Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finding the good in a hopeless situation

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 4 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.)

Why do I feel like chapter 4, Embracing the Moment, was written just for me? Did you get this feeling as well? This chapter spoke volumes to me this week. Especially after the week we've had in our household. (Long story crashed, I broke my big toe, Sean was fighting off viruses left and right which was bringing on regression, my other son "hid" my wallet which I thought was then stolen and to top it all off...Sean broke his foot.) And this week Stormie wants me to Embrace the Moment?

Brief recap...

Chapter 4, Embracing the Moment, teaches us how to take all of the challenges that we go through and look for the good. Stormie mentions a time when she was with her family and they lost power in their home for a good number of days. No heat, no lights, no phone. Instead of worrying about what could happen, she prayed to God to help her know that He's there. In that moment she realized the goodness that was in that situation. They were all together so she didn't have to worry about members of her family and their safety. They had a good supply of food and water. They had a fireplace and enough clothes to keep them from freezing. She saw her blessings from God. Stormie also touches on the fact that God knows that too much light can be too much for us. We would be confused by it. So instead of dwelling on the negative, Stormie encourages us to find the goodness in each struggle we face.

It was very ironic that this week's study fell on my turn to write in the blog. About a week ago, I shared with family and friends on my personal blog what I feel are the positives in autism. I'll share them with you as well. I agree with Stormie that we need to find the blessings in the difficult situations. When I wrote my personal blog entry, I was thinking to myself "how in the world am I going to find the positives in autism?" I knew at least two but I have to find more. That day I prayed about it. I asked God to show me the blessings we've received all because my son has autism. Here's my list:

1. I'm a better Mommy. I appreciate all of the little things that most moms miss out on.
2. My marriage. My marriage has been through alot but we've come out strong. My husband is a better husband and I'm a better wife. Together, we're better parents for both of our children.
3. My family. Since Sean's diagnosis, I've gotten so much closer to my side of the family as well as my in laws.
4. How I see others...I have so much more respect for children as well as adults with special needs. I try to talk to everyone and show them I care.
5. Most importantly, my relationship with God. Autism brought me to my knees...literally. I re-dedicated my life to Christ, was baptized and am eager to learn more. I have so much more spiritual growing to do. I know that autism has brought me closer to God.

What would you say are some blessings that you've had in your life because of your child having autism? I know it's hard to think about the goodness in autism because it's our children. If it were me with autism, I'd hope that I would say "ok God, if that's what you need for your plan, I'll do it." But it's our children. It's hard to find the good when it's something that's harming our children. However, we have to see the good that is coming out of what seems to be a very hard and at times hopeless situation. If not, we may not see where God is working His blessings in the midst of autism. Then we'll never spiritually grow from this. If we do, it will only strengthen us which in turn will help our children.

When Stormie mentioned God only giving us a little light at a time because it may blind us, that really hit home to me. My son Sean is now 6. He was diagnosed about 3 years ago. We went from praying "please let them have made a mistake" to "please heal him" to "please give me strength." At least once a week I pray the following prayer.... "please God tell me if you're going to heal Sean from autism. If it's in Your Will for him to have autism just tell me so that I can know what to expect. If it's in Your Will to heal him, tell me so I don't give up. Just let me know what Your plan is with this." While reading Chapter 4, specifically page 41, I thought I found someone who feels the same way I do. Stormie says "Why can't I have all the light I need right now Lord" I actually thought to myself "Amen sister! He needs to just let us know up front what's going on." Then I kept reading "However, God knows that too much light can be hard to take. It can blind and confuse us. He prefers to give us just enough to keep us dependent on Him. In that way, He can teach us to take bigger steps of faith in order to prepare for what He is calling us to in the future." (pg. 41) After I read this, I realized how true that is. If He were to tell me..."Nicole, Sean will always have autism" I don't know what I would do. Would I give up and not work with him as much? If He were to tel me "yes Nicole, Sean will be healed by the time he reaches age 8." Would I try to rush things and not listen to what He's telling me to do next? The things is, if I knew exactly what would happen with my son having autism I wouldn't put my faith in Him. Right now, I have total faith in God. What do I do that I can't tell you for certain I would continue to do if I saw all of the light? Would I rely on Him? Would I pray as much and as hard as I do now? Would I even read the Bible? What about this study, would I still participate in an online Bible study for mom's with children with autism. I honestly don't know if I would continue to do all of these things if I "had all of the answers."

So again, I ask you....what are your blessings that you can find in this difficult situation? Maybe you're going through something in addition to autism. Whatever the case may be, let's all try to help each other find the blessings as much as we can.

I'd like to end with a scripture that Stormie mentions in the study guide:

"For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever."
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

"Lord I thank you for all the moms that you brought to this site. I thank you for giving us each other to lean on, pray over and help each other grow. Lord, you know how hard autism is. You know the struggles we face on a daily basis and the worries that creep into our day for the future. I pray that You will shine the light that we need on our days to show us the blessings that you've given us. Help us not miss out on seeing these blessings and thanking you for them. In Your name we pray, Amen."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Who's Afraid of the Dark?

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 3 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 that 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!)

Refusing to Be Afraid of the Dark seemed to take a more in-depth look at darkness and how we can find the light of God in our darkest moments. This was good for me to read because, like most of us, I am not a big fan of darkness (physical or spiritual). This chapter forced me to examine this and helped to remind me that times of darkness in our lives can be times of learning, leading to increased faith and blessing.

Brief recap…

In Chapter 3, Stormie explains the different kinds of darkness we can find ourselves in. Darkness can be spiritual, where we feel separated from God or the intense experience of negative emotions, like sadness or anger. The darkness we at times have to walk through can be a result of our own choices/mistakes or is an opportunity for God to teach us an important lesson or truth we would not have known otherwise. It can also prepare us for a season of great blessing. Stormie gives an example of what it’s like when the power goes out in our homes. If someone is holding a candle or flashlight, we automatically reach for their hand so that person can guide us. God wants us to reach for Him in the dark so that we draw close to His light and then He can lead us.

I recently had an opportunity to experience what complete and total physical darkness feels like. My family recently took a trip to the North Carolina Mountains and we visited some underground caverns. At one point, deep in the underground cave, our guide told everyone to turn off all cellular, digital or other light-emitting devices. She then turned off the light switch. With no light coming in from the outside, deep under ground and no artificial sources of light, everything went completely black. The lights were only out for a few seconds and during that time, I held my older son’s hand and knew my husband was only a few inches away, holding my younger son. Even so, I intensely disliked the feeling of complete darkness and could not wait for the lights to go back on!

When we are overcome with the darkness in our lives, our biggest obstacle is fear. It requires a lot of trust on our part to reach out for God’s hand during these times. We may begin to doubt our relationship with God, and trusting in Him is more crucial than ever during these times. Stormie gives some good suggestions of how to turn to God during darkness, “stop what we’re doing, look for His light and listen for His voice.” (p.34) If we realize that we are never alone and allow God to walk with us in the darkness, it becomes a much less frightening place.

I’m learning that the darkness can also be a time of grace. I love what Stormie says on page 35, “When everything around you gets darker, the light inside you will grow brighter.” Just think of the trials we face and how so many times it brings out the best in us. The incredible networks of moms helping moms, allowing all of us to come up higher time and time again is a great example of God’s grace being poured out in a time of darkness. God wants to bless us in and through the darkest times of our lives. Even though we can’t always see or feel God, His presence is always with us. I like to think about the end of the Footprints poem, where the Lord replies,

“My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Scripture Verses:

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who calls you by name, am the God of Israel.”
-Isaiah 45:3

“You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”
-2 Samuel 22:29

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
-Isaiah 42:16

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Following the True Light

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 2 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 that 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!)

Beginning to See the Light was a great follow-up to chapter one and really made a lot of sense to me, especially with all the competing interests pulling at me as being the best way to help my son with autism.

Brief recap…

In Chapter 2, Stormie compares the many sources of light in our lives that offer hope in our struggles but reminds us that there is only one true light that will never go out. That light comes from God. God’s light can brighten any darkness and can never be put out. Stormie give us the example of the darkness that King David went through in his life through immoral choices and bad relationships. God continued to illuminate David’s path, even in his state of darkness. God never allowed David to be destroyed because David always knew that God was the true light. Realizing that God is the one true light, how can I make sure that I am not misled by another source?

Throughout this chapter there are many comparisons of darkness and light. Though it is easy to see in our minds that light is God and darkness will lead us astray, it is not always so easy to call this in everyday life.

We experience emotions and situations that put us in a state of darkness when we are told that our child has autism. That darkness is made worse when others tell us there is no hope for our children. We desperately want to come out of that darkness and are especially vulnerable at this time. I remember feeling like someone had dropped me in the middle of the most confusing maze as I tried to figure out how to secure the right school setting, combination of therapists, doctors and other specialists. I didn’t want to miss the “one thing” that could be the missing link and felt compelled to learn as much as I could about all possible sources of help. To complicate this further, there is so much sadness and pain that it feels impossible to put one foot in front of the other.

I really like what Stormie says on page 23, “We will encounter people who fancy themselves to be our savior and want us to follow their light. But God does not have us follow a light. He has us follow Him. And He becomes our light.” I do think it is good to be well-informed and even better to have choices for our children. I believe that God wants to light our path as we find our way out of the darkness. We need to consult with Him, meditate on His words and find peace knowing that His light will guide us. Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to keep moving where God wants us to go when we can’t see the end result.

I also want to add that we have God to turn to for comfort in our sadness and despair. He wants to heal our hearts and fill us with His love so that we have the strength we need to face our challenges. He is our unfailing friend. It comforts me to know that when I stumble I can still regain my footing and find my way again because God’s light is always there. I am also greatly encouraged as I find my way in the darkness by other moms I meet who also shine God’s light on me with the compassion, insight and wisdom that their experiences have given them through autism.

Scripture verses:

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.”
-John 1:0

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
-John 8:12

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
-John 12:46

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reach up and trust in Him

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 1 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 that 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!)

Wow...what a great week of reading. Chapter 1 of Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On by Stormie Omartian was so empowering to me.

Brief re-cap...

In Chapter 1, Stormie Omartian explains the importance of walking with God. Trusting Him in our lives no matter how dark they may seem. She even paints this incredible picture of literally raising up your hand and holding his hand. Chapter 1 also reminds us of Abraham and how he had to walk in faith. Stormie put in a wonderful verse pertaining to Abraham that really touched me. "...he went out, not knowing where he was going." This just spoke volumes to me. Abraham didn't know what was ahead of him. But he did know to trust in God. Which made me ask myself, how can I walk like Abraham and fully trust where God is taking us with autism?

As I'm reading this chapter, a song kept popping in my head. I couldn't stop singing it.

Jesus Take The Wheel by Carrie Underwood

Jesus take the wheel (God, I can't control autism as much as I think I can...)

Take it from my hands (I don't know what to do next, please help me...)

Cause I can't do this on my own (I'm scared about what it will be like in the future...)

I'm letting go (I'm reaching out for you and will do what you need for me to do...)

So give me one chance (I promise I'll take a hold of your hand and hold on...)

To save me from this road I'm on (When I try to do this on my own, I struggle more and more...)

Jesus take the wheel (I trust in you Jesus. Whatever you need for me to do with my life, you're in control.)

Too often I'm praying for a healing but never taking the time to listen for what He needs for me to do during this time. I'm not walking with God through autism. I'm trying to do it by myself. I spend countless hours worrying....worrying what supplements we haven't tried, worrying if we should try a new therapy, worrying if my son is ever going to be healed. Am I not praying right? I go to church. What else can I do? This chapter has shown me that I'm not walking with God through all of this. I'm doing it on my own. Sure I pray about things. God, please let him stop scripting. God, should we try this new supplement. But, then guess what I do? I don't wait for His answer. I make my own decisions and fly with it. Then after I've done this for as long as I can, I crash. I give up.

I believe that what God wants us to do is reach up our hands to Him before we even get on that rope! Grab hold of His hands and listen to where He needs for us to go. Listen to what He needs for us to do. He'll place the right things and people into our lives to help our children. He wants the best for us and will provide us with all of our needs. But we need to trust in Him. Trust in Him that no matter how dark autism may seem, there is a greater purpose in this. Trust in Him that even when we feel like no good has come out of our day, that blessings are right around the corner. God wants to bless us. He loves us. But how can He bless us if we're not ready to receive?
Today, I encourage you all to join me. Let's reach up our hands, grab His hand, try to never let go, and trust in Him every day with our children. I'm going to trust in God every day that my son has autism. Whether it's a month. A year. Or the rest of his life. I trust that there is something so much bigger to this than we can see. I'll keep providing him with every thing he needs. I'll keep researching the therapies, supplements and diets. I'll pray about all of this and see which direction He needs for us to walk. I'm going to grab his hand and never let go.

Dear Lord,
I thank you so much for allowing us all to find each other, lean on each other and lift each other up. Lord, I reach out my hand to you today. I trust in you. I trust that no matter how rough of a day it is, there's a greater purpose. I trust that you will show me the way to go. I pray that you keep us all desiring to walk with you as we continue this difficult journey through autism. Lord, I lift up every mom reading this entry right now that needs your strength, needs to feel your love and needs to hold your hand. We trust in You. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When times are tough, we all need a little hope....

Do you find yourself constantly searching for hope? Do you wonder why bad things happen? Are you searching for answers but don't know where to turn?

We all need God in our lives. We need Him for support, answers and motivation. Above all, we need Him as our friend. The one we turn to first with questions, concerns and prayers.

As mothers of children with autism, we know it's tough to stay spirtually connected. We pray. We go to church. But beyond that, it's tough. We barely have time to fit in all the different therapies, grocery shopping, cleaning, working, spending time with our husbands, coupon clipping, feeding the dogs, remembering to give supplements, toilet training and oh yeah, showering. To fit in a Bible Study into our crazy schedule is almost impossible.

That's why we've created Spectrum Spirit. We decided to start an online Bible Study to support each other and lift each other up when we need it the most.

Here's the plan....we'll choose a book to read and assign weekly readings. We'll meet back here every Wednesday night to discuss what we've read, give our thoughts and what we've gotten out of our readings. Then, under the comments section, we ask for you all to share anything you'd like. How the weekly reading touched you...How you were able to take what you've learned from the reading and apply to your life....most importantly how it helped you as a mom of a child with autism.

We believe that through this blog and by covering each other in prayers, God is going to do some amazing things.

Our first reading is Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On by Stormie Omartian. Spend the next week reading the first chapter. Write down any thoughts, questions or comments. We'll "meet" back here on Wednesday April 8th to share.

We look forward to getting to know every one!

Chrissy, Jessica & Nicole