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.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Living In the Present

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 20 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.)

Stormie begins this chapter with the phrase “timing is everything”, then edits it to remind us how it really is: “His timing is everything” (p.165). She further explains this by reminding us: “When we come to a place where we trust that God’s timing is perfect, we can be content no matter where we are because we know that God will not leave us there forever.” (p. 165) This immediately made me think of this passage from Paul, in Philippians 4: 12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

The secret is right there, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that last sentence to myself when I’m facing something that I don’t think I can do. Not only is this meant to empower us, but to help us accept and embrace the blessings of the present. Stormie reminds us that if we feel we’re in a bad place, we won’t stay there. Likewise, we shouldn’t get too comfortable if we feel we’re in a “good” place because God wants us to continue growing and moving. When we live fully in the present moment, we can see and appreciate the “little things” or “hidden blessings” that could so easily be overlooked. I know as a mom to a child with autism, every milestone big or small is a cause for celebration. Little moments can light up an entire day and fill my heart with happiness. These moments can seem fleeting and should never pass by without being noticed. In the same respect, it’s comforting to know that the difficult days and phases will also pass.

Stormie reminds us to not get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t notice other people. “Too often we are so into our own lives that we don’t see what is going on with someone who is right beside us. We become concerned with securing the future, and as a result, we overlook the wealth of the present.” (p. 167) I interpreted this to mean two different things. First, we need to make sure we don’t overlook the suffering or needs of others. Stormie shares on page 168 about how every time she has shared a piece of herself to bless someone else, she felt the blessing return to her. When we allow God’s light to shine through us, no matter how imperfectly we feel we do that, it not only shines on those around us but it illuminates our path as well. (Stormie Omartian, p. 168) This leads into the second insight I had from this quote, about not overlooking the wealth of the present. Sharing ourselves, our insights, our contacts and our resources and taking full advantage of the present will allow God to lead us to our next step. The next specialist, intervention, therapist, decision is often made more apparent when we are able to tap into the resources of the present. This is especially true for us autism moms, I am continually in awe of the incredible resources I’ve obtained simply by listening and paying attention to other people.

It is so easy to get weighed down by our feelings about the past or overwhelmed by our concerns or plans for the future of our children. Both of these drain us of our precious and valuable time and energy, making the task at hand seem even more difficult. I am praying for God to keep me in focus, so that I don’t miss what He wants to show me in the here and now.

Thank you for all of the blessings big and small that you give to all of us mothers in each and every moment. Help us to keep You in focus so that we are able to see whatever it is you want for us to see in each moment of our lives. Keep our hearts open and receptive to Your guiding light. Thank you for the ways that you bless us through one another and remind us to always take note of the people that you put in our path. Heal our hearts of the hurts of the past and free us from all worry about the future. May we always turn to You first in all of our needs and take comfort in knowing that you hold all of our lives in the palm of your hand.
In Your name we pray,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Please forgive me...

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 19 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.)

Brief re-cap of Chapter 19, Stepping out of the Past....

In Chapter 19, Stormie Omartian explains to us the importance of forgiveness. How forgiveness is not only important for us to be able to move forward but to also let go of our past. It also helps us grow closer to God when we're not harboring any unforgiveness to anyone. On page 157, Stormie says "Not forgiving the people and events of our past will keep us from ever being completely free of it." After reading this sentence, I couldn't really think of anything in my past that I need to be free of. I had a wonderful childhood, great adolescent years and my young adult years were pretty good. I then read on page 158 "We often refuse to let go of injustice and extend forgiveness to others simply because we can't receive the grace God extends to us through His forgiveness." I then focused on the word "injustice" and did what any other gotta-have-it-in-my-hands-now person would do...I googled "injustice". I already knew what the word meant but it wasn't hitting home for me until I read some synonyms of the word "injustice" and I read....

unfair, wrong, injury, grievance, violation, dirty deal, damage, maltreatment, malpractice

I immediately thought of autism. At first I was thinking...that's it, I need to forgive my pediatricians. No, I really wasn't blaming them. Then I was like this is it...I know it, I need to forgive God. Still didn't hit home. Then it all flashed in front of my eyes, the days my babies were in the hospital and I signed an agreement form for shots, the countless times I've given my son antibiotics for his numerous ear infections, the months and months of watered down Karo syrup to help him with his constipation, the long doctors appointments where I would hold him down so that the nurses could give him 6 or 7 immunizations in one day, the many times I signed my name saying it was ok for them to do this to my son, the research I should have done but never did, two MRI's to see what was going on with head circumference, and worse yet the year I was in complete denial that my son, my loving affectionate son, has autism. Even to this day I beat myself up. Where would my son be if I would have started this therapy sooner? Oh, I haven't tried that therapy. I should have spent more time playing with him today but I'm so tired. I know a lot of you do this as well. We can't help but feel like we could have done more. I don't think God blames us for feeling like this. After all, we're Moms. I know my Mom constantly felt this during our times of trouble. However, what Stormie taught me in Chapter 19 is to let go of this unforgiveness/guilt I have towards myself. I love what Stormie writes on page 160...

"If you are in a place where you're not able to see a future for yourself, it may be because you believe the past has kept you from moving into the future God has for you. If you find yourself saying, "If only I had not done that"; "If only this had happened instead"; "If I had experienced that I would not be in the situation I am in today"; or "I have forever forfeited the kind of life that could have been mine," remember that these thoughts are not truth. The truth is that God redeems everything. Even our past. He meets us as we are swimming to keep our heads above the deep waters of past hurt and failure, and He brings us to the place we're supposed to be. He doesn't do it like a magic genie. He does it one step at a time as we depend on Him."
-Stormie Omartian

In other words, I need to forgive myself for my son having autism. Deep down inside, I know it's not my fault. However, I still feel guitly. I still feel like it's my fault. I need to forgive myself for allowing the doctors to give him all of the immunizations. I need to forgive myself for not knowing exactly when I noticed something different between my son who has autism and my other son who just so happen to be his twin brother who does not have autism. I need to know that God has me exactly where He needs me and He is here for me.

Another part of Chapter 19 that I briefly want to touch on because I feel this is so important when dealing with autism is on page 161. Stormie says "Along with not looking back, it's not good to look too far ahead, either. Doing so may cause you to worry about where you think you should be, and that can be overwhelming too. Looking back, you see all that you didn't do. Looking too far forward, you see all you think you can't do. It's best to embrace the step you're on and say, "God, give me the ability to do what I have to do today." How often do we worry about our children's future? How many times do I look at where my son should be? Instead, God wants us to focus on where we are now. Enjoy every little step our children are taking. Relish every new word, sound or playskill our kids are doing. Be there for our children so that we can help them through this. Let's find out what God needs for us to do through our children having autism.

On page 162, Stormie reminds us..."Don't sit in the darkness of the past when God has laid out a path for you to walk in the present that is illuminated with the light of His forgiveness and revelation."

Thank you for showing me where I have unforgiveness in my heart. I thank you for showing me what I already knew, that it's not my fault that my son has autism. Thank you for allowing me to forgive myself and for taking away the guilt that I was feeling. Thank you for walking every day with me. I pray that I will see what You need for me to do for You each and every day.
In Your Name I pray,

Bible Verses
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Our Comfort In Times Of Loss

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 18 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.)

The title of Chapter 18, Reaching for God’s Hand in Times of Loss, reminded me of how we are to fully trust God, like little children. When our losses overwhelm us, we have to be like little girls, looking to and asking our Heavenly Father for help with what we can’t do on our own. It also reminded me that I can’t heal from my losses on my own strength or by having someone else make them right. I need God’s hand to do the healing.

The losses we have faced when our children were diagnosed with autism are immeasurable. Most of us can easily recall how it felt and in many cases still feels to realize the loss of that “typical” experience in raising our children. We deeply feel this loss on many levels in a variety of situations. Stormie gives a very touching account of how profoundly the loss of her best friend impacted her life and how difficult the process of grieving and healing from this loss was. She got to the point where eventually other people didn’t want to hear about her grief, even though the pain had not subsided. It wasn’t until she turned to God completely as her source of comfort that she finally experienced the relief, comfort and healing that she needed for her grief to end. I thought to myself, “How often do I try to do everything on my own (including the healing part), only asking for God’s help when I’ve exhausted all my efforts or options?” and “How often do I look to others to make me feel better about what I have lost?” Stormie reminds us on page 153, “When we have suffered a deep loss, only God can sustain us, take the pain away, and make us whole again.”

This chapter was also a reminder for me to pay attention to my need for healing. Often I am so focused on bringing God’s healing to my son that I neglect my own need for God to reach down and heal my heart. A good friend recommended that I recite one particular verse of scripture every time the tears came after a very difficult IEP meeting. This helped me to heal from this experience tremendously. It took a lot of reciting, almost constantly at first, but after a little while, I felt noticeably “lighter” and could look at the experience more objectively. I’ve decided that I am going to do the same thing with these feelings of loss. Every time the sadness surfaces, the tears threaten to come or the pain returns in any way relating to this loss I will say, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Sometimes these feelings come when I least expect them and I already feel better knowing that I am prepared.

Stormie also offers some really good insights to keep in mind when we suffer a loss of any kind. First, she reminds us to focus on the loving intentions behind the gestures and words of comfort offered by others. On page 153, she writes, “When people are trying to show us love during our time of loss, we need to let them show it and not criticize them if they don’t do it perfectly”. I thought of the times I’ve been at a loss for words when friends or loved ones have suffered an unthinkable loss. I imagine others feel that way when they don’t know how to respond to or what to say to us regarding all that we’ve lost or have to deal with currently. It is impossible for others to know what it is we go through on a daily basis. If we remember that it matters that another person made the effort, we can be less likely to get hung up on the technicalities and be comforted by their loving intentions. Most importantly, Stormie addresses how to handle it when we feel like blaming God for our loss. She makes this point beautifully on page 154; “Often people blame God for the tragedies in their lives and close themselves off from the very One who can take their pain away. But we won’t make that same mistake if we will remember two things: God is good, and Satan comes to kill and destroy. It’s crucial not to confuse the two during a time of loss.” It is so easy for the enemy to use our feelings against us in these situations, especially when our loss feels overwhelming. This is such an important truth. God really is so good, He wants to heal and comfort us, so that these challenges and losses cause us to rise higher and enter into greater blessing.

Thank you for being our unfailing Friend, our Helper, our Comfort and our Healer. Give us the faith we need to come to You with open arms and accept the healing that only You can give us in your loving embrace. Help me to see you in others as they offer their love and support and also help me to shine your light to others in their moments of darkness and loss. Give us the ability to discern whatever you want us to see and learn in all of our trials. Thank you for using every situation to bring us closer to You and the good purpose that You have for us and for our families.
In Your name we pray,

Bible Verses:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”
-Psalm 147:3

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
-John 14:1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. ”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-5