Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do you know the sign for prayer time?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 17 of Just Enough Light For The Step I'm On. Please know that what we all learn in a study is usually different. Therefore, we ask, if you feel like it, please leave what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Chapter 17 Walking in the Midst of the Overwhelming

I don't know about you girls but the words "overwhelming" and "autism" go hand in hand. Some days I feel like I'm barely treading water. While other days I feel like I'm a champion swimmer who has this all under control. It's funny how on the days I'm that champion swimmer...those are the days I give to God. Those are the moments I totally trust Him with and do not stress over. The days where I feel I'm going under? I'm trying to do it on my own.

In Chapter 17, Stormie gives us an example of trusting God in an overwhelming earthquake. She talks about how everything is shaking and roaring around her. Stormie then tells us how before she was walking with the Lord, she was terrified during these earthquakes. Once she started walking with the Lord, she was still scared but then she felt God with her. After I read this, my mind immediately went to autism like it usually does after I read something. I started thinking about autism and when it gets overwhelming. I know autism is challenging, hard and down right draining at times. But after I read this I thought about the moments in autism that are so overwhelming you can literally feel everything falling to pieces around you. You worry about your child's future. You worry what you haven't done what could be healing your child. You worry about what their life is going to be like. You worry about your marriage, finances, family...What if we don't do this? What if we don't have that? Like the earthquakes, autism is rocking our world so hard we can feel our world trembling and falling to pieces. So why don't we do like Stormie says on page 147 "when we set our anchor in the Lord, we will not be carried away by the storms that threaten to overtake us." How do we do this? How do we take Stormie's advice and not be so overwhelmed in fear of what autism is bringing to the table? We do just what Stormie says she did at 3am one morning....pray. I agree with what Stormie says on page 148 "any sign of fear should always be a call to prayer." Instead of being totally scared and fearful about something, pray and give it to God. I also love how Stormie says on page 148 "don't ignore your fear, but refuse to be controlled by it. Sometimes the enemy of your soul will come upon you and in a moment show you everything you could possibly fear. When that barrage happens, don't listen to any of it. Tune out his lies and tune in to God's Word. Ask the Lord to speak to you, and He will tell you the truth." In other words, when the enemy is telling us our children will never be healed, when the enemy is putting very fearful thoughts into our heads about our children's future, we need to pray and ask God to show us the truth.

I want to back up for a moment and go back to page 147 in Chapter 17. In the middle of the page, Stormie talks about how being fearful is not a sign that you are out of God's Will, that He is not there with you or that you are not spiritually strong enough. I am so glad she included this in her book. Sometimes when I get scared I mean really scared about something, my first thought is where are You God, what have I done wrong? I just love how Stormie keeps hitting the point of "it may be a signal from the Lord to pray."

I've always been the type of person to pray when I'm thankful and to pray when I need something. Now, I'm going to strive to be that person who prays when I'm fearful, overwhelmed and scared. God will take the worry, fear and doubt out of my day so that I can concentrate on what's really important, helping my son and the living the life like God wants me to.

Thank you so much for this wonderful chapter in reminding us to give you all our worries. Thank you for helping us through these storms of life and for walking through this world of autism with us. We know that you are with us and we give you our worries, our fears and all of our moments when we feel overwhelmed.
In Your name we pray,

Bible Verses
Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
-Matthew 11:28
Cast your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.
- 1 Peter 5:7
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
- Revelation 21:4
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
- John 16:33
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything.
- Philippians 4:5-6

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Light for Our Relationships

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 16 of Just Enough Light For The Step I'm On. Please know that what we all learn in a study is usually different. Therefore, we ask, if you feel like it, please leave what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Chapter 16, Traveling Through the Dark Moments of Relationships hit home with me on so many levels. Having a child with autism impacts every area of our lives, including each and every one of our relationships. From our relationship with our self and our God to the way we relate to complete strangers, this journey with autism changes our dealings with others.

Stormie does a good job of explaining the ways that the enemy undermines our relationships with strife. On page 136, she writes, “The enemy of our soul does not want our relationships to work. He knows that as our relationships are destroyed, so too will be our strength and effectiveness.” It is all too easy for a disagreement between friends, spouses, with our children or others to completely drain us of our valuable energy and hope. It can be so easy to become and stay so preoccupied with our own position that we can’t see or hear what God wants us to do. I know because I’ve been there. For a great deal of my life I have been preoccupied with what others think and tried to be pleasing to everyone else, when the most important person I should concern myself with pleasing is God. Stormie gives us some valuable tools to keep our relationships pleasing to God and for resolving strife/withstanding attacks of the enemy. On page 140, she states: The best way to protect all of your relationships is to make sure your primary relationship is with the Lord. Then commit each of your relationships to God and ask Him to be the Lord over all of them. I have a lot to learn in this area but this chapter helped me see that it is always important to put God first, and to set aside my point of view so that I can see the situation from His point of view. This will be the only way that God can accomplish His plan for our lives. We must first acknowledge that His plan is far greater than any plan we could conceive for ourselves.

Having a child with autism impacts every area of our lives and can strain every relationship that we have. Stormie focuses a lot on relationships within marriage and also between a parent and child. Though there are so many other relationships that are affected, I want to also focus on these two, very primary relationships in our lives.

First, autism most definitely does put an extra strain on a marriage. Within a healthy marriage, compromise between two different viewpoints is often difficult in the context of everyday life stressors. In my opinion, autism seems to magnify this. My husband and I do see Matthew’s autism from two different viewpoints. This means that sensitive decisions regarding finances, therapies, treatments are that much more difficult to reach without strife. Add in some sleep deprivation, behavioral challenges and financial strain and our positions can become intensified and more urgent. It is no wonder that the divorce rate is even higher among families with autistic children. Stormie reminds us that Problems in any marriage require a special portion of God’s grace and revelation for each moment. We must ask God every day to take our hopes, expectations, dreams and disappointments, and give us more of His love, patience, kindness, and a willingness to sacrifice. (p.139). I know that there isn’t a day where I don’t need God’s love, patience and kindness in dealing with my daily challenges. Stormie showed me that the key to this is being willing to sacrifice what I want so that I can learn what God wants. Then and only then can he give me what I truly need to help the situation at hand.

Autism also impacts our relationships with our children. We have preconceived notions of what our child should be able to do and how our parenting should be carried out. The first step to helping our children is letting go of this so that we can understand and learn what is truly best for them. We surrender our dreams and wants so that God can give us the wisdom and insight to do what is best for them. This is an incredibly painful process, and involves tremendous and ongoing give-and-take between ourselves and God. If our child has a sibling, the sibling is directly impacted, not only by the stress level but also by the many demands resulting from the needs of autism. Even our best efforts make it extremely difficult (and sometimes downright impossible) to meet everyone’s needs. This can open the door to strife in relationships with all of our children. Just as we do with our child with autism, we also have to surrender our dreams and expectations, as well as the needs of their siblings so that God can illuminate and work in these relationships as well.

When we walk step by step with God through each crisis, we will see Him do a miraculous work of transforming, restoring and healing. (p.139) I pray for these works in my life in so many ways. There isn’t a relationship or situation that we don’t need God’s help with. There also isn’t anything that God can’t do to accomplish these things. My prayer is that we can line up our will with God’s so that He can bring about the transformation, restoration and healing we need in all of our relationships.

Bible Verses:

“But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” –Psalm 34:10

“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.”
-Ephesians 1:11-12

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Disappointing Times in Autism

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 15 of Just Enough Light For The Step I'm On. Please know that what we all learn in a study is usually different. Therefore, we ask, if you feel like it, please leave what you got out of the reading as well. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Chapter 15, Surviving Disappointment...I think we all as mom's to children with autism have experienced disappointment. I remember the day my son was diagnosed like it was yesterday. I'm sure you all do as well. I felt like the lady who was testing my son failed me. I felt like I failed my son. I felt like God failed me. I remember getting to my car and looking at my husband and telling him "I just don't want Sean to feel like he's disappointed us." It was very tough. How do we as mom's deal with these emotions we feel through this incredibly difficult journey with autism and the constant disappointments? How do we help our child survive a world in which we feel people are constantly failing us? What should we do when it feels like all the walls are crashing down around us? Stormie says it perfectly in Chapter 15 on page 132.....If you will maintain a humble, submitted, faith-filled expectant heart, you will see God's goodness manifest in the midst of all that's happening to you.

Unfortunately, autism has effected our family. It happened to us almost three years ago. Ever since that day, disappointment and failure has happened a lot as well. Therapies that we had every hope in working that didn't, supplements that helped one child and back fired on us, friends who consistently compare what my son is doing to what the character in Rain Man did, family who constantly question what we do, the public schools, private schools....the list could go on and on. I always wonder "what if we didn't get the shots?" "I should have noticed the signs sooner." "We should have started therapy sooner?" "Why didn't I try the diet when he was first diagnosed?"

The one thing we have to keep in mind that Stormie writes as her first sentence in Chapter 15 is....Disappointment is inevitable. Everyone's life is full of disappointments. Whether a mom to a child with special needs or a mom to child who has no difficulties what so ever in life, your life has disappointments. We all have our own cross to bear. What we do during these disappointments is what matters the most. On page 131, Stormie says....We make a mistake in expecting too much from ourselves, other people, and life, when our expectations should be from God. I believe that what Stormie is saying here is that when we are living our lives for God and wanting His will to be done, our disappointments don't seem so tough. They are still there but they are easier to deal with. Stormie also compares it to a big work project that fell through and how she had to ask her husband if this is more important than God's will? Now, I'm not going to lie to you, when I first read this I thought "Ok God, I get that situation but we're talking autism. Not a work project. This is my child." The very next thing I felt was from God. He's my child too. Trust Me.

Stormie continues on page 131....God often allows hard things to happen in our lives in order to bless us in some way. If we are willing to allow for that possibility in everything that happens, it saves us from being devastated by people and situations that are ultimately going to be used for God's glory. On page 132, Stormie talks about the Israelites....Instead of choosing to see God's hand in the moment, they blamed Moses and God for everything that disappointed them. As a result, their suffering was prolonged.

So now, I want to go back to the question I asked earlier....what are we as moms who have children with autism supposed to do as we and our children are faced with disappointment? On page 132 Stormie answers this question for us by saying...

When disappointing things happen to you, ask God to help you discern His truth about what you are experiencing. Ask Him to reign in the situation instead of your feelings. It's easy to go with anger or hurt, but far more rewarding to find God's blessing in the situation instead. It pleases God when you have faith enough in the midst of your dissapointment to put your hope and expectations in Him. (Stormie Omartian)

In other words, when that new supplement isn't working, when my son gets overwhelmed and seems to regress when we're on vacation, when the school system has failed me, when my own family and friends have said hurtful things and even when I think back to that day my son was first diagnosed with autism instead of being hurt, mad and resentful I'm going to stop and pray to God. I'm going to pray like Stormie mentions in Chapter 15 that He will show me what I should get out of this. I'm also going to live my life the way He wants me to live it so that when disappointment/failure comes my way, I can handle it. I won't doubt the situation, myself or God. I will know that He is there with me helping me through this time and that right around the corner is a huge blessing waiting to happen.

Dear Lord,
Thank you so much for bringing this wonderful book to our study. I pray that You will help us when we feel disappointed or like someone has failed us. Help us feel Your arms around us when we need it the most. I pray that when we first feel the disappointing times in life we come running to You instead of from You. Help us learn from You quickly so that we don't prolong our suffering like the Israelites. I thank you for all the moms reading this today and pray that You protect us, our children and our hearts through this journey we are experiencing called autism. Help us see the good in the situations where we need it the most.
In Your name we pray,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 14 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 some one's spirits!)

When I saw the title, Believing It’s Not Over Till It’s Over, my impression was that this chapter would encourage me to persevere, especially in adversity. While this is true, it was my intense dislike of change that it really spoke to. This chapter really reminded me why it is important to learn to embrace this as a part of God’s will.

In chapter 14, Stormie gives some great examples from the Bible of how we can never outlive our “usefulness” in God’s eyes. She reminds us of Noah, Moses, Abraham and Sarah. God used them in the later years of their lives, long after any of them could have imagined that they would accomplish their greatest life’s work. I think that Stormie emphasizes this so that we don’t count ourselves out because of any condition that could limit us. In God’s eyes, there are no obstacles to what He will accomplish through our lives. I first thought about it in terms of our role as a caregiver: how the stress, responsibility, exhaustion and overwhelming obstacles can so easily discourage us from believing that He will accomplish something great in our lives. Then I thought about this in terms of our children. God does not view their needs and challenges as being at all limiting to their potential. As easy as it is to be discouraged by our obstacles, God does not see any potential “limits” in any of His children and will triumph in all of us if we stay in faith and trust in Him. I love that He uses the most unlikely people to accomplish the most amazing things.

Another important point that Stormie made in Believing It’s Not Over Till It’s Over is that our resistance to change can keep us from realizing that God is moving in our lives for a reason. Stormie states, “We are such creatures of habit and so resistant to change that God sometimes has to shut off the way things were in our lives so He can bring us into the way He wants us to be.” (p.122) She gives an example of how difficult it was for her and her husband to move to a different part of the country at age fifty. Even though she knew that God was leading her family to do this, she still felt like it was physically more than she could handle. Stormie later learned that their California home had been destroyed in an earthquake shortly after they moved away. He further protected others from being killed or injured by keeping the house from selling. Stormie and her family were blessed with opportunities in Tennessee that would never have been possible if they had stayed in California.

I have always had a hard time with change. I do like the “idea” of change and exciting new possibilities but have often found the actual adjustment to be difficult and exhausting. From changing jobs, moving to different states, making new friends, changing from a professional to a stay-at-home-mom, to learning a new life with a special needs child, major life change has proven to be a lot harder than I could have anticipated at times. Stormie reminds us that change is necessary for us to continue on the path God has for our lives. She gives us this piece of valuable advice: If life as you have known it and the path you have walked seem to be ending, draw especially close to God and He will reveal what your next step is to be. (p.125) I do still have a hard time with embracing major changes, but can now see how God uses it to do great things. So many times my first impulse when facing a difficult change is to try and stop it from happening. How futile it is to try and delay the will of God! It is freeing to realize that my life can be so much easier if I go with the flow of what God is doing in my life and don’t fight it. God has continually proven time and time again that He is in control and has my family’s lives in the palm of His hands. I want to be more available to what God is doing in my life by not using my valuable energy trying to delay or fight change. I want to embrace the will of God in my life and allow him to work through me in all that I do. I realize now that the only way this is at all possible is not on my own strength, but by trusting and leaning on Him completely to give me the strength, patience and wisdom that I need each and every day.

This chapter reminded me of a song by Brandon Heath, “Wait and See” (He’s not finished with me yet). Here’s a link on Youtube with a great slideshow to go with it:

Bible verses:

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 1:6

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
-1 Corinthians 1:27

“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”
-2 Corinthians 12:9

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Are you giving God a busy signal?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 13 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 some one's spirits!)

When I first saw the title of Chapter 13, Expecting A Call, I was very excited. As I mentioned in previous posts, I sometimes have a hard time hearing from God. Now I realize that it's not that God isn't trying to call me, it's that I'm too busy on the "other line".

Brief re-cap:

In Chapter 13, Stormie shares with us how we each have a purpose. God has called a specific purpose on to each of our lives. I love how Stormie says on page 113 "will we listen to find out what it is?" She goes on to explain that many people are "too busy, too drugged out, too tired, too preoccupied, or too in pursuit of riches and fame to God calling them." Towards the bottom of page 113, she says "the only reason it appears that some people are 'more called' by God than others is that they were expecting the call and answered it." Stormie then explains how some people know their calling but can't figure out how to make it happen. She says "God doesn't say 'here's what I want you to do with your life, now go do it.' He first gives a vision and then says 'Walk step by step with Me and I'll do it through you." God's purpose on our life doesn't just come upon us suddenly. We gradually realize our purpose. Stormie shares how she found her purpose.

First she asked God what she was to do with her life. Then, she had to surrender her dreams. During the waiting period, she felt a "tug on her heart" that she would have never otherwise noticed in the "noisy fast lane". Once she found her call she was able to be completely dependent on God. Stormie also says that once you hear God's call on your life, it may not happen right away so don't turn your waiting period into darkness. God is waiting for the right time for you to be ready. On page 117, Stormie writes "God's call on all of us is to be a light to those who are in the darkness, but sometimes He has to take us through our own darkness so we will learn to depend totally on His light." She continues on page 119 with "You need faith that He will speak to you, that you can hear Him, and that it will be good news."

After reading this chapter, I realized why it's hard for me to hear from Him at times. I realized that I totally believed that I couldn't hear from Him. Satan has tricked me once again. He's kept me busy so I couldn't hear from God, he's told me I'll never hear from God and he's even made me angry with God because I couldn't hear from Him. All I have to say now is get behind me Satan because Stormie has shown me how wrong you are! I will hear my purpose in life from God. He will show me. I'm not quite sure what it will be but I do know it will be good! In the meantime, I've surrendered my dream of my son being healed of autism. I've given it to God. He will, hopefully, give it back to me. I will press forward with helping my son through bio-medical treatments, therapy and just playing with him. But I will not worry about ten years from now. I will not worry about what will happen when he starts first grade in the fall. I will not worry about if he will sleep through the night tonight. I will quiet these crazy thoughts in my head so that I can hear from God. Right now, He's telling me that I am exactly where He needs for me to be at the time. I think about this blog and how many people each of us are reaching by us sharing our most personal thoughts, concerns and beliefs. I think about that one person out there that doesn't know how great our God is or may not even know God and is lost in this world of autism not knowing where to turn next and how through this blog we can reach that person. He has me exactly where I need to be and I trust in Him to show me what to do next. I believe that we all have our main purpose in life. I'm still looking for mine. However, I also believe that we have short purposes in life. Something we have to do for a season or two. I know that through my son having autism, He wants me to reach out to other moms who are going through something similar. He may need me to do this forever or it may just be a couple of seasons. I can't question Him. I don't want to question Him. I know that He has my best interest and your best interest at heart. He loves us so much and wants to talk to us and tell us His plans for our lives. But, as we read in Chapter 13, I've been too busy trying to cure my son myself, too busy full of worry, too stressed out about finances, too busy to really listen. I feel like I will always be waiting for my dream if I don't really listen out for what God wants me to do and then do it! I'm ready for my dream to come true.

I'm listening God....what do you need for me to do?

"Dear Lord, thank you for showing us how easy it is to hear from You. I pray that You will quiet all the noises around us so that when You are calling, we can hear You and know that it is You. Please help us give You anything that is not from You. Show us our purpose in life today Lord and keep us focused on this purpose and not side tracked by all the busyness in life. In Your name we pray, Amen."

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden......Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14,16

"O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant."
2 Samuel 7:28