Friday, December 12, 2014

It Takes Patience to be Perfect

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers (various) temptations (trials or testings); knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh (achieves) patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting (lacking) nothing." James 1:2-4 KJV

Patience. It comes to mind when I'm going through a difficult time. When Trenton goes through a round of sickness or migraines as he has been recently, patience is probably my weakest trait during these times. I get tired and grumpy. I just want the period of illness to end quickly. So how does a trial bring patience to our lives, when all we want is to get through it?

Albert Einstein said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

That is not how God feels about trials. He says that going through trials over and over will ultimately achieve steadfastness or patience. The irony here is that it takes steadfastness to make it through a trial. It takes steadfastness in trusting that God is in control and that He is creating an ultimate outcome that is little by little forming into us being patient or steadfast first, and after this, perfect, entire, and lacking in nothing in our spiritual life. Maybe that is how it produces patience  - by our constant practice at becoming more patient. Unfortunately, here on earth we will never reach that perfect and entire state of lacking nothing spiritually. We will always have things that we need to work on.

Does this mean that our life will be filled with constant trials? I suppose that is really up to how quickly we learn patience to the degree He wants us to learn it, so that we can learn everything else. In this passage, it seems that patience is the beginning. Without patience, we will always lack something spiritually. Without trials we will never gain the patience to grow to be like Christ.

So what about the people who seem to have it all together? What about the ones who have the perfect job, family, and home? Have they reached this ultimate level of patience so that they need never encounter a trial? Obviously that is probably not the case.

Something to remember is that the definition of trials in James can vary. Some people have trials of sinful temptation rather than a trial of health. Some trials are personal and cannot be shared. We have no idea what the people who seemingly have it all together might be going through. If you are a Christian, then it seems to imply that falling into various trials or temptations is a given.

It seems to me that the passage is telling us that it takes patience to be patient, and it takes patience to ultimately be perfect.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He Gives us Grace

As parents of those with special needs, it is easy to think we are an exception to some of the Bible's commands.

Parents of kids with special needs probably struggle more with fear and anxiety because there are more things to fear and be anxious about. There are more everyday worries about medical tests and the future. It is harder for us, but since it is God's Word, we still need to obey the command that says to not be anxious about anything.

When you have had two children spend 24-46 days in the NICU and one has a genetic condition, you might find yourself thinking you are an exception to the command that says to be fruitful and multiply. This is such a difficult one. Many people cannot have more children or it would be life threatening. I believe God understands these situations. I believe He also understands when someone has a child that takes up so much of their time, that it would be unfair to another child, or it would be unhealthy for you. I was reminded though by a godly individual that if we as Christians do not have children and raise them in a godly way, then there will not be godly people in the world. The fear of having another child with problems is really an unfounded fear. A child can be born perfectly happy and die of some unknown cause a few days later. The reality is that God is in control.

I'm not sure if I use my situation as an excuse for being in a bad mood, but I know there have been times when I use whatever situation I am in as an excuse for moodiness. It's not easy, but I know I need to not be "crabby," as we call it. It's especially convicting when your son requests prayer at school for mommy not to be crabby.

Another struggle might be in caring for our bodies. Fatigue gives way to overeating, and for some without the conviction against it, drinking alcohol in order to feel better. I tend to be one that enjoys snacking. I also have probably used my life situation as an excuse for not being in shape. I want to exercise, but I really do feel tired. The reality is that if I exercised, I would probably feel better. God wants us to take care of our body and not give in to what feels good to help us through our situations. Once you get into the habit of it, treating your body right does feel good.

I know we all have really difficult times. God gives us grace every day so that we can continue to follow Him. May we each use that grace that He offers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Caregiving I

So when does taking care of your child become known as care giving? I suppose it is care giving from the beginning, but the type of care giving does not change like it does in a normal individual's life.

Care giving for those with special needs is like caring for a baby when they are up to adult sized. Sometimes they might act like an independent adult, and other times they might be more like a baby. Most likely you assist them with the necessities of life such as changing clothes, bathing, feeding, etc.

Some of those you care for may have serious medical needs in addition to perhaps having a feeding tube or a trach. Some may have lost their mental capacities, others may not know you from one day to the next due to Alzheimer's disease.

The life of a care giver truly does differ from one situation to another. I recently ran across a post that said something to the affect of, "I'm a care giver, what's your superpower?" I personally am not a fan of posts like this. I don't think we should take pride in being a caregiver or make it seem like we live a much more difficult life. I know many of us do have hard times. I know many of my friends who are care givers live lives of loneliness and fatigue much more than I do.

I know sometimes I am guilty of thinking this way and having my own pity parties. Our lives are different. We don't get to go out anytime we want and get a regular babysitter. We have to schedule things based on tube feedings etc. There are hard things, but God is the one who put us here in this care giver place.

I call myself a care giver now to my almost three year old son. I was also a caregiver to a thirteen year old girl who had cerebral palsy. She was a special part of my life during some of my college time. She had the mentality of a three year old, but she could say "I love you." And she said it to me. There is really no comparison between caring for my own son with special needs and caring for this girl. Every situation is different.

What I know about care giving is that it takes sacrifice and it takes love. Care giving without love can be a miserable thing. You grow to love what is different about the person for whom you care. The crooked smile and crazy hair is what you love the most. It's who they are. The differences are who they become, because they do not know the normalcy of life.

Someday, my son might have more of a normal life than he has now. I hope that he will. Sometimes I look at a man in our church who has special needs. I believe he just turned 60 or 65. He is similar in mentality to my almost five year old son. It's hard, because it's not cute anymore, but as I look at him, I think about Trenton. I think about how I would want him loved in a church when I'm gone. We can all be care givers - even in our churches. I loved that he was showered with cards and gifts for his last birthday.

This is the first of many posts I will share on care giving.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Imagine, Rerun, Rewind, Regret

This morning I found myself doing something that I've done all my life. Something happens that makes me wonder about a future appointment or event. How do I handle it? I scenarioize it. What does that mean?

It means that if it hasn't happened yet, then I start creating my own scenario. It's of course usually the worst case scenario. It brings me to a place that hasn't happened, and it takes me from the present. This happens the most when I'm by myself driving or just alone at home. When I come to the reality of the moment, I might hear a Christian song like I did today. What does the song admonish? It reminds me of God's love, and what do we know about God's love? God's love is a constant, and it protects us from the fear of those worst case scenarios.

The same thinking can happen after an event. the rerunning, rewinding, and regretting so easily jump into my reality.

I doubt I'm the only one who struggles with this. I think it's a defense mechanism. It's something that we do when we are afraid of the future.

I remember as a young person using this technique as I imagined so-and-so was going to fall in love with me after rescuing me while we were building a fort at recess. A lot has changed since those days, but the sinful tendency to want to change circumstances has not.

The desire to have life the way I want it can make me lose the life I currently have. Live in the present.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Choosing Selflessness

Let me start off by saying that I don't think you should take a pill to end your life to avoid pain and suffering.

There, I got that out of the way.

As a Christian my perspective on life is different than someone who doesn't know the Lord. Although I would never want them to legalize assisted suicide, I really cannot expect anything different from an unsaved person who is suffering. If they do not believe in hell, then the thought of leaving behind suffering even to enter nothingness might be appealing. It's obviously a wrong choice.

As a Christian, we have heaven to look forward to. Heaven is a place where there will be no more suffering or pain, but God will let us come in His time. He tells us through Paul, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

God doesn't deny the fact that we have something wonderful to look forward to in heaven.

Philippians 1:20-23 says it well from Paul, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."

When you first begin this passage, if you did not know the heart of Paul, then you might have some questions.There are several important things we can gain from Paul at this point in his life. He was getting old. He had seen many things. He had suffered more than any of us ever will. He wanted to be with Christ, so in essence, yes, he wanted to die, but in his death he says that he wanted to magnify Christ.

Can a suicidal death magnify Christ? The answer is no. All it says is that God doesn't know what He's doing when He gave me this illness or let me start having dementia, or gave me this or that. That thinking does not magnify Christ. The only death that does is that which is God's timing and His alone.

The gain for Paul in death would be heaven with no more suffering and no more dealing with difficult people like us. It was as if he was speaking out loud about his life/death choice.

What made the difference? Selflessness made the difference. In the end, he made his choice.

"Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."

Paul knew that although he might only have a few more years, God wanted him to serve the people for as long as he had. He made the selfless choice. That is really the decision before anyone choosing life/death. Am I going to be selfless and live for my family even if I'm suffering, or am I going to live selfishly and end the suffering?

Now, I don't know how seriously Paul was thinking about this. I'm not saying He was suicidal, but he desired heaven, yet He knew that God had a purpose for him, because no matter who we are, where we are at in life, and how much we are suffering, God has a purpose for us until He ends our life.

If you don't know the Lord, then you don't understand, but you must choose the selfless way; you must choose life. If you do not, then your suffering will be far worse than anything you could experience in this life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Goodness of God When Life isn't Good

Today I watched a video about a young couple who were expecting a baby. They found out after several weeks that their son would most likely not live to full term due to a major heart condition. She mentions that she cried out to God to save her son. Soon after this, the ultrasound showed that the problem was gone, and their son was born healthy. The doctor's called it Divine Intervention. We would call it a miracle.

Much of the video reminded me of what we went through except that they never thought our son would die. They just knew he would need surgery on his heart. Anytime I watch a video like this, I can't help but ask "why?" It's not wrong to ask why. It's wonderful that their son was born healthy, but being human, and being in our situation, it's a question that comes to mind periodically.

I remember a time early in my pregnancy for Trenton where I too prayed a prayer to please save my child. It was very early, and I had symptoms of complications. I thought I had lost him. I prayed that prayer, and besides a normal complication that was more of a risk to me than him, everything was fine. Maybe that was one of my moments of Divine intervention. Perhaps God saved him then, but he was born with serious issues, is developmentally delayed, and he doesn't eat by mouth. God showed His intervention again in having me have that extra ultrasound at 32 weeks. Had in not been for that, Trenton may have had no blood running to his organs and body not long after birth. He might have died. That was a Divine intervention - miracle that we didn't know to pray for. Our son isn't a normal child, but looking at God and how He worked, we know God has a purpose.

It is so easy to call God good when the ending is the best case scenario. It is easy to say He is good when your baby is miraculously a new person. He is good in that, but He is also good in cases like ours where, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God and to them that are called according to His purpose." That good is simply the good that makes God look good. The good that glorifies Him even when life doesn't look good. Because goodness is an attribute of God, nothing He does is anything but good. He doesn't cause the cancer, genetic mutations, and death. We live in a cursed world, and He allows these things, and as Job worshiped in the worst moment of His life, that is what God desires of us.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ANew Season

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to write for ANew Season. Here is the link:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"I've Never had One Like That"

The thought sometimes comes when I see a mom holding a normal, healthy baby.

"I've never had one like that."

Yes, my first son is healthy now and quite the smarty pants, but when he was a baby, he spent his first 24 days in the NICU. We held him, but we were advised to let him sleep as much as possible. When they are in the NICU there are so many lines and tubes, that it makes it difficult to really hold them.

When we found out that our second son was going to be born with at least one major complication, my biggest worry was that I wouldn't get to hold him after delivery. It's an odd thing to worry about, but I could just imagine them sweeping him away before I had the chance. Thankfully, that did not happen, and I did get to at least see him right away and get a picture with my husband and I. And then I was able to get a beautiful picture of him before his heart surgery.

After his surgery, it was difficult to hold him again. In fact, one day we were holding him and the IV line pulled out of his head. You can imagine how awful that was. Trenton ended up almost doubling the time that Braydon spent in the NICU.

So because both of my boys were born like this and spent a large number of days in the hospital where we couldn't just hold them and cuddle them, sometimes I think, "I've never had one like that." It's not necessarily a discontented thought, although sometimes it is. It's not that I want to have another baby, but sometimes it's easy to long for that normalcy that bringing a baby into the world usually includes. A birth without complications seems like a wonderful thing.

So if you are a mom and have gotten to hold your newborn without all of the lines and tubes, be thankful. If you have gotten to hold a baby that lived through delivery, be thankful, for some have not. If you have been able to conceive a child, be thankful. Many never are able. We have so much to be thankful for. It's easy to get caught up in the demands that we have for life.

"I must have a natural birth - no C-section for me!"
"We will be happy as long as he/she is healthy."

Some people just want to have a baby.

May I be content even in the moments when I think, "I've never had one like that."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Personalizing our Problems

When is it that we start to personalize our problems?

When does depression become "my depression?"

When does bitterness become "my bitterness?"

"My bad habits."

"My grief."

"My sadness."

It's a red flag to me when we take such ownership of our problems or our sins.

Taking ownership of a sin means that it has become too much a part of us. Most likely, if we are questioned about one of these particular sins, we will be more defensive than if confronted by other issues.

What is it that all of these problems or sins have in common? They are based in our emotional responses to problems. The last two are not really sins, but unfortunately they lead to the sins of fear, bitterness, and anxiety if we take too much ownership of them, and bad habits also lead to these other sins creating a circular structure to our problems.

So how can we experience grief and let it run it's course along with the sadness without letting it turn into sin? How do we break the cycle of depression, bitterness, and bad habits before we begin to take ownership of them?

As with everything in life, the answer is in Christ. Our ownership for life lies in Christ, and the only thing that we should truly take ownership of is Him and His attributes.

love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22) - These are the fruits that come from the tree of knowing Christ. They cover everything that we need to give over the ownership of our problems to Christ, confessing them when necessary, and striving to be fruitful in Christ.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

You Might not Know

I'm often fairly transparent in my writing, but as most of us would admit, we do not show everything we are going through.

When I am going through a dry time and perhaps struggling with bitterness, sadness, or anxiety, you might not read that in my blogs.

I learned a while ago now, that it is not deceptive to do the right thing.

What I mean by that is that even on hard days, it sometimes is the best thing for me to write what is right!

If I only right when I'm feeling godly, then I'm like the person who won't go to church because he/or she thinks it would be hypocritical, since they didn't feel like it.

Sometimes I do share in the midst of a trial. Sometimes I share after, but the main thing is that I share what God shows me and what His Word says even when I may not have yet conquered the issue myself.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maybe They See Angels

I believe in angels.

The Bible talks about angels in heaven, and I know that it also talks about a spiritual world that we cannot see.

I know there are times when God has protected me. I suppose I will never know if an angel did it, because I have never seen an angel as we picture them.

Sometimes I wonder though if our little ones can. Maybe it's a gift God gives to the very young or even to those suffering with special needs.

In the last several months, Trenton has started making a shape with his hands that we would call a bird or a butterfly. Those are two things, I'm not sure he has ever even seen a picture of. Today as I saw his joy as he made this shape with his hand, and I saw how he looked up, it made me wonder.

I wonder if somehow God lets him see angels. I often wonder what entertains him, since he will not really play with toys. He is almost always happy and content. Maybe God lets him have a little window into the angels' corner.

This week, three little children with CHARGE syndrome are in heaven.

They now enjoy the company of someone even more wonderful than the angels. They see the God who created them who now enjoys the company of them in their renewed bodies where they now have no pain.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Held by Him

Your child is having surgery tomorrow.

You have a major medical test next week.

Your cancer came back.

Your unborn baby isn't growing.

Your toddler isn't crawling yet.

That feeling that we get when there is an unknown in the present or the future... It is something that I know well, but so many others know it even more. That helpless feeling...

And then we remember what we have known all along. It's that truth that saved us from our sins and an eternity in hell. It's the truth that Christ holds us and our children and everything around us in place. He holds them much better than we ever could, because we trust Him with our souls, and we can trust Him with everything.

There are many quotes that have stood out to me over the years of reading about missionaries and other well-known Christians. This is one that I remember being significant to me.

"First, he brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next he will keep me here in his love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching met the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. 

Last, in his good time He can bring me out again - how and when He knows.
Let me say I am here,
1) By God's appointment,
2) In His keeping,
3)Under His training,
4) For His time."

Andrew Murray

May each of us let go. May we let go of the things that are already held so well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Reality of God's Presence

Sometimes life gets comfortable. Even when you have a child with special needs or you have a medical condition, there are times of reprieve.

We wish for them, pray for them, and hope for them. These times are the days when life seems normal. In those times, we might not be thinking about it, but the reality is that God's mercy is flowing over us. We don't see him, and we don't see what He is doing, because things are good, but the reality is that His presence is what is keeping us together. He is mercifully making things go well.

Then you might have a hiccup. Maybe you have a relapse or your child gets sick. Maybe life becomes more difficult, and what happens? As a Christian, our first response should be to go to God. Most likely, that is not our first response. We will probably feel anxious at first, and that is not necessarily a sin, but if we take that feeling and start thinking, worrying, and fearing, then we are probably sinning.

It's not hard to go to God. His presence is as real as we are. We can't see Him, so we might forget Him to some degree when the going is good. If only his presence were so obvious to us during the good times as they are when frustration hits. His grace is the reality of His presence during the hard times just as much as His mercy is the reality of His presence in the good times.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Next Time...

Today was hair cut day and bath day for Trenton. Hair cuts are few and far between for him, and we give baths because he needs them, but probably not as many as the average two year old would get. We do not let his hair grow long and give him fewer than average baths because we don't care about  him, because we do care.

It has more to do with some of these activities being like torture to him and like doing an Olympic triathlon for us. That's of course an overstatement, but the idea is true. I know many of the parents who have children with special needs understand this.

Many people who suffer from emotional or developmental disorders have sensory issues. Because of this, certain things could drive them crazy. The buzzing of the clippers or the feeling of a comb through their hair could send them through the roof. Bathing for many means laying or sitting in a bath seat. These seats are not made for comfort, and it's basically a sponge bath. I totally get why Trenton usually cries the entire time. Trenton also has fairly excessive spit/drool. This is another commonality with many kids suffering from disabilities. Unfortunately, it is hard to keep his face clean with this. We try, but it's another one of those torture things for him if we were to constantly wipe his face.

You may wonder why I'm writing about all of this. Well, I've had writer's block for a few weeks, but this came to mind today, because I competed in the triathlon today - I gave the hair cut and bath first thing this morning before I ate my breakfast. I could not have done it without my husband. I'm writing about it, because I want to encourage all of us that next time we see a child with obvious or maybe not-so-obvious problems, and they have hair that sticks out everywhere or perhaps their face isn't as clean as we think their face should be, remember this. Remember that some kids just can't handle the comb through their hair or wash cloth on the face, and remember that some of their parents were up half the night with them and just didn't have the energy to fight it. I don't go through all of these things. Many people have a much harder time than we do with Trenton. I'm just speaking for all of them.

The next time you are at a public event and you see a family pushing one child in a wheel chair and perhaps another in a stroller, don't let it ruin your time by thinking sad thoughts, but think about what they may have had to go through to get this grown child ready for the day every day for so many years. I think about it, because we don't know Trenton's future. I see the 10 or 12 year old kids being pushed in a wheel chair, and I feel for those parents, because I know a hint of what it may have been like when he/she was little, and I can't imagine going through it with an older child although we may go through that with Trenton.

The next time you see some of these things. Try not to judge. Don't be afraid of the excess spit or the odd way a child holds his/her arms, just thank the Lord and pray that that family has a good time at whatever they are doing. It's a challenge. It's especially a challenge if you have young children of your own. We can all learn to think with a little more empathy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why He Lets Some of us See

Have you ever wondered why Jesus allowed Thomas to touch his wounds?

Most of us probably look down on Thomas for his lack of faith. How is it possible that he could question? He was right there with Christ.

We aren't much different. We see God work miracles in provision, and then the next day we throw up our hands begging God to provide again. It's okay to pray for provision, but so often we pray out of worry even though we saw him work the day before.

So is it wrong to to desire to see something from God? It often is a lack of faith, yet sometimes, like Thomas, He shows Himself in such amazing ways that we should never doubt again.

Have you ever wondered why some people see God work more than others? Some people seem to have such an easy life, where they don't seem to have to ask for anything. I wonder if that is a blessing?

Most of the time we see God the most in the storms or in the hardships. We don't pray for those times to come, but ultimately they are what mold us through faith. In the storm, we might yell at God and question Him. Our attitude could be completely wrong, and yet He allows some of us to see Him in a clearer way than others when our faith is lacking.

Those who suffer from cancer might know these moments well. Perhaps in those moments when the pain or fear is at its worst, God gives you a glimpse of himself when he relieves you even if it is for a moment.

Perhaps you experience this as you mourn over a friend or loved one who seems so lost. When you are in the midst of it all, you feel the presence of God almost like a hug. It's happened to me. Once. That friend who I mourned over, and God comforted me in the mourning, is now in heaven.

Maybe you live a "normal" life with a child who has special needs. The normal will never truly be so. In your mind, there is always that "if only" that really shouldn't be there, but it's a struggle to keep it away. In the midst of that battle, your little one, grips your arm or smiles at you when you lay him down for a nap. It's those moments that are miracles to you. Those moments are special where you see God in a way that no one else does.

I think of the family that has become so popularized with their son's "visit to heaven." I only put it in quotes because there is so much skepticism over these things. I have read the book because a church member when I was a pastor's wife was talking about it, and I thought I should be informed. I honestly didn't know what to think, but maybe a family like theirs that had gone through so many trials in one year and perhaps were still not as strong in faith as God desired, needed to see more. It really seems that their faith grew with their son's testimony. Only God knows everything there.

When you are doubting, weak in your faith, hurting, God loves you. He shows us Himself in ways that only He would know we need. When He does allow you to see, it might not be during an easy time, but remember it for the next time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stress and Your Body

A few months ago I wrote about underlying stress. This is sort of a part 2 of that post. I have had a stressful few years. I know they could have been worse, but they are what they are. Underlying stress of things that are in the future affect your body a great deal more than we may realize. The same is true for obvious stress.

I feel like I might be an expert on how stress affects the body, but I'm sure there are others who know better. I have an issue with my stomach that is believed to mess with the nerves in that area making it especially sensitive. I had my first issue with this right after I brought home my first son from the hospital. He was born early, we brought him home on an apnea monitor because they wanted to be sure his breathing/heart would not go down too far. It was stressful to go through this with a first child. I think the problem started during the pregnancy, but the pain did not begin until after. We later learned that the chlorine in water was a major irritant of the problem, so giving up chlorinated water took away the problem for a while.

I don't remember having another issue with this until I was first pregnant for our second son, so obviously pregnancy is another trigger of this issue in some cases. It was a stressful pregnancy at different times, but thankfully I did not deal too much with this issue even after Trenton was born. I think I was handling stress better at the time, and that is a good thing, since his birth and after very difficult.

This past year was the most stressful year of my life. We were in a new church as a pastor/pastor's wife, our son suddenly had an extra strange illness which we later learned was cyclic vomiting syndrome. It's a very stressful illness, because you have the underlying stress of knowing it comes every month around the same time. Thankfully, the Lord resolved it.  I had another episode after a very stressful time this past January, and then have been going through it again since our move, lack of insurance for the boys, and husband being away at a new summer job. I think I let the combination of things let me become too anxious at too many times.

I say all of this to show what stress does to me. The other day I was sitting relaxing and happened to start thinking about something in the future that was unknown or that I had to do. I was gripped with stomach pain. Our thoughts are so connected to our bodies. Yes, there are other triggers for problems like this, but for me stress is a major one.

So what can I do about this? It almost seems involuntary, but is it really? I can control my thoughts. I can change my attitude. This is a major help when you have stress-triggered illnesses. I am not unfit to live life because of this illness. I know it will run it's course, and I'll feel better, and oddly enough stress will not affect me in the same way once it does.

I don't know why I go through this. Maybe it is so that I remember that in my weakness, God is strong. Maybe it is to point out that I am being too anxious. The pain is a definite reminder.

If you know that stress is making you sick, there may be a medical problem, but it may be a heart problem along with it. Keep tabs on your thoughts, and you may soon find one of the roots of your pain.

Friday, June 27, 2014

From "A Grief Observed"

I came across this passage in the book, "A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis, and I found it very applicable to what I have experienced:

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me."

What seemed to me to be depression and fear after Trenton was born and I was by myself, is described by Lewis as grief. It's an interesting thought. I remember when my husband had to go back to work after Trenton was home. He had to leave at about 4:00 am for work, and I remember being gripped by fear. The silence of the house is what made it so much harder in those early mornings. Once we were up and into the routine, things got better. I still feel it sometimes. I think it is fear, but I think it is possible that it stems from an overarching grief. It's changed. It's gotten better. But the fear often is still there. The fear of "what if" is one of the most awful fears there is. 

I also remember the "invisible blanket" he describes. I felt it when I first was able to go shopping once we were home. I felt like I was gliding along in a blur of sadness. I felt self-centered, and I was. 

Fear is a sin when it does not deal with the natural reaction to danger, so it is hard to reconcile this with the grief that Lewis describes. I know that grieving is not sin, but perhaps when it grips us in such a way that it affects us physically or in other ways, then it becomes a sin. The same is true for being self-centered.

There is so much as one looks at grief that seems like it could be sin in another circumstance. So where does God draw the line? 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Being Informed - You Could Save a Life

You could save a life.

It's not something I realized until our son was born. I always had an interest in medical things, but I never had studied that much into genetic syndromes. I knew about the common ones, but I had no idea that there are so many genetic mutations possible for children. Ignorance is bliss until you are faced with a problem.

Having a basic knowledge of medical issues, genetic syndromes and what they entail, could save your own child's life, and it could save someone else's. It would be of course impossible for us all to be experts in such things. We also do not want to go around telling people that their child looks like they have a genetic mutation. It might not go over well. There are times however, when you might run into a parent who brings something up to you. Maybe they are concerned about a problem that they notice in their child. Maybe they notice something different about the child's appearance or actions. If you have a little knowledge, then you could at least steer them in the right direction.

I didn't have much use for geneticists, and I still do not think highly of the one we had for Trenton, but they have an important job. When Trenton was born, unfortunately, he was moved around and his geneticist lost track of him in the shuffle. The regular doctors and even a neurologist did not pursue genetics and the neurologist past off his condition as something that he obviously did not have. It was one of our NICU nurses who told us that we needed to call in our geneticist that made the difference. One of her best friends had a son with CHARGE syndrome and she suspected that Trenton did also. She also informed me that I was my son's advocate. This nurse was one of the most helpful people we came in contact when Trenton was born. The geneticist came, and was pretty sure that that he did have CHARGE. When the eye diagnosis of a coloboma came back, she ruled it positive even without a blood test confirmation. We had a diagnosis because someone had a friend - who had a son - with CHARGE. Blood tests did also confirm the diagnosis.

You may wonder, as we did, why a diagnosis is important. The reason a genetic diagnosis is so important is because many of these syndromes are not just one issue. Usually, there are many issues involved with various organs. For Trenton, it was the eyes, ears, heart, and kidneys (slight). If Trenton had been born without our knowledge of any problems with anything, then the first problem to show up would have been his heart. If he had lived through that, then it probably would have been a long time before we would have known he was deaf or had anything unusual with his eyes. Thankfully, his kidneys are just a little different but not life-threatening. My point is that knowing an overall diagnosis will make doctors look at the rest of the body. This could save a life.

So if you know someone or have a child that you find out is hearing impaired, is missing a kidney or has other kidney abnormalities, or has some issue with the heart, now you might wonder, hmm... I wonder if there is an overarching issue? When you talk to your friend, you can discretely ask. You know your friend, so you know how to best do this. You could save a life. Issues of the heart can be unnoticed for a long time and suddenly cause problems. Trenton's would have died within days, but that is not always the case with congenital heart defects.

This blog post is not to make you worry, but it is to make you realize that a little knowledge is not a bad thing. You could save a life.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Grieving, Forgiving, Moving on...

We all grieve.
We grieve over loss.
We grieve over hope deferred.
We grieve over mistreatment.

There is nothing light or insignificant about abuse. Abuse can come in many forms, but it usually happens when someone older, stronger, or bigger physically or emotionally takes advantage of someone who is younger, weaker, or smaller physically or emotionally. We have all been abused in some form. Some abuse is more difficult to forget than others, but the process of overcoming abuse is very similar for all victims.

There is always going to be grief when abuse takes place. Whether it is a little child crying after being bullied on the playground or a young woman who is raped. These are opposite extremes that will have differing levels of grief, but there will be grief. The grief of one may be for a few minutes, the grief of the other could be there in some way for life.

In the process of grieving, there is another step that must take place. Forgiveness. This is where some of you might stop reading. I have recently encountered some resistance in this area. There are those who would say that forgiveness is an essential step in the healing process after abuse, and I would have to agree. It would not be easy to forgive a person who raped you or physically abused you. It would probably be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it is essential. How do I know it is essential? The Bible provides at least two specific instances of forgiveness in extreme abuse.

Picture our Lord Jesus on the cross. He has been whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. In the process of being crucified, He calls out to His Father and says, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34. Christ is fully God, and He is fully man, so the decision to forgive would be similar to what we would experience in forgiving someone who abused us, but it would be so much harder in His case, because He not only took the abuse physically. He also took our sins and the ensuing separation from His Father.

Another biblical instance of forgiveness in extreme abuse is Stephen. In Acts 7:59-60, Stephen is stoned. As they are stoning him, he kneels and calls out to God asking Him not to lay this sin (stoning) to their charge. He forgives them in the midst of being stoned. Some would say that telling a counselee to forgive their abuser is not their place. They might say that someone should not have to rush into this. Biblically, we see that it should be an automatic response to abuse.

If you have been abused in some way, you will grieve. You should forgive. You should move on.

Moving on may seem impossible, but it is Biblical. Philippians 3:13 says that Paul does not claim to be perfect, but he has attained one thing. He has learned to forget what is behind him and reach forward to what is before him. He says that he presses on to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This is not possible if we hold on to an unforgiving spirit toward those who have abused us. Holding on only breeds bitterness. This bitterness will not only keep you from from going forward, it will defile those you touch. Your bitterness will seep out of you and into the lives of those you love and those whom you are influencing. I am not saying to stop grieving, but grieve with the hope that you have in Christ as you forgive and move on, because no matter what you go through, His purpose in your life is to ultimately make you better.

I do not take any form of abuse lightly. If you have been abused and it was a criminal act, then it should be reported. There should be punishment to the offender, but this blog is not about the offender, this is about you and I learning to grieve, forgive, and move on after being abused. If you need counsel, seek someone who will tell you the truth of God's Word and not just what you want to hear. None of us like to do the hard things, but sometimes even when we are the abused, we need to do the hard thing and the right thing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Learning not to Take Offense

It is so easy to be offended. I have probably been one of the most guilty of this bad habit.

I know it seems like I'm writing a blog called, "Everything I Learned About Life, I Learned From my Child with Special Needs." Although that is not necessarily the case, there have been many lessons.

The one who has taught me the lesson of not taking offense, to some degree, is my son Trenton. It would be easy to be offended when I try to play with him and he rolls the other direction. At times it has been hard, but it is more of a sadness than being offended. My son doesn't know any better. All he knows is that I'm invading his bubble with some silly, bright colored toy. Or my long hair is tickling his face. He has gotten better with some things, and sometimes I think he is teasing me when he rolls over away from me. I have also learned not to let people offend me concerning him, and I'm sure that has helped with this general lesson.

The other day at the beach, we had Trenton in his stroller, and Braydon was walking with us. A man on the beach, stopped and told us that when his son was our son's age, he made him crawl on the beach. I was confused, because I figured he was talking about Braydon who was walking. I didn't think he could even see Trenton. We assumed later that he was talking about Trenton. It's one of those times that it would have been tempting to really put someone in their place. He was obviously ignorant of anything wrong with Trenton, but that's another lesson for us to always be aware before we open our mouths.

It's not as difficult to let these disappointments roll off my back. I've become accustomed to them What about the little things that still offend that have nothing to do with Trenton? It's so easy to think that people are thinking the worst of me. Sometimes if someone isn't your favorite person, you might even come up with little things that they said or did, so that you have more excuses not to like them. It sounds pretty bad, but I know I've been guilty of this often.

I think we have come to believe that being offended is our right. That is not really the Bible's take on this. The Bible talks about Christians being careful not to do things that might cause others to be offended, but He is not saying that the ones who are offended are correct. In 2 Corinthians 6, the Bible talks about us not taking offense for the sake of the ministry. In the ministry, you almost have to roll with the punches, but it is not an easy thing to do. There are many people in churches who do not have a filter with what they say.

Even with daily facing a son who doesn't reach for me or love my kisses as much as I would like, it can be a constant reminder to love others who offend who may be just as oblivious to their offensive behavior.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stereotyping or Being Stereotyped

Being stereotyped is something that many of us have probably experienced. It's usually not a good feeling when this occurs. Whether you were given a part in a play because it "fit you perfectly," and you knew the context was negative, or you did not get a job you had hoped for because of preconceived ideas. It is difficult.

When you have an illness, special needs, or a child with one of these, stereotypes are common. I know that there is the assumption with Downs Syndrome that all people with this syndrome are happy all of the time. This can be true for the most part in many cases, but there are always exceptions. I met a lady who has a little girl who has a little girl with Downs Syndrome and does not have that personality. I think it was probably hard for her if people made this assumption, because she really had thought that with all of the other trouble it would be nice to have a child that was always happy.

With CHARGE syndrome, I find myself often stereotyping my own son. People are always saying kids with CHARGE are so stubborn. This may be the rule, and it is true with Trenton, but I can't use it as an excuse for him. We need to get past that and try to overcome the negative stubborn habits and turn them into a positive thing that will help him to overcome his problems.

I think cancer patients also struggle with stereotypes or generalizations. I've never been there, but I would imagine that most people have a general picture of cancer. The problem is that so many cancers are different. It's important not to make assumptions when talking to people going through this struggle.

People with learning disabilities, autism, or just different personalities can also be stereotyped. The problem with this is that the gifts of those with learning disabilities and autism often far outweigh their problems. There is such a broad range of issues, and some people really do not have as many problems as others. We should never treat anyone different because of a label.

I encountered an issue with this when applying for a job several years ago in regard to personality. It was a job selling books for a marketing company. I didn't know I was good at marketing at the time, but I did know I was an artist. To me, creativity was a bonus not a detriment. To the interviewer, this meant that I would not be able to the handle rejection from those to whom I was selling. It's sad but true that snap judgments are often made. I've worked for several years now as a marketing writer, so I guess it was that company's loss. I don't hold bitterness from this because it was God's plan and a way to teach me this lesson.

Thankfully, stereotypes do not define us. Labels are helpful tools, but can be used detrimentally. We must not stereotype, and we must not let others put stereotypes on us that we grow to believe. It is easy to let feelings of sadness grow as we see our children or feel ourselves being judged in this way. It is important for us to remember that the only opinion that truly matters is what God says. In His eyes we are sinners, but once we accept His free gift, we are sinners saved by His grace.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

When we Respond Like Job's Wife

In a recent prayer meeting, I was reminded of the reaction of Job's wife to her trials. As most people, I had initially been judgmental of her. What kind of wife tells her hurting husband to "curse God and die"?  Those are some strong words. Since my initial response, there has been more written about Job, and more study has reminded us that she also lost her children and most of their wealth, not to mention the fact that her husband was hurting. Where could she turn?

Job is hailed in the Bible as a man who turned away from evil. His wife is not mentioned until we see her negative response. She might not have been strong. Perhaps she looked to Job for a great deal of her strength, and when Job was down, she felt lost. She may not have had that close relationship to God that Job had. She was still touched by the loss that Satan requested from God for Job, but Job was the one ultimately being tested. We have no idea of her ultimate response except to know that God did bless her. He gave them more children and more wealth. She too experienced the blessings of the Lord despite the fact that she did not respond in a God-honoring way.

We may not have used the exact words that Job's wife used in her trials, but some of us may have come close. None of us are beyond responding poorly in our trials. Although we don't know that Job's wife actually did repent of her wrong spirit, we see the contrast with Job, and we know that repentance is the right response.

When we cry out to God or lash out at those around us while we are hurting, it really just makes the hurt deeper. The grief we feel may be beyond words, and we may question the plan of God in our circumstances. In all of this, remember Job and his response. Look at his repentance, and look at his blessing.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Good Grief

As I sit here, I know of one family is grieving over the loss of a child. As far as I know she was a healthy little 9 month old until an accident. In times like this, is it hard to imagine the depth of grief that family and friends must be feeling. The father of this little girl was my teacher in college. I can picture him teaching, but the type of grief he is experiencing, I do not know. 

In times like this, I can look at his grief from the perspective that I know. I can look at what the Bible says about grief. It says we should not sorrow as those who do not have hope. We can pray that this family who has lost their little girl will have "good grief." Even as Christ grieved over the loss of His friend Lazarus and the sorrow that his friends were experiencing, He knew the end. We know the end as well. As Christians, we have hope for eternal life. This hope helps us no matter what grief we may be facing. 

The Bible also gives an example of grief and how it was poorly handled. The friends of Job are a wonderful and awful example of helping someone through grief. Their initial silence I believe was what was most helpful to Job. God appraised Job as a man who steered clear of evil. Despite the fact that he was a sinner, he was also a good man. Trials do not necessarily mean judgment. Job's friends did not understand this. We must understand this if we are ever to encourage those grieving. 

Sometimes silent grief alongside an individual is what is needed. Time makes the difference. The first 6 months or so of my son's life were those silent days. That is not to say that those who spoke or tried to help were offensive, but everyone has a period where silence is needed. It will likely differ for each individual. If you are alongside a friend, you will know when the time is right. 

Whether the grief is over the loss of life or it is some other loss, help them to experience good grief. A verse that has often come to mind over daily griefs is Romans 15:13, "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teaching Your Children not to Bully

One would think that if you have a child with special needs, then your other children would know how to accept children with special needs.

This is not necessarily the case. They still need to be taught. They have probably grown accustomed to the differences in your own child, but they will still notice others with differences, and they still need to be taught to accept everyone's appearance even if they look different or act differently.

My son isn't mean about it when he sees people who are different, but he might say they look silly. This is still not acceptable to me. I often use Trenton as an example of someone who is different like the person he might mention. I'll explain that they are like Trenton and don't know any better or just look different.

He will likely be around people with special needs all of his life in part because of his brother and in part because there are a lot of people out there who are different, and that is okay. I think that is a huge lesson for children. Different is okay.

Isn't that where bullying comes from? People don't want to accept someone who is different. Adults bully more than we would like to admit, and that is not helping our children with this problem. When we comment at home to our spouse that "so-and-so" sure is strange or point out some physical attribute of another adult, this is wrong for you as an adult, but it also undermines everything that you have tried to teach your children. You are basically giving your child the okay to talk about people that are different in a negative light.

Some people might think it is okay to mock someone with special needs, because they may assume that they do not know what is going on. Going with this assumption could be very embarrassing for you. There are many genetic disabilities as well as physical disabilities out there, but although someone may appear to be different, they may have a much higher intelligence than you do. Talking down to people who you think are mentally disabled is an insult to the individual, it makes you look silly, and it teaches your children the myth that those who look "normal" are above those who look "different." Those people might be used to it, but it still hurts.

Bullying always hurts. Sometimes I think the topic is overdone and encourages suicides and encourages people to feel sorry for themselves, but it still does hurt, and it still needs to be ingrained as wrong in your children. This is the responsibility of the parents or guardians of every child.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Daily Grief without Sin

Most of would not consider ourselves grieving individuals.

Most of us would only consider grieving something that we do when we lose someone that we love in death, and that is definitely a time to grieve.

There are many of us though who encounter daily grief.

Do you spend time thinking about what might have been?
Do you spend time wishing for something in your life to be different?

Many people begin this line of thinking, and before they realize what has happened, they are in the depths of depression, and may end up taking medication to try and overcome the pain. Unfortunately, these people are going about handling these questions in the wrong way. These questions can eventually lead to physical and mental problems, but if looked at correctly from the beginning, these problems can be avoided.

Grieving over loss is normal. Christ grieved. But when we grieve with these questions, we are grieving like those who do not have hope in Christ.

Sadness is okay.

Worry, fear, and anxiety are sin, and that is where these two questions come into play. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of distance between sadness and these other thoughts/feelings. The bridge from one to the other is quickly crossed if we are not on guard.

Everyday grief might be something that you know well. It might be the constant pain associated with illness or the constant reminder of a child who is with you but not the child that you had expected. This grief can be associated with regrets in relationships, financial status, and any number of areas. Daily grief must be approached correctly, so that it does not turn into sin.

So how can you grieve like Christ?

Think like Christ.

Christ was saddened at the thought of being separated from His Father. He was saddened when His friend Lazarus died. He did not however despair at these losses. He knew the truth.

He knew who He was, and that the sovereignty of Himself made everything okay. He knew the end, and we know the end too

We know that all things happen to ultimately glorify Christ in heaven. All roads lead to this destination if you are a Christian. The trials of life should seem so small as the old hymn says, not just when we see Christ, but when we have the ultimate goal of Christ in our daily lives.

Your grief over loss may be strong, but God's purposes are stronger, and He will help you to grieve like Himself with the purpose of glorifying God through this trial.

This is hard.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking the Time to Think Right

Something I realized yesterday (with the help of my husband) after several days of struggling with a variety of negative emotions, is that I was not thinking right. In the middle of our conversation I realized that one of the reasons I wasn't thinking right was because I wasn't taking the time.

Negative thinking comes in an instant. It really doesn't take much time to begin a wrong line of thinking. It takes one negative thought triggered by the smallest event. It takes us looking at something from our own perspective which has already been skewed that day. It takes us reacting negatively one time and letting it become a habit. It just takes a moment

Right thinking takes time. It takes stopping. It takes going where it is quiet and perhaps listening to some God-honoring music. It takes quietly reading your Bible or meditating on those verses that you know so well. It takes focus. This time thing is not easy to come by. Whether you have kids with no major issues or a child with special needs, time is still hard to find some days. It is there though. There is always time to refocus your thinking. It might be the time you usually take to do something else you enjoy, but it will be worth it to take even five minutes to refocus your thinking. You might need to take five minutes five times a day, but it will keep you from the dangerous cycle of negativity.

Negative thinking becomes easier and right thinking more difficult when you are facing problems that are not resolved. When you have ongoing stress or physical problems, it is even harder to refocus. Negative thinking can lead to physical problems, mental issues, and it can hurt your relationships. Focus on what Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Never-ending Trial

When we talk about trials, usually we think of something that comes into our lives that we need to endure until it is over. At some point, we assume it will be.

The reality as I write this is that many of our trials are never-ending. Or should I say on this side of heaven that they are never-ending. Some trials only end when we go to heaven.

The cancer that keeps coming back -

The child who has new negative behaviors-

The sickness that returns for no apparent reason-

The pain that is constant -

All trials produce patience, but it is those trials that we know in our heart will not end until heaven that often produce a combination of grief in our hearts and God-made patience that we think should give us enough for a lifetime.

And then comes the next aspect of a trial and we realize that we still need more patience. We never arrive - until we truly have arrived in heaven.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just do the Dishes and Stop the Cycle

These days I often find myself living a frustrated life. I get frustrated with moving details, frustrated with Trenton set-backs, frustrated with toddler behavior, frustrated with myself, and then it goes in a circle.

In this circle of frustration it is easy to get caught in the loop and become a self-centered mess. I admit that I find myself there periodically, and that is much more than it should be. The cycle can begin with something as simple as a counter full of dishes that I should have done earlier and now I'm tired. The cycle usually begins and ends with myself and thinking about myself.

The other day I found myself (once again) caught in the fear cycle associated with our boys being insured in our new home town. I had no idea anything would change, and when it did - it threw me as change often does. I found myself (again) in the morning awake with worry, and then a song came to mind. The song is one that throughout high school our youth pastor had us sing often. I think it was a favorite. It wasn't mine. I don't know why. I suppose I had never been in a place where the words were meaningful as they are now. The song is Day by Day.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.


Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,“
This the pledge to me He made.


Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.


It was then that I realized I shouldn't be worrying about something that I could do nothing about right then. Why worry in advance? Really, I should have been saying, "why worry at all?" I know God will take care of us and our kids.

It is easy to panic when change comes or you get unexpected news. It's easy to forget that God is the one who wrote the story. It's easy to begin the frustration cycle. 

We can take it day by day because that is all we can see, and that is okay. Let God fulfill His plan for your life and see how He provides. 

I'm going to try to stop the frustrated cycle next time it starts. 

Take a deep breath, exercise, eat a bowl of pistachios, do what you have to do. 

The best thing to do though is to think about God and His ability over every situation, and leave it in His hands. 

When it's in the silly frustrations like a counter covered with dishes, paste on a smile, turn on some nice music or an audio book, do the dishes, and stop the cycle. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

When Life Doesn't Look Fair

Growing up in a Christian school, I had the reputation for being a "good" girl. I wasn't the life of the party, and if I ever did anything wrong, a huge deal was made, because I was a "good" girl. I admit that I was a judgmental person. I was judgmental, and at that time I may not have been really saved until my senior year. I was looking at what everyone around me was doing, and I thought I was a better kid.

It's never good to be judgmental, but sometimes it's hard not to judge or feel that life is not fair. Maybe like me, you were a "good" girl. Maybe you tried to always do the right thing and please the Lord. You may have gone off to college, married a good Christian man, and now even though you always seemed to do the right thing, things don't seem to work out for you.

Maybe you have tried for years to have children, and nothing is happening. Perhaps you look at old friends from high school and they have several beautiful, healthy children from several different fathers, some to whom they never married. It's hard not to become bitter over this. Maybe you have had children, but like me both were born with problems, and at least one has had serious issues. Maybe like one of my friends who has a child with serious special needs, you spend hours caring for a child who barely moves, but when he does, that is what you celebrate.

When life is like this for you, it is hard when you look around. You might look at those high school kids that you grew up with. Maybe the pictures they post are of them at worldly attractions "enjoying" the same old friends without their children by their side. As I know, it is easy not to have feelings of bitterness or jealousy creep in. Seeing the kids from high school still being the life of the party with nothing holding them down, can be hard. It's not that you want what they have or that you want them to have the trouble you experience. Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair, and bitter thoughts can begin to creep in.

When you start to look at your life in comparison to the ones with whom you grew up or even to those around you who seem to just have everything work out, try to think about the eternal value of life. Don't go back to prideful thoughts that you have always been the "good"girl or boy, but remember that God gave you this life for a reason. Maybe he gave it to you because he knew you could handle it, but more than likely He gave you this life, because He knew you would grow because of it. Through these days, my weaknesses become more obvious, but my strengths may be as well.

When life looks unfair, try to look at it from God's perspective. His purpose is for Himself to be glorified and for us ultimately to be in heaven. Those friends who are enjoying "the good life" are probably missing out on things you don't see. Their life may not be as "good" as it looks. You don't see them when they go home depressed or discouraged that they gave in to old habits. You just see the smiles on Facebook.

Don't live for the present earthly experiences. Live for eternity. Live so that when you go to heaven, you have no regrets. Don't judge those who are not living that way. It's not your job, and you really do not know how good their life really is. Your job is to glorify God with the life you have been given.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spiritual Grief

Spiritual grief is something that we have all experienced if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. The grief over our sin and the faith to accept God's free gift of salvation are two sides of the same coin. 

Whether you trusted Christ as a four year old or a twenty-four year old, in order to be saved you had to realize that you were a sinner headed to hell and that you needed to depend on the gift of Christ dying for you to forgive you of your sins and take you to heaven someday. 

If you are a Christian, then you have experienced spiritual grief. If you were four at the time, then your grief was likely different than the one saved at twenty-four. That is okay. As you grow as a Christian you will likely experience this grief numerous times and in different ways.

Just as there is no rhyme or reason to grief over loss, there is no rhyme or reason over the spiritual grief you experience and how you show your grief. Some people cry. Some people go away to be alone to deal with their sin. There is no right way. God only asks that we sorrow over our sin enough to turn from it. That means that we will try not to do it again. We desire to walk towards God and away from that sin.

Now does that mean you won't once again walk the wrong way? Nope

No matter how "good" a Christian you think you may be, you will likely struggle with sin. If you don't think you do, then you are probably struggling with the sin of pride. I John 1:9-10 says it like this, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us."

Spiritual grief may be a daily thing for you. If you sin, ask God to forgive you. Don't over-think it, just turn from the thing or things you did that is against God's Word, and begin going in the right direction.

We should not take this lightly, but we should also not berate ourselves. God would have us to live joyfully without the weight of sin keeping us from that joy. 

Although everyone needs to turn from sin, sometimes there are sins that beset one person more than another. I know from experience that anger and bitterness are sins that can easily take hold in a trial. They can so easily creep in that they can become a way of life rather than a sin in our own mind. I am and have been guilty of this. It is something that convicted me between these lines. 

Unlike the grief of loss, this grief can be done with quickly. Because of the grace of God we can confess our sins and have them separated from us and from the mind of God. Don't hold on to sin and cause God to grieve. Grieve over it, put it away, and live in joy.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mixed Emotions

I've been writing about grief a lot lately. Ironically, I've been grieving a lot today.

Grief can come on suddenly or seep into your soul gradually. The grief I'm experiencing has to do with life changes and milestones. You might wonder why one would grieve over either of these, but it is grief I feel nonetheless.

My husband became the pastor of a church last March. It has been our goal since we got married to ultimately be in a church in this capacity. We needed to experience it just like we needed the other past experiences we have had since getting married. A little over a year later, my husband resigned, and we are headed back to the ministry of teaching. This is a good thing, but once again, "hope deferred makes the heart sick." I'm excited about the future, there are some unknowns, but I grieve that things did not go as expected.

I also grieve because my son's 2nd birthday is this Saturday. With that, I'm sure you question my sanity. Why would I grieve over such a milestone? I guess I should say there are mixed emotions. I experienced the same emotions last year. My son is alive against the odds. He is happy and sometimes shows so much joy that you might think he could fly away with how much it fills him. The grief comes over the lack of development, over life not being for him like a normal 2 year old, over not being able to enjoy birthday cake or even care about it or his presents. I grieve for what isn't when I should be joying in what is.

Isn't that what steals our joy most often? It's the "what ifs" and the "if onlys" that steal our joy.

It is sad that birthdays for our kids are more often about how we feel than how they feel. I of course want him to enjoy his day, but is it about me or him? I am disappointed that things did not work out where we are, but why should I be when God's plans are greater than ours? The present worries and suffering are nothing compared to the joy that is awaiting us when He changes our vile bodies to be like His.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Your Grief and Others

When you are in the middle of grieving over your situation, it is easy not to consider how others are grieving. The situation might be closer to you, but many times others are grieving as well. As a parent of a child with illness or if a parent has lost a child, the grief is heavy. For those close to them such as the siblings or grandparents of the child, there is grief for them as well. It may not be the same as your grief, and they may not show it in the same way.

The grief that a sibling struggles with may not show at first. A child often does not know how to express grief. I remember in the 3rd grade losing a friend to Leukemia. For years I had the little grieving book that the school provided and the little book of pictures that all of us drew of our memories with the boy who had passed away. I feel like that probably helped me. My reaction could have been different. Some children express their grief with anger directed at their parents. Sometimes they may seem sad. Some children hold it inside.

 I caught of glimpse today of a reaction that may be the first sign of grief from my four year old towards his brother. We were tossing a stuffed animal to Trenton to interact with him. He started to get upset by it, and my oldest kept throwing it on him. We had to make him stop. He often struggles with obeying us, but I felt like his reaction to burst into tears saying, "someday I want to throw that," was actually his grief of not being able to play with his brother. I totally get it too. I'm sure it has been hard for him, and it will be hard for him through the years to not be able to interact with Trenton in the way so many other kids are able. We will just encourage him to do what he can.

Our own grief affects the siblings as well. I know that for me having a child with special needs has made me have a hard time with being overprotective. I was always a little bit with my oldest, but when Trenton was born, even though he lived and will probably live for many years, there was that fear of losing the child who didn't have problems. I've had to make myself pull back in that way and give my oldest to the Lord. Both of our boys are gifts from God for a reason.

I know it is also hard for the aunts/uncles and grandparents as well when there is a trial. They are a part of the situation, but they also are not in the midst of it every day. They try to understand what you need and what your child needs, but the situation is so different that it is difficult. The toys and even the clothes your child needs might be different. The way they are able to interact - if they are able to interact is different. They are grieving too.

As you grieve, it is personal, but remember the others who are involved in the situation. Remember that you are not the only one who lost something or have had deferred expectations. Others are grieving with you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Godliness in Your Grief

A misconception about grief that many people have had (including myself in the past) is that grief is not godly. When you first receive bad news, there is grief. I know for me, when I first heard that Trenton might have problems, I was frozen in fear, and I just needed a chance to pray and talk to God about it. Fear is not godly, but it is all about how you handle the fear. Seeking God and casting your cares and anxieties on Him is the right way to handle fear that comes with grief.

Some might feel that their grief is a private thing, and that is fine, but do not let it be private because you think it is a lack of faith or trust in God. It can become that, but grief itself is something that God understands. Christ grieved for his friend Lazarus even though He knew that He would be raising him from the dead. His grief may have been for the family of Lazarus as well, but he nonetheless grieved while trusting His Father and knowing that He would soon be making all well again. He grieved with hope. He grieved for His own pain, suffering, and separation prior to the cross while knowing that soon He would rise again and be with His Father. It is not ungodly to grieve. It is possible to hope in the grief.

I Thessalonians 4:13-14 discusses how we should think about the grief associated with the death of those we love, but it can be applied to all other types of grief:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."

Grieving like a Christ means grieving with hope. We have the hope, that because Christ rose, our loved ones who were saved will also rise again and have new bodies. We have hope that no matter how much pain and suffering we have on earth, all will be well for eternity in heaven

We all have moments in our grief that might not look godly. We might ask "why" and question God and His plan. Those thoughts are normal fleshly responses to trials. God forgives us for these thoughts when we turn to Him in faith and hope. We may have to ask forgiveness over and over, but what matters is that we always return to the hope that we have in Him.

When you are grieving, you do not need to paste on a smile and say you are fine. It's okay to grieve. It's okay to share your struggles and how God is helping you. That is not ungodly. This response will likely draw those who have no hope to desire what you have.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Resurrection and Your Problems

There is a new focus in many Christian circles today on the Gospel in our every day life. In a children's book that my son owns, the focus is that every story speaks the name of Jesus. Throughout the book, each story ends by reminding us of God's ultimate plan - his ultimate gift.

Some people might not understand what the gospel actually is. The Bible says it, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" (I Corinthians 15:3-5) The passage goes on today say that many people saw him after He came back to life. 

Many of us grew up understanding the gospel in order to be saved. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and we accepted Him as our Savior so that we could go to heaven someday. That is the main purpose of the gospel. He wants everyone to be saved and be in heaven someday. There is more to the gospel than just our salvation.

The gospel can have a great impact on our problems as well. As addressed above, it cures our first problem - sin. It can cure any other problem we face as well. 

Many people are under the wrongful impression that those who go through trials are being punished for sin. God does punish our sin when we are believers, but trials are more often for our growth than our punishment. Because we do live in a sinful world, however; the affects of sin will always be upon us as long as we are on earth. We will get sick, we will have children with medical or other special needs, and we will ultimately die. All of this is because of sin. 

Because of sin, we will all die unless Christ returns before we die. Death is a part of the Gospel. Jesus, God's Son, had to die. He was fully man and fully God, yet He obediently allowed Himself to be separated from God the Father. His death was the worst death- separation from God. He experienced this death, so that people could escape a similar separation from God in hell. Hell is a dark place full of fire and a death that never truly dies. The worst of this place is that there is an absence of God. Even though we live in a sinful world, God is still here in our midst. It is hard to imagine a place where God is absent. That is what death will be to those who do not accept that Christ died to take their place.

The third part of the gospel is life - the resurrection of Christ. This is the most exciting part of the gospel. This is the part where we go from death to everlasting life. Christ died for our sins, but He did not stay dead. His spirit did not just rise, His body came back to life, and He even showed himself to many people following His resurrection. If you do not believe that He rose again, then you have no hope. God is not dead. He is in heaven waiting for us. Without the resurrection, we have no hope of eternal life. God did what He said He would do, and He came back. He lives to make intercession for us with God.

So besides our problems being because we live in a sinful world, how does the gospel help us with our problems?

  • The gospel gives us hope. Someday, we and those we love who have trusted Christ will have perfect bodies. Our problems are not forever.
  • I love the song, "It is not death to die." It is so true for a Christian. Death for a Christian is still difficult just as it was hard for Christ and the people He loved when He died. His death was not eternal however. His resurrection is eternal, just like ours will be when we die knowing Christ. 
We truly can see the gospel spread throughout the Bible. We can see God's hand moving through the trials of His people and even through those who did not know Him. Because we can see His hand in those days, it makes it easier for us to see His hand in our own lives. His sovereignty can give us hope that as the gospel is complete throughout scripture, it will be complete in our own lives as well - ending with the resurrection of our own bodies to someday be with Him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Sheer Joy of Knowing Nothing Else

As I knelt by Trenton and saw his smile of sheer joy, it struck me that this life is all he knows. Sometimes it is easy to feel sorry for kids who have gone through so much and we wonder how they often display such joy and happiness. It's because this is all that they know. The more we know, the harder life often is. That is not to say that I do not hope that Trenton's mind is normal and will someday do well in school and life. It is just that at this time, I love the joy that he has from the simple things. He is enthralled with the light from the window and the way his moving fingers make shadows. These things bring him joy. He has known pain and sadness more than most children his age, and he definitely cries about being made to do therapies, but when he is happy, he is truly happy.

As a parent with a child who has special needs, I know that my joy is so often lacking, because I let the hard days, comparisons, or daily stresses build, and I stop focusing on the the Lord in the struggles. Although I know about the trials of life and the pain. Although I know that there are unknowns and that Trenton has a long way to go, if my focus is on the Lord and off of the worries of life, then I can have the same joy as my son in his innocence.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Grieving Over Loss - Life and Expectations

Grief is a strange thing. It never really goes away but it matures. In the beginning, things might seem unreal. Perhaps you haven't truly accepted this new life you will be living. Perhaps you are in a fog.

When I talk about grief it might be different than your grief. My grief is not over loss of life. My grief is over lost expectations. That might sound shallow compared to a loss of life, but those who have a child with special needs or have gone through another trial related to hope being deferred in this way, understand that it truly does as the Psalmist said, "make the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:12)

The grief of being pregnant and finding out that your child has a medical condition that will render them disabled or severely developmentally delayed is difficult to experience. It is not for me to compare it to the loss of a loved one or child, because I only have my perspective on it. I do believe there is a grieving process involved in both cases.

For me, it all came gradually. It began with the initial thought that his brain and kidneys might have issues. Then it was his heart. Then he was born, and his heart was worse than originally thought, his brain was okay, and his kidneys were okay. His hearing wasn't. We were told he was blind as well. He couldn't swallow, so he needed to be tube fed. I dreaded the rounds at the hospital to the point of no longer wanting to be there for them. 6 weeks after he was born, we brought him home.

At that point, I don't think I had really grieved over my expectations. I think my grief built up over that first year. There were times when things were going okay. There were scares during the first year. I really tried to stay positive to people and not talk about the hard times. I came to a point though where I realized I needed to share. I needed an outlet, and that was when this blog began. Sometimes my grief is most prominent when I feel sleep-deprived. Sometimes it is when I go on Facebook and see kids his age and all the things they are doing. There are moments of grief, but then there are moments of joy. That's the way grief is. As it matures, there are more and more moments of thankfulness and joy that were not there in those first days. There is hope even in knowing he may never do what others can do. He can do what he can do.

God is very important for grief. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:3-6, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. " I can't even imagine the grief of God as He sent His Son down to our filthy earth to be born but to ultimately die for our sins. He knows all about grief.

Through my grieving process, I have learned something important about God's grace and His mercy. I've talked about it in other posts, but it was mind-changing for me. In the early days of Trenton's abdominal migraines, they were a mystery. We couldn't figure out why he would be lethargic for a week at a time and vomit. We figured what most parents would figure that it was the flu or some other normal sickness. During those weeks we were beyond frustrated. I found myself often being angry with God and my grief was high. Before bed, I would beg for a full night of sleep without him gagging. The threat of aspiration was a major concern. Hebrews 4:16 was the mind-changing verse for me, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." I realized something through this verse. We need to pray for mercy and find the grace that he has already given. We need to pray for the mercy that we don't deserve. I didn't deserve a normal baby. Nothing good in me made me worthy of a perfectly healthy child. God promised me that the grace would be there, so in those most difficult days thus far, I often prayed for God to be merciful and was willing to accept his grace if He chose not to be merciful. There was a reason for that difficult time, but I know it was for a reason. He has mercifully taken away the migraines.

Whether you are grieving over a lost loved one or grieving over lost expectations, God offers grace to make it through the early grieving process, and you will be amazed at how it changes and becomes something better. Let God be your stronghold in the time of trouble and be prepared for the attacks of Satan. He will use grief to make you angry with God, and it will creep up when you think your grief is fully matured. 

Don't be afraid to share your grief. Nothing turns to anger and bitterness faster than grief that is held in and bottled up.