Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fear Not!

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Verses:

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fly Like An Eagle...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is a way

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Way of Holiness:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What's Next?

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

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

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