can grow and develop our gifts and use them to the glory of God or squander them and use them for our own glory.  

Then there are spiritual gifts. Gifts given only by the grace of God and by the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of Christ followers. These gifts are most visible through trials, temptations, and the testimony of others who "see your good works and glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16)."

And, we can grow and develop these gifts through living a life of faith, or we can squander them as well.


Jesus is the greatest example of One who used His gifts to the utmost glory of God. 


After being baptized, the Holy Spirit, who came down on Him in the form of a dove, filled Him, and then led Him into the wilderness (Matthew 3:16,17, Matthew 4:1-11).

There He fasted for forty days. True, He was spiritually enabled to be able to endure forty days with nothing to eat, but that didn't mean He wasn't hungry. This trial sapped His body of strength and made Him vulnerable.

And that is exactly the time that the devil entered the scene. 

He watches and waits until we are most vulnerable and then waves temptations before our eyes.

Three times the devil tempted Jesus. Three times Jesus prevailed.

Our Lord did not fight with earthly weapons, fine arguments, or armies of angels. He fought by the powerful Word of God.

It is crucial that we follow the same strategy as Christ to fight temptation when it comes.

When the devil came with the lie, Jesus fought back with the truth.

The devil uses the same lies and deception on us to attempt to tear down the character of God so we will mistrust Him and live for our own pleasure, glory, and gain instead of God's.

Jesus saw through the devil's delusion and continued to trust in the Father's heart and plan for His life.


Olympic champion, Eric Liddell, was known as saying he ran for God's pleasure. And, his life is a testimony of living for God's pleasure, glory, and gain.


Liddell could have spent his entire life reaping the benefits of his fame and fortune, but he left it all behind. His heart was elsewhere. In China. The land of his birth. He felt called to go back and share Christ with the people He had always loved.

Although China was under frequent attack by the Japanese during WWII, Liddell chose to go there as a missionary. He spent his life on behalf of teaching future leaders of the country in hopes that they would become Christ followers and be influential in opening doors for the spread of the gospel.

When the attacks became too dangerous, he sent his wife and children to Canada. But, he stayed behind to relieve his ailing brother at a rural Chinese mission station and continued to help the poor. Soon he found himself in a Japanese internment camp. 

Many in the detainment camp were blessed to know Liddell. By their testimony we know that he continued to trust in the Lord and worked hard to keep spirits up and help maintain order. 

One of his fellow internees, Norman Cliff, who later wrote a book about his experiences in the camp described Liddell as "the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody".
Langdon Gilkey, an American who survived the camp and later became a prominent theologian said of Liddell: 
"He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known."
In the last letter he wrote to his wife, Liddell wrote of suffering a nervous breakdown due to overwork. Liddell died on February 21, 1945, from a brain tumor, five months before liberation. 
Liddell had a chance to leave the camp, but instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. This final act of sacrifice surprised even his family members.
Gilkey later wrote, "The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric's death had left." According to a fellow missionary, Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender." He gave glory to God even to the very end of his life here on earth.
Any of us can live like Liddell, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live a life of total surrender. Not giving in to temptation to live for ourselves, but giving up our gifts for the glory of God.
We can trust in God to provide for our needs to do whatever He has called us to do with our gifts. Believing our significance is in Christ, not caring what men think of us, and being willing to give up money, status, and possesions, we can live life to fullest and not be tied down by fear of losing what we have gained here on earth.

The challenge for all Christians is the same. Are we willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of Christ's Kingdom?

During Lent, we can spend time in contemplation and prayer, asking the Lord to bring us to the point of living purely for 
His pleasure, glory, and gain.

To live a life of surrender so that we can truly live. 

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 ESV






Thursday, February 27, 2014

Learning to Linger


So often I don't take the time to linger. And, like the children, enjoy the beauty of creation. There are so many distractions in the world, sometimes it's good to just take a break and rest.

There is beauty in to be found in the world. And, those things have been given to us to enjoy and bring God glory.

And, part of that beauty is you.

We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Bought with the precious blood of Christ. By faith in Him, we are a new creation. Displaying His awesome power and glory to save and restore.

It helps to know who we are. To slow down. Turn off the distractions. And just be.

Let's finish off February by joining in the challenge and remember to slow down and sit down for a bit. You won't regret it!