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Can I get a side of grace with that Autism, please?

It was an especially hard Sunday. In my desperation I spent all day trying to find the words to express what I had on my mind. What I wanted to say. The loss, disappointment, guilt, and even anger I felt.

Nothing I found measured up. Nothing spoke to my unique situation.

See, I am a former children’s pastor. In addition, I am a counselor for kids with special needs and mental health diagnosis. I’m expected to have all the answers. To guide kids in making the right choices. To be strong. But with all these things, I am also a weary and imperfect parent. I have a son with special needs. And because of this, I end up feeling utterly alone.

Because for all the work done to make more people aware of how a kid like Hunter can present in social situations, there is still a long way to go. The fact remains that many still expect him (and many children like him) to look and act only one way. They then dismiss his overwhelming needs, and our struggles if he doesn’t.

Tell us all the things we or he need. Can I tell you for a minute what we need?

He will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for him in the help you gave and are still giving to other Christians. Hebrews 6:10

Please. If you don’t know what to do. Just say it. Ask us how you can help. Don’t simply stand by and remain silent. It only compounds our loneliness. Makes us continue to believe that no one gets it.

And once you have learned how to help us help him, teach your kids how to do the same. There is nothing more inspirational and rewarding to a kid with special needs than to have his or her peers get it, to come alongside them so they don’t feel so alone in their turmoil. I don’t expect your child to understand what autism is, or to totally be in tune with his feelings. What I do expect is for them to offer a hand. A pat on the back. A gentle word. Anything but more uncomfortable stares.

We need you to realize that while all those heartwarming stories of successes and milestones. Those happy You Tube worthy, going viral moments are wonderful; they were also made possible by many heart-wrenching ones. We need you to listen to these as much as you celebrate the successes. However, when we get the courage to share those heart-wrenching moments, we usually hear your silence.

What we really need. What we really want. Desire in the midst of the chaos. Crave beyond the stares, and covet in our quick snappiness or inability to cope is simply this: grace.

I don’t need your judgment. I don’t need you to make a comment about how I need to smile more. Or let someone know how I forgot to greet you this morning when I came into church. Did you know I listened to a 10 year old scream all morning getting dressed because he didn’t want to come? Then his underwear was too tight. His shirt was too something, and he then screamed all the way to church.

Yes. I knew I could get 5 minutes of peace in my office before the service started, so I ran there.

And, yes. I know I sit alone in the first service. Because my son is not with me. He won’t take all of my attention. I can listen to the Word unobstructed. Until the next service starts, and he is moaning about the length. The noise. A back rub. His sister. And I can’t hear anything the preacher is saying. I just need my moment now. Please.

And please understand, that…yes. He looks fine right now. In front of you. Talking to you. He is not so socially unaware that he does not understand what it is like to be embarrassed. He actually fears embarrassment like he fears the dentist. Immensely. So, he has the ability to hold all his emotions in until he gets alone with mommy or daddy and explodes. Because we are safe. We can handle it. Or so he thinks. And even if we can’t, he knows we won’t judge him. We won’t leave him. We will always love him. He just isn’t that safe around everyone else. So when he leaves this church screaming with me, it’s not because I’m an inept parent. I am a safe one.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Who recognizes as well those who have overlooked the ten-year old screaming the words “fart” or “butt” in the middle of the church service. Who simply help him mask his discomfort with his overloaded senses. Because that is what it is. And for whatever reason these totally inappropriate words at the time provide some kind of comfort. Thank you. Thank you for making it seem completely normal. And thank you for reminding him it is completely not OK to say them during the church potluck.

Thank you for being a safe enough person to him that he is completely comfortable enough with you. That he will gladly let you pick him up, even though he is 10. So he can be distracted long enough for Mommy to have a ten minute conversation after church. Because you know he was ready to leave at 12. Because church was supposed to be over at 12, and we are still here at 12:05. Thank you.

Thank you for continuing to invite us to lunch. Even though we decline every single time. Because our kid will more than likely only want a hamburger. Only from McDonald’s. And, you know. It’s 12. Church is over. And, well we must go home. But thank you for continuing to invite us. Thank you.

And most of all thank you to the those who can recognize this mom’s face. The one without the smile. The one who ran to her office as soon as she got to church. For just five minutes. Who may look harried. Who may have forgotten to say good morning. All to ensure a kid felt safe on the way to church. Thanks for stopping and asking this safe momma, “Rough morning, huh?’ Thank you.

And this safe mom is teaching this boy that grace handles getting screamed at with stoicism, “It’s OK, sweet child’s,” head massagers, and back rubs.

Accepts his apologies over and over and over; even if he will be doing it all over again next Sunday. Or when he is hungry again. Or mad because the WiFi is out. Or lonely because his sister has a play date and he feels left out. He knows this house offers grace. Safety. Security. Acceptance of his differences.

And I pray this safe mom is teaching others how to do the same.

Because you may have messed up. You may not know how to handle it. You may have thought he was just a bratty kid, and we were inept parents. Tried to help, and failed. It’s OK. We tried and failed, too. We do often. Still. But we have something to offer: Grace.

Because it’s what we all need. Autism or not. Just a side of a little bit more grace.

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in Autism and Faith

 

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Through his eyes

In my job with students during the weekday, I get to spend my time supporting them in various activities. I have had the pleasure of learning how to play the saxophone. I have sat through many an assembly. Gone on a number of field trips, and completed a number of art projects. This was no different.

The assignment was 20 things. Each student had to turn to a page in their book and list 20 things that described themselves.

I noticed something. So many were struggling with those 20. Needed help even coming up with one. Looked around the room for a word. Even asked their peers to describe them, wrote what their peers said, or some word they over heard. “Oh yes, that’s me.”

It bothered me enough that I sat in the lunch room the next day and did the same thing. I wanted to make sure I was just as distracted. To see if this was the reason it was so hard. If I could come up with my own list of 20, or if I would need help along the way. If I would get stuck. Need to look around for validation. Seek the faces of the people around me for support.

‘Cause you stood right there, And then you broke apart the lies. You told me I had something beautiful inside. You brought to life the part of me I thought had died. ‘Cause you stood right there until I saw me; I saw me through your eyes  -Brit Nicole, Through Your Eyes

And I realized why it wouldn’t take me long. And, after seeing my list, why mine was so different than the lists of those preteens in that art class. Because words like forgiven and redeemed would not be on their lists. They were seeing themselves through the eyes of the world. Placing value on themselves based on the opinions of those around them.

I knew in the moment I wrote my 20 things who gave me my value: God. I see myself how He sees me.

But I didn’t always feel this way. I am pretty sure my preteen self looked to the world for approval. I didn’t seek God. I know for sure I didn’t have the relationship I have with Him now. My friends were much “cooler.” Or so I thought.

If I only knew what I know now. No one will love you like He will. No one will accept you in your brokenness like He will. No one will forgive you in the way He will. No one will see all your wretchedness, and look at you with tender love the way He will. No one can  see you the way He does. So stop looking at yourself through the lenses of everyone else, and start looking at yourself through His eyes.

https://youtu.be/WJzaQP1GmEc

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2019 in Loving Oneself

 

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The Inn after Christmas

These are the leftovers of Christmas that remain underneath our tree.

The last of the gifts that need to be unboxed and placed in their appropriate places throughout the house. We chose to unwrap our gifts and then place them here instead of leaving our tree bare after Christmas morning. Weird, maybe. Lazy…whatever you wish to call it.

However, even though we prefer to purchase a live tree each year, we decided this year to leave it up a little longer. I happen to enjoy the twinkling lights. We were both home the full two weeks for winter break. And while living or artificial, each year we seem to want to put our decorations up earlier, and keep them up later and later.

Then there is also the twelve days of Christmas that played into this. The wise men did not visit Jesus on Christmas night. They actually paid their visit to the Messiah several nights later. Bearing gifts that were much more glorious than any sitting underneath our tree right now.

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down to worship him. They opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-11, NLT

Whether you celebrate the Twelfth Night today or tomorrow (because yes, even that is debated). If you don’t even give it a thought. Whether you think it’s superstition to take anything “old” into a “new” year, and take your decorations down as soon as Christmas Day is done; or whatever Christmas decor lore you subscribe to, let’s remember this:

The true gift was never placed under a tree. He was swaddled with love and care, and placed in a feeding trough in a lowly manger. He is a gift that is ours for the taking daily, as long as we receive him in our hearts. His spirit isn’t relegated to a season, and his love and spirit of giving, kindness and compassion that lives in those who call him Savior should be present far beyond Christmas Day. Far beyond the day the decor is packed away. The carols are sung, or the gift boxes are placed in the attic. It is lived out daily. Given to others daily.

If you are a follower of Jesus, let’s look at others the way I look at my Christmas tree. With wonder. With delight. As if it’s the most magical thing you have ever seen, and you certainly don’t want it taken down.

Could we spend a little more time in awe of people this way? Even those who are hard to love? In awe of him this way?

Even after all the decorations and twinkling lights are gone?

Will there still be room for Jesus? For love, peace, joy, and compassion in our inns?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2019 in Loving Others

 

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One Word: Hope

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“This just doesn’t seem fair. Now our insurance may go up because she decided to lie?”

“Sorry, hun. Now it’s a matter of principle. This time I filed a claim purely for justice sake. I am not paying for the damage she caused. I am not paying for her to lie and get away with it. That is what is not fair. For someone to get away with being dishonest.”

This was the conversation between my husband and I. In our kitchen. The day after Christmas. What were we talking about? An insurance claim that I had to file for a tiny scrape to our vehicle. Because the other party caused the damage. Had more to lose.

And decided to side step the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

I always started off a new year by picking one word that would define it. Well, by allowing God to pick it. Guide me in picking it. However, I did not pick one last year. I tried. I thought for a while it may have been “light,” because for a time I felt His light was being pushed back, drowned out by darkness so others could not see it.

As my journey sent me through one battle after another, I was also sent on many a mission to fight.

And without mine ever even knowing it, I was sent on many a mission to fight for truth.

So it seemed fitting that in the last few days of 2018, I would be standing in my kitchen fighting for it again. Fighting for truth to win, and for dishonesty to fail. For honest folks to be celebrated, and liars to be defeated.

Fighting for truth that continues to remain unspoken for fear of retaliation. Fear that speaking it will mean one is not believed. Thought to be crazy. Irrational. I know all three of those. I know how big that fear can get. I even know what it is like to not be believed. To stand up before a lie and be called crazy. Irrational.

But…I also know something bigger than those fears.

A just and fair Savior.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.” Isaiah 43:18-19, MSG

Who can speak truth into the dark places.

Even as I sit here writing these words. Looking outside at a dreary day. One that seems to  set the tone for the end of the year that was filled with many dark, dreary days. Wondering if this year will bring more of the same.

“I am doing something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” Isaiah 43:19, MSG

Truth in dark places.

Hope in dark places.

Hope that the truth will be brought into light. That more will seek it, speak it. Turn from the lies of the world, and seek the promises found in His Word. A hope that pierces the gloom. The darkest night. Promises to keep shining into those dark places.

Hope that keeps you moving forward, even when you want to give up, because you know and trust God to provide a breakthrough.

Even when you can’t see it in front of you, it is there.

If we don’t have hope that truth wins. That good will prevail. That light will be exposed. That God’s will be done. Then…what’s the point?

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. -Shawshank Redemption. 

I think Andy was onto something. Hope. It’s a good thing.

On the hardest of days when I’m fighting for truth to win, I still have my hope. It’s the one thing I can count on when truth fails. Hope never does.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in One Word 2014

 

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Passing the “Love” test

No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I am bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:3, MSG 

Love.

It’s something we all crave. Deep down in the very core of our beings. Sometimes when we have not received it, it’s also the very thing we reject.

Because we want to be loved we will look for love and acceptance in a variety of places. Things. Stuff. Approval from others. And often this approval from others looks nothing like the love that makes long-lasting relationships in the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. As my daughter gets older. As she has struggled over the years with friendships. As my oldest is now engaged. As I watch a load of preteens “think” they have mastered the art of dating. As I also watch many of these “masters” choose to date because it is “cool.” Pick mates that are mean to them and others. And move from one relationship to the next. Struggle as well with the “mean girl” mentality in their own friendships, and reject adult wisdom.

But is any of the worldly approval really “cool?” Are these ways of seeking approval and acceptance at all loving?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it does not keep a record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT

I know I’ve dissected this before…but it stands to be discussed again. Because I have a daughter who now thankfully says she just has no time for boys, she has too much worries with pre-algebra. She comes home and tells me the things her friends go though with their “bf’s” (because we do this thing called “talk”), and has decided she don’t want no part of that! Her mind will change one day I am sure. And, I don’t want her to choose a mate solely based on the opinions of others. I want her to be treated right. I want to make sure she does so in return.

That she knows the true meaning of “love” not only in its romantic form, but in its purest form when thinking of how we love ALL. That when she comes home all starry-eyed over some crush, this is the conversation we can have:

Oh, mommy. He’s so cute! But, he is kind of mean to my friends. And, sometimes he calls me names, and gets jealous if I spend too much time with them. He also just has a really bad attitude about things. He’s negative all the time. 

Here goes. The moment she has to place his name in that Love Chapter. Let’s say his name is Bob. Sorry to any Bob’s out there. Here, in our house…everyone is Bob (insert eye roll).

Hayley, is Bob patient and kind? Is he NOT jealous, boastful, proud or rude? Bob doesn’t demand his own way, get irritable, and keep a record of your mistakes, right? He doesn’t laugh when others are oppressed or hurt, but stands up for them, right? Does Bob never give up, have faith in God, and remain hopeful?

If she can’t answer these, then he probably isn’t the boyfriend for her now! She can pray he has these qualities in the future. But, for now? I want her to have someone that is kind and patient with her. That doesn’t hold her wrongs against her, but forgives her. And someone who is also kind to others, and stands up for them when they are hurt or in danger.

I would do the same for my sons. I want the same for them. Not someone who mistreats them, or thinks it’s “cool” to mistreat others.

For all of their relationships. Even with their friends. Even with the adults in their lives. Do these people fit? Can they say they are patient and kind? Are they jealous? Or do they create situations that cause us to envy others, create drama, or keep us far from God?

 And if their relationships are lacking, I ask they insert those names and pray those hearts change and the characteristics of love and kindness begin to dwell in them.

Because they don’t dwell in our bank accounts. They don’t dwell in our looks. Or our job  or “cool” status. Those things fade and can be taken away.

They dwell in the heart. A heart that loves, cherishes, and treats others with kindness, goodness, respect, and mercy. That lives on forever.

Love never gives up. Love never dies. 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2018 in Loving Others, On Parenting

 

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A little love up in here

Surely, Lord, You are in this place. Surely, Lord, You are in this place.

These were the words written in my daily devotional this morning. These were the words I had to repeatedly say to myself over and over just to get through my day today. To get through some spaces today.

Surely, Lord, you are up in here!

Because, I didn’t really believe it. Because all I had seen, heard, witnessed, even had spewed at me was cruelty. Hate. I had been hurt. Heartbroken. And I was having a hard time seeing anything redeeming in some of those faces.

I was also wearing it. Which means that my facial muscles just don’t do “fake face.” If I am mad, sad, happy. My face let’s you know. And, I had been walking around in a funk for a number of days.

It’s why I could instantly recognize it in the kid in a sea of kids during the transition between recess and last period. That “Please don’t look at me, or I’ll just cry” look.

It may have also been his black plastic rimmed glasses, and unruly curly hair; much like my own kid’s that made him stand out to me in that moment. The fact that earlier that day, I had been wondering if these same group of kids would be so unkind to my wee, little quirky boy?

Then I saw one…similar…standing in front of me. Trying not to cry.

While everyone else just walked right by him. While everyone else just blew him off. While no one else noticed his sadness. Or saw it. And failed to stop and say anything kind.

Hurt people hurt people. Yeh, yeh. I get it. Read the book. Check. Do the job to stop that cycle.

Hate that is given, that is often returned to others is just that-hateful.

Thing is, we don’t have to be hateful. I didn’t walk a life paved with roses. It has been rough. Pieces of my childhood were painful. Filled with grief and loss. But, I didn’t use it as an excuse to hurt others. I was a tough cookie at times, sure…however, I never spread hate. I was never unkind because cruelty was handed to me. No, I took my pain and used it as a tool to undo harm, by showing love to others.

This is how you break the cycle. Refusing to spread hate with hate. You battle the hate you feel you have been given. The crappy hand you feel you have been dealt, not by hurting others, but with love. You become a warrior. Of love. Of peace. Of kindness.

Surely, Lord, You are in this place. Genesis 28:16

He was. In me. I was called to show someone the Lord today.

Today. I could be that warrior of kindness.

Be, here. In this place. That had been a source of hurt to this woman, what I would want for my child. The one who came to mind as I watched this one cry in front of me. The words I would want my own sweet, quirky, funny, but tiny and unruly headed little boy to hear.

“I am sorry they hurt you. No one should get away with saying hurtful things. It’s not OK. You are smart. You are worthy. You are wonderful. You are awesome.”

It’s never cool to hurt. It’s never cool to take your pain and use it as an excuse to inflict it on others. I could have easily walked by, mumbled an “I feel ya,” and kept going, but even in my pain I chose to stop and show that kindness, love and peace does live up in here. It’s the only thing that drowns out the hateful noise. And you have the choice whether you receive it, and then in turn give it.

My prayer is this: Stop when someone is crying. Those tears are tears of pain from a heart that is full of love and kindness, and so desires to hear how valued they are.

Show them that love, goodness, and kindness lives here. It could truly save a hurting soul. And, it only takes a hot minute.

The same hot minute it took to read a devotional dated December 5th.

On December 6th.

Surely, Lord, You are in this place! 

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2018 in Loving Others

 

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Move, girl!

Hmmmmm……looks like they finally moved that thing. How many times did I ask for that very same thing to be done?

Wow! Really? I put that request in years ago, and now it’s finally important to someone?

This is how it begins. A blast into the past. Recounting all the hurdles I had to jump. Lamenting over things He had already gotten me through. Just not in the way I wanted. Then wondering why in the world that “assignment” was so hard for me?

In high school for two spring seasons, I decided to join the track team. Somehow, during that first season this short girl was encouraged to try the 100 meter hurdle race.

In high school I was also persistent. I didn’t give up easily, and even though I trained painfully to clear that bar, I missed it each race. Tumbling to my feet, onto the ground. Humiliated and defeated.

I needed a new assignment. A different race. I needed to move.

My perseverance and persistence has not faded since high school. Which means I still painfully work to clear hurdles from my path. In ministry. At work.

I get frustrated each time I don’t clear that bar. Upset each time I fall. Each time I hit a road block. Crying out for help in my suffering because surely if He called me here…well, I should not be set-up just to be knocked down. Humiliated. Defeated.

They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over the Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew for sure God had called us to preach the good news there. Acts 16:6-9, MSG

Move, girl! This isn’t the place for you. You belong in Philippi.

I had to move.

He had a different place for me. A different assignment. And, he set up some roadblocks where I was for a purpose. Just like he prevented Paul and Silas from preaching in Galatia and Bithynia.

He had to get me to Philippi.

And if I stayed comfortable where I was. If I stayed happy where I was. If I never fell over another hurdle, or had someone or something block my path-I never would have moved.

Move, girl!

So, I did.

Which means…who cares who moved those darn pictures? It was not my assignment. Who cares who blocked the way at work? I was never meant to stay where I was. It was no longer His place for me.

He gave me a new assignment. He sent me to a new place. To tumble over some different hurdles I am sure. But…when he says, “Move, girl!” He will also provide the way for me to clear them, too.

Move, girl!

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2018 in How Is Your Faith

 

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