Living with Unresolve

“Life would be so much better if I could just remove this one thing.” Do you find yourself saying that? It’s that present problem that you never planned for, but it came. And it’s usually something that you don’t have much control over no matter how hard you try. Like a chronic health issue, an ailing parent, a wayward child, a disengaged spouse, long-term unemployment.

If you truly have a “one thing,” you don’t have to um and ah to conjure it up; it’s an instant response. Because it’s the thing you wake up thinking about and go to bed praying about. No matter how much you pray or change yourself, that “one thing” can still persist—maybe even for years, maybe for life. With that “one thing” persisting, how can you even experience that “life to the full” that Jesus came to give? Do you wonder sometimes if that simply wasn’t meant to be for you?

I’ve faced some tough stuff in my life and even some close calls, but most big things were resolved. Even when my father died suddenly at 55, that was hard, but it was final; resolved. When my son Josiah was diagnosed with autism at age 2—a neurological disorder that doctors say has “no known cause, no known cure, and is lifelong”—I encountered my first big wall in life that I couldn’t get over, naturally heal from, or work my way out of. It’s open-ended, unresolved. Uncomfortable.

I had no grid even in my spiritual life for a problem that didn’t have a foreseeable expiration date. And worse, it affected my only child before my eyes…and not one area of our family lives has been left untouched by it. Still, God says, “I have good plans for you and for your child”… “I work all things together for good”… “I do good work in you.”

Faith progress is believing that He just is Good News that eclipses the power of that which is unresolved right now. He is the Solution to every unanswered question in our lives.

So, how can we live with resolve while that “one thing” is still unresolved (according to Colossians 1)?:

1. Tap into God’s supernatural strength. God offers us a strength accessible by faith that is not our own. It is more than mere day-to-day survival; it is filled with enduring hope and expectation despite the present circumstances. It empowers us to persevere in prayer and speaks to us, “Never give up. Keep walking. Keep trusting.”

2. Cultivate joy and thankfulness. We have to practice these responses by reveling in what we have been given through Christ and engaging his promises instead of succumbing to despair and complaining. The best practice is giving away to others the very thing that you need yourself—like encouragement, prayer, or time.

3. Relentlessly pursue your destiny. God has bright and beautiful things planned for us, and equips us to do each one. The devil would love nothing more than to trap us in the “Land of Why” so that we become embittered to pursuing our God-given purpose. Instead, I dare you to move, to risk, to dream with God again! He is always forward moving—God of the Breakthrough, Restorer.

We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. Col. 1:11-12 (The Message)

Hope is Not a Strategy

“Hope is not a strategy.” A simple statement, but one that I’ve been chewing on the last couple of days. The context that I heard it in was at a seminar for churches on how try to prevent terrorism at your church before it happens. Ya know, the security specialist who has worked in the Israel airport and at the Mall of America in counter-terrorism says, “A lot of churches just ‘hope’ something bad will never happen to them. Well, hope is not a strategy… so you need to have a plan.”

“Hope is not a strategy.” That is so true. In life. In the Christ-following life. In autism life. Now, I LOVE hope, don’t get me wrong. I mean, look at what I named my blog. Hope is so foundational that if it doesn’t exist in the first place, there’s very little you can build upon at all. But, hope is a lot like a little blue pilot light. It must be present before the gas can be ignited that will actually throw out some serious heat.  Like a pilot light would never be able to cook your dinner by itself, hope does very little real work without the help of a partner.

Hope Always Pairs Up with Something

Hope itself very rarely just “works things out” like we hope it would. But, when coupled with action and faith, it is a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, when hope is coupled with denial and fantasy, hope is horribly destructive and it eventually blows out altogether–a very dangerous place to be. Here are some statements I’ve either said or heard to let you know what I mean:

“I hope our marriage gets better.”
“I hope God will pull through and heal my child.”
“I hope autism gets cured one day.”
“I hope I don’t stay depressed.”
“I hope God hears my prayers this time.”
“I hope my child will just get better so I don’t have to get more therapy for him.”
“I hope that rash/lump/swelling/ache/pain will just go away.”

You know what? Sometimes these things really do work themselves out. But a lot of times they don’t. In all of those statements, the most important thing missing is YOU or me. If we don’t take the personal responsibility to partner hope with something of substance–either action or active faith–we’re going nowhere, sister. Because hope is not a strategy.

Expectant Hope

Granted, sometimes hope needs to be paired with patience, but even true godly patience is active with expectancy because something has already been planted. “Yes, let none who trust and wait hopefully and look for You be put to shame or be disappointed” (Ps. 25:3). The very posture of God-like patience, trust and hope is still active. It leans forward and scans the atmosphere always looking for signs of growth and breakthrough. But notice the proper target of our hope when it comes to spiritual things. It is not in the need being fulfilled, but hope is placed IN God, the person–our Daddy. “And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You” (Ps. 39:7). It’s trusting that His character is that He loves us like crazy and He inherently is good all the time.

Now, when my husband tells me that he’s going to do the dishes, and I say, “Well, I sure hope so.” I really don’t have a ton of confidence that it’s actually going to get done. We need to check ourselves regularly that we’re not pulling the “Well-I-Sure-Hope-Sos” with God. Real, godly hope is not mere optimism. It is expectation that something could happen or change for the better. You’ve got to have it. And you know when you don’t. Like Prov. 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

Are We Really Heartsick?

I know I’ve been heartsick before, and it’s a bad pit to be in. Often my heart has gotten sick when I have put hope into an actual strategy that ended up not panning out like I hoped it would. We autism parents have got to keep moving, though, don’t we? Who has tried something like the GFCF diet, B-12 shots, a myriad of supplements, Respen-A, chelation, HBOT, NAET, speech therapy, OT, PT, ABA, on and and on and on, and not gotten the results you had hoped for?

I’ve done all these and more, and some have helped more than others. And I will continue to try new things because if you don’t try, you don’t know what you’re missing that really could help. When I try new things that could help my son, hope is activated. I have a strategy, a plan. I’m stepping out and taking a risk, and I’m optimistic that something could help and I’m working it. BUT, when it doesn’t help, I can get more pessimistic and sick about all the work and effort and money that didn’t produce much. I can also take it personally, like I failed somehow. It’s exhausting.

Now, hope paired with fantasy is not cool either. Marital issues, for instance, rarely just “poof” go away without some serious work on both people’s parts. You add a stressor like chronic sickness to the mix, and things come out in you and your spouse that you didn’t even know were there. “I hope it gets better” will go nowhere. But, with an action plan, perhaps some counseling, and practice, you can have a lot more hope that things will change. Are we willing to do the work? Are we willing to stop making excuses and work on ourselves?

When Hope Links Arms with Faith…

What I’m learning more than anything is that I can hope in my God, in His Word, and in His plan more than anything in this fallen world. He is not a man that He should lie. But, we’ve got to “up” our game when it comes to hoping in God. Our own hope arises from desire and expectation, but when paired with faith in our God, we come in agreement with what Jesus has already provided. There is a confident assurance that we place squarely in the the most capable Hands that we can have what’s already ours–even healing for our kids. Hope–that little flame–when ignited by faith IS a strategy. It can release unbelievable, supernatural things. Faith is stronger than hope, but faith without hope doesn’t make any sense at all. Hope, meet Faith, and dance!

 NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. Heb. 11:1 (AMP)

Come and Get Your Love

My last absence was too long, but I’ve been processing, people. Internal processing can be good. I don’t have to blab all of my feelings all over the place, right? Partially, I don’t even know where to start. I don’t have a hook, really, or even a good story to spin a profound thought from, so I guess I’ll just break down some things I’ve been learning on what I call my “complex journey to simplicity.” Stop number one: LOVE.

Now, I don’t have any issues in my past that would cause any abnormal barriers to understanding love. I grew up with parents that loved me; I’ve never been mistreated by a man; I’d like to think I’m a loving, affectionate person. So, it kind of surprised me about a month ago that I had something profoundly new to experience about God’s love for me. Not just your John 3:16 “Come to Jesus” love, which is totally amazing, but the love that he wants to lavish on me every day. The love that helps me connect with who he is so  I can even start to understand who I am.

I’m getting the picture: God loves me–like crazy love. Okay, so this sounds really cliche and simple. I get that. I wouldn’t say I was having any issue feeling loved by God before this “clicked” for me. However, here was my “aha”: I had been trying to pour out love and affection to God myself through prayer, worship, study, etc., but I was working so hard doing those things, that I forgot to allow myself to be on the receiving end of  love. His love. That makes for a pretty empty relationship of the one-way variety. Sure, I’d throw out your “thank you for loving me” statements in prayer and indulge in reflecting on God’s “great love” once in a while. But, that was starting to feel pretty impersonal. Without even knowing it, I was getting heavy into “Martha” mode when he was like, “Be a Mary and just sit down and soak it in. You’re making sandwiches for me that I didn’t order, and you’re getting all worked up about it, to boot. Sit down. Be quiet. Enjoy me.”

He Sings Over Me

While I was at this amazing conference at Bethel Church last month, one simple shift broke something inside of me. As we were worshipping in the conference, we sang this really beautiful song to God (I don’t even remember what it was) about how lovely he is, beautiful, worthy, holy… and then the worship leader said, “Now sing that again, but now imagine God is singing those words to YOU.” The tears just flowed from my eyes. “Tahni, you are beautiful, worthy, holy, and I love you.” 

Woah, why did I need to hear that so much? I’m learning we have to know what God thinks about us, or we’re toast. This false humility that has gripped Christians for centuries has to stop. The idea that we have to perform, or perfect, or somehow impress God into loving us enough to straighten out our messes is just keeping us down. Learning to receive his love every day is step one. I had jumped ahead to step five. Back up. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go straight to the lap of your Papa and let him hold you for a while.

There were many more confirmations that came that were big enough to make me realize I better pay attention to this love thing. One lady at the conference came up to me out of the blue and gave me a red glass pocket heart. She said, “God wants you to know that he loves you so much. He’s proud of you. Just let him love you. You don’t have to earn it. Approach him like a little girl. Crawl into his lap and let him love you.”

Can You Imagine?

I’m experiencing that sometimes you just have to engage your imagination and get an image of what it looks like to receive God’s love. That might be different for each person. Dance with him. Sit with him. Walk with him, whatever. Then it connects with your spirit and fills you. Romans 8:15-17 (MSG) says it well, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us–an unbelievable inheritance.”

I’m learning that his love is there. It’s always there, but I have to come and get it. The biggest hindrance to experiencing the life-giving love of Jesus is fear. I thought I was really grabbing on to faith, but without consciously being on the receiving end of his love, fear was choking out my faith completely.

Raising a child that has autism can be so scary. It feels like everything is out of control. You don’t know what happened. You don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know why he’s acting like he is. You’re afraid you’re not doing everything you can and should, and even when you are, it seems like it’s never enough. Of the 15 things that need to be tackled, you don’t know where to start today. You don’t know what the bills and the stress are going to do to you next. You just want the nightmare to be over. If you let it, it will consume you, kill your spirit and dry you completely up.

But love is the thing that drives out fear. “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life… is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love–love and BE LOVED. First we were loved, now we love. He loved first.” 1 John 4:18-19 (MSG).

So, there you have it. Love–come and get your love now. (Surprisingly, this song can totally work as God singing it to you. He’s the “main vine,” right? Maybe it’s about drugs originally, I don’t know, but I think it really gets my point across.) Give a listen:

Delays, Dreams and Destiny

It’s been nearly seven weeks since I’ve written a post. I guess it’s kind of been like a long night of the soul. I just couldn’t bring myself to write for whatever reason. Uninspired, maybe. A little stuck. A lot stuck. Yet, at the same time, going deeper in this spiritual quest I’m on. I’ve been doing some reading, some journaling, a lot of praying. In the meantime, my blog has sat collecting dust. Perhaps Facebook and its bite-sized morsels of the beautifully mundane and funny, and the endless volleying of daily autism news via bulldog autism moms has filled a little bit of a void that this blog initially provided for me.

But I’m not quitting on my blog! Far from it. I’m just realizing more of my place amongst all of the voices of parents crying out for advice, for justice, for hope, for answers in this autism quagmire. Perhaps it’s a lonely niche I’m feeling led to because it’s largely spiritual. (Although www.rhemashope.wordpress.com does it better than anyone I’ve found.)

What Do I Have to Say?

While I do a lot of research, and am up on and in the camp that rues the vaccines, I have nothing more to offer to that discussion, really. Although I cheer on those who are going before government to lobby for our kids, I really can only offer an email here and there to my congressman right now. While I am going the biomedical route for my son, nothing has helped so profoundly that I can shout “eureka” from the rooftops to enlighten other parents to what we discovered. Even though I love ABA and its offshoots, my son is still struggling. And, my son is on the GFCF diet, but quite honestly, I’m not going to be writing any cookbooks–unless heating up gluten-free Dino Nuggets in the toxic microwave counts.

So what is my purpose in all of this? I believe as it unfolds, my voice will emerge with more clarity as it gets boisterously tangled with the messy spiritual side of walking through autism. That sounds so ethereal, but really it’s more earthy than that. It’s real life. It’s here and now. It’s not in a church building. It’s not waiting for the other side of Heaven to make everything okay. It’s not about getting a little lift from reading a daily devotion with your Wheaties. This is real, in-the-trenches Christianity. The kind that’s with you at the playground when your heart starts cracking. The kind that sustains you through a tantrum–yours or your child’s. The kind that kicks your butt out of the Valley of Doubt and Weeping for the fiftieth time. The kind that encourages another heart when yours is downtrodden. The variety that actually believes that God wants our bodies well. It’s not going to be safe. It’s not going to be pretty. But, I believe it will be worth it! You want to come on the ride with me?

Here some “real stuff” that has happened in the past seven weeks around here:

  • When we thought our new state insurance costs would be $5,0o0 out of pocket max, they will be $8,000.
  • Our son’s primary therapist moved away–we miss her.
  • Josiah has regressed it seems–even fewer words, poor attention. It feels like he was better a year ago.
  • Josiah has stopped sleeping through the night–I’m up with him 2-3 hours in the middle of the night, generally.
  • His therapy center called us in for a parent meeting, concerned about increased sensory-seeking and inability to focus on his tasks, and they are wanting to go to alternative measures for communication like PECS and perhaps an augmentative speech device to hopefully help his speech along.
  • We’re trying some new biomed stuff, including trying to fit in chiropractic appointments twice a week. More time, more money. Where are the results?
  • We’re supposed to seek out additional speech therapy outside of his center. With both of us working full-time, I’m not sure when.

It all just feels so hard, right? Unlike other things, like New Years resolutions, you can’t quit. You also can’t escape or deny or numb. Sometimes you really want to. But you cannot go backward–you know too much. Where would you go anyway? You wake up every morning with this beautiful and sweet child before you, and you realize the weight of carrying your own life is light in comparison to carrying his. But there are more lives like his, and more families like yours, and that rends your heart too.

Desperate for the Destiny and Destination

There was a time that I thought autism came to shatter our dreams, but I’m becoming more convinced that it is moving us toward our destiny. Sickness is never good–and it is never from God. After hundreds of hours of study and combing through God’s Word, of that I am assured. But my life and this journey is not a mistake. My son’s life was not a mistake. God starts with us every day right where we are–using ALL of where we’ve been. These experiences will not go unused. Will we trust Him enough to lead us through? Will we have the fortitude to go the distance?

I’m afraid that up to this point in battling autism, I have not been able to find the “answers” like some people have in those things that I can control myself. I’m a classic “achiever” and “learner,” and this road has roughed me up pretty bad. If I can MAKE something happen, I will. If I can unearth the holy grail of autism research, I will Google my fingers bloody. If I feel like I’ve failed, I can take it personally and get profoundly frustrated.

Now, I’m desperate. But in a good way. Desperate presses through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Desperate believes Jesus when he says your child will live, even though people reported that she has died. Desperate craves more of the Lord than “Jesus in a Box” that only pops out when I choose to wind up the handle. When I get desperate, I have seen women come into my life and encourage me beyond belief. When I get desperate, I’ve got to pay closer attention to my marriage. When I get desperate, I stop just hemming and hawing over the latest report on vaccines or the flavor-of-the-day autism cause/cure. I have to go to the Healer for my little Josiah. He’s all I’ve got.

Oh, all of you who are beaten down, broken and battered, are you ready to dream again with me?

When we walk in the valleys, we have a decision to make. Our pain can make us wither, or it can awaken our hearts to be passionately real. Our losses can destroy us, or they can help us grow stronger. Our actions can feed the devil’s victimization of our lives, or they can point us to the Word of God.

True dreamers will take their anger to the foot of the cross where they will find a heart big enough to hold their pain. They will begin to understand who God is and what He thinks about them.–Jill Austin, Dancing With Destiny

Homage to Poems about Raising Special Needs Kids

Okay, here I go. I am about to offend a whole lot of people. I just have to say I’m sorry upfront and I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m headed into sacred territory. Coping territory. The place where good, caring people go to harvest sentiments to “make you feel better” about having a child that has some sort of special need.

One of the bloggy mommies that I read said it first. She just came out there bold and brassy and said it… “I despise the Holland poem.” GASP. You know the one… raising a special needs child is like getting on a plane expecting to go to Italy but you arrive in Holland, but Holland ain’t all that bad, it’s just different.

Well, I will see your Welcome to Holland poem, fellow blogger, and raise you the God Chooses Mom for Disabled Child article my Erma Bombeck. This is the one where God sees a really awesome woman with a lot of great qualities and says, “Let’s ‘bless’ her with a child who has a disability. It will teach her something amazing through it and she will envied and will be a saint herself because of it.” Hmmm. Isn’t that nice of God?

Next, another prose devoted to the character of our Heavenly Father: The God Said… poem. It my own words, I would say this is the series of the most frustrating answers to prayer I have ever seen. It’s like, “God will you… NO! If you would just… NO! I really need… NO! Could you please… NO!” Okay, glad I asked, I think.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some nuggets of truth in all of these sentiments and well-crafted poems. But, I might be going out on a limb to say that it makes people who aren’t going through the reality of raising a special needs kid feel better reading these than those who are. So, there is a rush to forward these links to your friend or family member to brighten their day. I’m inviting pushback here if I’m out of line. Maybe these do make you feel better.

Personally, I’m so thankful that I encountered these links though, along with some of the things that I have heard from very nice, well-meaning people in past two years. Things like: “God knew exactly what he was doing when he gave you Josiah as he is, because he knew you would be strong.” “You’re so creative, so God gave you a child with autism because he knew you would work really hard to play with him.” “Just think about what all God is going to teach you through this.” I found myself getting angry with God with each new phrase. How could he do this? If I was so good, and tried so hard to live for him, THIS was my reward? Not cool.

But, wrestling with all of this sent me on the most prized spiritual journey of my life. On December 12, 2008, I wrote this in my journal:

Here I am, Lord. I have some questions and I look to you for answers. I want to put aside any of my preconceived notions, my theology, religion, or advice from others, and I want to seek You for the answers. Straight up, what does your Word say?

> What do You say about healing–physical healing? Is it still for today?
> Do You allow bad things to happen to us to teach us a lesson?
> Do You bring sickness and disease to some people’s lives so You can use them for a greater purpose?
> What are the lies we tell ourselves about who You are and the place You have in our affairs?
> Do You withhold healing and help based on our level of faith and what we do?
> What are the blessings I’m entitled to as Your child?
> What does it take to get a miracle? Show me. I need healing for my precious son’s mind and body. How will it come?

I have devoted these past 8 months to studying God’s Word and listening to different sermons online addressing these questions. Scripture after scripture has re-energized my prayers, and has made me fall in love with Jesus all over again. Have I learned to be more patient? Sure. Have I learned a lot through suffering? Yep. Do I love my son and celebrate him more because of it? Certainly. Mostly, I’ve learned about God’s true character. I’ve been challenged not to put God in a box, and not to attribute things to him that are not in his nature. He is a good God, and he keeps prodding me on to hope, faith, and one day… victory.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Either God’s Word is true, or he is a liar. He makes bold claims. “I am the Lord… I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner so no one can understand what I mean. And I did not tell the people… to ask me for something that I did not plan to give. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and right” (Is. 45:19).

What does he promise you? What does he plan to give you? Have you ever looked to see? Grabbing a nice Scripture verse once in a while for comfort is kind of like reading those poems I referenced earlier. It will give a short-term burst of consolation. But, God is not about simply consoling us. He is about saving, transforming, delivering, growing, directing, relating with, and loving, loving, loving us in the long-run. I challenge you to engage in your own journey to discover what he’s really like. I believe it will lead you into territory that looks more like hoping than coping.

Father, What are We Doing?

I was reading in Genesis 22 the other day. It’s the story about how God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar to him. (Very uncharacteristic of God, by the way–he’s not a “human sacrifice” kind of god.) It always was a little unsettling to me that God would even ask such a thing, and now that I have a son, I cringe at the thought. Whenever I’ve heard a pastor talk about this passage, they always praise Abraham’s OBEDIENCE to God through this test God put before him. But, as I looked further, I found out it was more than dutiful obedience at play here. I’ll explain…

Abraham showed that he would do what God told him to, no matter what. But, think about this. All along, God promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations, and Isaac would be the seed to fulfill that promise. The guy waited until he was over 100 for this miraculous birth to take place because he and his wife were too ancient to have kids, but nothing’s impossible for God, right? Now, he has the son, he has the promise God gave to him for his future–and now God says, “Give it all up to me.” His son, his dream, his promise–everything–rides on this one event.

Picture this scene. Abraham takes young Isaac on a little hike to do the ritual sacrifice like they’ve done before. Isaac asks, “Where’s the lamb, Daddy?” Abraham says, “Oh, God will provide a lamb. Let’s sing some songs. The legs on the donkey go clop clop clop all through the desert...” Then they make it up to the top. Abraham grabs Isaac and ties him to the altar. Isaac’s probably like, “Okay, this isn’t a fun game anymore. In fact, Dad, you’re kinda starting to creep me out. Especially with the knife and all.” Abraham has got to be sweating a little at this point as the knife is about to go in, and finally, an angel says, “Woah. Don’t do it. It’s all good. Here’s your lamb to sacrifice.” They all have a good nervous chuckle, say “that was a close one, huh?” Abraham gives Isaac some fruit snacks and they head home. Good story to tell the grandkids.

How Much Do We Trust God’s Character?

But here’s the thing. What Abraham did was not only out of obedience. It was out of faith, knowing to his toes that God would not let this be the end of the story. He held tight to the promise that was given to him. He knew the character of God and that there would be a better outcome, and it would not include losing his dear son in death. His obedience was a bi-product of his faith in God; his faith was not forged as a result of this test. It already was at play before the test, and his trust in God was only deepened through it. It was his faith (not just obedience) that got him an “A” on this one. Here’s how I know:

1. Abraham told the men travelling with them to hang back while he and Isaac went further on. He said, “We will worship there, and then WE WILL COME RIGHT BACK.” (Not said with a wink, wink, gulp, I hope so.)

2. When Isaac asked where the lamb was, Abraham said, “God WILL PROVIDE a lamb.”

3. Finally, Abraham is ready to strike the death blow, and this is the part I love that’s in Hebrews 11:19, “Abraham assumed that if Isaac died, GOD WAS ABLE TO BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE AGAIN. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”

Friends, I couldn’t sleep and was up praying at 1 am one night this week, and I was reminded of this story. I told God that I want to stop striving, begging, and wondering if my Josiah will be made well. I will stand for his healing, confident in the outcome no matter how bad things look. I place my son and his future, along with our hopes and dreams directly into his hands because this is what I know about who my Father God is:

1. Because he sacrificed and brought his own Son back to life, that blood that was shed was to rescue us from our sins and our sicknesses Isaiah 53. This promise is for whoever believes by faith Mark 16:16-18.

2. God cares about us, and even though we might have to go through some things, if we keep trusting in him, resisting the Devil, and staying strong in faith despite the current circumstances, we will be restored, supported and strengthened 1 Peter 5:6-10.

3. Because of his promise to us, we can trade in our worry and exhaustion for the assurance of his good future for us and our kids–that they will be made well, that they will hear, speak and sing Isaiah 35:3-6.

4. He makes some pretty bold claims that beg you to reconcile whether he’s a truth-teller or a liar, and you got to be all in or all out. And, he tells us that we can know he’s listening when we pray and if we ask him anything according to his will (healing, by the way is God’s will–Jesus and the disciples healed everyone who came to them asking for it), he will give it to us 1 John 5:1-15.

So, here we are. We’re in a fight that takes graduate-level obedience, faith and trust in God. It also takes studying the Bible to get a clue of who God is beyond the pale of our religion, tradition, or the little human boxes we try to put him in. That’s the Abraham-kind of faith that will help us going into any test or trial, knowing that we will come out the other side stronger and confident in God’s power more than our own comprehension of HOW it can all be accomplished.

Desperate

Napping like we used to.

Napping like we used to.

I was tired yesterday afternoon. Along about 1:30, I was desperate to just lie down and take a nap. I kind of did it to myself because I had been up trolling the internet until about 12:30 am the night before, falling into the rabbit holes of autism research, testimonials and more information about a new treatment we’re trying. I guess I so desperately want it to work for our son as well as it seems it should. But, as badly as I wanted that nap, about three weeks ago, Josiah decided he didn’t need mid-day naps anymore. I knew the day would come. I just didn’t realize it would be so abrupt. Naptime used to be AWESOME. I could get things done, or even rest myself sometimes.

And yesterday was a busy Sunday. At 8:30 in the morning we loaded up the car and headed across the metro to the Steps of Hope Walk put on by the Autism Society of Minnesota. Josiah did so well, being that it was an unfamiliar place–a big mall with throngs of people walking inside. We had to air out after a little over an hour because it was getting a bit overwhelming for the little guy, but we were proud of him. He’s been doing great on all of our outings. Some of his therapists were there to walk too. They got down and said “hi” to him. He gave a couple of them a smile, and some of them he was sort of oblivious to. This mommy desperately wanted him to engage back with them. I thought, “I will remember this benchmark, and when he does engage socially even in stressful situations, I will know the progress he has made.”

But, back to that nap… I decided to just lay down on the couch and keep an eye on Josiah while he played. He came over and jumped on me, wanting to rough house. I grabbed him tight and gave him some hugs and kisses, and tucked him between me and the couch cushions. We laid there like we used to when he was little and less, well, wiggly. Pretty soon, his breathing got heavier and he began to drift asleep. I held my darling in my arms and embraced this gift. At one point, he rolled onto his stomach on top of me and I held him there next to my chest like when he was a baby. We started to breath in unison. I felt like my heart and deepest emotions were intertwined–entangled–with his. How could anyone love that desperately?

Desperation has many times over moved the heart of God in Bible examples–especially the appeals of desperate parents: Jairus whose little daughter was dying and needed Jesus’ healing touch, the man whose son was deaf and dumb, the father of the prodigal son, Hannah who badly wanted a child, Moses’ mother who needed to save his life, etc. God knows the bleeding heart of a parent.

It made me think about my connection with my Heavenly Dad. He must want me to stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and just hop into his arms and rest in his comfort, strength and love. Let our hearts beat together for a while, unforced. If I love my own child beyond description, how much more must he love me? For some reason that old Bible camp song, “I am my beloved and he is mine… His Banner Over Me is Love” popped in my head. I rested in knowing that God was both holding and covering me and my little family at that moment.

 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
       my body also will rest secure…

 You have made known to me the path of life;
       you will fill me with joy in your presence,
       with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:9-11

Is It Just Me Who Struggles to Believe?

I wanted to share with my blog audience, both known and unknown, a video my church did on our story. It was shown during the Christmas week services, and upwards of 18,000 people saw it. I’ve got to say, that felt a little vulnerable to share our story about Josiah’s autism in front of all of those people, but I felt like if God could use it to connect with others in some way, it was all His. The video was part of the final sermon  in a message series called “Is It Just Me?” This message was called, “Is It Just Me Who Struggles to Believe?” (If you’re really hardcore, you can watch the whole service on video here under show details>Dec. 23.)

Here’s our video excerpt:

The context for our story came toward the end of the service and it talked about how sometimes even when you are a Christ follower and have a strong faith in God, life circumstances can happen. You can get disappointed and disillusioned and begin really questioning–sometimes for the first time in your life–where God is in all of this. I guess it goes back to the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Well, the video tells a little bit about our journey.

Through it all, I keep pressing in, asking God questions and going back to His Word. What I think it comes down to is, “Is God honest? Can I believe the promises that he gives to those who love Him? Will I refuse to give up faith until I see the healing and restoration that I’m praying for?” I want to believe that I can, and so at the end of the day, I want to keep pursuing my relationship with Him. I left that church service and drove home in the dark with tears in my eyes, asking God for a “sequel” to my family’s story, directed by a Savior who is in the business of restoring lost things.

I hope our story encourages someone out there. If you’re in a season of questioning, purpose to run to God instead of running away from Him. He can handle your doubts, and He may even surprise you with his goodness and begin to revive your downcast spirit.

Camping Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Have you ever been between a rock and a hard place? You go one way and that doesn’t look so good. And the alternative doesn’t look so good either. Everyone is depending on you to pull off the right decision and keep things stable, but you just feel stuck. What do you do? I realized lately that when you’re feeling stuck you’ve just got to do something, because stuck is going absolutely nowhere!

Recently I made a hard decision that doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper. But I had to do something for my own emotional health, for the good of my family, and just so I could get some stuff done. Thankfully my employer (I’ve been there 8 years) agreed to it.

We are very much a two-income family and though we live quite frugally already, I decided to take a 20% pay cut in order to reduce my full-time work hours down to 32-hours (off on Fridays). By doing that, I was also able to hire someone to do some project management for 15 hours per week in order to take off of my plate some of the details and concepting for my marketing team. I oversee a communication arts team at a very large church, and we do all of the graphic design, marketing, website, advertising, etc. for the church and all of its ministries. There are a lot of projects all at once all of the time.

This decision to cut my wages does not make good sense on paper. Josiah’s biomedical expenses are not covered by insurance, and depending on this test or that, along with supplements, the price tag can be astonishing and volatile. His organic, gluten-free/dairy free food is ridiculously expensive. We just paid $530 for his eyeglasses, for goodness sake! But, at least for a window of time–about 6 months or so–I need to do something that doesn’t financially make sense in order to be the mom and wife that I need to be for my family right now. I need to do this so I can reduce my stress and have time to replenish me for this race we’re on with Josiah’s autism challenges. We have been faithful with our money and with our tithing to God, and I’m banking on the fact that he will honor this decision.

I thought I could be the same supervisor and employee at work who hit the floor ready to deal with all of the decisions, be creative, put out fires, talk with people, manage a million projects, bring home extra work to get the job done with excellence–and do all of it with a smile to boot. I can’t do all of that any more. By the end of this last summer, I was spent. I didn’t know how to, but I wanted to walk away from my job that I had loved and just figure something else out because I couldn’t see how I could live like this. Stress can douse joy and sound thinking, and can make it very unclear how to deal with things that really aren’t as major as they can appear. Everything becomes the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

I’ve been on a quest these past couple of months to get my priorities straight. I’ve asked myself, “At the end of my life, what will have mattered?” My relationship with God. My relationship with my family. My relationship with others. My health. That’s it, people. Not a paycheck. Not how hard I worked. Not how creative I could be. Not how hard I could produce for someone else.

Some sort of crisis usually brings people face to face with what is really important, and it’s not all of the empty promises of the so-called American dream. So, I’ve prayed and thought about all of this, and I’ve decided that I’m going to get comfortable camping between a different “rock and a hard place”…

God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by.” Exodus 33:22

I’m going to believe for God to meet all of our needs, and to direct and guide us. And, at the same time, I’m going to use my Fridays while Josiah is at his school getting therapy to pick and choose from whatever the needs are: run errands and grocery shop, prepare freezer meals for my family, read and pray, clean the house, have coffee with a friend, and just restore my soul. I’m on my second Friday and I’m already feeling the stresses ease.

P.S.: If anyone has good ideas for getting the most out of your budget, let me know. I want to do more with less, especially when it comes to food. I already was happy to find my husband some really nice used sweaters last Friday at Savers–all for about $5 each!

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