(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.
"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."
"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."
"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."