Tag Archives: christianity

In Real Life, There is Autism

I know, I promised you food this week. I’m sorry. I also had wanted to share a little bit more about the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan that has been such a gift in my life and has changed my eating and health so dramatically in the past month. But each time I sat down to write the easy stuff, God reminds me that there is something more important.

He does that to me a lot.

I pray for the words and He steers me in a direction that I don’t always want to go. Stubbornly, I fight to go my own way and write what I want, what is easier, and ultimately find that I can’t write another word until I have surrendered and written what He has for me.

He has given me the love blogging and storytelling because He has a story He wants me to tell.

It is a joy and a pleasure to write about daily life around the Hacienda, to share good food and recipes and to connect with other bloggers and readers. It has never felt strange or wrong for me to put my family and my life “out there”. I felt such a leading to do so when I started this blog that I had no fear or hesitation.

After all, how can you write a blog about good company and creating community from behind a closed-door?

I trust God with our story. With the sharing of it and with the direction He takes it.

And while I struggle with it sometimes, I know that sharing our story means sharing more than just the fun stuff, or the yummy stuff, or the easy stuff. It means sharing the real stuff too.

Real life.

And in real life, there is Autism.

This past week, our sweet boy Nathan was diagnosed with autism.

Nathan. Autism.

Nathan has autism.

Nathan is autistic.

I think that may be the first time I have truly put those words together.

So, there is no easy this week. In my head and on my heart, there is only autism. Hours of reading and research already. And prayer.

How did I not see this? What did I miss?

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Nathan, autistic? But he makes eye contact, he is funny and engaging, he has a sense of humor and is full of life and personality. He is social and happy and doesn’t throw huge fits or tantrums. He connects. He is kind and empathetic, loves animals and small children. He is talking now and telling stories and plays imaginatively and independently.

He is all of those things and more. And he is also autistic. I didn’t see it.

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I have read some incredible blogs in the last several days, written by mamas with autistic children. I tell you what, you can read all of the clinical information you want but if you really want to know something, read the words of a mama who lives it everyday. Their stories are both similar and unique but the universal theme that runs through each is  … “I knew something was wrong.”

I knew something was wrong at six months, twelve months at the very least by two. I knew something was different.

I didn’t. I didn’t know. At least not that early.

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As an infant, my son did not display many of the things I have read about. He made eye contact, he tracked, he smiled and laughed and responded to us in all of the right ways. He loved to be held and cuddled and snuggled.

What did I miss? What did I dismiss? I have racked my brain thinking back.

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He had a very sensitive startle reaction (he would cry every time Gary sneezed – it’s a loud sneeze, but still), he hated tummy time, he walked at 10 months but didn’t talk until after 16, he was a tip-toe walker, he couldn’t tolerate loud noises and was very sensitive to sound. But that’s it and except for a sensitive tummy and some digestive issues, he was an easy baby; a great sleeper, not overly fussy, happy and content. We considered ourselves fortunate as he had been methamphetamine exposed the majority of his birth mother’s pregnancy and despite a rough start, was absolutely thriving.

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As a toddler, we were concerned about his delayed speech so we set up early intervention services for him and he had speech and language therapy for a year. He was displaying some rigid behaviors and inflexibility and had a need for control and had some obsessive “quirks” but truthfully, that describes me too (I’m getting better, truly  I am) and it was all easily managed. He otherwise continued to be the happy, healthy, delightful little guy who was advanced in so many other ways. He blew us away with his early ability to focus on and figure things out, to do complicated puzzles, find hidden pictures with little effort. He was a mover and a shaker.

Nathan-6Truthfully, my husband noticed more than I did. I remember him saying “have you noticed how his cars always have to be lined up perfectly and are always arranged by color? Do you see how upset he gets when he can’t get things to work just how he wants or when things are moved around or messed up? His temper concerns me a little.”

I would dismiss it saying, “oh he just has a bit of a temper and he likes to have things just so.” Now, it sounds so obvious. Why does hindsight always sound so obvious.

In retrospect, there were whispers of concern in the back of my mind and I even read a bit about Autism but so many things didn’t fit that I just put it away and dismissed it.

I didn’t read enough.

It wasn’t until pre-school that we started noticing social difficulties and trouble relating with peers. He was easily overwhelmed and overstimulated in a large groups of children. He could be aggressive and was often too rough. We had him in a Montessori type of pre-school setting and it was a disaster for him. It was his sweet teacher who finally pulled me aside and said very honestly “I don’t know how to work with him. I love him and I want what is best for him but I don’t think he is getting what he needs here.” That was the first “bubble burst” and prompted an initial round of testing last fall and my first true inclination that something wasn’t quite right.

The testing we had done was academic and behavioral as it related to an academic setting. His cognitive levels were off the charts. I will never forget the testing process or the amazement of the testing administrator as she would place a series of picture cards in front of him in a particular order, telling him he had several seconds to look at them before she would take them, mix them up and give them back to him for him to put in order again. He would barely glance at them and then shove them back to her, look right at her and say “I ready”. Wanting an accurate test result, she would say, no, Nathan, you can take a little more time.

“No, I ready.”

So she gave him back the cards and in a matter of seconds they were all in exactly the same order she had initially placed them.

The pictures got more and more complicated but the results were the same.

“I ready.”

Eventually, she ran out of cards. “I don’t have any higher level tests with me to give him, we don’t usually need them at this type of testing.”

Concern came when she would give him auditory tests like a simple sequence of words or numbers and ask him to repeat them.

“Nathan, can you please repeat these numbers for me. One. Eight. Four. Two. Six.”

“One. Eight. Four …… what dat nex one? Mommy, what dat nex one. I dohn no.”

And then he would refuse to do it at all because he knew he couldn’t.

Precious boy.

Nathan-11

And so the testing continued and we eventually ended up with a diagnoses of Expressive Language Delay and Sensory Processing Disorder and an IEP including speech and language and behavioral and social goals.

Still no Autism anywhere on the radar.

His diagnoses qualified him for specialized services and we enrolled him in a special needs pre-school. He did much better in a setting with only 11 other children a teacher and three aides but he still struggled and our concern grew, especially with kindergarten and a mainstream classroom of 28 kids on the horizon. So, I made an appointment with Wendy, our older son David’s incredible behavioral health caseworker whose expertise and opinion I value greatly. Her evaluation led us to the office of the Child Psychiatrist who observed and interacted with Nathan, reviewed his IEP, asked me just the right questions and then leaned forward, looked at me and said “you aren’t going to like me but your son has autism.”

And there it was. Autism. Your son has autism.

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I took in what he said as I held my wiggly five-year-old in my arms. Innocent and unaware of what was hanging in the air. Impatiently rubbing my face and poking at me to get my attention; “mommy I ready to go home. We go home now.”

We went home and I began reading. I wasn’t convinced. So much didn’t fit.

And then I read about High-Functioning Autism and a picture perfect profile of my son began to emerge from the pages. The pieces came together and they did fit. Autism.

Because he didn’t fit the typical signs of Autism, it was easy to dismiss and to simply assume he was just a bit type-A; believe me, type-A is familiar around here. We accepted the “unique” and incredible things he did as a sign that he was probably gifted and advanced. We were dealing with his speech issues and used a lot of signing to communicate with him. We were patient, certain the speech would come with time.

What we dismissed as just personality, a bit of OCD and a little quirkiness were truly the signs of high functioning autism. We just didn’t know enough about it to suspect it. Or we didn’t want to see it.

I didn’t want to see it.

In the book “Children with High-Functioning Autism” author Claire E. Hughes-Lynch talks about her journey with her own daughter’s diagnoses; “I can look back now and say, ‘Ahhhh, so that was the autism coming out.’ But at the time … I have backgrounds in both gifted education and special education, and my gifted education experience means I tend to look at kids from a strengths-based perspective. I see things that could be the germ of a talent or activities that show promise of great thinking … I tend not to look at things from a deficit view.”

Nathan-Adoption-Day-4

This really resonated with me. I have always been amazed by my son and chose to focus only on the strengths and great thinking that I saw in him. I found ways to explain away the other things I saw.

In hind sight, I think we missed some of the signs with Nathan because we were dealing with so much with Sara and David. They had come back to us when Nathan was about 18 months old and we had hit the ground running with their healing and trauma therapy. Nathan was our “normal” kid … whatever that means. Sara and David’s psychological wounds and needs were so extreme that I’m pretty sure I just didn’t have it in me to handle the realization that something could be wrong with my precious baby too.

That isn’t pretty but it is real and it is honest.

God’s timing amazes me. Always. But never more so than now. He restored our family at exactly the time He intended. He knew that we would walk with Sara and David through some very dark and terrifying places in the process of their healing and restoration. He knew that they were going to need every bit of us for that journey.

He also knew that it would ultimately be the end of me.

My reliance on Him who sustains, restores, redeems and strengthens me made absolute under the weight of my own weakness.

Complete surrender.

Then, and only then, would I be ready to hear and accept the words “your son has autism”.

For my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Nathan-8

My son has autism.

My son has autism and he is still the exact same funny, sweet, incredible little boy he was before the word ever entered our lives. In fact, so many of the things that I love about him, the things that make him unique, that make him Nathan, are the “autistic things”. He is wired differently, yes. But he is fearfully and wonderfully made. Created perfectly for the work God has for him to do.

He is truly a gift. He came to us in such a miraculous way and I have always been so thankful to God for entrusting me to be his mama. But now more than ever before, I am humbled and grateful that my husband and I have the privilege of raising this precious boy.

Nathan-10

My son has autism and he will always know love and acceptance and the promise and hope his future holds.

My son has autism. And it’s okay. That is real life.

God has a beautiful plan for him and we will be blessed to watch it unfold. I hope you will join us for the journey ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Not to Condemn but to Save

Good Friday. A Holy and reflective day for the followers of Christ.

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But why is it called Good Friday. What is good about the suffering, humiliation and death of the son of God? I remember my pastor from childhood posing that very question. A question that has undoubtedly been asked thousands and thousands of times.

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And the answer? Love. The answer is love.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Perhaps the most well-known verse in the bible and for good reason. But do you know what verse 17 says?

“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17

Not to condemn but to save.

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Forgiveness. Cleansing. Resurrection. Rebirth. Salvation. Life. Love.

For ALL of us. He came for us all. All broken. All hurting. All sinners. All stained.

Not one better than the next.

Not one clean enough to sit in judgement over another.

He came in love. He washed us clean and called us to follow Him and only Him.  And He called us to love.

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Why then do we claim condemnation as our own? Why? When even God Himself, did not. It breaks my heart and convicts me to live differently.

I recently read a post by Christian author and speaker Jen Hatmaker that was like a breath of fresh air. Nail on the head kind of stuff. I hope you will click the link above and read it too. I would love to know what you think – whatever you think.

I am blessed by those in the Christian faith who, like Jen, think outside the boundaries of convention. Who believe that Christ calls us out of the pews and our freshly ironed Sunday best to reach deeper, do more.

To LOVE. Not just to say it but to DO IT.

To get dirty. To stand up for the enslaved and oppressed. To embrace the hurting. To minister to the sick and impoverished. To care for the widow and the orphan. To love those who, in the eyes of the world, would be deemed unlovable. Not just to “add a little Jesus to our already awesome lives.” As my current pastor, Mark Connelly at Mission Community Church, has said.

That is what being a Christian means to me.

Good-Friday-4

Not to condemn but to save. No strings attached.

” … this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways.”

Unafraid. Unthreatened. Unreserved. Arms wide open.

“The skeptic, the cynic, the doubter; my arms are wide open. Their questions and disbelief don’t scare me; I am unthreatened. The loosey-goosey, tambourine shaking, barefoot liberal who loves Jesus and the earth and votes straight-ticket Democrat? I love her. The young adult generation who is leaving the church but running to Jesus in unfamiliar, new ways – I gather them to me like a Mama because they are going to change the world.”

Perspective and compassion. Not judgement.

“I am not put off by creed or denomination or sexual orientation or terrifying doubt or outright anger or nationality or socioeconomic status or issues or weirdness or politics. I’m not going to make a deal out of a glass of wine when 25,000 people will die today of starvation.”

Renegades. Closer to the margins.

 “… we need some renegades closer to the margins, building bridges, creating safe spaces to question, wrestle, rethink.

He is everything good and gracious.

Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every sense of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all.”

He is ALL of our dreams come true.

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If you don’t know my Jesus, YOUR Jesus, if you think something like … Christianity wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the Christians;  I invite you to take another look. If reading up to this point you have determined “Oh man, she’s a Jesus freak, I thought she just blogged about food and her kids” … It’s true. You are correct. Jesus freak here. But perhaps that means something different than you might think. Something different than perceived notions or past experience has impressed upon you.

I hope that you will take another look.

What puts-off and offends is not Christianity or Christians it is legalism and judgement. That offends me too. And I promise you. That is not Jesus.

Take another look.

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I love the church and do not mean to sound as if I don’t. I believe we are called into community to live as a body of believers. To gather together, to do life together, to worship together, learn together, grow together. Community. One body. Inclusive. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye. Even if we don’t agree on everything. That is Grace.

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Because Jesus is our savior, not our religion. Because He died for us. For you and for me. Both sinners, both struggling, both redeemed in Him, both made new. Because He loves us. And He wants us to love each other, differences and all.

Be blessed today, this Good Friday. Share a little grace, show a little love. Remember what has been done for you.

If you would like to talk with me or prefer not to comment here publicly or if I can pray for you in any way, please e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net.

And, if by chance, you are a renegade, closer to the margins, Jesus freak too – I’d love to know it!

What to Give and What to Give Up!

Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. Forty days (Sundays not included) meant for reflection, repentance, and sacrifice. A time for Christians to prepare for Easter and remind ourselves why this time matters so much. That we would focus our hearts on Jesus Christ. On his life, death, burial and resurrection. On His suffering and His sacrifice.

I truly love this season, it always feels like a new beginning. A time of renewal, a rebirth. Spring is near and life is on the verge of abundance, nesting birds, blooming trees, a bursting garden. A recovery from that which was harsh and cold and heavy.

Cactus

Not all Christian churches observe Lent but my family does and we are deeply blessed to do so. I was raised Presbyterian and grew up with the season of Lent but not the personal practice of “giving something up” in observance of Lent. That is something my husband and I decided to do as a married couple and it is something our children will do for the first time this year. We have asked them to pray and listen for what God is putting on their hearts, what He wants them to give to Him. Sara is pretty sure she will be giving up the computer. David was quick to offer up fruits and vegetables, we suggested a bit more reflection. Nathan is still a little young to fully understand but we will encourage him and show him by our example.

If you have read my last few posts, you know that I have been on a bit of a journey with God over the last few weeks – probably much longer but I’ve only just begun to really listen. I feel Him pulling me forward into a new season. My family is moving into a new season. That I have felt coming for some time now. I have observed the change in my children. The deep healing and increased peace in them.

Kids

Four years ago, in the Spring, our older two children returned to us after having been back in the care of their birth mother for nearly two years. You can read more of that story in my post “Beauty from Ashes”. In that four years, we have walked with them through some very dark and terrifying places as they fought their way back from abuse and trauma. It has been hard. Very hard. The hardest thing I have ever done and I have not always done it with grace.

But now, my children are doing well. They are moving forward. Charging forward.

Kids-2

God has redeemed so much and has brought them so far beyond their pain. He has enfolded them in His grace and filled them with the promise that His plan for their life is good. He has reached them and they have opened their hearts to Him in miraculous ways.

My own heart overflows for the changes I see in them but the process of that change has taken a toll. And now it is my turn. His eyes have turned toward me. Really they have always been on me too, but now I am aware.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am thankful and I am blessed and I am happy. Truly. But I am tired, I am weary, I am spent. Not because of my children or because of their pain or the journey God called us to walk with them. But because of my choices in dealing with just how hard it was. Because of my need for control and the avoidance of the depth of my own loss, grief and pain. The guilt of my mis-steps and lack of grace. Too long I have buried it all in distraction and busy-ness. Too many times I have come before Him broken and on my knees only to take back that which I was so desperate to give to Him. He has waited for me to bend just far enough and now He is calling me out. He is calling me to a season of change and renewal. And I am listening.

Lent. This year He is not asking me to give up a favorite food item, TV, wine or chocolate. No, He is asking for much more. He is asking me to dig deeper. He is calling me to give up SELF. To give Him the pieces of me that I still cling to, hide behind, wallow in, make excuses for.

I will spend the next forty days committed to a pattern of change, committed to live more intentionally. Directed and purposeful. Proactive instead of reactive. Refreshed and not tired. Renewed and not weary. Listening for His voice to tell me what is mine and giving over what He claims as His.

I will sleep more.

I will eat more that is green.

I will eat less that is white.

I will drink more water.

I will exercise more.

I will deepen my prayer life and devote more quiet time to Him. I will rise to meet Him every morning and not find a reason why I am too busy or too tired.

I will  make no excuses.

I will be slow to anger.

I will watch my tongue.

I will guard my thoughts.

I will remember that while I am a mom, I am a wife too.

I will fast. Over the past ten years, I have walked closer and closer to God but I have never fasted in prayer. Never. He is asking me to start.

I will rid myself of all that I have taken up that He has not asked of me. I will clear the clutter and all that keeps me too busy and distracts me from Him.

And when I am done, when He is finished. I will celebrate that He is Risen. That He lives. And that I too am alive again.

Love, Lent and Following Where He Leads

From the start of my blog, my desire has always been for it to be conversational. I think this may be because I am at a stage in my life where the day-to-day joys of parenting three young children has riddled my brain incapable of stringing more than a few random thoughts together at a time. Long, cohesive, well-thought out, planned, drafted, grammatically correct, edited and revised is just not in the cards right now; well, yes, sometimes long is. Nor should they be because that is how God wants it. Someday I may be a “writer” but for now, I am a conversationalist. He knows me and He knows that anything else would be too much about me and not enough about Him. I still have so much growing to do and wisdom yet to gain.

I talked yesterday about all that God has had for me this past week or so. As I seek Him in the early morning hours, after He has awakened me and called me to His feet, I have continually felt His leading to focus and reflect on LOVE. To write about love, to spark conversation and thought about love.

Love. I LOVE it!

Naturally, I think, this will tie in perfectly to Valentine’s Day … God, your timing is always perfect. Love it is! All week, I will talk about LOVE. Thank you God for your message, thank you for your leading. I have a plan, a direction, I know what you want me to do and I am happy to do it.

And then came “Love is not passion — It is the pulse of sacrifice”; from Ann Voskamp. And it stuck. And I couldn’t shake it. And I felt God’s gentle touch on my shoulder; “no, this kind of love“.

What? But we had a plan, I had a plan. This was supposed to be about Valentine’s Day; fun and festive and pretty and easy. Blogs about 17 ways to celebrate 17 years of marriage and making cards and heart-shaped pancakes for kids and chocolate. You know, LOVE! I’m not qualified to talk about LOVE!

This is where I need to tell you that I am smitten with all of the aspects of blogging (well, not all – not the technical and “computer” stuff) and the creative outlet it has given me – it is so much neater than scrapbooking or crafting and Lord knows, I do need to be neater. I love that God has given me a passion for family history and food and hospitality and has given me this vehicle to share those passions. But He does not wake me up at 3 am to talk about chocolate souffle – I’m pretty sure though, if He were to wake me at 3 am to talk about food, He would want to talk about chocolate souffle.

He gives me the grace and go-ahead to talk about my passions. Who am I not to listen and obey when He asks me to talk about His LOVE.

So I wrote yesterday’s post, “What is Love?”; not easy for me, raw and honest, but true to what He desired of me. I am so thankful for the reflection and the growth, for the questions I am still working to answer and for the peace that comes from obedience to Him. I am thankful that in obedience, I have found His assurance that I am qualified to talk about love because I am loved.

And now that I am listening, my shoulder, heavy, not burdened, but heavy with God’s hand …“Yes, I have placed Love on your heart this week but that is only part of it. Think child. Be still and hear Me.”

Lent. Not Valentine’s Day. Lent. Sacrifice. LOVE. True love.

My husband and I are not Catholic but we observe Lent. We give something up, make a sacrifice, that we might reflect more deeply on the sacrifice that was made for us. This year though, I have been distracted. I haven’t been listening. And this year, He is calling me to more. Finally, I am hearing Him. This year, 40 days without french fries just isn’t going to cut it.

Growth. He is moving me forward.

If you would like to join me in the journey, I encourage you to read today’s post by Ann Voskamp, may it bless you as much as it did me …

Why Doing Lent this Year is What You Really Need

and we’ll talk more tomorrow, the first day of Lent.

What is Love?

Recently I purchased Ann Voskamp’s beautiful book “One Thousand Gifts”. I started reading the morning the box from Amazon arrived. Cup of coffee in hand, excited and eager to discover for myself the blessings within these pages that I had heard so much about.

Wholly unprepared for what I would soon find there.

Two chapters in, I stopped reading. Deeply moved. Convicted. Desperate to slow down and to pray. God has given this woman a story and she has opened herself up to Him in such a way that He has breathed the words to her to tell it. Beautiful, poetic, soulful words that share an imperfect woman’s journey to seek her perfect God and find him in a heart of gratitude.

One Thousand Gifts

It has been several weeks and I have not picked the book up again. But I will. I will start again. I will take this journey with Ann; with God. And I will discover, soak in and share one thousand of the gifts in my life. One thousand of the thousands of gifts God has given me; that He gives me everyday. A beginning. A start to recognizing that He is there, in everything. That He loves me. That He sees me. That the evidence of His love can be found in the small things; the gifts that too often go unnoticed.

God, you have given me a story too. I am thankful for EVERY bit of it, in fact that is my first thanks …

1. I am thankful for my story.

Well that felt good – 999 to go; what a journey it will be.

But that is for another time. For today, the leading of my heart centers around a post I saw on Facebook a little over a week ago from Ann Voskamp — I got it because I “Like(d)” her — a simple sentiment that has been rolling around in my head and moving in my heart continuously ever since.

Love is Sacrifice

Actually, it is not simple at all. Not for me anyway. Which is most likely why God has had me up a lot this past week, like 3 AM up, bible, spiral notebook and pen in hand, praying and writing all that has been rattling charging around within me.

All of the questions that have been stirred …

“Love is not passion — it is the pulse of sacrifice.”

How dolove like that?

Me who struggles with patience and forgiveness.

Me who struggles with the fear of failure.

Me who fights like a mule to stay in her comfort zone.

Me who can be too easily wounded and has a hard time letting go.

What if I can’t do it? What if I am never able to do it?

I love deeply. I love my family, my husband, my children, my friends, I love within my circle. But even there, do I love sacrificially? Or do I grumble at the “to do list”, the demands of small children, the challenge of family dynamics, the perceived hurts and slights of friends?

I have a compassionate heart. A heart that aches at suffering and injustice. But my heart has limits. I do not ache or hurt for everyone. I do not see everyone as God sees them. I am passionate but … I do not always love.

The soul-searching questions as God moves me forward, preparing me for the season that is to come …

      Do I love self-servingly or self-sacrificingly?

      Do I love those who can do nothing for me in return? Those who can’t love me in return?

      Do I love the unlovable?

      Do I love my enemies?

     Do I love when it is hard?

How do I love by the example that has been set for me?

The answer is, I can’t.

Not on my own.

But I can freely submit myself to the God who first loved me. He whose love is perfect. The one who will teach me, direct my steps, redeem my missteps, soften my heart.

The one who will empty me of me that I might be filled with Him. That I might love as He loves.

Friday Morning

I haven’t been able to post the last several days. My heart has been heavy and grieving. How do I talk about the Elf on the Shelf or cookies or meal planning or lights or tree trimming?

Friday morning. It is all we are hearing about, thinking about, talking about. I have read so many beautiful posts, thoughts, prayers and scripture uttered in the search for hope amid such unimaginable grief.

Beautiful insight.

Exactly what I wanted to say.

What I would have said had I been able to find the words.

I have read the prayer of St. Francis posted on Facebook by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) … Lord Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O’ Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Yes, Lord.

I have read the words of fellow blogger Derek Maul, “But my God is still the God of hope; and that hope is still articulated most eloquently in the promise of the Christ-child and the imperative of love. And while I can’t offer my faith as any kind of a ‘now I understand’ explanation, or an excuse for ‘unfairness,’ or a tidy answer, I can offer it as proof positive that the very real presence of God both sustains and encourages me – especially in the face of such consummate evil.”

Yes, Lord.

And I have turned to scripture, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will show mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10

Yes, Lord.

No, up to now, I haven’t myself been able to find the words but I have been sustained by the words of others; by the words of my Heavenly Father. What more can be said? What more can I add? And yet I feel like I can’t take another breath or go through another motion until I acknowledge the message He has for me and accept the words He is laying on my heart.

I watch the news, too much of it – and I hear discussion in regard to the shooter. He has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has Aspergers. He was a loner. He was odd. My heart breaks again as I read the words of Liza Long in her post “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”  that has been circulating everywhere. I have compassion as she cries out for help with her own son whom she fears but I am frustrated as she throws out possible diagnoses such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), ADHD, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder and links them and her son to what happened on Friday morning. I understand she is frustrated with the lack of mental health services and options. I understand she is looking for answers to the challenges she faces and the fear she has. My heart goes out to any mother who feels that she has to fear her child. I will pray for her. A lot of people have commented about her and have responded to her essay both in support and anger but who is praying for her? Who is praying for her son?

Does she need help? Yes. Does her son need help? Yes. Do we need to address the lack of appropriate mental health services in our country? Yes. Are there people who suffer from mental illness that pose a danger to themselves or society and need to be given the appropriate help and treatment? Yes. Do we need to recognize their suffering and watch for warning signs? Yes.

But we also need to be careful of where we place blame, point fingers, misdiagnosed and allow fear to creep into our good intentions; our judgment.

Was this tragic shooting on Friday caused because a young man had Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, PTSD, ODD, OCD or mental illness alone?

I am not an expert. I am not a mental health professional, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor. But I do have a gifted child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and PTSD due to the extreme trauma he experienced before we adopted him. We have been through a lot with him but I am not afraid of him. In fact, quite the opposite; I am amazed by him and admire his resiliency, compassion and desire to overcome his past. I see his heart and his goodness and I see God at work in his life every day.

I feel a great push to share this because I have put a part of my son’s story out there in the world by talking about his challenges in earlier posts and my heart now breaks at the though of any condemnation or judgment he could face because of the labels he bears; because of the “links” being made in the media and by those seeking an answer. My hope in sharing a part of my son’s story is only to praise how far he has come, to offer encouragement to others and to give glory to God for what He has done in our lives.

There is hope and healing is possible.

I also have a nephew with Aspergers and a close friend with an Autistic son and I myself have faced OCD. And I can’t, not for one more moment, hear this unspeakable act being linked to or blamed on conditions, disorders and/or diagnoses that millions of people live with. Diagnoses or labels that may remove them from the mainstream make them “different” and cause them to struggle but certainly do not make them cold, calculating mass murderers. How often in our history has the fear of “different” resulted in tragedy of its own?

What this young man did was something sinister.

We live in a world where there is good and there is evil.

What happened in that sleepy Connecticut town on Friday morning was evil; “consummate evil.”

  • People with Autism are not evil.
  • Autism is not mental illness.
  • People with Aspergers are not evil.
  • Aspergers is not mental illness.
  • People with mental illness are not evil.
  • People with OCD are not evil.
  • People with ODD are not evil.
  • People with PTSD are not evil.
  • People with ADHD are not evil.
  • People with depression and anxiety disorders are not evil.

Because it is close to me, I write specifically with thoughts of the thousands of foster children in our country who suffer from conditions resulting from abuse, trauma and loss. Overcoming that trauma, hurt, loss and lack of trust is not easy and takes a family or at the very least, someone who cares, a great team and a lot of love and hard work. Being loved and cared for by people who walk along side you and help you is a start. Being prayed for and shown the God who loves you allows for the breaking down of even the most difficult hurts and starts the process of true healing; replacing brokenness with hope. We cannot turn away or refuse to accept, love, help, guide and adopt hurting children because we are fearful. With God … WITH GOD, all things are possible.

As I repeatedly hear the question, “where was God that Friday morning?” I find myself compelled to answer because I know where He was, where He is. I know, because I know who He is.

I know because He was with me as I struggled with OCD and He ultimately delivered me from that which threatened to cripple me and hold me back from my purpose.

He has been with my husband and I every moment of our journey as parents called to nurture an abused and hurting child (children). He has walked with us through the rages and the anger and the trauma and has held our hands through diagnoses and therapy. And He has rejoiced with us as our children heal and are made new. As we watch them blossom into who they are intended to be as God delivers them from the hurts this world has visited upon them. He has also been with my children, through it all, and continues to walk every step with them.

He was there Friday morning.

He was with the teachers and staff who stood in the face of evil and overcame it to leave a legacy of love and sacrifice; a heroic testimony to us all. And He was waiting to welcome them home.

He was with each of those precious children; children that He first loved and are now with Him.

He was with each first responder as they ran into that building without hesitation. He is with them now as they struggle to overcome the trauma and heartache of Friday morning.

He is with each parent and family in Connecticut as they grieve the unspeakable and seek a way to forgive the impossible.

And He is with me as I write these words; as I pray for Him to give them to me. As I pray that we will notice and embrace the lonely and hurting before they become the lost. That we will offer hope and light and grace. That we will move forward with understanding and open eyes and not with fear.

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” St. Francis de Sales

Blessed be to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

Set Aside Busy for Brunch and a Deep Breath

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Christmas is just around the corner and we girls are BUSY. Have I mentioned that on top of everything else, I have a daughter with a birthday the week before Christmas? BUSY!! This time of year is hectic and our TO DO lists have never been longer. We overload, overcommit, overextend, overdo, and overwhelm … ourselves. It happens. It just does.

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We do all of this while desperately trying not to overlook the WHY of it all. We are celebrating the birth of Christ and the gift of salvation He lovingly and freely gave to us. We know that is what it is all about and it is important to us that in the busy-ness of it all, we slow down a bit and give ourselves time to breathe, time to reflect and time to be grateful. But how do we do it?

Prayer and personal quiet time with God is imperative to our well-being, perspective and spiritual health and is the first place to seek Him and find His peace. God loves and desires that time with us and He puts it on our hearts to need Him and to seek Him. But he has also created us to need each other and to desire connection. He loves to see us gather together in fellowship to enjoy each other’s company and share all that He has given us. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy, in fact it is so much better when it isn’t. This past Thursday, I was so blessed to have a group of women that I have spent the last few months in bible study with come to my home for brunch. Brunch is by far one of my favorite ways to open my home and welcome others. It is easy, it is low-stress and for whatever reason, it is always special. This Thursday brunch was just that, special.

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It was a time to take a breath.

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To reflect on the time we had spent together in the study of God’s word.

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To break bread together and share a meal that everyone had a part in preparing and pulling together.

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To remember and rejoice in the true gifts of the season.

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To set ourselves right and enjoy each other’s company and the company of our Savior.

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To model for our children what it means to share life and gather together in fellowship.

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To be blessed by the wisdom of a Godly woman who encouraged us to come before the Lord with reflection on the state of our hearts and minds and partake of the elements that we might be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and give thanks for the real gifts of the season.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1Corinthians 11:23-26

May we continue to remember, Lord, what it is we celebrate this joyous season and thank you for the moments we spend together in fellowship, filled with your spirit.