Friday, April 25, 2014

Uniquely Gifted

I’m working through something difficult right now. I need to determine where my son with autism will start his high school career. I need to make the call on two options for what kind of learning environment he will begin next year with. And the decision rests with me alone.

That had me really down yesterday. I should say that I’ve always been the one who meets with his teachers and therapists. I’m the one who goes to the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings to find out how he’s functioning in school and help determine what kind of support he needs. I’m the one who has done the research on his rights in the public school setting. I’m the one who gathered information and have been since he was two years old and we discovered he was different.

But after I had the information, I had a husband who listened. We’d discuss what I learned and what I heard at meetings and we’d decide together what the best course of action for Ryan was. Most of the time, Kraig would follow my lead, trusting my research and instincts. I’d made myself the expert on Ryan’s special needs. But sometimes he would disagree and I valued his wisdom and input.

Yesterday I was close to tears because that input is gone. He’s in heaven and I’m still here.

I thought I had the best choice ready for Ryan. I’ve got a meeting coming up where we finalize those plans and his schedule for next year. And then I spoke with one of his teachers. Audra is a wonderful woman who pushes Ryan, sometimes to tears, telling him, “I want you to be the best Ryan you can be.” I value her input. And her initial take on my choices was the other one, the one I hadn’t chosen.

I drove away thinking about this and I was scared. What am I going to do? Time is running out and if I choose wrong, the worst case scenario of either will be a) he’s not challenged enough and he loses progress we’ve made OR b) I place him in a stressful environment that frustrates him and sets him back. And then a song came on. It’s one I’ve always loved: Jason Gray’s Remind Me of Who I Am.
When I lose my way, And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see, Is who I don't wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places, When I can't remember what grace is.
Tell me, once again, who I am to You

As I listened to the lyrics of this song, words flowed into my heart as clear as a bell. Not the lyrics this time but words I have encouraged moms with for years. They are my words: “I believe you are uniquely gifted to be the best mom for the children God gave YOU.” I AM uniquely gifted to be the best mom for Ryan. I can do this.

The panic evaporated and the peace replaced it; I came up with a plan. I would seek wise counsel from the regular education teachers who work with him daily. I would weigh the benefits and then choose what I feel is best for Ryan. And then I will monitor it closely, keeping in contact with his teachers next year to make sure whatever choice I go with is helping him be the best Ryan he can be.

Whether you are a mom or dad to a special needs child struggling to make choices you never dreamed of or the parent of neuro-typical kid struggling at a crossroads, let me be your cheerleader. YOU are uniquely equipped to be the BEST mom or dad for this child.

Of all the mommies and daddies possible YOU are the parent God in Heaven, Creator of this child, chose for this child. It may be hard. At times you may want to take the easier path because you are just tired. I get that. Parenting is exhausting. But don’t choose the easy path—choose the best path. Wrestle with the options. Be consistent day in and day out. Ask the God who gave you this child to help you rise to the challenge. You can do this. I can do this.

We are uniquely gifted to be the best parents our children deserve when we trust God and don't give up. It is worth it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Beautiful Power in a Story

She sat across from me in the tea house, this new friend. She with her latte and me with my pot of Scottish tea and we began to share our stories. She went first, sharing a journey of faith and fall, grace and redemption, restoration and glory to the God who used it all to bring her to this place in her life. Throughout I nodded and connected with this woman. I shared some of my story and showed her some of the scars I carry from years in professional ministry. She realized I knew; I understood some of the scars she bears from years in public ministry. And I began to share some of the journey that had brought me here.

During this delightful morning we got to know each other on a deep level, each growing in appreciation for the woman across from us as we heard the resonating theme of God’s direction in our lives. Through the highs and lows we were both women who trusted God and sought to share His love in authentic ways in our circles of influence. A friendship was formed this morning over tea and coffee all because of the beautiful power in a story.

I’ve always loved stories. I’m drawn to books and movies and their ability to transport us to wondrous places. I’ve loved sharing my story and listening to the stories of others. Everyone has a story and each is unique. Most stories have pain somewhere as a thread in them. One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is this: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Our scars can defeat us or they can stand as badges of honor to the lessons we’ve learned and the restorative power of a God who shouts to get our attention.

Recently I started re-watching the TV series LOST with my eldest son. He is becoming quite the Sci-Fi geek. I’m so proud. When the plane disappeared off Malaysia last month, I told him it was eerily like this show and he asked if he could watch it with me. He’d never seen it. One of the most teachable moments he’s gleaned from this show is that everyone has a story—no one is simply two dimensional. Through the art of the flashback to back-stories of the characters in this show, he has connected that people are complex. You have no idea the journey that has helped create the person standing before you. What a powerful lesson.

I pray that God can use my story to help me connect with people. I pray He uses it to shine the truth of His faithfulness to me and the love He has for this world. I am so thankful that my day began with sharing stories with this delightful new friend and excited we immediately made another date to share more. I want to hear more of her story and share with her more of mine.

Everyone has a story and most are longing for someone to share it with. Listening to each other’s stories creates relationship and connection. When we give our stories to Jesus, He can use them to accomplish amazing things. Jason Gray’s song With Every Act of Love has great lyrics in the bridge: “God put a million million doors in this world for his love to walk through, one of those doors is you.” He uses our stories as those doors.

There is beautiful power in each of our stories when we let God use them.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

So much more than a car

It sat there in front of my house virtually shining in the cool, spring sunshine. It was one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever seen--not because of what is was physically but because of what it meant. This 1999 Saturn with hail damage, a tricky ignition, crank down windows, and no power locks was beautiful because God was in how it came to be ours.

I was willing to buy it. They were asking the price that fit in my budget—under what I’d been given by insurance to total out my late-husband’s car at Christmas when another car slid into it. Jaime, a friend, had heard about this car from a woman in her Bible study. The asking price of $1,500 was perfect for my son’s first car. I’m a firm believer everyone’s first car and first apartment should be a little bit dumpy. Then you can move up from there. You have something to appreciate. And, if something happens to it, it’s not that big of a deal.

When Jaime told them about our loss, about Kraig’s death, they changed their minds. They told her there would be no charge. They wanted to honor God by caring for this family going through so much. I wept when she told me. She wept when she told me. Jarod’s car would be free.

When this kind man, this brother in the faith, called to tell me he would be bringing it by in a week, I asked, “Are you sure?” He didn’t hesitate, “Yes. We are sure. We want to do this.” And then he went on to tell me it had snow tires on it and he’d be including four “summer” tires and two extras he just happened to have. I tried to protest that he could sell these but he would hear none of it. He and his wife wanted to do this. They also wanted to give us the name and number of the mechanic who had serviced it over the years. This man was willing to help us out and even show Jarod how to make minor repairs as they came up.

Jaime is my friend who took my hand and looked me in the eyes the day after Kraig died and assured me God would take care of us. She was gifted that day with supernatural faith to trust the impossible was simple for God. I’m thrilled she got to be part of this miracle.

As I’ve moved this week past the seven month mark since he died, the grief still appears sometimes. The kids too still have days when it comes unexpectedly and erodes the sand beneath their feet, temporarily knocking them off balance--but only for a moment. It is getting more infrequent which is good, healthy. Life is going on.

I’m trying to de-clutter and prep our house to put on the market which is hard. What of his things am I ready to part with? What takes my breath away? I need to get projects finished and a kitchen repainted (yuck). And I need to decide what to pack up and what can stay put until we know for sure we’ve got a better home to call ours.

I’ve wrestled a bit with the seemingly insurmountable task of finding a house I will be able to afford in a safe neighborhood that will fit my ever-growing children. It seems impossible I will be able to find something. And then this car appears reminding me nothing is impossible for the God who provides for our needs. God, who tells his followers in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress….” God is sending His people to help care for us when I have no idea how I’ll take care of what’s next.

This is true religion. This is God’s people in action, getting it right. That is why what sits in front of my house today is so much more than a car.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Remember to Breathe

Standing in a half inch of water, stretched across the bathroom holding up the bobber in the back of the toilet to stem the rising flood, and sobbing is NOT how I planned to start my day. Though I’m sure you’ll agree that probably woke me up far better than a cup of tea, it just was not what I was expecting. Seriously though, in retrospect, I really did look like I was trapped in a bizarre game of Twister.

My 15-year-old son had discovered the toilet clogged the night before and had decided he would need to know how to fix that someday so why not now? He’d plunged it and thought it was fixed. I was relieved. Yesterday was a bad day for grief. I was spent so I just took his word for it. In the morning, when he saw it wasn’t quite fixed, he tried again, not wanting to bug me. Only this time the plunger didn’t work. It took him a moment to realize it wasn’t stopping—he needed my help.

By the time I got there, the floor had a good half inch of water. I stepped in with my slippers on and did the only thing I could think of—take the back off the toilet and hold up the floater-thingy so it would stop running. Now what? It’s the answer to that question that started the sobs. Kraig would know, I thought. But Kraig’s not here, came the reply. You need to fix this.

In that moment this was not an overflowing toilet. This was grief personified. This was all that I was missing, all that I had lost. I realized that later in the day as I started to feel ashamed that I’d completely lost it this morning. I was unable to figure out what to do. I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of but still the feeling lingered.

Thankfully my sister, Bethany, knew to tell me to turn off the water under the toilet. Thankfully the man who gives my son a ride told me which plumber to call. Thankfully the plumber who came was a worship leader at a local church, pastored by a lady who works at my radio station. Thankfully, it was a simple fix and when he found out who my husband had been, he offered to shovel the snow on my walk, just to be nice. Thankfully God intervened through people.

That’s a bunch of “thankfully.”

I felt so bad that my tears had stressed my oldest son. But again, I was thankful he helped feed his little sister and that the kids all got ready for school with minimal help from me. I am not a quitter. I am not a weak woman. But when those questions clouded my head, I was helpless for a moment.

I pulled myself together and got the kids off to school. I got the towels and clothing off the floor, soaked in water, and tossed them in the laundry. I brewed another cup of tea waiting for the plumber. And once he was done, I called the high school to see if they’d get a note to Jarod that all was fine. I didn’t want him to be stressed. The secretary sounded like she thought I was nuts. He never got the note.

I’m also thankful today is the day I scheduled to use my massage gift certificate. After all that emotion and stress, I needed it. It was good to relax and focus on the moment. Afterwards Bethany even called with some solid advice—make a how-to book to have on hand so that if an emergency arises, we know the plan. This our new reality. We need a plan to handle whatever may come. Wise words. Good idea.

I can do this. I know that. I have been doing this for the last seven months. I will continue to figure this out and I’m sure I’ll have other days when it all seems impossible…but it’s not. God did not abandon me here. He provides what I need when I need it. I just need to remember in the midst of chaos compounded by grief to take (my other sister) Alisha’s advice: breathe. Take a breath and figure it out. 

Now to go put the bathroom back together.