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Why My Path is Different From Yours

I know better than to compare my son to his peers, who have no special needs. But the desire for affirmation, to know that we’re ok (because most days, it honestly feels like we are all but ok), has often led me to the comparison trap, even comparing my child and myself to other special needs families. Though some of us, who have children with special needs, seem to walk side by side, we each have our own path to follow. And even though I might know what it’s like to walk in your shoes, it’s good to know we are hiking along different trails.

At a time when you don’t want to feel alone in your hardship, why is this a good thing?

Special Needs Mom, Don't compare.

Because We Are Different

I’m a checklist-dependent, time-obsessed, overly organized control freak. But that all changed when I had children. The constant changes that come from having children in your life fought against every part of my Type A personality. And the way I handle my son’s special needs may be different from the way you respond to yours. But that difference could be useful. When I face the same battles day in and day out, my reactions can sometimes be on auto-pilot. But seeing how a friend handles her special needs child allows me to see these challenges from a different angle and perhaps change my responses for the better.

Because Our Children Are Different

The world of special needs covers such a wide spectrum of disabilities and challenges. Some are physically exhausting, while others zap your mental energy. Some disabilities are visible, while others are only apparent to those who get close enough to notice. Some children are high-functioning with the potential to be more independent, while others will likely need assistance for the rest of their lives. We can find hope, encouragement, and inspiration from each other’s stories, but it makes no sense to compare our children’s progress. Their successes will occur at different times and to different degrees, and we will celebrate them all.

Because God Works in a Variety of Ways

It had been a while since I checked my social media feed, but something gripped me, pierced me right in the center of the most tender part of my emotions. Not at all prepared for the sudden outpouring of tears, I strained to hold them back until I relocated to another room, away from any possible inquiry from my children.

What I read was a brief account of a child with special needs, who had made leaps and bounds beyond what others expected. The post was full of hope and rejoicing and did not warrant the sorrowful reaction I gave it. But for that moment, I grieved. I grieved for the mountains that my own child had not scaled, the doors that were not opened for him, and the obstacles that remained in his path.

But my husband wouldn’t let me dwell too long on the comparisons, knowing it’s an exercise in futility. He reminded me that God is working in that family as He is in ours. It won’t look exactly the same.

We are different.

Our children are different.

But we have the same God, working in a variety of ways to bring about the same glorious outcome.

“On earth, the underside of the tapestry was tangled and unclear; but in heaven, we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory.”
~ Joni Erickson Tada

Trusting God

When Things Don’t Go as You Planned

I wrote this a couple of years ago on another site, but I thought it would be fitting and a good reminder because I’ve lost count how many times I’ve looked longingly at the rosy path from a distance, while God has led the way to the far different, rocky trail in front of me.

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There’s a pile of papers waiting for me to look through. They’re not bills that need to be paid. They’re not my kids’ schoolwork that need to be put away. They’re not letters that need to be opened.

They are papers given to us by a doctor, a specialist in speech pathology and audiology. Why would I have papers like these on my desk? Because one of my children was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. So now, we have some decisions to make about therapy, education, and how all of that will affect our whole family. Honestly, it all gets overwhelming sometimes. Hence, the papers remain untouched on that desk.

When a woman first realizes there is this life growing and thriving inside her, there are no limits to her dreams. She dreams of rocking that baby to sleep. She dreams of holding his hand and never letting go. She dreams of showing him the beauty of this world and its Creator. Those were my dreams.

They still are, but the path to each looks far different from what I had imagined. I did not picture doctors, therapies, treatments, psychological assessments, and special needs consultants. But they are there, and I must accept that and believe that even though it’s hard to see sometimes, God will make something beautiful out of this.

I imagine that you probably have something like this in your life. Something that has not turned out exactly the way you planned. Something that you feel is out of your control. May I encourage you to receive it, embrace it, and make the most of it.

There are really only two choices: despair or hope. I have been in despair. It is a dark, dark place and a paralyzing state. But, hope in God is what enables me to keep moving forward and pressing on despite the obstacles before me.

What do you choose?

Family Life

Love Lessons

It was one of those days, where I felt like no matter which way I turned, I was hitting a wall. There seemed to be obstacles everywhere that kept me from going where I wanted to go and doing what I wanted to do. There were challenges with my children: it seemed my voice could not be heard, my directives could not be understood, and my efforts could not be appreciated. So, our homeschool day ended on a sour note. The pity party began.

I give, give, give to this family and get nothing in return.

So, here is where The Lord took me in the midst of my complaining.

“… train the young women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4)

But I do love them, my heart would protest. It is apparent in the time, energy, efforts, and sleep that I sacrifice for them. I am practicing sacrificial (agape) love for them. And, I know I’m not alone in this. Without a doubt, many wives and mothers love their families in this way.

But the Titus verse is a command for women, not to agape love, but to phileo love, meaning to love with affection.

I have been so busy loving my family with sacrifice, I have failed to love them with affection.

My love falls short.

On his way home from work, my husband called, “Let’s take the kids to the park.” My first thought was to respond, “You can take them. I have other things to do.” I looked at the kids, and they were playing happily together on the floor. They don’t have to go to the park; they’re just fine over there. How could I possibly take any time to go out and play with them when the sink was full of dishes, dinner had to be prepared, and the tower of laundry was about to topple over? Thank The Lord for holding my tongue.

We went to the park. I pushed my 2-year-old on the swing while we sang one of his favorite nursery rhymes together. I watched with delight at my 5-year-old boy climb up the hill, diligently looking for the best rocks for his collection. I hugged and kissed my only daughter after she fell and scraped her knee and then ran off to play again. And, I supported Gabriel’s legs as he excitedly swung his arms across the monkey bars.

Before this day, I was missing out on a lot by not phileo loving my children. Praise The Lord that in His kindness, He didn’t let me miss out this time.

Family Life, Savoring Simple Moments, Trusting God

The Day He Rode Without Training Wheels

“Mommy, I did it! I rode my bike!” Though I could not see his face, the enthusiasm in my son’s voice came through loud and clear over the phone. Doctors had told us early on that delays in Gabriel’s speech development could also mean delays in other areas, such as motor skills. Play dates at the park confirmed this, as I watched my son struggle to climb the jungle gym, while his younger sister whizzed passed him. Eventually, he improved, and he could climb as well as any 8-year-old. But, one thing that he was still not able to do was ride his bike without training wheels.

Even as a preschooler, he had a difficult time riding his tricycle, preferring to move that thing around with his feet, like the Flintstones. Graduating to a bicycle was another huge hurdle for Gabriel to overcome, but training wheels gave him confidence. He had the biggest bike with training wheels at the park, and I wondered if we would ever be able to remove them.

DSC_0010.JPGYesterday, my husband took him out to go bike riding. By God’s providence, one of the training wheels came off as he was riding. My husband decided to leave it off and encouraged our son to keep riding. When he could tell that Gabriel’s confidence was growing, my husband told him, “Son, I’m going to remove the other wheel. Just give it a try.” After a few minor falls, Gabriel was riding around the parking lot with no training wheels. A couple of bystanders watched and cheered on both father and son. One of them, an older gentleman, said to my husband, “Now that’s something to remember!” And after that parking lot ride, I received the phone call from Gabriel. I wish I could’ve recorded his voice and play it back for you all to hear. He was gushing with excitement. I could not contain the tears of joy, for Gabriel’s accomplishment reached deep into my heart.

I’m just like Gabriel. Timid, anxious, and afraid to fall. I want my training wheels because they keep me steady, but God knows when to remove them. He will keep me steady. And as I entrust myself to Him, I will discover that all along, He has always been holding me up.

 

(Photo credit 1: Lotus Carroll)
(Photo credit 2: billjank)

Trusting God

On Cliff’s Edge

edge of cliff aheadIn your pilgrim’s journey, do you sometimes sense you are constantly walking on a path that will lead to your end? Do you feel helpless, hopeless, and alone? And you wonder, why is God leading me here?

I read some encouraging verses the other day, and God comforted my heart. It is too good not to share. We are all going through something, aren’t we? A difficult marriage, rebellious children, a friend’s betrayal, failing health, financial problems, and the list goes on.

On the Edge of a Tafoni Cliff

Whatever your circumstances may be, do you feel like your toes are hanging over the edge of the cliff that even the slightest breeze can bring you down? What is holding you up? Or rather, who is holding you up?

“When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.”
(Psalm 94:18-19)

 

Photo credit 1: tbone_sandwich
Photo credit 2: Orin Zebest

Prayer & Devotion

Let Your Words Be Few

Word Balloon Frame 01: Cut UpIn my last post, I shared about the need to be watchful in how we use our words towards others. Words uttered in carelessness serve only to hurt and divide.

But I have noticed something else about myself. Negligence in my speech towards other people eventually flows down to my communication with The Lord. When I pray, I am less inclined to praise and adore Him and more prone to doubt and complaint. I don’t know about you but when I have a complaining heart, my words multiply.

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Even before The Lord, we must be slow to speak. Pause and consider who you are and who He is. Our sinful heart would keep us from approaching Him if not for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. This ready access which we have been graciously given ought not to be taken for granted. Precious blood marks the path through the Holy Place, past the torn veil, and into the Holy of Holies before God Himself. What will you say to Him?

Look at Isaiah’s response when he received a vision of The Lord sitting on His throne.

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

I’m afraid that I sometimes take too lightly my sinfulness and think even less of His holiness. I have certainly regretted many words spoken out of anger or bitterness to my husband and children. But, my heart is grieved even more at the words of doubt and unbelief that I have spoken to God Himself. The only thing that keeps me from being paralyzed by my past sins is His amazing gift of forgiveness.

May we learn to sit in silence before rushing into prayer. May we relish the quiet meditations of our hearts before beginning to speak. May we be still with reflections of His character before uttering one word.

Then, we can proclaim, “O Lord, how great Thou art!”

 

(Photo credit: heath_bar)

Disclaimer: Especially Made has no affiliation with any advertisements that may occasionally appear on this site.

Coping with the Challenges, Family Life

Guard My Mouth

Since he was a toddler, Gabriel’s world consisted of a great deal of repetition. When he was diagnosed at 3 years old with a speech and language disorder, one of the most common manifestations was what professionals called echolalia. If you greeted him with “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?”, my little parrot would reply, “Hi, Gabriel, how are you today?” Many children engage in this sort of behavior, but they soon grow out of it once they are able to get a handle on communicating more independently. Advised by the speech therapist not to discourage the echolalia, we allowed the repeating to help Gabriel process information before he was ready to respond appropriately.

Though there were still significant delays in his development, he progressed. As predicted, he gained some proficiency in everyday conversation, and the echolalia began to disappear. Well, not completely.

Today he will still repeat, but not during conversations. He is selective and will focus on a certain sound or phrase he hears and repeat it, almost without thinking. His choice, however, seems to almost always be his sister. Is this intentional? I don’t know. But, imagine the child who plays that cruel game of repeating-everything-she-says. “Stop copying me.” “Stop copying me.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” “I’m going to tell Mommy.” But in this case, Gabriel is not trying to play a game.

silenceAs you can imagine, homeschool has been quite challenging for both of them because he is mimicking every word and sound his sister makes. But I could tell this is just as frustrating for him. One day, he came up to me and said, “Mommy, could you just put tape on my mouth and I will stop copying my sister?”

How many times have I approached God the Father with a similar request? “God, please put a guard over my mouth. Let my words be a blessing, not a curse, to others.” We have been warned that the tongue is more difficult to tame than the fiercest animal. Oh, how true that is!

There have been so many careless words that have spewed from my mouth, mostly directed towards those dearest to me … my husband and children. No amount of remorse can give me back that time and allow me to take back those hurtful words. And many of us know how much deeper the cuts of unkind words are because we have both inflicted and received them.

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19)

“Could you just put tape on my mouth?” Oh, I wish it was that easy both for me and my son. With our mouths, God has given us an amazing privilege of blessing, encouraging, and edifying others. Tight lips would forfeit that privilege. So, our wise Father gives us some very practical instruction concerning godly speech. Less is more. With fewer words, we can be more intentional with them … only speaking when there is real purpose and only saying what is truly needed.

Let us exercise great care in choosing our words. May our words leave behind, not an intolerable stench, but a lasting, fragrant aroma of blessing.

 

(Photo credit: RebeccaBarray)

Prayer & Devotion, Trusting God

Don’t Just Pray … Pray Believing

cold prayerThis past Sunday, my pastor exhorted us to trust God to provide for our needs and to pray in faith. Sometimes, my prayers are weak and feeble, filled with doubt. Do I pray, believing that God can truly answer, even when my circumstances seem bleak and hopeless?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I were given an opportunity to trust God more and pray in faith. He accepted a job, where he worked from home, which seemed to be a good thing at first. But, we soon came to realize that this job required him to be at his computer 20 hours a day, and the remaining 4 hours was spent getting some needed sleep. Time with family and ministry suffered. And, we knew something had to be done. In faith, my husband quit his job. During those months without any income, we still ate and paid all our bills. The numbers didn’t add up, of course, and at the end of the day, our stomachs and hearts were fully satisfied. The Lord still miraculously multiplies loaves and fish today.

So, why is it still hard for me sometimes to pray big when I have a big God who will answer beyond what I can even ask or think? He has done it before for my family during our time of unemployment. He has not changed. He is still faithful.

20140304-215019.jpgSunday’s sermon was exactly what I needed to hear. My pastor shared a story of faithful, courageous prayer … a story that is worth hearing over and over again. It is of George Müller. He had been entrusted by The Lord to run an orphanage in England in the 1800s. During his lifetime, he cared for over 10,000 children.

One particular morning, the children gathered together in the dining room as usual for breakfast, and George Müller thanked God for the food that He will provide. You see, on that morning, when he prayed, the children stared at empty plates. There was no food. But George Müller prayed, believing in God, his Provider.

Only minutes after he finished praying, there was a knock on the door. It was the baker. “Mr. Müller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon after, another knock on the door, and this time, it was the milkman with a broken cart right in front of the orphanage. Unable to fix his cart and not wanting all the milk to spoil, he asked George Müller if he could use some free milk.

That day, about 300 children were fed. That day, God answered prayer. And He still does it today.

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” –George Müller

 

(Photo credit 1: Keith Riley-Whittingham)
(Photo credit 2: Wikimedia Commons)

Disclaimer: Especially Made has no affiliation with any advertisements that may occasionally appear on this site.

Prayer & Devotion

The Privilege of Prayer

Prayer vitral

What does prayer do? The sovereign and omniscient God knows what we need before we ask Him. “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). So why pray?

Earlier this month, I received an email requesting prayer for someone, who was soon to undergo major surgery. A number of emails were going back and forth with updates on her condition, what doctors were saying, and when they would schedule the surgery. One of the emails contained the date and time that the procedure was to take place. I kept this in mind, with the intention of praying at the exact time that the doctors were going to perform the surgery. One night, when I opened my inbox, it was flooded with several emails. “Praise The Lord!” “He answered our prayers.” “She’s doing well in the recovery room.” Wait a minute, I thought. Did they change the time of the surgery? Or, did I forget to pray?

I looked through my old emails and found the one that contained the time of the surgery. They didn’t change it. But, what I failed to realize was that this operation took place in a different country, in a completely different time zone. I felt stupid for my careless oversight. As I read through all the emails from those who were praising God for this answer to prayer, I felt a bit left out. Don’t get me wrong. I was rejoicing in The Lord too. But, there is a certain level of excited praise that happens after being part of the intercession that occurred prior to that worshipful response.

“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

Has something like this ever happened to you? Have you ever told someone you would pray for them and forgot? And, when they told you later how God demonstrated His faithfulness, you felt ashamed of your faithlessness in prayer.

Yes, God knows before we even ask. And no, He doesn’t need us to do what He wills. But, according to His kindness, He has chosen to work through the prayers of His people. Don’t think of prayer as a chore you have to do. Rather it is a mission we get to partake in. What an awesome and humbling privilege He has bestowed on us!

“The utterly amazing thing is that [God] has ordained to include us in running the universe. He really does respond to our prayers. They are woven into the fabric of causes that God wills to be moved by.” ~ John Piper

 

(Photo credit: S. Reachers)

Heaven, Prayer & Devotion

Worthy is the Lamb

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Is it possible to have a deep and intimate relationship with someone you have never seen and never touched? With Jesus Christ, I have experienced a relationship unlike any earthly relationships I have today or will ever have. Though I have not seen him with my own eyes, He has given me the Bible, where He has revealed Himself to me. In words that I can grasp, He has given me pictures of Himself so that I may understand in a deeper way who He is. I would have to say that the most precious picture He has given me is that of the Good Shepherd. Last summer, I began a series on Psalm 23 in conjunction with the lessons that my husband taught at our bible study group. Seeing more clearly who this Shepherd is, I can testify how He has tenderly led me to still waters, green pastures, and dark valleys. I can admit my proneness to wander and fear, but attest to the Shepherd’s protection through it all. I finished up this series on the psalm only a few months ago, but the lessons to be learned from this precious picture of my Lord is far from over. He continues to prove to me day after day, what a faithful, ever present, soul-satisfying Shepherd He is to me.

Recently, while visiting at a friend’s house, I noticed a framed photograph on the wall with the following verse.

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)

The Good Shepherd 130Here, in this life, we can experience our Shepherd’s leading. Are you tired, hungry, and parched from the burdens of this world? Today, He can refresh and feed you. He can make you lie down because He knows when rest is needed. He can pick you up and carry you when you feel like you can’t take another step. He can protect you from the enemies that are seeking to devour you.

What’s more, you can eagerly await that glorious day when this Shepherd will bring you to your last stop in your journey. There, He will direct you to eternal waters … founts that will never run dry … springs that will refresh and satisfy you forevermore. And on this day, you will discover that your Shepherd was not just a shepherd. He was also the Lamb who was slain for you. But there’s more … And let this image be forever on the forefront of your mind, for you will never see anything like this in all your days in this life. But one day, you will behold with your own eyes that …

… this Lamb is also King (Revelation 17:14).

Dear sheep, bow down and worship your King!

 

(Photo credit: Waiting for The Word)