Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's Your Bottom Line?

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 7 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.)

In Chapter 7, Never Give Up On What's Important to You, Joyce Meyer challenges us to identify and strengthen our resolve to not lose sight of what matters the most to us. For me, this was easy, the answer is recovering and healing my son from all that holds him back and helping him to live the best life he possibly can. This is the harvest I hope one day to reap and will continue to strive toward, regardless of what comes against me or how long it may take. It's nice to know that I don't have to give up on the possiblity of him having a happy, healthy and full life. Throughout the chapter, Joyce relates the story of Nehemiah, who persevered, battled and held firm in his faith to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, regardless of what his enemies said, did, or how long it took to accomplish. I believe that in this same way we are rebuilding our children's lives. We may not be laying bricks, but step by step, one skill, goal, and triumph at a time we partner with others make this happen in their lives. In the end, Nehemiah was victorious and I believe we can be too.

The journey through autism is quite a storm and Joyce gives us some great and practical strategies to weather this storm as it rages, not lose our strength or focus and remain faithful to the work God has called us to do. First, she recommends that we take cover. On page 94, she writes, "The first place you need to run when a storm hits your life is to the secret place of the Most High, the presence of God. Read His Word; pray; worship Him; tell Him you trust Him as the winds of adversity blow." She goes on further to say that when we do this, we are actually building a wall of protection against the enemy. When we praise God we are able to wield a powerful weapon that will render the enemy powerless against us. Nehemiah and his workers kept at the task of building the wall while wearing their swords. When we praise God and thank Him for every good thing He has done in our lives we are doing the exact same thing.

Expect Opposition: Joyce reminds us that we will often face opposition, ridicule and objections from others as we press toward our goal. Let's face it, being a mother invites judgement, weren't we the ones that were originally blamed for our children's autism ("refrigerator moms")? Thank God those days are behind us, but the fact is we still will face criticism from others who don't understand or support the choices we think are best. Joyce gives some great advice about how to handle this on page 98: Just stand through that storm; hold your peace; and keep doing what you believe in your heart to be right. I have a visual about staying in God's peace, as if it is an invisible shield that surrounds me. I will sometimes remind myself not to step outside of where God wants me, to stay in His peace.

Refuse to Settle: I find that it can be so easy to be sidetracked by the doubts that enter my mind when the going gets tough. In the "What a Mess" section, I thought about how many times I've thought, "What a mess my son's health is", "What a huge developmental gap he has to bridge". There have been times where the facts of his situation hit me particularly hard, as when I'm going into great detail about his medical history with a new doctor or specialist. These are from the enemy and are designed to get me off track, off kilter and steal my strength and focus. I have to consciously remind myself that there is often a difference between "the facts" and "the truth". The facts may be saying that I have an insurmountable mountain in front of me, but the truth is in God's word, and I am "more than a conqueror". (Romans 8:37)

Bible Verses:

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "
-Ephesians 6: 13-17

"'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

"You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows."
-Psalm 23: 5

"For nothing is impossible with God."
-Luke 1:38

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Spirit Behind the Brooklyn Bridge

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 6 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.)

Brief Re-cap of Chapter 6 The Conquerer's Spirit

Joyce Meyer opens up Chapter 6 with a story of determination, courage and strength behind the men who built the Brooklyn Bridge. John Roebling was inspired to build a bridge that connected New York City to Brooklyn. John and his son, Washington, set out to build this bridge. A tragic accident took the life of John, however Washington was determined to move on and get the job done. Years later, Washington was injured and despite brain damage that kept him from walking, talking and even moving he found a way to finish his work. It took over 11 years, but through the help of his wife, he was able to use finger taps to communicate with his wife and his engineers to tell them how to finish building the Brooklyn Bridge. He never gave up. Joyce immediately says that Washington Roebling had "the spirit of the conqueror." She goes on saying "No matter what you go through in life, if you have the spirit of the conqueror and you really know who you are in Christ and truly believe God is on your side, you do not have to be daunted or overwhelmed by any difficulty you may face." (page 81) To have the spirit of a conquerer, there are six things we must do: resist the devil, start strong and finish well, don't be led astray by difficulties, deal with your difficulties and do it for God. At the end of this chapter, Joyce writes "if you face them (difficulties) head-on and press past the adversities you encounter, refusing to give up in the midst of them and moving forward with the spirit of a conqueror, you will develop the skills and determination needed to be everything you were created to be and experience everything God intends for you." (page 90)

The Brooklyn the past, when I heard someone mention this I have always thought of the New York City skyline, I would think of Brooklyn, I would even hear my mom saying "if your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you follow them?" Never growing up have I heard this remarkable story of the spirit behind the Brooklyn Bridge. The love that a son had for his father that he would finish his dream for him, the determination this son had to finish this job even when physically it was impossible, the love and the patience of this man and his wife to learn how to communicate with each other. Now when I think the Brooklyn Bridge I think of what Joyce calls a "Conquerer" and I am more motivated then ever to become a "Conquerer" of autism. My tough days, when all I want to do is crawl back into bed, will still be there but if I remember the six steps mentioned above, I can get through those days that much easier. You know, I had one of those days the other day. I was consumed with worry over whether I should continue homeschooling my son Sean. Sean communicates well, plays pretty good and is getting better and better each month. But we still have our set backs. He can't tell me if someone is picking on him, he has his days where all he wants to do is what I call "scripty play." (This is where he'll become a character from a show and act out the show with props.) Pretty functional I think but then the thought enters my mind. "But it's not what other 7 year olds are doing. He's 7 years old. He's never going to catch up." Now, I don't know about you guys but I know this thought is from Satan himself. Usually, I can get those thoughts out of my head quickly. However, there are those days that I call the "oh woe is me" days where I let it roll and roll and roll and the next thing you know I am giving up. I think about stopping the diet. I think about stopping home school. I think about throwing out the supplements. It would just be easier to give up.

I am so thankful for this chapter. I am so thankful for people like Washington Roebling who didn't give up. I am thankful for his wife who didn't give up on learning how to communicate with him. Even more importantly, I am thankful for Jesus and his determination to never give up even when He had a tough day. (Joyce mentions this as well on page 84) If they can do this, I have to do this. So that one day my son can say how thankful he is for a mom who never gave up, was determined to help him reach his full potential and faced those difficulties head-on. Like Joyce says on page 84 "That does not mean that what he (Paul) endured wasn't difficult; it simply means it did not stop him."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Paying the Price

Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 5 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.)

In chapter 5, It'll Cost You, Joyce Meyer gives some great examples of incredible victories attained by people who were willing to push past obstacles and difficulties of every kind. She begins with Wilma Rudolph, the unbelievable female athlete who persevered against illness, poverty and physical pain to become an Olympic gold medalist. Marian Hammaren walks through unimaginable grief and personal pain after her only child is killed in the Virginia Tech massacre to get to a place of strength and depth in her relationship with God and others who suffer such loss. Aron Ralston first saves himself and a friend during an avalanche, then goes on to successfully amputate his own arm after it is trapped under a boulder. Joyce even shares some of her own journey, as she triumphs in every area of her life despite a past that included sexual, mental and emotional abuse. In all of these examples, someone was willing to push through unthinkable physical and unseen obstacles to get to the reward that God had in store for them.

The Greater the Challenge, The Greater the Reward
: Joyce challenges us to change the way we view our obstacles and consciously choose to respond to them in ways that are honorable to God and reflect our faith in His plan for our lives. She identifies a need for balance in our approach to growth, making right choices (especially when it's hard to do), remaining disciplined, being consistent and choosing not to settle. If we do these things, we won't give up or give in when the going gets tough and will be blessed beyond what we could imagine for ourselves. I can see clearly how each of these attributes can be applied as I work toward my own personal victory in triumphing over autism. As mothers, we are continually challenged to stretch beyond what is considered reasonable and comfortable to meet the needs of our family and help our children reach their fullest potential. Giving our all involves an everyday price of personal sacrifice, discipline, personal growth, willpower, consistency and perseverance. We push past exhaustion, discouragement, regressions, illness, sleep deprivation, ignorance and our own fears, knowing that God will be our strength and the end result will be greater than the struggle. We do all of these things in faith that we will reap a great reward in the lives of our children. There is no greater joy for the mother of an autistic child than to see her child triumph in spite of whatever difficulty has held them back. To us, there are no such things as "small gains", every step forward is a precious gift that is never taken for granted.

You may have noticed that the mom I just described sounds more like a superhero than a regular person and is expected to have strength beyond what most people can fathom. We have to lean and rely fully and completely on God to renew our strength, guide us and provide for all that we need to do this important job. When we do this, we will have the strength to keep going when we feel we can't and can endure until we see our reward. On page 64, Joyce reminds us: The Bible says that when we wait on God our strength is renewed as the eagle (see Isaiah 40:31). To wait on God means to expect Him to do what needs to be done, to lean on and rely on Him. We must make personal decisions to press through, but we never experience success in anything unless we are relying on God to help us.

Making Right Choices Anyway
: This stuck out to me personally as a key to being able to push past obstacles. This is a matter of discipline and discernment that I am learning about in my own life so that I don't get stuck or tempted to give up when adversity or trials set in. On pages 65-66, Joyce identifies the need to push through obstacles of every kind, those that are physical or tangible and those that are unseen. A common thread in the other characteristics she identifies: balance, discipline, consistency and not settling is in the way we make our choices. Regardless of how we feel, we have to make godly choices in our conduct and attitude, especially when it is difficult (and also when it's "justifiable" not to). This often means making the "harder" choice. Joyce reminds us on page 63 that "When we do what we know is right when it is difficult, uncomfortable or inconvenient, we grow spiritually and we are strengthened. We may have to do what is right for a long time before we feel it is 'paying off', but if we stay faithful and refuse to give up, good results will come."

Bible Verses:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint." -Isaiah 40:31

"He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."-Jeremiah 17:8

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12: 1-2

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fear Factor

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 4 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.)

Remember that show Fear Factor? It's the game show/reality show where contestants confronted their deepest fears head on. Whether it was jumping from one tall building to the next or being trapped in a glass container full of bees, the contestants faced their fears. When I first read the title of Chapter 4, confronting your fears, I immediately thought of Fear Factor. Why shouldn't we be like these contestants and face our fears head on?

Joyce Meyer breaks fear down into seven different fears that we must confront and how to confront them. They are as follows:
1. Fear of What People Think
2. Fear of Criticism
3. Fear of Not Pleasing God
4. Fear of Making the Wrong Decision
5. Fear of Missing God
6. Fear of Change
7. Fear of Sacrifice

For me, my biggest fear to confront is Fear of What People Think. For some reason, this has always been an issue for me. I remember in elementary, middle and high school, being so obsessed with what others thought about me or my decisions that I rarely made the right ones. In fact, a lot of times I ended up hurting those who loved me the most and weren't judging me. I remember in college wanting to find that perfect guy but was so worried about what they would really think about me that I rarely let anyone know the real me. Luckily, I found the one who was willing to wait and was so supportive and comforting that it was easy to be me. Once we married, I worried what others would think if they overheard us arguing, or if he wasn't wearing his wedding ring what would our family think or worse yet, after we had twins I was constantly worried that others would see me as a bad mom. So, you can imagine the fears that went through me after our son was diagnosed with autism. Do people think it's my fault? Do the teachers see how hard I work with him? Does this old lady in the grocery store think I'm a bad mom because my son is screaming for ice cream?

This is one of the big things that autism has taught let go of the fear of what other people think. It's taken me about 4 years, but I've almost kicked this fear out the door. I have to admit, when my son who is now 7 gets mad he screams. At home, behind closed doors where no one is watching, I can handle this like a pro. It doesn't bother me and honestly he gets over it in about 2 seconds. However, if we're out in public or even if our windows are open and someone just so happens to be walking by our home, it turns into a big struggle. Mainly because my fear of what others are thinking is clouding my judgement on how to help my son get through this.

Now I have to ask myself, where else am I letting my fear of what others think about me or my decisions get in the way for what I know is the right thing to do? Am I doing what God wants me to do or am I taking the safe route of what others around me want me to do? Whether it's a new therapy for my son, deciding whether to homeschool or send my kids to public school or even going to a neighborhood this what God wants me to do or am I deciding this because I want to make others around me happy? Here's the one thing I need to remember, the only one I need to make happy is God. I want to do what He needs me to do, not what my neighbors, friends or even family want me to do. He's the one I want to make happy.

So, now back to the show Fear Factor. Now that I know that this is my biggest fear right now, I need to tackle this fear. I picture myself on stage with a sold out show. It's me on stage with my son. The seats are full and my son is having the biggest meltdown in the world. What do I do? Do I discipline him like you would every other 7 year like that guy in the front row is telling me to do? Do I hug him and tell him how much I love him and that everything is going to be ok like that Grandma in row two is saying. Or do I ignore the behavior so that I'm not reinforcing an inappropriate behavior like his therapists are telling me to do just to the right of the stage? What I need to do is stop and pray and listen for what God need me to do I need to know that the decisions I'm making are in line for what He wants. Not anyone else. I love how on page 47 Joyce references John 12:42-43...

"And yet (in spite of all this) many even of the leading men (the authorities and the nobles) believed and trusted in Him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that (if they should acknowledge Him) they would be expelled from the synagogue; for they loved the approval and the praise and the glory that come from men (instead of and) more than the glory that comes from God. (They valued their credit with men more than their credit with God.)

How many times do we do this today? It may not be us denying who God is, but how many times do we deny what He wants us to do? Not feeding the homeless guy on the corner, not reaching out to that mom at the playground who you can tell clearly has a child with autism or worse yet giving up on our own children because we think we're going to fail at helping them conquer autism. It's scary. Autism is a very scary world and no one ever said it wouldn't be. But the one thing we can count on with our children having autism, is that God is with us each and every step of the way. He'll help us meet all of our fears head on. Whether it's Fear of What People Think or Fear of Change, through Him, we can do it.

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

I would like to add one more thing to this post, I love how Joyce included Helen Keller's story at the end of this chapter. I was highly encouraged by what Joyce wrote on page 59...

"One of the primary reasons Helen Keller never gave up on herself was that Anne Sullivan never gave up on her."

Joyce then writes how she encourages us to not give up on ourselves. Then at the end of the paragraph she writes "But I also want to make sure you remember to do everything you can to inspire others to persevere through their difficulties and overcome their challenges, just as you do."

My prayer for us all is that we never give up on our children. That we will never let any kind of fear stop us from breaking through what others see as an incurable situation.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1