Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waiting on God

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 12 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, to please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirits!)

We’ve all heard the expression “The waiting is the hardest part”. In Chapter 12, Waiting in the Wings, I realized that this is because it involves so much patience. This chapter was helpful to me in realizing that you can wait on God patiently and still be fruitful and constructive. Stormie also gave some great insights on how to make the waiting periods in life easier to understand and even embrace.

Brief recap of Chapter 12:

Waiting in the Wings begins with Stormie illuminating the waiting periods in our lives, where we are eager for God to take action that will move us toward greater blessing and increase. She likens it to a play, where you are waiting for the next scene or act to start. Instead of a quick and smooth transition, her intermission gets extended and prolonged and we are left wondering when the real action will begin. She reminds us that the waiting is necessary because it produces patience, which we could not develop otherwise. She ties it all together with previous chapters on page 108, “When we are being tested, walking in the wilderness, surrendering our dreams, or standing in the line of fire, part of what we are learning is to be patient.”

Patience. This is something I pray for on a daily basis. Mostly, this involves praying for patience with my children and what challenges will arise on any given day. I realize now that I also need to be patient with God. I need to trust that He is still working on my behalf even when I can’t see it or feel like it is taking too long. This, for me is a very true measure of my faith at any given time. I can feel God’s love, promises and hopes for my son’s future but how well I am able to endure the waiting and persevering really shines a light on how much I am really trusting God to work things out.

Waiting can often involve stillness, where you need to stop what you are doing and open up an opportunity for God to guide you in a new direction. Sometimes we have to let people or circumstances out of our life to make room for something new that will ultimately be better. It can be very hard to let go, especially if you feel someone or something has been beneficial in the past. Waiting can also be a time of preparation (As Stormie puts it on page 108, “Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing”). This may give us an opportunity to learn a new skill (or in my situation, type of therapy to work at home with my son), make new connections or develop a new insight that might be infinitely helpful. It can give us a chance to regroup and re-evaluate what is working and what is not, leading us to better decisions for our children. As we strengthen our faith and trust God more fully, we empower Him to work more in our lives and our waiting, perseverance and patience will invite the positive action we are longing for.

Sometimes it really is all in how you see things. Stormie’s suggestions helped me to view waiting in a different way. She suggests that it’s better to think of yourself as waiting on God, not trying to be patient with your circumstances. This makes a lot of sense to me and gives the power back to God, not what is troubling me or causing difficulty. I definitely related to her description of going through the motions, waiting for the next spurt of progress or new direction to take. On page 110, Stormie writes, “Every day you have another opportunity to affect your future with the words you speak to God. Each prayer sets something in motion”. I pray that my eyes and heart are open to the new ways God wants to show me that will affect my son’s future in a positive way. It is good to know that God gives me that chance every day when I call on Him for help or guidance.

Lord, thank you so much for all you do for us behind the scenes. Help us to remember that you are always acting on our behalf. Protect us from any fear, anxiety, doubt or sadness that might creep in and tempt us to give up instead of persevering and believing in you during our seasons of waiting. Your timing and Your ways are always perfect and will lead us in the direction that we need to go. Remind us lovingly that you use these situations to strengthen our faith and develop patience. Empower us with your graces and allow us to fully embrace Your perfect will in our lives so that we can grow in knowledge of you and bring our families into greater blessing. We ask this in Your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Bible verses:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
-Isaiah 43:19

“Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.”
-Proverbs 8:34

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.”
-Ecclesiastes 7:8

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I am a Dreamer

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 11 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, to please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirits!)

I've had many dreams throughout my 35 years of life. Most of them dealt with growing up and being an actress, teacher or a writer. I also remember dreaming of getting my first Cabbage Patch Kid. (Remember how hard they were to buy back then?) However, no dream can compare to the dream that I have today. The dream I have in my heart today is so real and I know one day it will come true. I dream of the day my son will be healed of autism. Then, I read Chapter 11, Surrending Your Dreams and realized how I have made this healing that I've been waiting so long for an idol in my life.

Brief re-cap of Chapter 11:
In Surrendering Your Dreams, Stormie Omartian talks about how God wants us to dream but He doesn't want us to exclude Him. Stormie says "if we don't have a vision from Him, then we don't have a vision that will ever be realized." The point that she's making here is that if our dream isn't from God, we will be aiming for a dream that will never come true. The best way to see if our dreams are from God is to surrender them to Him. If He returns them to us, they're from Him. I love how Stormie put it on page 104..."Even if you are certain God has given you a vision or dream for your future, He will still ask you to surrender it to Him so thoroughly that you will think it's as good as dead." She also writes how going after the dreams that aren't from God will only lead to misery, frustration, and unfulfillment.

This dream I have of Sean being healed is one I've had ever since the day they diagnosed him with autism three and a half years ago. In my dream, my son wakes up in the morning, stretches, looks over at me and says "I'm good now Mom. Thanks for not ever giving up on me. Oh and my favorite color is blue. I love to play baseball. And I want to be a Doctor when I grow up." Then he goes over to his brother and plays with him. In my heart, I know this can happen. This past Sunday at church I was reminded of how God is still here. A pastor was talking about the story in Mark 7:31-37 where Jesus healed the deaf and mute boy. I was reminded once again that He is with us today just as much as He was back then. Jesus is still healing. We just have to have faith in Him and give Him our dreams. I believe with one touch from Jesus, He can heal my son who can't talk and play as well as other children just like He did for this boy. I believe that Jesus is with us today and can heal us today just as much as He did when He was on earth. So now I have to surrender this dream to God. My first thought is "what if He doesn't give it back?" Then I think "what if it's not in line with His Will? What if He needs Sean to have autism for the rest of his life?" My heart stops and I pray.

Lord, if this dream is not from You, please take it from me and let me never think of it and long for it again. Give me total peace on this. Amen

You see I believe that Stormie got it right. If it's not in God's Will for my son to be healed, why would I spend the rest of our lives being frustrated, miserable and unfulfilled? I'd rather know that's it's not from Him and find what is from Him so that our lives can be happy, fulfilled and wonderful. Now, to me, that doesn't mean I don't stop helping my son. I'll still research more and more ways to help my son. After all, I do believe that God uses other people and things to show us His dreams and to do His healings. It also doesn't mean if I don't hear back from God on this that I will stop therapy with my son. It's working for him and he's doing great. What it does mean is that I will stop thinking about, as Jessica mentioned in her last post, I will stop thinking about Italy and enjoy Holland. I will try not to stress about my son's future and know that God will put the right thing in my path. If I do start to stress about it, I'll stop and pray and give back to God. I'm going to pray more about what I can do during this time for Him. I know that our God is an awesome God and during this time He will always provide for me everything that I need. I just need to trust in Him and have total faith that He knows what is best for me even if it's not what I think is best for me. He never promised it would be easy but He did promise us so much more!

Lord, thank you so much for the dreams You give us. Please help every one of us see the dreams that You have for us and help us follow these dreams. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Bible Verses:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it's own things." Matthew 6:33-34

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever." Phillipians 4:19-20

"For with God, nothing shall be impossible." Luke 1:37

" '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

"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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Traveling Light

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 10 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, to please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirits!)

Chapter 9, Knowing How to Pack for the Wilderness, really struck a nerve with me. I feel like it was an answer to prayer about how to handle myself in various situations I’ve had over the past week where I’ve felt more in the “wilderness” than in the Promised Land.

Brief recap:

This chapter elaborates more on what it is to be brought through the wilderness on your way to the Promised Land. Stormie goes into greater detail about what the Israelites had to go through in the wilderness and why. God brought them through the wilderness so that they could avoid going to war with the Philistines because he knew their fear would send them right back to Egypt. She reminds us that the Israelites were given manna, protection and everything they would need until they gave their allegiance and obedience to God. It was only after they had stopped longing for Egypt and gave their all to God that the Israelites were brought into the Promised Land. Stormie does a good job contrasting this with a situation in her own life where her family was led by God to move from Los Angeles, California to Tennessee. Just like the Israelites, she had a difficult time leaving behind the things she longed for and had grown accustomed to. As a result of learning to let go, her family enjoyed “priceless knowledge of God’s goodness” (p. 96) and an abundance of blessing.

The very first thing I thought of when I read this chapter was "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley. If you’ve never read this before, or like me, enjoy re-reading this inspirational essay, click here. The beginning of this essay reminds me of when I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and other similar books to prepare myself for what I thought motherhood would be like. Somehow, my plans are detoured and instead of a “typical” experience, my journey takes me through the unfamiliar land of autism. I learn to speak a new “language”(involving new terminology, teaching methods, biomedical research, etc.), meet the most wonderful “tour guides” (aka: superhero autism moms) and learn to appreciate the little things in ways I never would have otherwise.

The last part of this essay really relates this well to the struggles I have in longing for what was lost in not following my original “travel plans”. It also reminds me why it is so important to let this go so that I can be brought into greater blessing and knowledge of God’s goodness.

“And for the rest of your life, you will say, Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned.

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.”

This past week there have been several situations where I have had to facilitate Matthew with more “typical” peers and have had interactions with other parents who have shared about their “Italy” experience with me. For some reason, it hurt a lot deeper than usual on several occasions for me to confront the fact that my life does not resemble the life of a normal mother. In fact, I felt more like I was living on another planet instead of a different country. Most of the time, I feel like I have adjusted to the demands of the life I have and don’t dwell on this loss too much. It’s as soon as I look at where I thought I’d be (try to relate to and compare myself with more “typical” parents) that I get into trouble.

Just like the Israelites, I have been given everything that I need: I have support and love from family and other mothers who’ve “been there”, I have the means to learn about and implement different strategies and treatments that can benefit my child, and most importantly, I have God, who never leaves my side and wants to use this to make me better than I was before. He has led us to doctors, schools, teachers and therapists and has brought us through so much already. It seems like there is still so much to conquer, so much “wilderness” to get through. This chapter was a reminder for me not to dwell on my feelings of loss. These are significant feelings that will continue to resurface, but for some reason God is allowing me to walk through all of this. There must be something on the other side, something that I could never learn any other way. This chapter was also a very good reminder for me to stay in faith and trust that God leads me to and through every bump in the road for a reason, and that it will all work out in the end. Just like the Israelites, He will sustain us as we make our way through the “wilderness” and lead us to the Promised Land.

Lord, thank you for providing everything we need to be sustained in the wilderness of our journey through autism. Teach us to trust in your goodness and to turn to you when our feelings of loss and pain overwhelm us. Fill our hearts with gratitude for every new blessing and give us the faith to follow where You will lead us. Let us walk without fear and in confidence so that we can follow Your light. I thank you for each mother that is affected by this site and ask you to bless all as we journey through the wilderness and on to the Promised Land. Our allegiance, trust and hope are in You. We pray this in Your name Lord Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's Testing Time Again?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 9 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, to please share in the comments section what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirits!)

Chapter 9 Testing One, Two, Three was just the right slap across the head I needed. A few days ago I was praying to God, begging him to show me what I need to do. I specifically prayed for Him to "slap me across the head with what I need to be doing." Sure enough, He did.

Brief re-cap:

In Chapter 9, Stormie talks about the tests that God gives us. How these tests are not like tests we're given at school to find out what we know. He already knows what we know. He uses the tests for us. For us to learn what we're made of. I love how Stormie says on page 81 "The results of the tests God gives us, depending on our attitude in the midst of the testing, will determine whether we are refined like gold by the process or become cold and hard like steel. It won't necessarily be how much we know that counts, but what we do with the knowledge we've got. It's how we take the test." Stormie then mentions how God doesn't give us a grade from these tests. We either pass, or we keep taking it until we get it right. The story of Job is also mentioned in this chapter. Job suffered an incredible amount in his time of testing yet he never lost faith and never doubted God. Stormie also talks about the Israelites and how they continued to doubt God even after He performed miracle after miracle. She then discusses three different tests that God gives us at some point in our lives: God tests our heart, God tests our faith and God tests our obedience. Stormie says on page 87 "your reaction during this period will be revealing. Will you love Him above all else? Will you believe He is who He says He is and trust Him to provide for your needs? Will you do what He tells you to do? If you are fearful and bitter during this process, you delay the blessings God is waiting to rain on you. That's what the Israelites did, and they wandered around for forty years on a journey that should have taken just a few weeks."

Well, after reading this chapter I've come to a big discovery....I am so the Israelites. I know I am. I am failing this test big time and I am so thankful I am reading this book again. (Yes, I said again. I guess I didn't get it the first go around several years ago.) I am part of the reason why this test is taking so long. What test you may wonder? Autism. First, let me start off by saying I am a firm believer that our God has the power to heal. When it is His timing, He will reach down and heal my son. I have no doubt in my mind about it. What I don't understand is why it's taking so long. I've had the hardest time lately trying to understand why I'm seeing so many children recover but not my own. Why is it that so many other children are getting better and mine has two good weeks where we feel like he's almost there and then WHAM!!! we take three steps back. Then, I read this chapter. I am failing all three of His tests right now. I am the Israelites and I do not want to be the Israelites. I do not want to turn this journey through autism into an extremely long one that was only meant to last a short amount of time. While reading Chapter 9, I realized that I really am failing all three of His tests. So, I'm going to really humble myself and share with you where I'm messing up in hopes that we can all pass these tests quickly!

Test One: God tests our hearts
Stormie says "just when we have enough arrogance to think we can live one moment without Him, God searches our heart for humility. If found wanting, He allows us to hit rock bottom and gain a new perspective." I can't tell you how many times my son is doing great and I want to shout it on the roof tops how wonderful he's doing. I want to tell everyone "look! See, I'm not crazy. Everything we're doing for him is working!" Sure I say a lot of thank yous to God but they're usually followed by a few more requests. "Ok God, now that he's not scripting any more, can you please help him play with his brother?" I think it's perfectly fine for me to always be praying for my children. Especially praying for healing over my son with autism. But when Stormie says on page 85 "would I do what God wanted or what I wanted?" I honestly couldn't answer it right away. My first thought was "it depends on what God wants. Does He want my son to be healed?" That was such a scary thought. But then it hit me. What God wants for me is what's best for me. I need to fully trust in Him. I need to be like Job and never doubt Him.

Test two: God tests our faith
I realized I've been failing this test as well when I read the following from Stormie...."When our faith is tested during these times, our response to it is revealing. Do we trust Him to provide, or do we get angry and take it out on others? Do we view this as a time that God wants us to draw closer to Him, or do we see it as the termination of our future? Do we understand that God is testing us in order to prepare us for what He is going to do in our lives, or do we believe He is forsaking us? Will we lose patience in this time, or will we grow in faith? The answers we give to these questions are the keys to passing the test."
Yes, I'm pretty much failing this test too. Well, not all of the time. When my son has his good weeks, I'm there. I've aced this test. I can look back and see that He provided. I can see that I need to draw close to Him. I know that my faith is growing. On his rough weeks, I've failed. I'm angry. I'm not trusting Him like I should. I don't understand what this is happening. And I certainly don't have the patience while I wait. If I keep this up, this is going to be a never ending test.

Test three: God tests our obedience
Stormie starts explaining this test with the following verse 'In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.' (Exodus 16:4)
God is testing us to help us. He wants to help us stay away from sin. Yet, I still manage to fail this test when it comes to spending time in His word. I get so swamped with my day to day happenings that I never truly spend as much time with Him as I need to. Sure I pray. I pray in the shower, I pray in the car, before I fall asleep, etc...but I don't spend much time reading the Bible. You know, the one place I can truly learn how to be obedient.

So what's a girl to do? How do I study for these tests? God really spoke to me while reading this chapter and writing this blog entry. For me, I need to spend alot more time with Him and lot less time worrying. I need to give Him as much time as I possibly can. I'm going to start by asking God to search my heart. Show me where I'm going wrong. I'm going to pray that He will help me be faithful and not question why things are happening and instead ask Him what He needs for me to learn during this time. The most important thing I'm going to do is spend alot more time in His word. This will show me where I need more obedience.

The last people I want to be like are the Israelites. I don't want this journey through autism to last much longer than it should.

'Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me and I walk continually in your truth.' (Psalm 26:2-3)

Thank you so much for everyone in this study. Thank you for bringing us together when we need each other the most. Lord I pray that You will give us an everlasting faithfullness in you. Help us never to doubt You and to always trust in You. Lord I pray that when we are going through a test where we need to learn something, we all learn it quickly and can pass it with flying colors. I pray that we will never miss out on your blessings because of being too consumed in a test. Help us be like Job...patient, faithful and never doubting.
In Your name we pray,