Saturday, December 19, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We are taking the next two weeks off to enjoy the holidays with our families. We'll return with a new bible study on Wednesday, January 6th.

Thanks so much for reading our blog and joining the discussions. We're looking forward to connecting with you again in the new year.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Spectrum Spirit!

Nicole, Jessica and Chrissy

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 14 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift some one's spirit.)

It's amazing how one little chapter of a book can mean so much to a person. It's also amazing how one prayer in a chapter can totally define a chapter. I do have to warn you all that I, like most of you I'm sure, am feeling the stress and frustation that can come along with this most magical time of the year. This chapter brought it all home to me.

In Chapter 14, Your Secret Weapon, Joyce Meyers gives us the ammunition we need to make it through Satan's games. Here's a re-cap.....she starts off Chapter 14 with a story of Vincent Newfield. God spoke to Vincent one day and clearly told him he would work for Joyce Meyer. Over a time span of about two years, Vincent suffered set backs, let downs, and devastation. He felt the anger and the frustration and couldn't figure out why this wasn't happening. He questioned whether he had really heard from God. But he never gave up. He pressed through all of this doubt, anger and confusion and finally has the job that God told him about. (How awesome that must feel to know what he heard, to know that he obeyed and to be rewarded for his work.) Joyce then encourages us to always press through the anger and frustration. She says that the Bible tells us that we will be angry. On page 194 she writes "Scripture plainly tells us: 'When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.' (Ephesians 4:26)" She then continues with "We can be angry, but we must not stay angry; we can be disappointed, but we need to get reappointed. God will always give us a new beginning when something did not work out the way we planned." One other important point that Joyce makes is that it's so easy to push anger, frustration and others feelings we don't want to deal with, deep inside of us. However the problem is these feelings will eventually begin seeping out. (She makes a wonderful comparison to old nasty smelling food in your refrigerator that eventually spoils and smells up the entire refrigerator.) Joyce then encourages us to not "stuff our stuff". We need to deal with these problems now and not later. On page 197, Joyce says "God uses the truth to set us free (see John 8:32), but it is not the truth about someone else that sets us free, it is the truth about ourselves we need." In other words, we need to deal with our own stuff. We need to lay it all out on the line with God. He already knows how we feel. Joyce encourages us to stop blaming others and look at ourselves instead. Joyce then wraps up Chapter 14, by giving us our secret weapon. She says the best way to get rid of anger, hurt and frustration is to be good to the people who may have contributed to this. On page 201 she writes "God, by Your grace and mercy, I am going to be good to that person. I am not going to tell others what he has done to me. I will not speak ill of that person, but I will pray for him, as You want me to. If I see the person who hurt me, I am going to walk right up to him and say hello. I am going to be kind and obey Your Word and overcome evil with good, by Your grace."

Wow! What a prayer! And you guessed it, that's the prayer that really defined this chapter for me. How true this prayer is! I can name a lot of crazy hurried shoppers who have made my angry list. I'm going to memorize this prayer especially this Christmas season. I mean think about it, if we stay angry at this person and let these feelings inside of us grow, which is just want Satan wants us to do, we will be hindered from doing what God wants us to do. However, if we pray this prayer and let it go, how free we will feel inside! If we keep all of our frustrations inside (which I'm sure if you're like me you have tons of frustrations during Christmas time trying to get everything ready) we'll blow up. I came close to it tonight. I was trying to bake over 7 dozen cookies for a cookie swap. (I've already made a note on next year's calendar to give this whole cookie exchange thing to God to see if He really needs me to do this. Very stressful.) My kids are going crazy telling me what they want for Christmas. My husband calls wanting to know what's for dinner. The dogs want outside. The power bill is due. Oops, garbage day was today. I got to the point where I just slammed my spatula down, yelled at the kids, locked the dogs outside and tuned everything out. That's when God grabbed a hold of my heart and said "Did you just hear Sean tell you what he wants for Christmas?" I immediately thought "yes, he told me last week too. I've got to get these cookies done." Then I hear "But he couldn't tell you last year." It's time to clean out the refrigerator. I realize that for me to get so upset over being pulled in so many directions that I totally miss out on truly appreciating my kids mean there's something deeper going on. So, I pray. That's when I realize that I'm trying so hard to make our Christmas' like "the Joneses" and every other "typical" family out there so that maybe for just one day we don't have to think about autism, what we're eating, what supplements to take, etc...But you know what, no matter how hard I try, my family is not "typical". Even without an autism diagnosis in the family, I still don't think we're typical. I need to let go of this jealousy I have over "typical" families and embrace what God needs me to or their childhood won't be much fun for them. I want my kids to one day tell others how much fun they had as children, like Joyce's husband did to her one day. I want my kids to have the best memories possible. At the same time, I feel like I have so much pressure on me that our "fun" times end up being frustrating. I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that we all want to be good moms. We all want our children to remember how wonderful their childhood was. However, for this to happen, we have to give God our anger, our frustrations and our hurt so that we can raise our kids the way He wants us to raise them instead of letting Satan whisper lies in our ears. Our children with autism can have wonderful childhoods. We just have to help them a little harder to create them.

This is my goal in raise my children the way God wants them to be raised. For them to have a wonderful childhood, for my son with autism to reach his absolute fullest potential (which I believe he'll be healed one day) and most importantly that they know God. There will be days where it seems so far away, but like Vincent Newfield, I'm going to push through the anger, the frustrations, the hurt and even the let downs so that we can get what I believe God has spoken to me.

So, in the midst of one of the busiest seasons of the year, before you start all of your holiday baking, clean our "your refrigerator" so nothing can spoil. Take a break from your cooking and your shopping and be a child again. See the Christmas lights with your kids, go caroling with your kids, even write a letter to Santa from you with your kids. Most importantly, be with your kids. That's the best gift we can give them! (Especially when our fridge is clean!)

Bible Verses:

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,and give thanks to his holy name.For his anger is but for a moment,and his favor is for a lifetime.Weeping may tarry for the night,but joy comes with the morning.
—Psalm 30:4-5

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
—Proverbs 14:29

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
_Romans 8:28

I pray that this Christmas as we all start preparing for our favorite time of the year, You will help us keep our refrigerator cleaned. If we need to clean it out beforehand, please show us this. Help us stay strong in the plan You have for us.
In Your name we pray,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What A Shame!

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 13 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift some one's spirit.)

Shame is such a powerfully negative word to me. When I hear expressions like "You should be ashamed", "What a shame" and "just shameful", I can actually feel myself shrink inside, even if they aren't directed at me. In Chapter 13, Never Be Ashamed, Joyce Meyer makes an important distinction between guilt and shame, which are often confused: "Guilt is a feeling about what you do; shame relates to who you are as a person." (p.181) Shame leads to feelings of great unworthiness, and if we're not careful can get deep down into our soul, giving us a shame-based nature that is an open door for the enemy.

Two of the five elements of the shame-based nature identified by Joyce that reasonate with me the most are perfectionism and false or excessive responsibility. These two pitfalls present themselves whenever I am faced with something that I feel is important or if I feel that I could have done something better. For me, these two relate to one another. In certain situations I will put a great deal of pressure on myself beforehand or do a number on myself afterward. This autism journey brings these both to the forefront and forces me to confront these tendencies head-on. I'll start with perfectionism: I have always strived for approval and achievement and for many years my ability to meet these high standards completely determined my self-worth. Once I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued to try to live up high expectations. When things don't turn out the way I expect them to, my first thought is sometimes, "What didn't I do right?" or "What should I have done better?". This leads me right into false or excessive responsibility. I have guilt over not having had more knowledge when my son was a baby about how environmental and biomedical factors could likely have contributed to his developing autism. Now that I have this knowledge, I feel that I must share it in the hopes of preventing others from this type of loss. If they choose not to take the information that I offer, I have to make a conscious effort to then distance myself so that I don't bear excessive responsibility for their choices.

The good news is that God shows us a way to overcome these tendencies. We need to dwell on what the Bible says about who we are, not on our feelings. For me, these tendencies cause me to focus on myself too much instead of on God. This opens the door for the enemy to feed me lies, and steal my strength, focus and joy. God wants us to be free to be who He made us to be, unashamed. On page 188, Joyce cautions us to make sure that we aren't the victims of "identity theft" by reminding us who we are in Christ: "You are a child of God. His power is in you and He will enable you to do whatever you need to do in life. You are a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). You have an assignment from God and a great future. Your past has been washed away in the blood of Jesus. You are awesome-totally, absolutely awesome!"(Joyce Meyer, p.188)

Bible Verses:

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"
-Romans 8:1

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
-2 Corinthians 5:17

"Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
-2 Corinthians 5:21

"Yea, none that wait for thee shall be put to shame: They shall be put to shame that deal treacherously without cause. "
-Psalm 25:3

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."
-1 John 4:4

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Satan and his dirty dirty tricks!

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 12 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift some one's spirit.)

I've got to hand it to him, when it comes to deceiving people, that is one thing Satan is good at doing. He knows how to get into our heads and stop us from growing as Christians. He doesn't want us getting closer and closer to God. He wants us to be further and further away from God. The easiest way for Satan to do this is through guilt. He knows if he can put that one thought in our head that makes us feel guilty, it puts a hold on us that can stop us dead in our tracks.

In Chapter 12, Your Own Worst Enemy, Joyce Meyer teaches us how we can be our own worst enemies. As human beings, we all make mistakes. We are all guilty of doing something that we are not proud of. There are three main points that I got out of this chapter that I'd like to share with you.

"Many times, the guilt we feel over our mistakes is much worse than the mistakes themselves." page 168 Joyce Meyer

"No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to live without making mistakes." page 169 Joyce Meyer

"You can enjoy life and have the strength to keep going if you learn to repent quickly, receive forgiveness quickly and quickly get back to doing what you are supposed to do." page 173 Joyce Meyer

The main thing I learned from this chapter is that a guilty conscious has no place in my life nor any other Christians life. As Joyce said, we all make mistakes. We're human. What's important is that we learn from them, repent, receive forgiveness and move on. Sounds simple, right? I really wish it was that simple. However, there is someone else in this world who likes to torment us and keep us as far away as possible from God. His name is Satan and he's got a big bag full of tricks bigger to do this. He knows what each of us feel guilty about. Then he'll whisper it in our ear just at the right moment to try to trick us. He's really good at it. But what we have to remember is that God is even bigger, better and stronger than Satan. He will help us through Satan's games. We need to know scripture by heart so that when these guilty feelings overcome us, we can swoosh them away quickly. To me, it's like when Satan tempted Jesus for 40 days. (Matthew 4:1-11. See below.) Satan tempted and tried very hard to trick Jesus. However, Jesus answered and fought each of these temptation with scriptures. That is what we need to remember today. Satan is still among us today tempting us and trying to trick us. We need the Word of God to help us through these games. How many times do you think Satan has put the guilty thoughts in our heads to keep us from growing as Christians? Too many. It's time that we realize our past mistakes are just that, in the past. God forgives us. We need to forgive ourselves as well and move on quickly to what God has planned for us.

Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)
The Temptation of Jesus 1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

Dear Lord,
I thank you for every life that was brought together through this blog. Thank you for the new friendships being formed and the ones yet to be formed. Lord, I lift up each and every one of us as we continue our journey through autism with our children. I pray that you show us through Your Word how to clear our minds of any guilt that can be hindering our growth to You. Thank you for giving us Your protection through all of this.
In Your name we pray,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In With the New

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 11 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I don't know about you but I'm always a little bit uneasy when I'm driving somewhere new for the first time. I've always been good at reading maps, have a good sense of direction, and now benefit from the invention of the GPS. Still, there are always the thoughts of getting lost, not getting where I need to be on time, getting stuck in traffic or somewhere it isn't safe. Prior to autism and special needs, every doctor my children saw was no more than fifteen minutes from our home. First, we brought my son to a pediatric allergist who was 30 minutes away. Gradually, more doctors were added to our agenda. For the past year, we sought out the help of a neurodevelopmental pediatrician who was 145 miles from our home. Last month, we drove to bring him to a specialist that was over 600 miles away. There are always challenges to work out, but we always arrive at our destination safe and sound. This is just one of many ways that autism has forced me out of my comfort zone. Each step takes us in a new direction that helps us to bring him closer to health and healing.

Never in my life have I needed to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as much as I do now. I often feel bombarded by potential ways to help my son and could easily not know where my focus should be. Though I have learned alot in my two years into the autism journey, there is still so much more that I want to know about. As I work to find and put together all the missing pieces, I must also muddle through the day-to-day stressors of sick children, regressions, school/therapist issues, sustaining my marriage, keeping up with my home and whatever else life throws at me. On page 155, Joyce states, "We have dreams and goals that we want to pursue, but we also need solutions to the challenges that we experience along the way. If we know what to do, then we need to do it; if we don't , then we have the privilege of trusting God to guide us."

In Try Something New, Joyce gives great examples from the Bible about the blessings of following God into new places in Joshua and in Moses. Moses was initially reluctant to speak out to Pharoah and tried to take action too quickly, out of God's timing. God worked with Moses over time and was able to use him to lead his people out of slavery and into freedom. Joshua was chosen by God to continue what Moses began and take the Israelites into the Promised Land. Through Joshua, the people followed God's will by following the ark of the covenant, which contained the ten commandments and manna.

Joyce reminds us that we "follow the ark" when we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us. (p. 156) She goes on to share insights to help determine whether we are following God's lead by suggesting: The first question we need to ask when we face a new situation is, "Is this God's will for me?" The second is "Do I have inner peace about this?" We also need to ask ourselves if we sense His presence in the new situation. If we believe it is God's will, we can trust God to provide everything we need each step of the way. (p. 156) Once we have discerned which path God wants us to take, we need to follow it by taking step after step in obedience. Sometimes this means going to God for guidance instead of getting a "consensus" from everyone in my life about what I should do, or as Joyce points out on page 159, being willing to say no to others or myself sometimes.

I have always been a "planner" and it doesn't take more than a mere suggestion to get my wheels turning and for me to try and "see" how it's all supposed to work out. Joyce put this in perspective for me on page 159, when she states, "We must be careful that we are not planning and praying that our plan will work, when we should be praying first and then following God's plan." Wow, I think that needs to be on my refrigerator.

It seems to me that the important thing to remember is that although it is often scary, we may feel inadequate or tempted to give up, and will most certainly have derailment attempts from the enemy, we must always remember that it is always best to do what God leads us to do. It is comforting to me to know that as I set out to do what sometimes feels like the impossible, God is with me and will finish what He has set out to accomplish.

Bible verses:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
-Joshua 1:9

So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"
-Hebrews 13:6

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song."
-Psalm 28:7

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Stories Behind the Testimonies

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 10 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

We all love a good testimony. It's so wonderful as followers of Christ to see how others got to where they are today. To see how God has made a tremendous impact on their life. To see the miracles that we are waiting on actually come true for others. What we don't see are all of the stories behind each testimony. The stories on how each person went through different trials and tests to be who they are today. The stories of hardship that God used to truly shape their lives. It's nice to see the end result. However, if you're like me and you're waiting for that awe-factor to come through in your testimony, you want to hear how these believers pulled through when it was tough. Knowing that others are going through or have gone through a test or a trial helps me know that it's possible to pass this test with flying colors.

In Chapter 10, Testimony Begins with T-E-S-T, Joyce Meyer talks about the importance of our testimonies and how "no one ever has a testimony without a test." (page 142) I love how on page 142 Joyce also reminds us that "everything God permits us to go through will ultimately be good for us..." I take a lot of comfort in knowing that through this all, God is here with me and as long as I let Him, He will guide me through each of these tests. He has the answers for me. If I study (the Bible) for my tests/trials, I will be able to soar right through them. If not, I will struggle just to make it through the end of the test.

I think back on the past 7 years of my life and all of the tests and trials that I've encountered since then. I can see how these tests/trials have made me who I am today. In chapter 10, Joyce shares with us the five most common tests that we will face throughout our lives.

The "Get Over It" Test
If we're all honest, this is a hard test to pass. This is the test where you can get over it quickly when someone hurts your feelings or offends you. Forgiveness is the key to passing this test. How hard it is though to forgive and forget when someone offends us autism moms. I've heard countless stories on how friends have been told that they need to discipline their children with autism better, how we need to just love them more, how they need to apologize for something they have no idea what they've done wrong and one of my personal favorites the way friends and family can make us feel when they are doubting our decisions of diet, biomedical, therapies and vaccinations. I feel offended with this and I will be the first to admit, I have a hard time forgiving. Sure I'm nice to them but as soon as I get a chance to prove how wrong they are, I do. I know instead I need to forgive and move on. I love the prayer that Joyce included in this section on page 146...."God, I choose to believe the best. My feelings are hurt, but You can heal me. I refuse to be bitter; I refuse to be angry; I refuse to be offended." Joyce goes on and explains how we as Christians must be good at forgiving and how this is something we will be doing for a long time. I think that forgiveness does a lot for a person. I know when I forgive someone I honestly don't think about the situation anymore. I move on. I'm not consumed with hurt or worry or anything else that may be keeping me from doing what God needs for me to be doing in that moment. It's amazing how truly freeing it can feel to forgive even the littlest comment that offends us.

The "Judas Kiss" Test
This test goes back to the story of Judas' betrayal with a kiss to Jesus. This is how Judas revealed who Jesus is. Joyce mentions how this tests happens in a lot of churches where pastors spend a lot of time training, mentoring and ministering to young men in their congregation to help them grow. Only to have these men leave the church and take some of the members with them. I'll be honest with you, I don't think I've had this test in my life before. Have you? If so, please share with us in the comments section. I'd love to learn more about this test. Maybe I need to see if from a different angle to see that I have truly already taken this test.

The "Motive" Test
On page 149, Joyce says "I like to define a motive as 'the why behind the what'. A motive is the reason we do what we do. We often say we are doing things for God, but sometimes we do not understand why we do them." I really enjoyed reading about this test. I know that sounds odd but it really made me think about different things that I do in life and why I do it. You see, I am a people pleaser. I care what others think, I worry about what others think and I will strap myself volunteering for things to the point where I am utterly exhausted to make others happy. Here, Joyce taught me to stop and ask myself "why am I doing this" with just about everything I agree to. Then I will know if I am truly doing this for God or am I doing this because of status or to make others think better of me. You see, if we're doing it to help others that is good but it has got to be from God. Each time I agree to drop off a dinner to someone who is sick, volunteer at school or church or anything else I'm going to stop and ask the questions that Joyce wrote on page 150. I encourage you to do the same. I'll bet we find ourselves with a lot of free time that God will need.

The "Loving The Unlovely" Test
This is truly a hard test but I love this test. I have several of these kind of people in my life. It's hard to hold a conversation with them. It's hard to wrap ourselves around them so that they can feel the love of Jesus. But you know what? I was one of these people at one point in my life. Fortunately for me, I had a true friend who "loved the unlovely" and showed me Jesus. That's what we need to keep remembering. When the test gets really tough, pray that He will show us how we can help this particular person and what we can do to show His love.

The "Test of Time"
When I first read the title of this section, I thought Joyce was going to talk about the "everything happens according to his timing" idea. Then I realized it was something even bigger. It's the test of how long we will be faithful to God. A day? A week here and there? An hour? What will our answers be for this test? I'm going to strive for my entire life. I know that through this "Test of Time" there will be all of the tests mentioned above. To me, it's worth it. I know that He is with me and I know that He is shaping my life into the life He needs it to be. If I get distracted during these tests and I'm not answering correctly, I'll pick myself back up again and keep taking the tests until I pass with flying colors.

I think about all of the tests that we, as autism moms, face on a daily basis. I know it's hard. I know it's scary. I also know it's very rewarding. I know that God sees all of our struggles, our dedications and our faith in Him. I also know that one day our God is going to look at us and say "Well done my good and faithful servant." Matthew 25:23

Thank you for this wonderful chapter and incredible book. Thank you for bringing us all together on this blog to help learn more about You and how we can do better for You. I pray that You will help us all be strong during our times of testing. Help us know the right answers to these tests so that we can go through them quickly and grow to be the person You need us to be.
In Your Name we pray,

Bible Verses
These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold––and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. -1 Peter 1:7

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections. -Psalm 26:2

[God says], do not fear, for I am with you;do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Past the Roadblocks

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 9 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Joyce Meyer begins Chapter 9, Overcoming the Obstacles to Success with an interesting and insightful story about a very smart donkey. The donkey fell into a deep well. His owner, the farmer didn't know what to do and decided to bury the donkey in the well. He figured that the donkey was old and it would be too much trouble to try and get him out. The amazing thing is that every time a shovelful of dirt fell on the donkey, he shook it off and climbed on top of it. Eventually, the dirt that was intended to bury him was used to eventually lead the donkey to climb out of the well. Who knew we could learn so much from a donkey! Joyce uses this to encourage us to "let the circumstances that could suffocate you be the very situations that strengthen you and raise you to a new level". (p.127) Every time we encounter a disappointment or endure an especially difficult period, we can use this principle. Once it is behind us, or under our feet, we can move onward and upward, closer to where we need to be. Looking at it this way, I've got quite a few illnesses, regressions, doctors, professionals, IEP meetings and other difficult learning curves under my feet. Learning from, making the best of, and sometimes just plain surviving is also a victory and just as valuable as a big gain is when it comes to getting my son to where he needs to be. It's also so important to take into account the work that God is doing in me, the qualities He's honing and skills that I wouldn't learn otherwise, not to mention the ripple effect of lives that are touched by our journey through autism.

Joyce identifies seven obstacles that Satan uses to block us from persevering to our victory. They are: The Temptation to Quit, Personal Problems, Rejection, Wanting Too Much Too Soon, Inconvenience, Jealousy and Selfishness. As we've seen in previous chapters, it is often when we are on the brink of a major breakthrough that the enemy pulls out all the stops to try and get us to give up. I think that at different times, I have been guilty of falling prey to just about all of these. Fortunately she also gives us great ways to combat these roadblocks so that they don't derail us. It's sometimes hard to remember that pushing past these kinds of obstacles glorifies God, show's His hand and makes the victories that much sweeter.

The Temptation to Quit
: I think this one ties in and relates to all the others. This journey through autism is by no means fair or reasonable. Throughout our struggles there are many seemingly legitimate reasons to not push through and continue with what we believe God wants us to do individually. Joyce recommends that we are to immediately turn to God in prayer and resist this at the very instant the temptation to quit hits us. On page 130, she states, "Be sure that you work with God and pray that you won't surrender to the temptation to give up. Ask Him to help you to finish what He has called you to do, be all He wants you to be, do all He wants you to do, and have all He wants you to have."

Personal Problems
: Have you ever noticed that personal problems often come at the most inopportune times, detracting from where you believe God wants you to focus? On page 131, Joyce states, "To be people who remain determined and diligent, we must learn how to make it through times of personal pain." She does clarify this to add that there will be times where we simply can't keep a commitment and that is the right decision. But, in every situation possible, it is so very important to keep our word, and continue doing what God sets for us to do, especially when we can help someone else.

When we step out in faith we will often have to endure criticism or may even lose a few friends. Joyce states on page 132 "We need to remember that we may not please people all the time, but if we please God, that is what really matters." God is teaching me about this in my own life, little by little. I'm learning that overcoming this will not only help me get closer to my goal, but will also leave me with a sense of self-worth that is unshakable. I think that having full confidence that you are doing what God wants you to do and full knowledge of His love for you is such an amazing gift.

Wanting Too Much Too Soon:
Once I got to this part, I felt the need to underline, highlight and star this section because this is definitely a trap that I fall into. I am probably most guilty of trying to get ahead of myself and God, doing too much too fast and not having the patience to wait for Him to lead me. Joyce puts this into perspective beautifully on page 135, "Eagerly embrace the times of teaching and preparation He takes you through, even when it seems painfully slow. Don't long for too much too fast, be thankful every day that God is bringing growth, expansion, and new opportunities your way in His perfect timing."

: It is amazing how much we have at our fingertips so easily. We are able to accomplish and learn more in a shorter period of time than ever before. Sometimes we expect this to mean that we won't have to face as much difficulty. Joyce reminds us of how God can use every difficulty for our benefit when she states on page 136, "He made you in such a way that the best comes out of you when you face hard situations and you experience joy and strength when you overcome them."

This is one that we really don't like about ourselves. This is especially devious because it turns us against eachother as women and mothers, when we can accomplish so much more as allies. It is also a good way for the devil to take our focus off of what will help us. On page 137, Joyce writes, "Part of overcoming the obstacle of jealousy is trusting God enough to believe that His plan for each of us is perfect."

At first I thought, "But how can we be considered selfish? So many mothers give up and sacrifice so much for the benefit of their children." Joyce reminds us about the nature of our flesh, stating "It says that feeling good right now is more valuable than living a disciplined, committed lifestyle that will result in the achievement of our goals and the fulfillment of our destinies." (p.139) We have to remember that our enemy will use anything he possibly can to keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

Thank you so much for each mother that is a part of this study and for this wonderful book by Joyce Meyer. Thank you for your faithfulness to our children and in our journey to be in closer relationship to You. Help us to recognize and triumph over the things that keep us from you and your purpose for our lives. Give us the wisdom, patience and strength to persevere in our efforts to help our children. Teach us to see how You work in all situations and give us the faith that is needed for complete trust in Your perfect and wonderful plan for our lives. May we always be brave enough to follow where you will lead us. We ask all of these things in your name, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Being Successful at Never Giving Up

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 8 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In our previous chapters of Never Give Up!, Joyce Meyer gave us so much hope and encouragement to Never Give Up. She really lit a fire under me to draw closer to God and to push through this difficult journey with autism. Finally, in Chapter 8, she really gave me the tools I need to stay focused, committed to God and to not give up.

In Chapter 8, The Keys to Success, Joyce Meyer gives us the four important keys to success. They are commitment, determination, waiting on the Lord, and taking time to be refreshed and renewed. I'd like to spend a few moments this week discussing each of these keys and how we can use them during our difficult moments in autism and in life.

Commitment...."Without commitment, people give up easily; they have no staying power at all. If you want to be one who never gives up, commitment is the key." Joyce Meyer page 109
I think about our lives with autism. I'm sure they are very similar in many ways. I'm also sure that they are very different as well. On thing is that is similar in all of our lives is we have a child who is desperately counting on us to be committed to helping them through this. Even when the days are tough, heck even when the weeks are tough, we have to find it in us to be 110% committed to helping our children. Joyce encourages us to get the "radical commitment." On page 111 she writes "This is the kind of commitment that stays steady and strong throughout the course of a lifetime, and I hope it is the kind of commitment you develop in your life. You may not have it down perfectly, but if you want to move on with God and be blessed in your life, you need this kind of radical commitment-the kind that follows through even when times are tough, when you feel alone or rejected, or when circumstances look bad." In other words, on the months where money is beyond tight, on the days where you feel no one else can possibly know what it's like raising your child who has autism, and in those moments when you feel like your son will always have autism, you stay committed. God has you exactly where He wants you. You trust in Him. You commit to Him and you commit yourself to your child. You push forward to the next day and the next to help your child be the best he can possibly be. Most importantly, do what Joyce says to do when it gets really tough, "learn to say form the core of your being 'Nothing is going to shake my commitment in this situation. I am going to see it through to the finish. I will not give up, no matter what." (page 111)

Determination...."When we receive Christ as our Savior we receive God's Spirit; we receive a new "want-to", a determination that enables us to achieve goals and pursue dreams that seem impossible." -Joyce Meyer page 112
Here, Joyce tells us a story about a young boy named Ben. Ben did not perform well in school. He went through a time in his life where he had uncontrollable anger and a bad temper. His mom knew something had to be done so she prayed. She prayed that God would show her what she needed to do to help Ben. She then did as God showed her. Ben ended up graduating from high school with honors, went to Yale University, then to medical school at the University of Michigan, completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Maryland and in his early 30's he became the director of pediatric neurosurgery. This story is so inspiring to me. Not only because it's a story about a young boy who went from being labelled a "dummy" by his fellow classmates to a neurosurgeon, but also because of his mother's will to never give up on him. She covered her son in prayer and listened to what God needed her to do. I believe that's what God wants us to do for our children as well. Pray that God will show us what He needs us to do for our children. Pray that He will show us what supplements or therapies to do. We need to stay determined to help our children. I love how on page 114 Joyce writes "If you are determined enough, nobody-no evil force from hell, no person on earth-can stop you from being successful. If you will obey God and do what He tells you to do, and if you will be determined to outlast the devil every single time he comes against you, then nothing will be able to keep you from reaching your goals."

Waiting on the Lord..."When success does not come easily, when we find ourselves frustrated and weary in our efforts, we need to wait for the Lord." -Joyce Meyer page 118
That's where I feel like I'm at right now, waiting on the Lord. I'll be honest with you, my son just turned 7 last month and this is not where I thought we'd be. Even when they gave us his diagnosis four years ago, I always thought by the time he was 5 he'd catch up to his twin brother. Then when he turned 5 my thoughts turned to he'd catch up by the time he was 7. He's now 7. Don't get me wrong. I am so thankful and feel so incredibly blessed by him and all of the progress he's made. However, my dream of my son being completely healed from autism is not working out to my timing. I believe God is trying to pull me closer to Him during this time and something is keeping me from getting closer. I'm not sure what. But, after reading this chapter, I'm going to spend more time waiting on Him. I am thankful that Joyce included in this chapter what exactly it means to "wait on the Lord" because I really needed some help with this. On page 118 Joyce says "it simply means spending time with Him, being in His presence, meditating on His Word, worshipping Him, keeping Him at the center of our lives." She then writes "While we wait, we need to aggressively expect God to do great things in us and in our lives." I believe that God still wants me to research all of the different therapies, supplements and biomedical treatments out there for my son. I also believe he wants me to spend as much time as I possibly can playing and being there with him. I don't think that by "waiting" for Him, He just wants me to do nothing. He wants me to continue doing what I'm doing for my son but take the time to be with my Father as well so that I know what He needs for me to do. I also know that for me, the more time I spend with God, the better my attitude, my outlook and my emotions are. Remember what Joyce says on page 121..."Waiting on the Lord does not have to be complicated. Just put Him at the top of your priority list. He wants you to have and enjoy a quality of life you may be missing because you are not spending time with Him."

Renewal..."If we don't take time for renewal, we are in danger of reacting to our circumstances emotionally, which always means responding without wisdom and often contributes to making bad situations even worse." -Joyce Meyer page 122
I don't know about you guys but by 7:30pm, I'm done. I've got to get my kids into bed and quick. I try to do it in a very nurturing Mrs Cleaver way, but most time it ends up with me rushing them to bed so that I can have what I think is my "renewal" time. I turn on my favorite shows and just totally forget about everything around me. There, I've had my renewal time, right? Wrong! I've learned a lot lately about what my body needs for renewal. The top three things are sleep, healthy eating and exercise. If I do all of these, I feel rejuvenated! At least physically. Emotionally, not. Joyce has shown me how much more renewal my spirit needs. I need time alone with God. I need to try to fast. (Probably not 40 days but I'm sure I can try a shorter one.) I need to turn off all of my electronics and just be with Him. (He can make me feel a whole lot better than an episode of Oprah, and I love me some Oprah!) Joyce writes on page 123 "We need times of real quiet because we can connect with God in awesome ways in those places of deep peace and quiet." I believe that this can help me get even closer to God.

We all get to the breaking point where we just don't know if we can go on. Autism can be extremely draining. However, we have our child and God counting on us. We can use these four keys to success that Joyce gives us to help us press forward. When it gets tough and we feel ourselves wanting to give up, let's say to ourselves what Joyce writes on page 115....

"Oh no, you don't! Stop your whining and straighten up right this minute!"-Joyce Meyer

Bible Verses
So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]. Isaiah 26:4

Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness. Psalm 31: 5

Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psa. 27:14

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's Your Bottom Line?

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 7 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In Chapter 7, Never Give Up On What's Important to You, Joyce Meyer challenges us to identify and strengthen our resolve to not lose sight of what matters the most to us. For me, this was easy, the answer is recovering and healing my son from all that holds him back and helping him to live the best life he possibly can. This is the harvest I hope one day to reap and will continue to strive toward, regardless of what comes against me or how long it may take. It's nice to know that I don't have to give up on the possiblity of him having a happy, healthy and full life. Throughout the chapter, Joyce relates the story of Nehemiah, who persevered, battled and held firm in his faith to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, regardless of what his enemies said, did, or how long it took to accomplish. I believe that in this same way we are rebuilding our children's lives. We may not be laying bricks, but step by step, one skill, goal, and triumph at a time we partner with others make this happen in their lives. In the end, Nehemiah was victorious and I believe we can be too.

The journey through autism is quite a storm and Joyce gives us some great and practical strategies to weather this storm as it rages, not lose our strength or focus and remain faithful to the work God has called us to do. First, she recommends that we take cover. On page 94, she writes, "The first place you need to run when a storm hits your life is to the secret place of the Most High, the presence of God. Read His Word; pray; worship Him; tell Him you trust Him as the winds of adversity blow." She goes on further to say that when we do this, we are actually building a wall of protection against the enemy. When we praise God we are able to wield a powerful weapon that will render the enemy powerless against us. Nehemiah and his workers kept at the task of building the wall while wearing their swords. When we praise God and thank Him for every good thing He has done in our lives we are doing the exact same thing.

Expect Opposition: Joyce reminds us that we will often face opposition, ridicule and objections from others as we press toward our goal. Let's face it, being a mother invites judgement, weren't we the ones that were originally blamed for our children's autism ("refrigerator moms")? Thank God those days are behind us, but the fact is we still will face criticism from others who don't understand or support the choices we think are best. Joyce gives some great advice about how to handle this on page 98: Just stand through that storm; hold your peace; and keep doing what you believe in your heart to be right. I have a visual about staying in God's peace, as if it is an invisible shield that surrounds me. I will sometimes remind myself not to step outside of where God wants me, to stay in His peace.

Refuse to Settle: I find that it can be so easy to be sidetracked by the doubts that enter my mind when the going gets tough. In the "What a Mess" section, I thought about how many times I've thought, "What a mess my son's health is", "What a huge developmental gap he has to bridge". There have been times where the facts of his situation hit me particularly hard, as when I'm going into great detail about his medical history with a new doctor or specialist. These are from the enemy and are designed to get me off track, off kilter and steal my strength and focus. I have to consciously remind myself that there is often a difference between "the facts" and "the truth". The facts may be saying that I have an insurmountable mountain in front of me, but the truth is in God's word, and I am "more than a conqueror". (Romans 8:37)

Bible Verses:

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "
-Ephesians 6: 13-17

"'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
-Jeremiah 29:11

"You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows."
-Psalm 23: 5

"For nothing is impossible with God."
-Luke 1:38

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Spirit Behind the Brooklyn Bridge

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 6 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Brief Re-cap of Chapter 6 The Conquerer's Spirit

Joyce Meyer opens up Chapter 6 with a story of determination, courage and strength behind the men who built the Brooklyn Bridge. John Roebling was inspired to build a bridge that connected New York City to Brooklyn. John and his son, Washington, set out to build this bridge. A tragic accident took the life of John, however Washington was determined to move on and get the job done. Years later, Washington was injured and despite brain damage that kept him from walking, talking and even moving he found a way to finish his work. It took over 11 years, but through the help of his wife, he was able to use finger taps to communicate with his wife and his engineers to tell them how to finish building the Brooklyn Bridge. He never gave up. Joyce immediately says that Washington Roebling had "the spirit of the conqueror." She goes on saying "No matter what you go through in life, if you have the spirit of the conqueror and you really know who you are in Christ and truly believe God is on your side, you do not have to be daunted or overwhelmed by any difficulty you may face." (page 81) To have the spirit of a conquerer, there are six things we must do: resist the devil, start strong and finish well, don't be led astray by difficulties, deal with your difficulties and do it for God. At the end of this chapter, Joyce writes "if you face them (difficulties) head-on and press past the adversities you encounter, refusing to give up in the midst of them and moving forward with the spirit of a conqueror, you will develop the skills and determination needed to be everything you were created to be and experience everything God intends for you." (page 90)

The Brooklyn the past, when I heard someone mention this I have always thought of the New York City skyline, I would think of Brooklyn, I would even hear my mom saying "if your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you follow them?" Never growing up have I heard this remarkable story of the spirit behind the Brooklyn Bridge. The love that a son had for his father that he would finish his dream for him, the determination this son had to finish this job even when physically it was impossible, the love and the patience of this man and his wife to learn how to communicate with each other. Now when I think the Brooklyn Bridge I think of what Joyce calls a "Conquerer" and I am more motivated then ever to become a "Conquerer" of autism. My tough days, when all I want to do is crawl back into bed, will still be there but if I remember the six steps mentioned above, I can get through those days that much easier. You know, I had one of those days the other day. I was consumed with worry over whether I should continue homeschooling my son Sean. Sean communicates well, plays pretty good and is getting better and better each month. But we still have our set backs. He can't tell me if someone is picking on him, he has his days where all he wants to do is what I call "scripty play." (This is where he'll become a character from a show and act out the show with props.) Pretty functional I think but then the thought enters my mind. "But it's not what other 7 year olds are doing. He's 7 years old. He's never going to catch up." Now, I don't know about you guys but I know this thought is from Satan himself. Usually, I can get those thoughts out of my head quickly. However, there are those days that I call the "oh woe is me" days where I let it roll and roll and roll and the next thing you know I am giving up. I think about stopping the diet. I think about stopping home school. I think about throwing out the supplements. It would just be easier to give up.

I am so thankful for this chapter. I am so thankful for people like Washington Roebling who didn't give up. I am thankful for his wife who didn't give up on learning how to communicate with him. Even more importantly, I am thankful for Jesus and his determination to never give up even when He had a tough day. (Joyce mentions this as well on page 84) If they can do this, I have to do this. So that one day my son can say how thankful he is for a mom who never gave up, was determined to help him reach his full potential and faced those difficulties head-on. Like Joyce says on page 84 "That does not mean that what he (Paul) endured wasn't difficult; it simply means it did not stop him."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Paying the Price

Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 5 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In chapter 5, It'll Cost You, Joyce Meyer gives some great examples of incredible victories attained by people who were willing to push past obstacles and difficulties of every kind. She begins with Wilma Rudolph, the unbelievable female athlete who persevered against illness, poverty and physical pain to become an Olympic gold medalist. Marian Hammaren walks through unimaginable grief and personal pain after her only child is killed in the Virginia Tech massacre to get to a place of strength and depth in her relationship with God and others who suffer such loss. Aron Ralston first saves himself and a friend during an avalanche, then goes on to successfully amputate his own arm after it is trapped under a boulder. Joyce even shares some of her own journey, as she triumphs in every area of her life despite a past that included sexual, mental and emotional abuse. In all of these examples, someone was willing to push through unthinkable physical and unseen obstacles to get to the reward that God had in store for them.

The Greater the Challenge, The Greater the Reward
: Joyce challenges us to change the way we view our obstacles and consciously choose to respond to them in ways that are honorable to God and reflect our faith in His plan for our lives. She identifies a need for balance in our approach to growth, making right choices (especially when it's hard to do), remaining disciplined, being consistent and choosing not to settle. If we do these things, we won't give up or give in when the going gets tough and will be blessed beyond what we could imagine for ourselves. I can see clearly how each of these attributes can be applied as I work toward my own personal victory in triumphing over autism. As mothers, we are continually challenged to stretch beyond what is considered reasonable and comfortable to meet the needs of our family and help our children reach their fullest potential. Giving our all involves an everyday price of personal sacrifice, discipline, personal growth, willpower, consistency and perseverance. We push past exhaustion, discouragement, regressions, illness, sleep deprivation, ignorance and our own fears, knowing that God will be our strength and the end result will be greater than the struggle. We do all of these things in faith that we will reap a great reward in the lives of our children. There is no greater joy for the mother of an autistic child than to see her child triumph in spite of whatever difficulty has held them back. To us, there are no such things as "small gains", every step forward is a precious gift that is never taken for granted.

You may have noticed that the mom I just described sounds more like a superhero than a regular person and is expected to have strength beyond what most people can fathom. We have to lean and rely fully and completely on God to renew our strength, guide us and provide for all that we need to do this important job. When we do this, we will have the strength to keep going when we feel we can't and can endure until we see our reward. On page 64, Joyce reminds us: The Bible says that when we wait on God our strength is renewed as the eagle (see Isaiah 40:31). To wait on God means to expect Him to do what needs to be done, to lean on and rely on Him. We must make personal decisions to press through, but we never experience success in anything unless we are relying on God to help us.

Making Right Choices Anyway
: This stuck out to me personally as a key to being able to push past obstacles. This is a matter of discipline and discernment that I am learning about in my own life so that I don't get stuck or tempted to give up when adversity or trials set in. On pages 65-66, Joyce identifies the need to push through obstacles of every kind, those that are physical or tangible and those that are unseen. A common thread in the other characteristics she identifies: balance, discipline, consistency and not settling is in the way we make our choices. Regardless of how we feel, we have to make godly choices in our conduct and attitude, especially when it is difficult (and also when it's "justifiable" not to). This often means making the "harder" choice. Joyce reminds us on page 63 that "When we do what we know is right when it is difficult, uncomfortable or inconvenient, we grow spiritually and we are strengthened. We may have to do what is right for a long time before we feel it is 'paying off', but if we stay faithful and refuse to give up, good results will come."

Bible Verses:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." -Isaiah 40:31

"He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."-Jeremiah 17:8

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12: 1-2

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fear Factor

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 4 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Remember that show Fear Factor? It's the game show/reality show where contestants confronted their deepest fears head on. Whether it was jumping from one tall building to the next or being trapped in a glass container full of bees, the contestants faced their fears. When I first read the title of Chapter 4, confronting your fears, I immediately thought of Fear Factor. Why shouldn't we be like these contestants and face our fears head on?

Joyce Meyer breaks fear down into seven different fears that we must confront and how to confront them. They are as follows:
1. Fear of What People Think
2. Fear of Criticism
3. Fear of Not Pleasing God
4. Fear of Making the Wrong Decision
5. Fear of Missing God
6. Fear of Change
7. Fear of Sacrifice

For me, my biggest fear to confront is Fear of What People Think. For some reason, this has always been an issue for me. I remember in elementary, middle and high school, being so obsessed with what others thought about me or my decisions that I rarely made the right ones. In fact, a lot of times I ended up hurting those who loved me the most and weren't judging me. I remember in college wanting to find that perfect guy but was so worried about what they would really think about me that I rarely let anyone know the real me. Luckily, I found the one who was willing to wait and was so supportive and comforting that it was easy to be me. Once we married, I worried what others would think if they overheard us arguing, or if he wasn't wearing his wedding ring what would our family think or worse yet, after we had twins I was constantly worried that others would see me as a bad mom. So, you can imagine the fears that went through me after our son was diagnosed with autism. Do people think it's my fault? Do the teachers see how hard I work with him? Does this old lady in the grocery store think I'm a bad mom because my son is screaming for ice cream?

This is one of the big things that autism has taught let go of the fear of what other people think. It's taken me about 4 years, but I've almost kicked this fear out the door. I have to admit, when my son who is now 7 gets mad he screams. At home, behind closed doors where no one is watching, I can handle this like a pro. It doesn't bother me and honestly he gets over it in about 2 seconds. However, if we're out in public or even if our windows are open and someone just so happens to be walking by our home, it turns into a big struggle. Mainly because my fear of what others are thinking is clouding my judgement on how to help my son get through this.

Now I have to ask myself, where else am I letting my fear of what others think about me or my decisions get in the way for what I know is the right thing to do? Am I doing what God wants me to do or am I taking the safe route of what others around me want me to do? Whether it's a new therapy for my son, deciding whether to homeschool or send my kids to public school or even going to a neighborhood this what God wants me to do or am I deciding this because I want to make others around me happy? Here's the one thing I need to remember, the only one I need to make happy is God. I want to do what He needs me to do, not what my neighbors, friends or even family want me to do. He's the one I want to make happy.

So, now back to the show Fear Factor. Now that I know that this is my biggest fear right now, I need to tackle this fear. I picture myself on stage with a sold out show. It's me on stage with my son. The seats are full and my son is having the biggest meltdown in the world. What do I do? Do I discipline him like you would every other 7 year like that guy in the front row is telling me to do? Do I hug him and tell him how much I love him and that everything is going to be ok like that Grandma in row two is saying. Or do I ignore the behavior so that I'm not reinforcing an inappropriate behavior like his therapists are telling me to do just to the right of the stage? What I need to do is stop and pray and listen for what God need me to do I need to know that the decisions I'm making are in line for what He wants. Not anyone else. I love how on page 47 Joyce references John 12:42-43...

"And yet (in spite of all this) many even of the leading men (the authorities and the nobles) believed and trusted in Him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that (if they should acknowledge Him) they would be expelled from the synagogue; for they loved the approval and the praise and the glory that come from men (instead of and) more than the glory that comes from God. (They valued their credit with men more than their credit with God.)

How many times do we do this today? It may not be us denying who God is, but how many times do we deny what He wants us to do? Not feeding the homeless guy on the corner, not reaching out to that mom at the playground who you can tell clearly has a child with autism or worse yet giving up on our own children because we think we're going to fail at helping them conquer autism. It's scary. Autism is a very scary world and no one ever said it wouldn't be. But the one thing we can count on with our children having autism, is that God is with us each and every step of the way. He'll help us meet all of our fears head on. Whether it's Fear of What People Think or Fear of Change, through Him, we can do it.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

I would like to add one more thing to this post, I love how Joyce included Helen Keller's story at the end of this chapter. I was highly encouraged by what Joyce wrote on page 59...

"One of the primary reasons Helen Keller never gave up on herself was that Anne Sullivan never gave up on her."

Joyce then writes how she encourages us to not give up on ourselves. Then at the end of the paragraph she writes "But I also want to make sure you remember to do everything you can to inspire others to persevere through their difficulties and overcome their challenges, just as you do."

My prayer for us all is that we never give up on our children. That we will never let any kind of fear stop us from breaking through what others see as an incurable situation.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fear Not!

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 3 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Joyce Meyer begins chapter three, Refuse to Live In Fear, with the story of the first African-American aviator, Bessie Coleman. In spite of financial obstacles and discrimination, she found the courage to accomplish her dream, was embraced by all people and commended for her achievements. What really struck me about her story was that she had to become fluent in French, then leave the United States to attend flight school in France. During that time of learning a new way of life, she had to put her dreams on hold and prepared herself for the opportunity that God would bring her. This immediately made me think of our lives raising children with autism. All the dreams we had for our children (and in many cases, ourselves) that had to be put on hold, all of our new efforts to understand autism and learn new ways to work with our children: We have to do this too. We had to learn a new language and a new way of life before we could help our children reach their potential.

New Level, New Devil: Joyce reminds us that when we do take our first courageous steps, the devil will often attack us to keep us from getting to the next level. I've learned when things are especially difficult to say, "I must be on the brink of something great!" It's so important to remind ourselves that facing trials and tests are a part of getting us to the special plans that God has for us. Since this is a direct threat to our enemy, he responds by reminding us of our fears. I like what Joyce has to say about this on page 32 "When we face situations that threaten or intimidate, we do not need to pray so much for the fear to go away as we need to pray for boldness and a courageous spirit." She reminds us that the key is not making our fear go away, but overcoming it. That means we have to press on even when the fear sets in. As we continue to do this, things that were once terrifying become less and less of an obstacle until we have completely triumphed. I can think of several examples of this in my own life and how God empowered me by giving me the strength to push through my fears. When I was younger, my greatest fear was public speaking. I can remember getting up to do many oral presentations and speeches in school with a shaky voice and extreme shortness of breath. Throughout college I also had to do this on many occasions, but gradually became more confident. I prayed to God for help and strength, and he got me through every single time. I now give presentations to the entire staff regularly at my son's school on the dangers of severe food allergies and how to manage them safely. I remember when I first started bringing Matthew to specialists, back when he was a year old. I was very easily intimidated by the doctors I saw and became anxious before his appointments. Over time, I learned to speak "doctor" and now speak so comfortably with specialists that they often ask me if I have medical training. All of these obstacles prepared me for the challenges I would face in the future. The obstacles I'm facing now will be what helps to get me and my son to the next level.

The biggest fear many of us (myself included) face is the fear of failure. I really like former IBM president Thomas J. Watson's take on succes: He recommends that you double your failure rate. According to him, failure is an opportunity to learn and is what will ultimately lead to success. (Never Give Up! p.41) We need to keep showing up and keep being persistent. God has a history of using the most unlikely people to do the most extraordinary things. If we will continue to be bold and step out to do what he has set out for us to do, failure can't hold us (or our children) back. As moms we need to not beat ourselves up because we don't know everything fast enough or have to push past setbacks. We would never want our child to feel like a failure for needing extra attempts to master a skill or for the challenges they face. Likewise, our Heavenly Father looks on us with loving encouragement as we stumble and fall, facing fears and failures to get to where we're meant to be.

Joyce makes a statement on page 42 that pretty much sums it all up for me: "Each of us must decide if we will reach down deep inside and find the courage to press past fear, mistakes, mistreatment at the hands of others, seeming injustices, and all the challenges life presents. This is not something anyone else can do for us; we must do it ourselves". As autism moms, we face each and every one of these things on behalf of our dear children. The good news is once we make this decision and God steps in, anything is possible.

Bible Verses:

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
-Isaiah 41:10

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; Trust also in me."
-Jesus comforts the disciples, John 14:1

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
-John 14:27

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
-Joshua 1:9

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fly Like An Eagle...

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 2 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Re-cap of Chapter 2 Never Give Up on Yourself....
In Chapter 2 of Never Give Up! Joyce Meyer begins the chapter with a wonderful analogy of the eagle and the chickens. Quick eagle was raised on a chicken farm like he was a chicken. However, he knew he was meant for something else but couldn't quite figure it out. The farmer clipped his wings to keep him close by. It wasn't until one day when the farmer forgot to clip his wings and the eagle saw another eagle soaring high in the sky did he realize how much more he was meant to be. He victoriously flew through the air and left the barnyard. In this chapter, Joyce encourages us to be like the eagle. Strong, determined, never giving up. Joyce continues to compare other birds and their characteristics with different types of Christians. The eagle is the bird we as Christians want to be. On page 24, Joyce writes "God wants you to be an "eagle Christian", one who can fly high, be bold, live with power, keep circumstances and relationships in perspective, live at peace, stay strong and soar above the storms of life." Joyce also goes on to explain that just as an eagle flies through the air alone, there will be times when we feel alone as an "eagle Christian." It doesn't mean we have no friends or relationships, just that there will be times where God will call us to go higher while others around us don't want to go. I love how Joyce includes on page 26 "Being an eagle doesn't mean you will never be weary or feel stressed; it means you run to God and allow Him to renew your strength when you do feel weary or pressured."

I just loved Chapter 2. I have to say that what I got out of this chapter the most was what Joyce wrote on page 23 about taking care of yourself and respecting yourself. Joyce writes "You are God's house (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). You are His building, His temple, and He lives in you! You will destroy the temple by being overcommitted, overworked, living on junk food, not drinking enough water, not getting enough sleep and rest, and failing to exercise." I was deeply encouraged to find myself again. Do you know what I mean when I say "find myself again?" If you're a mom, especially a mom to a child with autism, you know you are a totally different person now than you were before kids. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and some parts of me that change is for the better and I am a better person because of it. However, I've become known as Mom to Sean and Hunter and also wife to Jeremy. I've lost Nicole. Who is she? I remember being this carefree, spur of the moment, fun girl. Now I have to have everything planned out, perfect and I take things a little more seriously than I did before. I don't want to go back to being the person I was before I had my kids. First of all, it's impossible to be who you were before you had children. Second of all, I really don't want to be that person. However, there's more to me. I have a lot of dreams. One of them, the biggest I'd say, is that my son who has autism miraculously wakes up one day completely healed. Another dream of mine is that I'll finally get around to writing that novel that I've always dreamed of writing. I think of some of my dreams and get very overwhelmed with what's on my plate right now. How in the world can I concentrate on myself with the little spare time I have? I have a horrible diet, I stress out a lot and who has time to sleep? After reading Chapter 2, Joyce really encouraged me to take the time to take care of myself. If I'm not taking care of myself, my body, my mind and my emotions how can I do everything that God needs for me to do. Whether it's writing a book or writing up my son's homeschool lesson plan for the week, I need to feel rejuvenated to do so. The better we feel about ourselves, the more we can help others. Here's what I'm going to start doing....
1. Waking up earlier (yes, my kids get up really early as well) so that I can take some time to be with God. I'm going to read His word first thing in the morning to help prepare me for my day and my obstacles for the day. Joyce shares on page 25 "I need to spend the first couple of hours every day with God, because if I don't, I could be grumpy and short with people."
2. I'm going to start exercising in the morning. This means I'll have to get up even earlier. However, I know that on the days I get up early and walk around my neighborhood, I feel better about myself and my day goes better. I tried exercising at night. It doesn't work for me. After a day full of homeschooling, behaviors, cooking, cleaning, etc...I don't have the energy to exercise.
3. I'm going to eat better. For me, it's as simple as giving up the sodas (did I really say simple?) and drinking more water.
4. I'm going to take more time out for Nicole. Maybe I'll learn to knit, rollerblade, scrapbook, or just sit down with a really good book. I have to give myself some time each day. This will probably require me to give up some really good reality tv shows.
5. I'm going to take more time out for Nicole and Jeremy. Date night can be as simple as an easy meal at home with a movie. Once a week is a must.
6. I'm going to spend some time with my kids just letting them be kids. No ABA, no verbal behavior, no therapy. Just us being together.
7. My family is going to make decisions through prayer and not through listening to what others are doing. Too many times I feel like we see what other parents are doing with their kids and think "our kids should be doing that too." It's a constant struggle of "keeping up with the Joneses."

I really believe that by taking these steps to better take care of myself, I'm preparing myself to be a stronger person. A stronger "eagle." If I'm not exhausted and I feel good about myself and respect who I am, I will have more confidence to go higher when God asks me to do so. Touching back on the eagle and the chickens story, I believe that I too am like the eagle. I believe that I am where God needs me to be....a wife, a mom to child with autism, a mom to twin boys, a friend, a daughter and a sister. I don't want to fly away from this. However, I do believe that within each one of these roles, He wants to take me higher. He wants me to have the confidence to reach out to that mom whose child was just diagnosed and tell her how much God loves her. He wants me to be a strong daughter for my parents to lean on when they need me the most so they can feel His love. He wants me to be that wife that loves, honors and yes obeys my husband even when I don't want to. He wants to take me higher than I can ever imagine. All I have to do is prepare myself to soar.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

3 John 1:2
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is a way

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 1 of Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. I've chosen to selectively address the points which impacted me the most. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Before I get into Chapter 1, I'd like to briefly talk about the introduction of Never Give Up!.
In the introduction, Joyce Meyer sets us up by reminding us that God truly does have a special plan for each and every one of us that we each have an equal opportunity to accomplish. We all have the potential for God's best in every area in our lives if we never give up. For me this means I should never give up on my children, my relationships, myself or my God. Even our failures can be used to get us to a place of victory. Joyce gives so many wonderful examples of some of history's greatest success stories of people who refused to give up, in spite of obstacles of every kind, until they realized their goals.

Joyce Meyer begins the first chapter, Never Say "No Way" by giving examples of situations that can seem impossible. When I allow myself the "There is no way" statements, this is what they look like: "There is no way I can meet the physical, emotional and financial needs of raising a child with autism and special medical needs", "There is no way I can keep my marriage happy and healthy under the strain of the stress we are under as a family", "There is no way I can keep my house clean and straight" (OK, that one was word-for-word, p. 1) "There is no way I can meet everyone's needs" and "There is no way I can keep myself healthy and whole while working to meet the needs of my family". Joyce reminds us that at times like these, we need to refocus: "Instead of dwelling on our difficulties, we need to focus more on the fact that God is for us and His power is at work in us" (p.2) It just dawned on me that the problem with these statements is that they are self-centered and Joyce is reminding us to be God-centered. This means that instead of dwelling on what we feel we can't do, we should be intentionally and continually reminding ourselves of what God can do. She gives us a good substitute statement, suggesting that we say to ourselves, "I don't care whether there seems to be a way or not. Jesus is the Way; His Spirit lives in me; and I will find a way!" (p.2)

Joyce Meyer identifies three key areas that people find to be most challenging and worth fighting for. She reminds us to never give up on our health, our finances and the people that we love. Our determination to have God's best in each of these areas is directly impacted when raising a child with autism. For right now, I'm going to focus on the section, Never Give Up on Those You Love. On page 7, she states, Love never fails. In other words, it never gives up on people. the apostle Paul describes what love is in 1 Corinthians 13 and mentions that love always believes the best; it is positive and filled with faith and hope. She also reminds us that "God is love (see 1 John 4:8) and He never gives up on us." (p.8) The first thing that comes to mind for me is to of course never give up on my children. I should keep a positive outlook and expectation about their future regardless of how difficult the present may be. It also means that I should not give up on myself, as God is continually growing and helping me, so that my potential in this situation can also be reached and exceeded by His grace.

Joyce gives a great example of someone who refused to give up in spite of what doctors said and received a great miracle. Her friend, Penny Shephard suffered a back injury and was later diagnosed with post-trauma arthritis and degenerative disk disease. While she prayed for God to heal her with a miracle, God told her "Run to your miracle" (p.8) For many months, she endured incredibly difficult and painful training to prepare for a marathon. The moment she stood in faith at the starting line, her back was completely healed and she was able to run the full marathon. I am reminded of other autism moms who have wisely shared that this journey with autism is a marathon and not a sprint. Every workshop, training, conference, therapy session, research effort, meeting and all of our day-to-day work is part of our marathon training towards getting our kids across the finish line-to God's best and their very best.

On a prayer blog, ( ), I found these wonderful examples to remind me of how throughout the history of our faith, God provided a way when there was no way. I adapted it by including the scripture verses that support each claim:

The Way of Holiness:

You led the children of Israel across the Red Sea and delivered them from slavery. (Hebrews 11:29)
You provide a way when there is no way.

You stopped the waters of the Jordan River so that they could enter the Promised Land. (Joshua 3: 14-17)
You provide a way when there is no way.

You translated Enoch and Elijah into heaven. (Hebrews 11:5, 2 Kings 2:11)
You provide a way when there is no way.

Isaiah prophesied a highway in the wilderness, (Isaiah 40:3-5)
You provide a way when there is no way.

Jesus healed the lame (John 5: 7-9), opened the eyes of the blind (John 9: 1-7) and the ears of the deaf (Mark 7: 32-37).
You provide a way when there is no way.

Jesus walked on water. (Matthew 14: 25-30)
You provide a way when there is no way.

Jesus rose from the dead and walked on earth. (Acts 2: 22-24, Romans 14:9)
You provide a way when there is no way.

Jesus ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:9)
You provide a way when there is no way.

You sent a rushing mighty wind and filled the disciples with supernatural words, prophecies, visions, and dreams. They performed signs and wonders. (Acts 2: 1-4, 17-19)
You provide a way when there is no way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's Next?

Thank you all for your participation in our study of Just Enough Light For the Step I'm On. We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing these important lessons with you. Jessica, Nicole and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to support and encourage our fellow autism parents with these weekly bible studies.

We are happy to announce that our next book selection is Never Give Up! by Joyce Meyer. She is one of the world's leading bible teachers and has authored more than seventy inspirational books. We are excited to present this new study on Spectrum Spirit and we're looking forward to learning more about overcoming life's challenges while following a path of faith.

We will not post a study next week so that everyone has a chance to get their copy of Never Give Up! Please join us here on Wednesday, September 16th as we kick off this new and exciting study.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

To sum it all up.....

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 21 of Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore we ask, if you feel like it please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Is it just me or did the past 21 weeks just fly by? I can't believe this is our last chapter study of Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On. I don't know about you guys but I've gotten a lot out of this study. I'd like to take this week's post to share with you the main things that I'll take with me from this study.

But first, a very brief re-cap of Chapter 21....

In Chapter 21 of Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On, Stormie sums up the entire book by encouraging us to trust in God. Her two key points that I love that she makes in this chapter are....."We must never consider our future without first asking God to be in charge of it. And once we do that, we are to leave it in His hands and not lose sleep over it." (page 172) "God is not asking you to have your whole future figured out. He is asking you to trust that He has your future planned." (page 174) Stormie ends the book brilliantly with "You don't have to have your life all figured out; you only have to take one step at a time. God will give you just enough light for the step you're on, and every time you put your hand in His, you'll know you've got a solid hold on your future." (page 175)

I know there is a lot more to us than just being a mom to a child with autism. We have other stumbles in our lives, other storms to fight and other prayers to God that don't have to do with autism. However, if you're like me every thing goes right back to "autism". I can't help it. Every sermon I hear at church helps me with what we're going through at that moment with our son. Every Christian song I hear on the radio....autism. The other day, a Hannah Montana song even reminded me of our struggles with autism. (I know I know, Hannah Montana. But please don't laugh. My son who has been infatuated with Blues Clues has finally broadened his TV shows to Hannah Montana. I can't believe I'm actually going to post lyrics to a Miley Cyrus song but it really touched me. Here are a few of the lyrics from "The Climb")

I can almost see it
That dream I'm dreaming but
There's a voice inside my head sayin,
You'll never reach it,
Every step I'm taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high
There's always going to be another mountain
I'm always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm gonna to have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

I think about my journey with autism. I think back to almost four years ago when my son received his diagnosis. I just wanted to get him over the mountain. I didn't care how quickly we got there. I pushed through. I researched therapies. We tried supplements. We saw numerous amounts of doctors. The other day I found a picture of my son when he was three. (Just after his diagnosis.) His cute little chubby cheeks. The funny things he did back then. For a brief moment, I ached to go back three years and just hold him and play with him. This was all during a time of his regression. But I wanted to be back in that moment because I feel like I missed out on truly enjoying who he is because I wanted to get over this mountain.

Stormie has taught me so much in the past 21 weeks. I'd like to share with you my top three things that has changed my life from her book. (I encourage to share yours as well in the comments section below.)

1. I need to pray and give God all of my dreams including the one of my son being healed from autism. (Chapter 11 Surrending Your Dreams)
" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " Jeremiah 29:11

2. Just because my prayers are not answered in my timing, doesn't mean they won't be answered. (Chapter 14 Believing It's Not Over til It's Over This is the chapter where Stormie gives us the wonderful examples of how God used Noah, Sarah Moses and Abraham later in their lives and how their dreams where answered.)
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”-Ecclesiastes 3:1

3. I need to take slow down, enjoy life now and take life one step at a time. Whether it's something in my past or future, I need to concentrate on the step I'm on and only look a few steps ahead. While I'm taking these steps through autism, I need to trust in God that He has a wonderful life for me and enjoy what He's given me. (Chapter 20 Maintaing A Passion for The Present & Chapter 21 Moving Into Your Future)
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."Hebrews 11:1

I'd also like to take this time to thank you Jessica for all of your posts. I've gotten so much out of each of your thoughts and feelings on your chapters. I know I may not have commented each week, however, please know that each of your entries was exactly what I needed to read at exactly the right time. I feel so lucky to have done this study with all of you. Thanks for your comments, thanks for reading each week and thanks for your prayers. Thanks to Stormie for a wonderful book and for teaching us all how to find "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On."

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."Philippians 4:13

(As a side note, next week we will post information on our next study which will begin Wednesday September 16, 2009.)