Living with Special Needs

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I don’t usually post this sort of thing publicly for various reasons but today I’m going to give you a glimpse into the world of one special needs family. It is lonely. Maybe more so when it’s an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Maybe not, but no ASD child is the same and from the families I know with an ASD child, our experiences vary quite widely so even “shared experiences” aren’t really shared. It’s very lonely when you’re the only parent pulled out of Sunday school almost every week for your son who is almost ten. It’s lonely when you see friends and their kids doing fun things together and you either weren’t invited because of the ASD child or you chose not to attend because it wouldn’t be a good environment for the ASD child. It’s lonely when you can only find a few babysitters that can and will work with your child. And it’s lonely when you see your ASD child getting looks of disgust from other kids and/or parents. Those looks might as well be aimed straight at me because I feel them more intensely than if the look actually had been directed at me.

There are a few very precious families in our life who have not only accepted our special needs son, but have enjoyed him and his eccentricities. For those I am incredibly thankful! Besides being Christ to us and filling the lonely places, at times I need help seeing beyond all the battles to the fun and joy found in my son and these families help immensely. I’m also thankful that our son has come so incredibly far with his anger, self-control, and compassion towards others. I’m thankful that The Lord uses my sons to push me into seeking Him through prayer and His Word and to make me more like Himself. Being obsessive about something is pretty typical for ASD kids and I’m thankful that my son’s primary obsessions are reading and Legos instead of some violent video game. I’m thankful that the Father has granted me incredible grace to school both boys at home and to learn some therapy techniques to work with him at home. I’m thankful that he is able to communicate well and is an amazing artist.

Though I try to give thanks in the storm, it’s very hard not to wish to be out of the storm every time the waves come crashing in, especially because I know this storm probably won’t end for many years, if at all this side of heaven. But there are many calm moments and victories and I’m thankful for those too. In fact, on days like today, in order to not drown in despair or loneliness, I remind myself of moments like these:
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IMG_1379.JPG And then it’s a little easier to smile instead of cry! :)

All that said, I sometimes wonder if my son feels the loneliness too. Hopefully we surround him with enough love and enough accepting friends that he does not. I pray that he doesn’t feel the loneliness but is completely secure in our love, yet I know that I fail him all the time.

All that and it’s really just a glimpse. If you know someone and you even think they might have a special needs child, please pray for them, surround them with great love, and look beyond the oddities to discover the diamond in the rough. And please, please teach your “normal” children to do the same.

River & Erosion Project

Our younger son is learning about rivers this week. Monday we talked about how a river often begins in a lake or some body of water on a mountain and how the water carves into the dirt to create the river. I wanted to show him this idea in a fun, memorable way. So I searched Pinterest and Google but only found an idea for making a river to play in in the back yard. It looks like a fun idea, but we don’t have a slope, so it wouldn’t work and it didn’t demonstrate the idea of the water eroding it’s place. So I decided to try out an idea I had and it actually worked!!! I was so excited that, I jumped up and down clapping my hands!

We put a disposable bowl (because I didn’t want to have to clean a regular bowl) upside down in a casserole dish. I used some leftover garden gravel to keep it in place.

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Then we put gardening soil over it. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I made a small impression in the dirt to be our lake. It’s main purpose was to give him a place to aim the water on the next step. I used what I had on hand which was more like a mulch. This would work better, I think, with a finer soil or dirt. Or, if you begin it early enough, you could plant some seeds in the soil, wait for them to grow some roots for holding the dirt more in place, then continue the project.

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Then we used flour to put some “snow” on the area. I did this because I wanted him to be able to see the river. I figured it would be hard to see the small stream of water on the dark soil. He loved putting the snow on.

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I had prepared some water dyed blue ahead of time. I gave him a measuring cup with the water and told him to go super slowly. He accidentally dumped it and we had to rebuild the mountainside, so I dug out a water bottle with one of those tops that you pull up to get a drink out. He was able to gently squeeze it to make a lake at the top of the mountain.

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You can see the river flowing in that picture, but I got a close up, too.

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If I were to do it again (which he begged me to do, but we didn’t have time to recreate it), I would use thicker soil as I mentioned above. I think that it would hold water better so that the “river” wouldn’t disappear quite so quickly. I would also use more soil so a little erosion wouldn’t cause the entire “mountain” to crumble. I would also make a thicker layer of flour so the river would be more visible. All in all, it was a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to watch a river carve it’s path and I’m thrilled that we saw success!

Rejoicing in Disobedience

For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Romans 11:32

I’ve been pondering this idea that God has “shut up all” to disobedience. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about this in relation to my children. I don’t know about other parents, but I often am frustrated with the boys disobedience. It’s not that I expect them to be perfect, but I tire of dealing with the disobedience.

Truly, who enjoys correcting behavior and punishing sin? I certainly don’t enjoy it! When I’m not just being too lazy to deal with the situation at hand, often, it is a very inconvenient time or place or both! But again, the Lord has reminded me that these times offer great opportunity!

Spending time with Romans 11 has reminded me that there is a joyous reason for disobedience — God’s mercy! I’ve been reminded that every occasion of disobedience is an opportunity for God to show His mercy to the hearts of the boys! Our pastor reminded us this morning that taking the Lord’s Supper isn’t just a somber occasion. Sure, we examine our hearts and there is sorrow for our sin, yet we greatly rejoice in His forgiveness! Similarly, as a parent, I can rejoice that God grants so many opportunities to our boys and to us for Him to show His mercy!

We have used disobedience as occasion to remind the boys of the Gospel. But now it is also an occasion to rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (Emphasis added)

Book Review: The Choice by Robert Whitlow

The Choice is the unfolding tale of a fight for life. Sandy, a high school senior has a world of opportunity before her, but one poor choice has left her pregnant and now she must make another choice. Will she give the life inside her a chance at the opportunities she could lose? In the midst of the emotional turmoil a strange prophecy is given her by an old lady in a convenience store. Inherent in the prophecy is a warning and now doing what is right is even more confusing! Thirty-four years later as a high school teacher, Sandy is approached for help by an unwed, pregnant teenage girl. While seeking to use her own experience to help the girl, the prophetic warning comes back to mind and suddenly more lives are at stake and she again must choose between life and death.

I have enjoyed every book I’ve read by Robert Whitlow. I was very excited to see this one offered on Book Sneeze! Overall, this wasn’t quite the legal thriller that I’ve come to expect from Whitlow, but it was still an excellent read. Don’t misunderstand me, there is still some legal thriller to this book, but it takes a backseat to a higher purpose. Whitlow touches on issues of life — the lives of the yet to be born as well as those already living. In the end living comes down to true love — laying down your life for another. As always Whitlow does a fabulous job of creating characters that are believable — both Christian and not. As the main character struggles with her choices, every emotion leaps from the page to the reader’s heart. There were times that I found myself verbally (yes, I really said it out loud!) cheering Sandy on. And the heroine remains the heroine — not because she does something right. Although she does that. She is the heroine because she truly lives out faith.

I don’t care for “Christian” books that leave out the Bible. Robert Whitlow does a nice job of weaving Scripture and biblical principles throughout the text. This is a great book that I highly recommend to those who enjoy works of fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Answered Prayer

Evening,

and morning,

and at noon,

will I pray,

and cry aloud:

and He shall hear

my voice.

Psalm 55:17

Recently, someone precious to me asked why I believe in God. One of my answers was that I have seen Him answer prayer. As I thought back over our conversation, I wished that I had recorded more of those moments when I prayed and immediately saw God move. I did write at length about the time God provided for us a vehicle. That post is here. I hope, over the next few days to post some of the prayers to which I can remember seeing specific answers. I don’t want to confuse — God hears all the prayers of His children and He always answers. We may not always see, understand, or like the answer, but He does work for His people. While we may not recall every prayer and answer, there is biblical precedent for remembering God’s great acts on behalf of His people.

This first one may seem a little silly and perhaps just coincidence (for those that don’t believe God is sovereign over all things at all time. I believe He is completely sovereign and that there is nothing out of His control.) As a teenager, I went on a mission trip with my youth group. I was the lead teacher for one of the younger groups of kids. One of those days while encouraging the kids to accept Christ as Savior, I realized that though I believed in the Gospel, I had never confessed to the church my belief. My understanding lacked much theologically, but I knew that I needed to confess with my mouth what I believed in my heart. Back home I talked to my mom about wanting to go forward during the altar call at church. At the time she was engaged to a man whom I really liked. She asked me to consider waiting until they were married and we could go forward as a family. I was torn. I wanted to honor her request, but I was strongly compelled not to wait. I talked to my pastor’s wife about it the next time I saw her. She shared with me a similar story that her husband had experienced as a young man with his father, but was quick to add that she couldn’t tell me what was right for me. During this summer I was working for my mom’s fiance who owned a landscaping business. While he and another guy ran the big mowers, I weeded flower beds, edged sidewalks, sprayed insecticide, and whatever other job arose. In the week following these conversations, we had a really hot, sunny day. I was thinking about this decision, completely unsure what to do. I really wanted to make my mom happy. But I really wanted to make known my faith. So standing there dripping sweat, I prayed very simply, “God, if You would have me go forward and not wait, could You just send someone to me with a drink?” I know it’s kind of lame, but I had worked several weeks and not once had any of the residents ever spoken to me. The guys I was working with were on the other side of the gated community that we were working in. So it seemed completely unlikely that any sort of drink would be coming my way. However, before the words finished leaving my mouth a sweet blond haired lady from behind me said, “Excuse me? You look awfully hot out here and I just thought you might like one of these popsicles.” I don’t know where she came from. To me she seemed to appear out of thin air, but she probably just came from one of the nearby houses. She didn’t have the drink I had prayed for. She had something better! A frozen popsicle that cooled me off while hydrating a little.

Just remembering that day, I can still feel the shock of the lady’s voice behind me. I can still feel the relief of something cold to cool me in a moment of need. And though many will count it coincidence, I know that my God was using that tiny seed of immature faith to show Himself as my Guide and my Provider.

The following Sunday, I went forward. My mom cried. I thought it was because I didn’t wait for the family, but found out that she was just happy I was claiming Christ. Her fiance broke off the engagement shortly afterwards. I felt badly because I thought it was my fault for not waiting to go forward together as a family. It was still summer and I was still working for him, so I asked him one day. He assured me that it was other things. I still think it was partially my fault — the prospect of jumping into being the father of a teenage girl as strong-willed as I was, probably was pretty daunting! But the guy Mom ended up marrying is amazing. And I don’t regret for even one moment walking in obedience!

Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What it Means for You

Wow! I haven’t written a blog since March! During the busy three months, I have had thoughts of things to write about, but time has been devoted to many other things. Though I have a topic I’d like to spend time pondering through writing, instead I’m going to publish a long overdue book review. Through Booksneeze I received a copy of Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What it Means for You for the purpose of giving a review, so here it is!

Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary and What it Means for You

by Catherine Hickem

I decided to read this book because I agreed with one point the author had to make about the woman called to be the mother of Jesus. In the prologue Hickem notes how protestants have worked so hard to not worship the virgin woman chosen by God to bear His Son that we rarely reflect upon her as a biblical female role model. Often women look at Sarah’s faith, Rahab’s boldness, Esther’s bravery, and more. And I wouldn’t say that Mary gets ignored. I can think of many great sermons or lessons taught based on her response to the angel and the magnificat. Mary herself wouldn’t have wanted herself elevated next to God. She knew and honored the Lord and did not exalt herself, but certainly we can learn from her. So I read this book in hope that this would be a biblical look into her life that would encourage me as a mom.

Each chapter begins with a Scripture from the life of Mary then goes on to talk about an aspect of Mary’s life demonstrated by the Scripture. The chapters then conclude with earthly wisdom and experience related to the trait shown by Mary.

The book was rather disappointing to me. Overall, I appreciated the insight into Mary’s life, but occasionally I felt that the author attempted to stretch her big idea into the Scripture given. The ideas themselves weren’t antibiblical, they just took a lot of connections to make sense with the Scripture given. But what really disappointed me was that the earthly wisdom and experience seemed to override the biblical insight. I tired of reading the authors thoughts and beliefs based on her experience. There were good encouragements to walk by faith, humbly, boldly, truthfully, and more, but when I come to a book subtitled “Why God” did something, then I expect to read more about God and less about the author and life experience. I couldn’t in good conscience recommend this book. It is well written. It’s engaging, easy to read, and challenges how we walk by faith, but I expected more Bible and more God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Favorite Children’s Easter Book

There seems to be an endless amount of great children’s books for the Christmas season, but great Easter books are harder to come by. There are a few out there and just today I discovered another that I want to check out, The Story of the Easter Robin. As I’ve searched for great books for this season, there is one that has been my favorite since I found it a couple of years ago.

Easter in the Garden is the story of Micah, a young Jewish boy living in the time of Christ. The author has captured the heart of a boy while giving a glimpse of some Jewish customs, and telling the highlights of the Resurrection story. As the story unfolds, the reader feels the boy’s anticipation, fear, confusion, sorrow, and eventual joy.

The illustrations are very pretty watercolors. David Wenzel captures Micah’s feelings in every expression. My knowledge is limited, but I believe that he’s depicted Jerusalem at the time fairly accurately.

This is one of the moments in the book that makes Micah seem a real boy.

Every year that we have read this book, I have ended up teary-eyed. The author and illustrator have done an incredible job of bringing the story to life from the viewpoint of a young boy. If you haven’t added this one to your collection, I highly recommend it!

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