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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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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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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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Your “good” name

A good name is to be chosen over great wealth. Proverbs 22:1

“Oh, you’re January!”

This could be a statement that fills you with a sense of dread. Hmmm…what did they mean by that?

Thankfully this time, the comment was made in the local Starbucks that I frequently visit many mornings. The one that knows me by name and drink. A new barista had greeted me this day. And, since I am usually all smiles and conversations when I come into this place (because, well…I am picking up my liquid courage), I knew I could rest easy.

She had heard about THAT January.

The one with the “good” name.

I am one who believes that reputations should not proceed people. One, you never know when someone speaks about a person whether it’s out of good intentions, or bitterness and ill-will. Two, sometimes even with “good” names, we all have “bad” days.

However, when we represent Christ, our names are not only ours, but His. The world is getting a chance to meet Jesus through our words and actions. Through our name. Do people light up when they hear or say our name? Or do they scowl, and grumble?

I think this passage from Job 29 represents what I want people to think when they hear mine:

“Men and women listened when I spoke, hung expectantly on my every word. After I spoke, they’d be quiet, taking it all in. They welcomed my counsel like spring rain, drinking it all in. When I smiled at them, they could hardly believe it; their faces lit up, their troubles took wing!” Job 29:21-24

When they hear or say my name I want them to think of Jesus. To think of mercy, compassion, and love.

I want them to remember my “good” name.

It’s never too late to make sure someone remembers yours!

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in Like Jesus Does

 

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Peace with everyone

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Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

For years I have tried to determine the best way to read, reflect, and write what God has spoken to me as I sit with Him each day. There has been quite a learning curve along the way. Many a planner bought. Many a planner tossed. Until finally the system that works for me was born.

It involves reading a passage of Scripture, noting the particular verse that speaks to me, and writing down what He says to me.

I also then pencil in a verse of the day.

Sometimes I read the rest of the passage. Most days I don’t.

Until this particular day. Only because it had been the second time in two weeks I had been directed to this very one.

Live at peace with everyone.

Really, God…everyone?

When I picked this particular plan on peace. My hope was that God would reveal that “peace that surpasses all understanding” in some of the areas where I just didn’t have any. Where situations still remained a little chaotic, and there were still some weeds in my garden to tend to…some I wasn’t sure if they were even mine to “weed out.”

I wasn’t expecting this to be his first plea! I definitely wasn’t expecting it to show up again a few short weeks later.

So what does the rest of the passage say? How does God expect us to live in peace with everyone?

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Romans 12:19-20, MSG

By doing. By loving. By buying my enemy lunch and a drink. Now, do I have to sit with them and eat? Not. Nothing says we have to be the best of friends. However, will there come a time this person needs to be shown compassion? Maybe. Who should they see? A bitter ole hag, still dragging around old baggage? Or a kind and loving Jesus?

Peace comes when we relinquish the need to harbor hate towards those who have plotted evil against us. When we can wish them well from “over there.” When we can move about our day, knowing that God will judge the integrity of those who lie and scheme. We don’t have to. It’s too much for us to bear.

We just have to do good. Even to those who hurt us. Even to those we don’t like.

Even to those who yes (human emotion, here)…we really do hope tumble for all the pain they have caused.

But, He will take care of that. We simply take care of doing good.

Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:21

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Loving Others, Mercy

 

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Let my words be sweet

“Because she is a crybaby. That’s why she is crying.”

Where did these words come from you ask? They were uttered from my youngest. The answer from the lips of my son after his sister had asked why tears had filled her mom’s eyes.

And, of course, after these words, I began to cry even more. Thinking…Where did he get that word from? Where did I go wrong? How did this word come from this one? The one who sees his mom love without limits and at all costs? Who forgives and forgets each time his anger turns to aggression? This is what he has learned?

We don’t call people “crybabies” in our house. We don’t use the “r” word. “Stupid” and “dumb” are banned. A curse word may fly every now and then, but hurtful words for the most part are not a part of our general conversation. We have taught our kids to use kind, gentle words when they speak to each other. To others. To use words to build up. Not to tear down.

But, I can’t always shield them from what they may hear in this world. I’ve seen the word “crybaby” used to describe anyone who dares to stand up to injustice. I’ve even been called one before this day when I’ve been caught crying after being hurt by people I care about.

So…would our children, my child learn something different, or learn to speak loving and kind words if we took time to use our words to build up while they watch?

Keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Psalm 34:13

I had been spending a lot of time over a number of days thinking about words. My children had spent a number of days passing harsh words back and forth amongst each other. I had contemplated the ways in which words had been used to hurt, deceive, and divide people over the course of a year. I had been hopeful that over that year mine had shown and spoken something different.

I had not anticipated to walk into Bible Study at all on Wednesday night. I am usually the one serving in some capacity. This night was supposed to be no different. But, as God often does, He had other plans. So, I walked into the room and heard this:

“People can hurt. They can frustrate. But, they are also our greatest treasure, and you and your words are very important to some other person.”

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Isaiah 50:4

The world. Satan and his crafty adversaries. They had convinced me that my words were failing. That I had nothing of worth to say. That any wisdom God had given me to comfort had been useless.

He had put me in that room right where I needed to be on this night to prove otherwise.

Here’s the thing:

Words have infinite power. They can heal a wounded soul. Or inflict tremendous pain. The words spoken to self or to others have the power to breathe life into a heart, or break one. Words of love and forgiveness can build or repair something beautiful. While words of hate and contempt can destroy it. Once spoken, whether sweet or bitter…they cannot be taken back.

Choose wisely.

Choose words that build beauty.

Choose words that give life.

Choose words of love.

Choose the words of Christ.

Be compassionate and careful. Especially with those you care so much about. Choose words that if repeated back the only thing you would hear are sweet, loving words softly spoken back to you.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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