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"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)

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas (?)

Hello everyone! Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend. Ours was full of nice family time but also full of meltdowns and mishaps. Without going into details, we woke up Christmas morning without a Christmas tree (had to be taken down the night before), the little man's hands patched up with Elmo and Cookie Monster bandaids and me with a horrible migraine that kept me from going to church. My hubby was off to lead the Christmas cantata, which the little man and I had to miss. I posted several stories and links on this blog leading up to Christmas that referred to ways we could make the holidays easier for our kids. I guess because the little guy had been doing so well, I didn't think we needed to prepare so much...and he was GREAT while we were with family. It was once we got into the car and got home that the pressure cooker gave and turned what should have been a wonderful holiday into two of the worst days we've had in a LONG time. And I missed church on Christmas for the first time since I can even remember... Hence the title of this post: "Merry Christmas (?)"

Today I was watching the video from the Christmas service at church and felt so sad that we missed it...yet in my gut I wonder how we could have gotten through it considering the night we'd had before. My husband came home and shared that many of the folks at church are worried that they haven't seen me in so long. He says he always has to give an excuse "She's upstairs working with the kids," or, "She's sick at home." This got me thinking... these are not excuses, they are the sad truth. I honestly believe that our weeks are so hard that come Sunday I am done! Our special needs ministry has not been as successful as I'd hoped, not because the kids aren't there, but because our "buddies" can't always be there as planned. The truth is that on most weeks in my life I am just happy to have been able to cook a meal or two and maybe tossed in a load of laundry (which is probably still in the dryer waiting for  me to take out) that I just can't find the time to make the calls and get all of these folks organized. When the "buddies" can't be there, I try to patch something up to give them a special Sunday school lesson and experience "ASD style" (quiet room, multi-sensory, combining physical movement with the lesson, etc). So, yes, I am "upstairs working with the kids," PRETTY MUCH, ALWAYS!

I am so blessed to have a children's pastor who has a true heart for these kids and ALWAYS has a back-up plan that works. I am double blessed that I have a strong enough relationship with my Lord, Jesus Christ, that even when I miss time with the congregation I still have my special time with Him. I am tripple blessed that the little man and I had been celebrating Advent, so he knows the "reason for the season" and he knows we are celebrating the coming of our King: Jesus Christ! We go see the Christmas lights and instead of yelling out "Santa," he yells out "Baby Jesus! Mary... Joseph...Angel!" Yet the culmination of this celebration is just painful... just thinking about it makes my head hurt!

Our "normal" is just so different! Just to get ourselves ready for church on any given Sunday, we have to do all the previewing, explaining each of the things we will be doing. On a good day, when I have the time and energy, we'll look at pictures to get ready. Then I have to figure out what we're going to wear: it can't be too hot because the little man's temperature regulation is an issue and he's extremely sensitive to feeling too hot. I also can't wear anything that is too textured because he hates how it feels on his skin. I can't wear shoes that have heels because the little man's body awareness is so bad that he ends up under my feet all the time and I could really hurt him. I also need comfortable flat shoes in case I have to run to catch him, particularly when walking to and from our car. Once I've figured out the clothes we will wear to go to church, then it's getting into them..that's a whole other story I'd rather not get into. I make sure the little man's had a good breakfast but still have to pack plenty of snacks, juice boxes, Dum Dum lolipops and toys to keep him entertained. I have to take my things in a backpack so I have two free hands to catch him or give him the physical support he needs (no pretty pocketbooks for this mama).

On the way to church, we have to battle about not going to see trains or airplanes, although the little guy has gotten better at "First church, then airport." It doesn't help that there are about 10 signs pointing the route to the airport between our house and church. We also see three different train track lines on the way to church! Once we park the car, we have to get ourselves to the church... that walk can sometimes take up to 20 minutes between his dragging his feet, wanting to throw rocks or stopping to watch an airplane in the sky. Then it's getting in the door of the church building...and getting him into the noisy and crowded sanctuary. Most Sundays we just go right upstairs to the Sunday school classroom; that seems to work, but if he's there for too long without other children then he gets very territorial about the space and can be pretty nasty when the other kids get there. Navigating Sunday school has its own challenges and they differ every week. Once Sunday school is over, we have to walk down to find his Papa in the large noisy crowd. There's all the explaining and excuses when people want him to speak to them or say hello and he's just in total overload. He is pretty good at giving "high fives," though! :-)

On a good Sunday, I will stay for the second service. We have our special place where we sit, right near the exit and where he can see his daddy while he works at the sound booth or down on the stage when he's playing with the praise and worship team. The lull between the two services is heavenly and allows us to sit quietly, have a snack and rest before the service begins. By that point we are on the home stretch... and can usually make it through the praise and worship (if it's not too loud) and until the offering. By that point, all my tricks have stopped working and it's time to go! So, the long walk back to the car begins... though knowing he will go see trains or airplanes are the carrot at the end of the stick to get him moving a little bit faster. Once we're in the car, I take a deep breath, praise the little man for being so wonderful and before I start the car, I review what we learned in Sunday school. Really, it's just my way of recouping before driving. It also helps him feel like "church" is done and now we're moving on. By this point it's about 1:30 pm and I'm spent, yet we have the whole rest of the day to go! Oh, another small detail, my husband and I usually travel in different cars so I always have an "out" if I need to run and he still has to stay while he serves in his ministries...

I find it hard to believe that I am the only one in this situation. How many of you out there find yourselves in this same "boat" along with me? Going to church is quite the endeavor and it can be completely exhausting! When special events, like Christmas, come, it's just so much harder! I'm not one that is big on new year's resolutions, but I do have a special prayer... I pray that this just gets easier. I don't know how... nor do I know what to even ask God to do to make it easier, I just pray that it gets easier. I see other parents who seem to just be able to leave their child with those in charge and walk away actually able to sit and enjoy the service. I know the Lord sees my actions and He will bless my hard work for His kingdom. I know the day WILL come when I can just leave my little man with the folks in charge, I know others will rise up to share the load of ministering to these little ones... My favorite Bible verse is my foundation:
"Faith is being sure of what you ope for and certain of what you do not see." Hebrews 11:1

I pray for you who may be in this same situation, that the Lord will open new doors for you in the New Year and that you, too, will be able to share the load and take the time to feed your soul as part of your church congregation. Some of you may not even be able to go to church on Sundays at all... some of you may have left the church because of these same reasons. I pray for each and every single one of you, that the Lord will bless you and give you strength...and peace!

Merry Christmas everyone!
The little man's Christmas train...the Bethlehem Express!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David Phelps: "Oh Holy Night"

I've written so many times on this blog about one of my favorite Christian artists, David Phelps. I can't help but share his rendition of one of the most beautiful Christmas songs. I hope you enjoy it!
Be blessed!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Fantastic Story about Christmas and Autism!

Hi all! These great stories just keep rolling in!!! Here is another GREAT one! Be blessed!


From the Autism Support Network: Enjoying the Holidays with an autistic child

Great article from the ASN! Acceptance is a big part of finding peace in parenting a child with an autism spectrum disorder.  I often talk about how important it was for us to learn what worked for Nathan rather than making him fit our mold. Here's some food for though (read below). Blessings!

Enjoying the holidays with an autistic child

Lisa Jo Rudy

Question: How can we possibly enjoy the holidays with an autistic child?
Answer: From Dr. Cindy Ariel:
Holidays are often filled with stress. It takes work to make a beautiful and fun holiday for yourself and those around you. There is a lot of pressure to make the holidays perfect and fun, and to enjoy yourself while you're doing it. This is a tall order in any situation, but when you add to that the stress of having a child with special needs for whom you also want the holidays to be perfect and fun, it can become more overwhelming than ever.
Everything needs readjusting in your family life these days, and of course you are left with the emotions of it all. It is on you to make warm experiences for your family and new traditions that will help them to feel good about these family years. It's a huge adjustment. It's important at this time to sit back for a few minutes and backtrack just a little. What is it about the holidays that you've always enjoyed? Special foods? Pretty decorations? Certain activities? The gifts? All of it? Whatever it is, start there.
Focus on a few things you know are important to make sure you have prepared around this time. Of course, some things may need modification so that it is possible to enjoy them with your child with special needs. For example, if there is a danger of them hurting themselves on fragile decorations you may have to put them higher up and out of reach, or get new ones that are not so fragile. Some special foods may not be be served. These modifications often bring us disappointment but if the goal is a nice family holiday, it's important and we can adjust.
Make the demands on yourself realistic and don't try to do so much that you feel only frustration. Make realistic lists and work on things one at a time. Looking at a whole month of this holiday season is less overwhelming if you take it in small pieces. You may also have to lower your expectations of what you can really do, but at least what you do will be less stressful and make the holidays special.
Now for tackling the gifts. Again, you may have to step back and change your expectations. Think about your child and what will put a smile on his/her face. Maybe they can't handle the new games that every other kid is playing this year, or the current popular book series, or new sports equipment. But they may be thrilled with a cushy new ball, a big soft beanbag chair to flop on, a favorite food (within their dietary constraints), or even an hour away from all the noise and confusion to walk in brisk weather or slide in the playground. It's not what you hoped, but this part is not just about you. It's about how you can give everyone in your family some warm holiday experiences, and feel good about them and yourself in the process.
These may not be the holidays you once had, or dreamed of for your family. But you can still offer your family the love and warmth and smiles that the holiday glow that many of us carry within us is really all about.
From Dr. Robert Naseef:
Whenever I talk with parents, no other question is pregnant with quite so much emotion. No matter what tradition you celebrate - Chanukah, Christmas, Ramadan, or Kwanza - this can be a difficult time of year. Images of warm cozy family life fill our heads. It's a time to be close, to give thanks, and to look forward. It's a time to celebrate the lives of children, a time that families get together and assess where they are, notice changes and remember losses. There are many dimensions to the holiday season as visions of our own childhood holidays dance in our heads, but there is a special twist when your child is not developing typically. How we handle these times can set us up for a depressing winter season, or it can be an opportunity for growth and love. To grow, we have to acknowledge the often painful loss of the child we dreamed of and the challenges of having a child who is very different from what we imagined. After all, what parent doesn't look forward and envision an excited child having fun with new toys?
A thoughtful mother told me how she was enjoying the holidays this year as opposed to watching her son ignore his toys while she wept. She had learned to be realistic, now that her son who has autism is four. She wanted to buy him that first remote controlled car for four-to-six year olds, but instead she bought him some toys labeled 12-18 months that she knew he would enjoy. She also knows she will enjoy him this way, and she has the hope that he will develop from where he is, especially by becoming interested and having fun interacting with the rest of the family.
This woman loves her son dearly and has learned through her tears and grief to dream new dreams. She is now looking forward to being on the floor with him and following his lead in play. This process of letting go and moving on takes time, but most people do get there. Children with special needs have so much to teach their parents and the rest of society, particularly about accepting our differences and living in peace and harmony.
Holiday time is exciting for children, and children with special needs are no different. About 10-12 percent of school-aged children have disabilities and will receive holiday gifts this season. As opposed to wishing and pushing for a child to be normal, acceptance of the child where he or she is encourages further development. This brings us to an important lesson that all children can teach us in this current season for giving. More than the new toys, it is their parents’ time and attention that is so exciting and wonderful for children. It is the fuel for their development into kind and giving little people. In the consumer-driven rush this holiday season, let's not forget what’s really important. Let's connect with mind and heart to our families and friends and all whose lives we touch. Let's spend quality time together. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many years ago, "The only true gift is a portion of thyself."
Robert Naseef, Ph.D., and Cindy Ariel, Ph.D., are the co-editors of "Voices from the Spectrum: Parents, Grandparents, Siblings, People With Autism, and Professionals Share Their Wisdom" (2006). On the web at www.alternativechoices.com.
Courtesy of Lisa Jo Rudy About.com, A NY Times Company.

Read more: http://www.autismsupportnetwork.com/news/enjoying-holidays-autistic-child-938927781#ixzz1h1m4fyuk

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love Came Down- Devotional from DaySpring

Preparing for the holidays is primarily a preparing of the heart.
Because what comes down is love, and the way to receive love isn't to wrap anything up - but to unwrap your heart.
Advent - this is the season of preparing that prepares us for any season of life - because we are preparing our lives for Christ to enter in - which prepares for us the life without end. Is that the ultimate purpose of this life - the preparing for the next life?
Is this why Christmas, Advent, unlike any other time of year, glimmers with a glimpse of heaven - because it's the time of year we're fulfilling our purpose, preparing for Christ and His coming again? The Christmas tree's been lit for weeks, a beacon, a preparing, an anticipation. Why is it easier to make Christmas cookies than to make our hearts ready for Christ?
Is getting ready for Christmas as simple and difficult as simply sitting stilled before the cradle of Christ?
And yet. Love came down and "He came to His own people, and His own people did not receive him." (John 1:11)
Love came down - and his own people did not recognize Him.
Love came down - and His own people did not want what He offered.
The Messiah came down and He wasn't received as the Messiah - and Love comes down and who receives all the moments as His love?
-Devotion excerpt by Ann Voskamp, author of the blog A Holy Experience and the New York Times Bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Heavenly Peace by Nicole Johnson

Another FANTASTIC meditation by Women of Faith. So appropriate for this blog. Enjoy!

Sitting in front of the Christmas tree in the dark is one of the simplest and best gifts of the holiday season to me. The house is quiet and still and the lights seem brighter as the ornaments pick up the sparkle.
Unfortunately, quiet and still aren’t usually the words I associate with Christmas. It’s my own fault but frankly it is one the busiest time of the year for me. It is full of wonderful things that I love to do, like baking and shopping for just the right gift, but somehow in the middle of all the “wonderful,” I just plain lose the wonder.
Amid the hustle and bustle that is Christmas these days, the child in the manger is often lost in the shuffle or even trampled in the clamoring of shopping. Santa Clauses on the street selling cars or advertising this week’s special, spur us on toward stuff and away from the sacred. But not tonight.
Silent Night is playing in my head as I sit quietly. This beautiful and simple hymn gently beckons me to stillness as I peer into the manger. No rushing here, no clamoring, just a holy infant, so tender and mild, ushering in the opportunity for the world, and me, to sleep in heavenly peace.
And isn’t that what we need tonight? Far from sleeping in heavenly peace, many are in the clutches of sleepless nights over lost jobs, lost houses, lost 401ks, and lost Christmas dreams. Such difficult times do not promote sleep or peace, but both can still be found for those who seek. Maybe not in the kind of gifts that come wrapped in shiny paper, this divine gift comes to us wrapped only in the swaddling rags of humanity—as a gift that can bring heavenly peace to earthly hearts.
Far from the mall and closer to the manger, the real hope of Christmas is rekindled in my cold, consumer-driven, perfectionist heart. I unplug the tree and invite the holy child to lay down his sweet head in the straw of my heart and head to bed with heavenly peace.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent has begun!

The wonderful Christmas season has begun. Every year since Nathan was born, we have taken the Advent season as a time for family devotionals and sharing together. We start on December 1st and continue until Christmas Day. It is a beautiful way of sharing together and getting ready for the grand celebration of Jesus' birth.

Last night we began Advent night #1. We watched a beautiful DVD about the Nativity and talked about the angel Gabriel (also the topic from Sunday school last Sunday). We are focusing on the verse "Your king is coming" Matthew 21:5... even though that verse is found in the context of the Triumphal Entry, it serves as a wonderful way of helping Nathan understand that we are waiting for the "arrival" of our King, Jesus Christ.

It always amazes me how Nathan can be so hyperactive and as soon as I put on the Nativity DVD he sits on the couch in awe. I sit with him and highlight the scenes and characters that we are focusing on that night. Last night it was Gabriel and Zacharias. I use our own family pictures to help him make connections: Zacharias was Mary's uncle, like Nathan's uncles Scott and Dave. It really is a beautiful way to share... and looking at the pictures helps Nathan preview all the family members we will celebrate Christmas with. It's a win-win!

I found these great inexpensive craft kits that we could make together as a family. Last night we made our angel Gabriel and practiced our verse. I hope to take pictures of Nathan each night to document Advent this year. Trying to get him to sit still for the camera was quite an adventure but ended up being a whole lot of fun! Unfortunately for the craft angel, Nathan had a blast whipping it around like a fan towel at a NBA game... and it held up! Here is a sequence of pictures I was able to take... hope they bring a smile to your face, too! Blessings!

Getting ready for Christmas!

Hi everybody! Sorry I have been gone for so long... I was actually taking some of my blog posts and expanding them into a book for an amateur book publishing contest through Women of Faith! Very exciting! We'll know in the spring who the winner is!!! To me it was just a wonderful blessing to see on paper the AMAZING things God has done for me and for my family to prepare for this journey and once we were on it.

Women of Faith just sent out a fantastic email this week that I wanted to share with you. All the credits are listed at the bottom. Enjoy and God bless you!

C – Center your heart on the deeper meaning of the holidays. This will help everyone become easier to get along with because the heart of the holiday will remain intact.
H – Hear what your friends and family are voicing as their stress, and listen carefully to them—a gift that will lower their stress.
R – Reach out as a family to help others in order to keep the proper perspective on what is really important in life.
I – Invest in memories, not material goods. Make time for family baking, tree decorating, or board games.
S – Speak your love in words. The best gift you can give is for a person to hear their value and worth from your lips.
T – Take time for romance. The greatest gift you can give your children is a happy marriage.
M – Make time to reach out to extended family. Visit or call grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
A – Assume nothing; ask those who are celebrating with you what their expectations are, and communicate the plan clearly so people feel informed.
S – Stay flexible. Don’t be a Christmas boss, ordering family around. Instead slow the pace, gather consensus, and give options so that you create an environment of connecting and sharing.
Excerpted from Simplify Your Holidays © 2008 Marcia Ramsland. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.