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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

My Last Post

 

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I was looking through these files the other day. My husband and I had a consultation appointment with a doctor, who specializes in Speech-Language Pathology and Auditory Processing Disorders. The office asked us to bring any past evaluations and assessments that have been conducted on our son. As I sorted through all the paperwork, I came across a polaroid picture of Gabriel that was taken 5 years ago. He was 3 1/2 years old, attending his very first speech therapy session. There’s an obvious look of anxiety in his face. In the picture, you could see him tightly gripping someone’s hand … mine. I remember that day vividly. He was so scared.

Now, here we are. My son is almost 9. The road has been rough, and still, I wonder what is ahead for him and for us. My faith is shaken sometimes, as I share the same anxiety my son felt that day 5 years ago.

This doctor that my husband and I met was recommended to us by some friends, who have been on a similar path with their youngest son. At the end of the appointment, we scheduled Gabriel’s evaluation in June.

Perhaps we’ll get a real diagnosis. Or perhaps the doctor cannot pinpoint exactly what it is.
Perhaps our path will be clearer. Or perhaps it will become more muddled with decisions to be made.
Perhaps we’ll get our questions answered. Or perhaps we’ll find ourselves asking new ones.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have this evaluation done, but I realize that I can’t put my hope in it, its results, or the doctor who will conduct it. No matter the outcome of this evaluation, it is The Lord who will continue to lead us as He has been faithfully doing these past 5 years.

When I began writing here, I never could have imagined this is where it would take me. I want to extend my deepest thanks to you for reading what I have shared here about my journey. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for weeping with me. Thank you for praying for me and for my family.

But, I believe it is time. It is time to close this chapter. To look with eager anticipation at the road ahead … though it be rough, God is good. God is most definitely good.

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)

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Coping with the Challenges, Trusting God

The Fight to Worship

SooMee and AndyWe sat down during worship service, and Gabriel was fidgety as usual. With a song sheet in hand, his dad tried to get him to focus on something by inviting him to follow along the lyrics during the congregational singing. This worked last week. This Sunday was a different story. He didn’t want to sing, but he sat there quietly enough that we let him be. When the sermon began, he decided he wanted to sing after all. This didn’t surprise us. Often, Gabriel will do this. He will want to go back to something he had originally turned down long after the activity had already passed. Do-over’s aren’t always possible, as in this situation, and it can sometimes be extremely difficult to help Gabriel move on.

So, for the first 15 minutes of the sermon, my husband tried to explain to Gabriel that he needed to proceed to the next thing. I bowed my head in prayer, painfully aware that my son’s anxiety was beginning to rise to a level that could very well explode. I tried not think of the people sitting around us, who I’m sure could tell of the conflict that was taking place. My mind was spinning, and try as I may, I could not understand a word my pastor was saying. Why did this have to happen now? I thought. Spiritual battles don’t necessarily happen in the dark, secret corners of your house. For me, it was happening right in the middle of a worship service.

Then, all of a sudden, as if The Lord flicked a switch in my son’s mind, he stopped completely, opened his notebook and started doodling as if the quiet argument never happened. Eventually, The Lord calmed my heart and began draw me into His Word.

Before the service ended, we sang one last song.

And right now
In the good times and bad
You are on Your throne
You are God alone

Drowning in an ocean of despair, God displayed a bright ray of hope to me. He is there sitting on His throne. He is still in control. I cannot begin to go the depths of all of God’s purposes for allowing that small battle to occur. Could He not keep Gabriel’s mind from going back and forth? Why did He not give us complete, undistracted time from the beginning? We were, after all, there to worship. I can’t tell you all the reasons why God presented us with this obstacle. But, I will tell you this … in the end, He brought me to worship. And, when I closed my eyes to sing that last song, my heart wrapped around every word.

“You are on Your throne.”

 

(Photo credit: quinn.anya)

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Heaven, Prayer & Devotion

The Believer’s New Clothes

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Last week, when we had barely begun school, my son Gabriel began to complain that his stomach hurts. I thought, Sure, it hurts. It didn’t hurt a few minutes ago before we cracked open our books. Now I don’t want you to think I’m an insensitive mother. Any parent can testify that children can get pretty creative with their complaints if it means getting out of something like school. I pressed him to continue his work, while, at the same time, observing his behavior concerning his alleged pain. Well, it wasn’t long before the complaining intensified, so I excused Gabriel from the rest of his school work. For the remainder of the day, he was planted on the couch, with a cup of water and a vomit bowl next to him.

The next day, I didn’t want to take any chances. The thought of him throwing up all over his school books was enough for me to announce a non-student day. Gabriel was certainly happy about not having to do school, but though he still felt weak, he wanted to change out of his pajamas. Thinking he would be more comfortable in his PJ’s, I told him to wait. I know when I’m sick, I want to live in my pajamas and curl up under my blanket. But Gabriel insisted because for him, pajamas are for night time only. It was a new day, and it was time to change into new clothes.

Princess Diana's Wedding dress, 1981One day, we will awaken to a new day, when we will forever cast off our old clothes of flesh completely. No more fight with sin. No more war waging within. Free at long last from this body of death. Our filthy rags of this life will be no more, and we will be arrayed in white robes, not made with hands. The finest clothes worn by kings and queens cannot compare with our new garments in heaven. Fellow believers, one fine day, we will be royally dressed because of the sacrifice of Christ.

“They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

But as we wait, we need not despair. For even now, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are already covered with His righteousness. We may battle with our flesh day in and day out, but we can be confident that the work to redeem us from our slavery to sin was finished on the cross. And when we finally see Him face to face, our transformation will be complete.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

 

(Photo credit: thefoxling)

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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)

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Family Life

Out from Hiding

Bagarre / FightGabriel was angry at his brother, so he hit him. Typical sibling squabble. Gabriel knew what he did was wrong and that his actions would have consequences. As I sat across from him on the floor of his bedroom, it was obvious he did not want to be there. He knew what he had to do when we were done. He had to go to his brother and ask him for forgiveness. That, he was willing to do. But when I told him that our sin against others is first a sin against God, he became uncomfortable. Bowing his head and asking God for forgiveness for his actions was the more difficult task for Gabriel. He agonized over it for quite some time before he finally prayed. But Gabriel is not alone in this struggle. This happens to many of us, doesn’t it?

I have been in Gabriel’s shoes many times before. I have gone to great lengths to reconcile relationships damaged by my sinful actions, but come short of mending the break in fellowship I have with The Lord. How foolish to think that I could avoid facing God! Yet still, I attempt to cover my shame with fig leaves and hide among the trees, as Adam and Eve did. “What is it that you have done?” (Genesis 3:13). The Lord’s question is clear. He is not asking why. He is not requiring an explanation of motives and reasoning behind the disobedience. Wouldn’t that be a complicated web for us to unravel? God is simply asking what. He wants us to stop hiding, confess our sins, and He will be faithful to cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

Clearly, Gabriel was afraid of going to God. So I reminded him that He is a loving God who wants to forgive us. There is no need to turn the other way. Our efforts to conceal our transgressions would be futile, but His all-sufficient grace covers them all. He is always ready with open arms to receive us when we go humbly before Him. Oh, how I would rather be in His arms than in the mire of my sin!

“But while he [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

 

(Photo credit: Remy Saglier)