Welcome! Glad you are here!

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Sharing resources, research, ideas, inspiring scripture, success stories and even failures...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Come to the Well

My favorite Christian band, Casting Crowns, released its new album this week. It is titled Come to the Well, based on the passage of the woman at the well meeting Jesus in  John 4.  I have been anxiously anticipating the release of this album and I can't wait until Christmas, when I know some loving family member (hint, hint) will get me the devotional book that goes with it (written by Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns). My favorite thing about this band is that they are ministers first and musicians next. Each and every single one of their songs has words that cut like a knife down to your soul... and they have no qualms about saying things like they are, openly criticizing the overly religious and exhorting Christians to build relationships with Jesus Christ. Check out their website... they have wonderful short video Bible studies perfect for your daily devotionals!!!

I have been engulfed in this music since its release on Tuesday morning...and I've been moved by so many of the songs! They have stayed with me even after I'm done listening and have helped me come face to face with my Lord in the quietness AND craziness of my days. As you may have read in my earlier posts, I have been going through a process of searching God's peace during a very troubling time. I am sure many of you parents of kids on the spectrum can relate to the battles we often have to fight with the school system to get our kids what they need. We are dab smack in the middle of one of those battles and my worst fear, that the little man would be the one to suffer the most from the process, has come true...but I trust that God has a plan!

Being in "the business" of public special education (and specializing in working with kids on the autism spectrum) has given me a different insight into my son's education and his needs. It has also "colored" my expectations of my son's educators, much to their dismay. As a Christian, my professional experience has not always been a good thing. I have felt like I had to control everything and make it just right for the little man at school. By bringing in specialists and by fighting and relying on my own strength I just wore myself out... and my family was paying the price (particularly my wonderful husband). I have felt physically, emotionally and spiritually torn between my duties as a mother/wife and my duties in my professional work. That has suffered, too, in my quest to get my son what he needs.

The lyrics of some of Casting Crowns' new songs like Already There, Face Down, My Own Worst Enemy, and Listen to Our Hearts have reminded me that:
1) God has the perfect long-distance view of this journey I am on and each step has a purpose in His perfect plan.
2) God is constantly there, waiting for me to "make" time for Him.
3) I don't have to force myself to find the words to say to Him in prayer. He sees my heart and knows my love for Him, even when I can't find a way to show or tell him.
4) I can't fight this fight alone. I can NOT make it on my own!
AND 5) I feel closest to God when I humble myself before Him...completely...and face down.

Last night during my quiet time with my God, He brought together in my mind images from my last post coupled with the cover of Come to the Well:
I wish I was an artist so I could depict the vivid illustration He put in my spirit. Face down in total humility before the Lord I raised my hands and physically handed Him my load. My hands were dirty and my clothes were tattered...my power, strength, experience and knowledge are just not enough!

My post now comes full-circle to why I love Casting Crowns' music so much. Their lyrics are constant reminders that we should ALL be prostrated before our Lord in the utmost reverence and humble disposition. Only by rendering ourselves to Him and giving Him our load will we be free and see that He is carrying us...and we find peace. I truly believe that Christians should spend more time in this position and less time judging others. "Jesus Friend of Sinners" is another awesome track on the album that touches my heart. Jesus did not come for the pristine churchgoers who are more like the Pharisees He chastised. He came for the sinners...those He befriended and invited into his inner circle by saying "Follow me."

But I am digressing. In closing I will leave you with the catchiest hook on the entire album. The title song reminds us to "leave it all behind and come to the well." Only when you humble yourself, hand your baggage to the Almighty and leave it behind will you be able to draw and enjoy from the well of Living Water and find your peace in the midst of this puzzle.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the Shadow of His Wings

Hi all! It surely has been a interesting week for us but I am glad and thankful to report that the little man is doing MUCH, MUCH better at school.  Please keep the prayers coming.

My mom has been away in Chile doing "her thing" for what has seemed like eternity. At least in this day and age of technology there are so many ways to stay in touch even though she is miles and miles away. This is an email she sent me while she was gone. She knew we were going through some serious trials with the little guy and his school and wanted to remind me that we are under God's eternal protection.  I tried to track down the author of the email but have not had success... if anyone sees this and can give the author credit, please let me know. I'd like to give credit where credit is due. I do know the picture is listed as "photographer unkown." It truly is a beautiful scene! The text in the email read:
"Reminds me of Psalm 91:4- He will cover you with his feathers, he will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection."
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain.
There is absolutely nothing to fear about tomorrow; for God is already there"

In my search for the photographer of this amazing picture I stumbled upon an article in a newspaper in the UK. It featured two pictures of a mother swan with her babies.
The article, in the dailynews.co.uk had the following caption: The mute swan and her fluffy cargo were caught on camera by Richard Meston on a visit to Bicton Park Botanical Gardens near Sidmouth, Devon. 

Mr Meston, 32, said: ‘The cygnets had been splashing in the water around their mum. They looked like they were starting to get tired and one by one started to scramble up on their mum’s back. She didn’t mind at all and even gave them a nudge up.’
The father of three from Bournemouth added: ‘After they got settled in, she covered them with her wings protectively like a cushion and went on her way.'

I find these images much more poignant because although the picture of the colorful bird shows its protection of the babies under its wings, the image of the mother swan shows how God not only protects us but He CARRIES us during those hardest times. Just like the mommy swan, He sees our struggles, picks us up and carries us when we begin to get tired. He is our ever faithful daddy whose love never fails. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." I pray you, too, will find your comfort and peace under His wings!  

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ketchup to my Fries

Yes, I am a self-proclaimed "foodie," but I must confess one of my guilty pleasures in life is french fries. I LOVE fries!!! Take away all sweets but don't mess with my fries! I love the crunchy salty ones the best...YUM! But, as delicious as fries are to me, there's one thing that ALWAYS makes them better: ketchup! Ketchup and fries have been going together since...well, let's just say it's been quite the relationship between those two!

It is so interesting to me that my little guy LOVES fries and ketchup: together AND separately. No doubt, though, fries and ketchup are his preferred food on this planet. I was thinking about this and came to the conclusion that my husband and I are like fries and ketchup. Confused? Well, I'd like to think that by myself I'm pretty good (like fries) but it is my husband who, like the ketchup to the fries, makes me better. He is "the ketchup to my fries!" The little man loves us both separately but no doubt that when he's with his mommy and daddy he is in heaven!

Not a lot of people know, or remember, how my hubby and I ended up here. We grew up together as kids (not really liking each other much) and stayed connected for years through the church. In the early 90's I found my best friend, my BFF...and that was him! This August we celebrated 14 years of marriage. We've sure had some ups and downs but through it all he has held my hand and pulled me through. He almost lost me right after I gave birth, but God allowed me to stay here on earth to enjoy a lifetime with my best friend and our little bundle of joy...yet joy was not quite what we felt after our new addition came along. He was fussy, cried more than most babies and seemed to have inherited the most annoying traits from every possible family member! He was a tough baby, not one you could just leave with a sitter. Well, there went our private time for each other! When the "A bomb" dropped (diagnosis) we were both relieved but terrified of what was to come and what it would do to our marriage!

My husband is the BEST daddy I know!!! He has sacrificed so much and works so hard for our family. He is 200% dedicated to the little man's care and manages to take care of me in the process. I sometimes jokingly ask him to show me the "S" on his chest. Surely only a superhero can handle everything he does: provider, caregiver, homemaker (yes, it's true!), financial planner, handyman, car mechanic, sound engineer, plumber, electrician and official bug squisher! And that's only a portion of what he does! He is a good man, a good God-fearing Christian man who carries my load so I can be the best mommy possible to our little guy.

I am so blessed to have such an amazing man, not just as my husband, but as my best friend. In this crazy puzzle we live in we often get so overwhelmed by caring for our children that the most important people pay the price. I guess that's why the divorce rates are so high in families who have children with special needs. My husband is the ketchup to my fries because he makes me a better person and a better mom. I am usually too exhausted to show him, yet day after day he is there to hold my hand and pull me through while carrying all our loads!

I know it was God, alone, who brought us together. He joined us in this beautiful union and chose us to be this little guy's mommy and daddy. I know I have not held my end of the bargain on many, many days and I just pray that God continues to strengthen the bond between us as we walk this crazy journey together.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor; for if they fall, one will lift up his companion... Again, if the two lie down together, they will keep warm... Though one is overpowered by another, two can withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NJKV)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No burning bush...but pretty darn cool!

Hi all!  So, as you all saw my last post was pretty deep... one of the hardest posts I've written so far. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I am always stressing the need to spend quality, intimate time with the Lord in order to find peace in this crazy journey. I spent some quality time with my God last night, asking Him for guidance and protection over my beautiful boy. This morning, the first song that came on my iPod was "Sin Dolor"(Without Pain) by Lilly Goodman. I've said in my previous posts that I'm not one to talk about visions or burning bushes, but this was pretty darn cool!  Once you read the lyrics you will understand.  I hope they will be a blessing to you in your own walk through the puzzle.

General message of the song in English:
Without pain, there is no gain. Everything worth fighting for in life has a price, even if we stumble along the way. What good is it to win, if it was so easy to reach your goal? You don't want to go through struggles, but sometimes they serve as means to awaken gifts hidden inside of you... and move you out of complacency that keeps you in your comfort zone. Remember these struggles will only push you further towards your goal. I know sometimes we have to take the hits in order to grow and be able to mature, otherwise we won't know how to manage what is to come... and even though the pain in that moment is so cruel, God will not leave you there longer than what you can take!

Have a blessed week!

Lyrics in Spanish:
No, sin dolor no hay ganador. Todo cuesta un valor por el que hay que luchar, a pesar de tropezar. ¿De qué importaría ganar si fue tan fácil llegar a la meta? ¿y al final, que más habrá? No quieres pasar dificultad pero a veces servirá para despertar el don que dentro hay. Y salir de la comodidad que te aferra a ese lugar y a la meta con firmeza avanzar. Sí, lo sé, a veces hay que ser golpeado para poder crecer y alcanzar un poco más de madurez, porque no habría forma de saber manejar lo que vendrá. Y aunque el dolor en esos tiempos puede ser tan cruel, pero Dios no nos dejará permanecer allá mas tiempo del que podamos soportar.
Video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbdQVmqrANg

Monday, October 10, 2011

Running in Mud

As I previously posted, we had our fundraising walk for Autism Speaks a week ago this Sunday. After our yard sale and a few more donations, our team has raised almost $6000! Thank you to everyone who contributed!!!!!

The walk was fun...the kids had an AMAZING time! I was really pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed themselves.  It was also so refreshing to be surrounded by people who understand our lives and sport so many of the same 'war wounds'.  Interestingly enough, our team kids (well, the boys mostly) had the most fun being able to run aimlessly in the muddy sandy track. It seemed like the messier and dirtier they got, the more their joy and laughter multiplied... exponentially... and it was contagious! Before we knew it, the adults were hopping and skipping and our dirty shoes were no longer a big deal. We trekked happily across the finish line!

Running in muddy sand really is NOT a pleasurable experience to the average person. It is messy, dirty, uncomfortable and it requires exerting much more strength (and breath) than walking on dry ground. Be prepared to take MUCH longer to get to your destination than you imagined.  One thing is for sure, though, you will get there with really tired, but stronger, legs!

I frequently say that my life feels like I'm running in mud. Life with a toddler is exhausting but life with a toddler with an autism spectrum disorder...well, let's just say it's like running in mud--while juggling! My husband often says that it feels like 10 years since our little man was born. I really can't remember ever feeling like he is growing up too fast. My friends don't quite understand this feeling, but I think it's just like the feeling after walking around that sandy, muddy track. We've gone the same exact distance as everyone else but we seem to be twice as tired. At the end of each week, we feel like we've run a marathon... in the mud.

I know this process is making me stronger, yet I can't say that I've reached the point of finding joy in this "mud" that is slowing down the pace of our lives. Each new day I just pick up and keep running, always only getting part of the way than I'd hoped to cover.  Looking back does no good, except sometimes to see the huge pits, ditches and puddles we've made it through... that does provide some momentum for the journey!

When I originally wrote this post I was neck high in one of the nastiest points in our walk through our little man's early education. Although nothing has changed, today I am thankful that the long weekend has allowed me to catch my breath, enjoy some real quality time with my boy and recharge for a new week full of battles. But... I am tired and I am weary.  I am tired of psyching myself up to hear the worst only to still have my heart shattered by more bad news about his days at school. It's the same exact feeling I get each Sunday when we try, unsuccessfully, to get the little guy to be a part of Sunday school. I try to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and put them back together but it's like picking up some muddy sand: it dries out and slips through my fingers, taking with it my hopes and piling back up on the ground, drowning out the light at the end of my tunnel.

I dream of the day when I don't have to cringe during school pick-ups, bracing myself to hear the events (or "episodes") of the day. I desire to have my son included at our church, like the other kids are... but that's just not our reality right now. I know our "normal" is different. This path takes strength and persistence just like it did to walk over a mile in that mud. Just like the adults at the walk, groaning and moaning about their dirty, wet and uncomfortable journey, I just can't help but grumble each time I hear that my child is having meltdowns more often than not when he is not with us. How does a parent get used to constantly having their heart broken? I don't think I know that yet...

A beautiful sister in Christ from our church has a son with ASD. He is now about to transition to adulthood... she has asked that a few of us get together to chat and try to support each other. She confesses that she does not profess to be an "expert," but would like to share the wisdom she's gathered from her own journey. In my own suffering, I see this beautiful person digging a tiny hole through the pile of sand blocking out my light... she is on the other side of this path and is reminding me that there are people there to see me through. God sends His angels to remind us that we are not alone.  Time and time again, this is how He lifts me up, cleans me off and places me back onto steady ground.  I believe this is what David referred to when he wrote in Psalms 40:1-3. I sang this Psalm so many times in my youth, yet it is not until now that it rings so true in my life.  This is my prayer today and I share the passage with you: "I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD."

Be blessed!

Our Team "Peace in the Puzzle"