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Better than yesterday

Yesterday.

Yesterday was tough.

Yesterday you lost your temper. Yesterday you failed as a mom. Yelled at your kids. Snapped at your husband. A co-worker. A friend.

Yesterday you slipped. You fell back into old habits. Looking for anything to take away the pain, grief, sadness, loneliness you feel.

Yesterday you didn’t meet all the goals you set out to meet.

Yesterday you were a little less loving. A little more angry. Said things you didn’t mean, and wish you could take back.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23

Yesterday is over. Today provides new mercies. Today is a new day.

Today you are better than yesterday.

Today God has given you a new morning to start all over.

Today you will use your strategies to avoid losing your temper. Let go of little things, and focus on the good stuff.

Today you will be a bit more patient with your kids. Whisper, gently when they mess up. Take time to just hang out with them.

Today you will think before your speak. Thank your husband for all he does. Show appreciation to others as well.

Today you will intentionally work on that goal. Make steps to stay motivated.

Today you will show love and kindness to those in your presence. Talk it out instead of getting angry.

Today is a new day.

And if for some reason, you still fall today. Tomorrow will be new, too.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2019 in Grace

 

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Would you go where they go?

“How do they do it? How do they find each other? It’s like they can sniff out each other’s chaos?”

These are sometimes the conversations I have about the relationships amongst growing kids. How they decide to form attachments to those who are either good or bad for them. How we, as adults, do the same.

“Well, the same way adults do, right? We are all looking for someone who knows and will still accept our brand of crazy.”

That person who will see past our faults. That person we can trust. Who won’t gossip about us once we leave the room. Who will share in our struggles, and not share them with others. Be there when we are down. Pick us up when we need it.

Who when times are tough. We can’t see anyway out of the darkness. Have been acting a little crazy, distant, needy, whatever…won’t get sick of us, and leave.

Don’t we all want that?

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life bitter for me; the Lord has caused me to suffer, and sent tragedy upon me.” Ruth 1:20, 21 (NLT, paraphrase).

Naomi, a name given that meant “pleasant,” had suffered a life that during this time had been anything but. She had left Bethlehem. Moved to Moab with her husband. Had two sons, and then lost all three. Naomi had in turn become bitter (which is the meaning of the name “Mara”). Angry at God for seemingly allowing her grief. She fully expected to spend the rest of her life alone and abandoned in the same way she felt God had left her.

She did not expect anyone to remain loyal during her suffering. To endure her grief and pain alongside her.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us (Ruth 1:16-17).

To vow to stay with her until the end.

Ruth was no longer obligated to do so. No longer married to Naomi’s son. Technically no longer part of Naomi’s family.

But to Ruth, she was making a commitment that had nothing to do with blood or technicalities. Ruth saw Naomi. In pain. Grieving. And made a commitment to endure life with her. Through the ups and downs.

Through the suffering.

She made a sacrifice to love Naomi as her own family.

She didn’t weigh what was in it for her first. She didn’t do it in order to get anything out of it. Both women returned to Bethlehem with nothing. She simply saw another suffering soul; a woman in need of a friend. Someone needing to be accepted with all her “crazy.” She decided to love her and stand by her until the end.

Isn’t that what we all want?

The person we tell to leave, but just won’t. They stay and ride out our junk with us. Even if they have their own junk. Even if they don’t have to. Even if they have somewhere to be. Any time you call. Every time you fall.

We all want someone who will stay when we get a little sideways, and yes, a little “crazy.”

Do you have that person? Are you that person for someone?

Maybe today you can be just a little softer in the midst of someone’s struggle. Stay a while in someone’s “crazy” moment. Sit in someone’s chaos, instead of growing bitter. Help someone navigate their return home, so they don’t have to alone.

Even if you have somewhere to be. Even if you have your own junk. Even if you don’t have to.

Just go wherever they go for a while.

 

 
 

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It’s all going to be OK

Faith and feelings. Or “suck it up, don’t talk about it, just pray about it.”

I’m a straight shooter. I’m honest. I keep it real. I share my struggles. And, I value the art of vulnerability in our lives. Even among the faith community. However, there is often this idea that we can’t be vulnerable, be a mixed ball of feelings and still have an abundance of faith.

Here’s the thing. I am a Bible carrying, post-it note writing, war room crying, prayer warrior. I have faith. I also have a ton of feelings. Many I suck up. Many I just don’t.

Here’s why: We are responsible for what we damage when we are here. And too many are damaging hearts and relationships simply hiding their true feelings. Not being honest with self and each other to save face, and look good in a highlight reel.

Too afraid to admit they are a mess. When God already knows our messiness. We can’t hide it from him. We can walk around wearing a mask of macho and cool in our daily lives, but we can’t hide our broken hearts from him. We can come to church cleaned up and pretty on the outside, but we can’t hide what’s on the inside.

“Pretending away reality never makes things better. It just causes you to implode on the inside while smiling on the outside. That’s no way to live.” Lysa Terkkeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

So can we just admit to each other that we are not OK? That what we really want is someone who can be vulnerable enough to admit it, so we can finally say…”Oh my goodness. Me too!!!” And, tell each other that’s it’s OK to not be OK?

That it’s OK to miss someone. Because missing someone means we have also loved someone. We have a hole in our heart that aches because that person inhabited a place in it, and we now grieve for that emptiness. And it’s OK if your grief was short, and if your grief takes longer. It’s OK if you are missing someone who is still fully alive. It’s OK.

It’s OK to have big emotions. Like anger. Like sadness. Like frustration. Like loneliness. God made us with those emotions. He also knows every single one of them. He felt anger when he saw the evil he had created among the world, enough to wipe them out in the days of Noah. He surely felt sadness when he sent His son to die. He feels frustration when His purpose does not come to fruition because earthly desire takes over and wrong choices are made. He feels all that, too. We are made in His image. He gave us all these emotions so we would understand the one he wants us to use the most-love.

It’s OK if you didn’t cope so well with those big emotions today, and reacted in not so glorious ways. It’s OK if you yelled at your kids. It’s OK if you cried in your bed under the covers. It’s OK if you walked into Starbucks sobbing because they handed you the wrong coffee, desperate for one thing to just be right in your day (hand raised here). That’s all OK. Show yourself the same grace God shows you and start over tomorrow.

And know this: It’s OK if you are so not OK that you need a little extra help.

In a world where it’s better to look like you “got it going on,” with a plastered on smile, letting a big fat “fine” roll off your tongue, while inside you are dying, sad, lonely, and wrestling with emotions and thoughts that even scare you…look, we can’t afford to not reach out and get some extra help. Our minds, our hearts, and our souls are too valuable.

It’s OK if you need to call a therapist. It’s OK if you need some extra help from a pill. It’s OK if you need to admit, I don’t “got this,” and I need some help. It doesn’t make you weak or less of a man. It doesn’t make you less “Christian.” It let’s others know you value yourself to keep waging this battle that is taking over your mind, and that you are going to be OK.

It’s all going to be OK.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in Broken, Yet Beautiful

 

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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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A rainbow, a promise

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“For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, My love won’t walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.” Isaiah 54:10

It seemed to be a morning like most. While I was in a different zip code, state, and porch, my morning routine had not changed. Wake up. 7AM. Make coffee. Then head outside for time with God and the Bible.

Except this morning was a bit different. I had not woken up in the greatest of spirits.

Maybe it was that paper I had turned in the night before. The one that I knew I had not put my best into, that was also 2 days late to boot. And even though I had just declared I was giving this “no” thing a shot, and letting go of whatever had me needing to achieve so much (I’ll get to that at another time), I still had a ways to go.

Because, there was still a ton I just didn’t understand.

Still a lot of “why’s” God still had not answered.

“When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last thing on Earth.” Genesis 9:16

Then a rainbow appears. Out of no where, really. Right before the clouds descended over that same water. The same clouds that had seemed to match my mood the last few days.

But, He sent a rainbow, nonetheless.

To remind me that I may not have all the answers right now. I may still wrestle in my spirit over things I cannot understand. Things I can’t fix (and probably never will, because gee, January…only He can!).

To remind me that He keeps His promises, and He promises this:

“For as long as Earth lasts, planting and harvesting, cold and heat; Summer and winter, day and night will never stop.” Genesis 8:22

He will provide all I need.

There may be seasons of suffering. Seasons of delight. Oh…definitely seasons of darkness, but in every season there is a purpose.

The nights may be tough to get through, but joy comes in the morning.

And, some mornings, He sends rainbows to remind this weary heart that He is a God who keeps promises. And, He promised He may not give me the answers until it’s time, but He sure won’t leave me struggling alone.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in How Is Your Faith

 

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But with God…it’s all OK

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Summer has for the past several years been a time for renewal. It has been a time to focus on relaxing, self-care, and spending time setting long forgotten priorities back into balance. For the past two years the beginning of summer has not began in a mode of peace, and I have had to really seek God’s leading each morning as I read His Word. I have always found comfort in the verses and passages of Isaiah as I have hunted and pecked through my Bible over the years. Such messages as “do not be afraid;” or “I have chosen you, and not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9); and “I will hold you in my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10) have all provided me with comfort. And, I thought these messages would be fitting as I navigated new, unknown territory in ministry, and a new school assignment. Because, at times I have been fearful. Uncertain. Afraid.

Then as I began to study all the chapters of Isaiah, I read that it’s central theme was “God as Savior,” and “redemption from Egypt.” Well, since I had felt like I had been trapped in Egypt for some time…well, it seemed perfect to me.

For the past two days I have asked God this question many times: Why?

Because, I can’t understand over the course of the last few months why some things happened the way they did. Why my heart remains heavy at times. Why I have cried myself to sleep asking this question, and hearing no answer. Why I still feel like I have failed in some way to fulfill whatever He called me to.

Today as I sat on my porch reading over my daily assigned passage in Isaiah, I was directed to also read one from Matthew:

“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, they will smear your reputation-just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you-and me-a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.” (Matthew 10:16-20, MSG)

I wasn’t arrested. I never stood trial. But, there were days I felt like I was whipped, branded a liar, and some crazy person for doing what God wanted me to do. Mocked in front of others because I “prayed about it.” And in the end, not able to speak the truths I knew. Those that still haunted me at times.

But God…he had more to show me on that porch:

But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. Matthew 10:22-23

I stopped. Looked up. And simply said: “God, I have found favor in you, haven’t I?”

See, He hadn’t left me. He had given me a way out.

And while I wept, I knew in that moment…everything was going to be OK.

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14

Maybe I wasn’t able to fight an earthly battle for truth and justice, but God…He was fighting. Truth and justice would win eventually. And, it was all going to be OK.

Maybe I had to be broken, beaten, whipped, and bruised in order to be made new and victorious. But with God, it was all going to be OK.

I had been as gentle as a sheep. As harmless as a dove. I had shown God’s love, and not wavered. I had endured to the end, and done what he had instructed. not leaving Him. And, God…He certainly never left me. And, it is all going to be OK.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Mercy

 

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So that no one walks alone

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“I’m bored.”

“She’s an idiot. Why does she want to go to the pool so much.”

“You are the worst brother ever. You don’t ever want to do anything”

“You are stupid. I am sick of sitting by this stupid, stupid pool, stupid head.”

When they are not fighting over who gets the hour of free time. They fight over whose turn it is to go first.

When I am not rock-paper-scissoring these fights, I am dragging one kicking and screaming out of said pool after he has smacked me in front of everyone for asking him to sit down, and not ask me one more time when it is time to leave the “dummy” pool with “dummy Hayley.”

When I am not battling fights at the pool, I am battling them at the cabin, in a tiny room over whether they will play Monopoly or Clue, or even play a game at all. Whether Hunter is “boring,” or Hayley is once again “dumb” for even liking board games.

We were only away two days, and if the kids were not entertained every second they did not know what to do. They fought like 2 rabid pit bulls. Mommy could not please both, because neither of them seem to like the same things, and if they do it’s definitely not at the same time. The schedule Mommy tried to impose to ensure both got ample time at each activity of their choice is not working. Mom is frantic, has lost her cool, and then some, and needs something to sustain her.

Coffee can only go so far. And, after I head back into the pool. After the curly-headed monster has screamed a couple “nos” at me, and slapped at me again. As he stands there kicking at the fence and grunting, I realize that as I sit back down, I may be surrounded by a ton of people, but I am utterly and helplessly alone.

I don’t have anyone here to help carry this load when I can’t split myself in two.

No one is reassuring me that my parenting decision was not one that will scar him for life.

That my daughter won’t resent all the time her younger brother takes from her.

Instead, this frantic mom wanted to find a corner, and kick at the fence herself. Or, at least find a small hole to crawl into. I was embarrassed, frustrated, feeling under appreciated, and then it happened. The tears I was trying so hard to fight, finally just fell.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Until, one mom saw the tears falling as I sat on the side of that pool. As I sat trying to hide them neatly underneath the big hat I wore.

“What are your kids names? Are they coming back in a few weeks for camp?”

I explained that yes, the oldest one surely, but that curly-headed monster…more than likely-no. He had autism, and with it some issues that he just couldn’t get over that kept him from enjoying it.

“Oh, my oldest has Aspergers. I totally understand. It’s hard.”

There it was. Relief.

Someone who had seen my mommy moment. My “I want to melt right here and disappear” moment, and reached out.

And, even if this Mom didn’t understand what I was going through in that moment, she tried.

I know God is with me. I know in those moments when I feel alone, I can call on Him, and He will be there.  However, he has wired us for human connection.  And, there are times I desperately need that. And, I am pretty sure you do, too.

And with this connection comes His desire for us to share each other’s burdens. To walk with a mom who is having a hard time. So she isn’t sitting at the pool feeling so alone.

It will take us out of our comfort zones. This I know is true, but it will also breath life into some desperate soul wanting to give up. Hope into a weary parent who sees only their failings.

“I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” Matthew 25:43

In a world that appears to be hurting and hiding it well, reaching outside your comfort zone, provides light to someone who may feel all alone in their struggles. May give someone the ability to reach out next time they feel like giving up. Screaming. Or running for the hills. Most importantly, it shows them the love of our Savior.

We are called to be that light to others as a community of believers, but the question is- are we? Are we like that Mom at the pool, willing to see the tears that fall, and get a little messy with them? Or do we steer clear, not wanting to have anything to do with that? When we ask someone how they are doing, do we really stop and wait for their answer? Or, are we offering fly-by conversation out of obligation, an “I’m asking how you are because I have to’s” with no desire to really know? Jesus certainly never stopped to wonder if someone was worthy of his time when he saw others hurting, or marched on intent on getting to his next stop. Neither should we.

Let’s be a little more messy. Jump in, walk with someone a while, and leave people a little less alone. You could be just the friend someone needs that particular moment or day. You could be the hope that Mom needs to just keep going. The reason someone’s tears suddenly disappear. The reason someone doesn’t melt into a puddle at the pool. It may take some time. It may be uncomfortable, but it will ensure that no one ever walks through their mess alone.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Autism and Faith, Loving Others

 

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