Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In With the New

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 11 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.)

I don't know about you but I'm always a little bit uneasy when I'm driving somewhere new for the first time. I've always been good at reading maps, have a good sense of direction, and now benefit from the invention of the GPS. Still, there are always the thoughts of getting lost, not getting where I need to be on time, getting stuck in traffic or somewhere it isn't safe. Prior to autism and special needs, every doctor my children saw was no more than fifteen minutes from our home. First, we brought my son to a pediatric allergist who was 30 minutes away. Gradually, more doctors were added to our agenda. For the past year, we sought out the help of a neurodevelopmental pediatrician who was 145 miles from our home. Last month, we drove to bring him to a specialist that was over 600 miles away. There are always challenges to work out, but we always arrive at our destination safe and sound. This is just one of many ways that autism has forced me out of my comfort zone. Each step takes us in a new direction that helps us to bring him closer to health and healing.

Never in my life have I needed to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as much as I do now. I often feel bombarded by potential ways to help my son and could easily not know where my focus should be. Though I have learned alot in my two years into the autism journey, there is still so much more that I want to know about. As I work to find and put together all the missing pieces, I must also muddle through the day-to-day stressors of sick children, regressions, school/therapist issues, sustaining my marriage, keeping up with my home and whatever else life throws at me. On page 155, Joyce states, "We have dreams and goals that we want to pursue, but we also need solutions to the challenges that we experience along the way. If we know what to do, then we need to do it; if we don't , then we have the privilege of trusting God to guide us."

In Try Something New, Joyce gives great examples from the Bible about the blessings of following God into new places in Joshua and in Moses. Moses was initially reluctant to speak out to Pharoah and tried to take action too quickly, out of God's timing. God worked with Moses over time and was able to use him to lead his people out of slavery and into freedom. Joshua was chosen by God to continue what Moses began and take the Israelites into the Promised Land. Through Joshua, the people followed God's will by following the ark of the covenant, which contained the ten commandments and manna.

Joyce reminds us that we "follow the ark" when we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us. (p. 156) She goes on to share insights to help determine whether we are following God's lead by suggesting: The first question we need to ask when we face a new situation is, "Is this God's will for me?" The second is "Do I have inner peace about this?" We also need to ask ourselves if we sense His presence in the new situation. If we believe it is God's will, we can trust God to provide everything we need each step of the way. (p. 156) Once we have discerned which path God wants us to take, we need to follow it by taking step after step in obedience. Sometimes this means going to God for guidance instead of getting a "consensus" from everyone in my life about what I should do, or as Joyce points out on page 159, being willing to say no to others or myself sometimes.

I have always been a "planner" and it doesn't take more than a mere suggestion to get my wheels turning and for me to try and "see" how it's all supposed to work out. Joyce put this in perspective for me on page 159, when she states, "We must be careful that we are not planning and praying that our plan will work, when we should be praying first and then following God's plan." Wow, I think that needs to be on my refrigerator.

It seems to me that the important thing to remember is that although it is often scary, we may feel inadequate or tempted to give up, and will most certainly have derailment attempts from the enemy, we must always remember that it is always best to do what God leads us to do. It is comforting to me to know that as I set out to do what sometimes feels like the impossible, God is with me and will finish what He has set out to accomplish.

Bible verses:

"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

So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"
-Hebrews 13:6

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song."
-Psalm 28:7

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Stories Behind the Testimonies

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 10 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.)

We all love a good testimony. It's so wonderful as followers of Christ to see how others got to where they are today. To see how God has made a tremendous impact on their life. To see the miracles that we are waiting on actually come true for others. What we don't see are all of the stories behind each testimony. The stories on how each person went through different trials and tests to be who they are today. The stories of hardship that God used to truly shape their lives. It's nice to see the end result. However, if you're like me and you're waiting for that awe-factor to come through in your testimony, you want to hear how these believers pulled through when it was tough. Knowing that others are going through or have gone through a test or a trial helps me know that it's possible to pass this test with flying colors.

In Chapter 10, Testimony Begins with T-E-S-T, Joyce Meyer talks about the importance of our testimonies and how "no one ever has a testimony without a test." (page 142) I love how on page 142 Joyce also reminds us that "everything God permits us to go through will ultimately be good for us..." I take a lot of comfort in knowing that through this all, God is here with me and as long as I let Him, He will guide me through each of these tests. He has the answers for me. If I study (the Bible) for my tests/trials, I will be able to soar right through them. If not, I will struggle just to make it through the end of the test.

I think back on the past 7 years of my life and all of the tests and trials that I've encountered since then. I can see how these tests/trials have made me who I am today. In chapter 10, Joyce shares with us the five most common tests that we will face throughout our lives.

The "Get Over It" Test
If we're all honest, this is a hard test to pass. This is the test where you can get over it quickly when someone hurts your feelings or offends you. Forgiveness is the key to passing this test. How hard it is though to forgive and forget when someone offends us autism moms. I've heard countless stories on how friends have been told that they need to discipline their children with autism better, how we need to just love them more, how they need to apologize for something they have no idea what they've done wrong and one of my personal favorites the way friends and family can make us feel when they are doubting our decisions of diet, biomedical, therapies and vaccinations. I feel offended with this and I will be the first to admit, I have a hard time forgiving. Sure I'm nice to them but as soon as I get a chance to prove how wrong they are, I do. I know instead I need to forgive and move on. I love the prayer that Joyce included in this section on page 146...."God, I choose to believe the best. My feelings are hurt, but You can heal me. I refuse to be bitter; I refuse to be angry; I refuse to be offended." Joyce goes on and explains how we as Christians must be good at forgiving and how this is something we will be doing for a long time. I think that forgiveness does a lot for a person. I know when I forgive someone I honestly don't think about the situation anymore. I move on. I'm not consumed with hurt or worry or anything else that may be keeping me from doing what God needs for me to be doing in that moment. It's amazing how truly freeing it can feel to forgive even the littlest comment that offends us.

The "Judas Kiss" Test
This test goes back to the story of Judas' betrayal with a kiss to Jesus. This is how Judas revealed who Jesus is. Joyce mentions how this tests happens in a lot of churches where pastors spend a lot of time training, mentoring and ministering to young men in their congregation to help them grow. Only to have these men leave the church and take some of the members with them. I'll be honest with you, I don't think I've had this test in my life before. Have you? If so, please share with us in the comments section. I'd love to learn more about this test. Maybe I need to see if from a different angle to see that I have truly already taken this test.

The "Motive" Test
On page 149, Joyce says "I like to define a motive as 'the why behind the what'. A motive is the reason we do what we do. We often say we are doing things for God, but sometimes we do not understand why we do them." I really enjoyed reading about this test. I know that sounds odd but it really made me think about different things that I do in life and why I do it. You see, I am a people pleaser. I care what others think, I worry about what others think and I will strap myself volunteering for things to the point where I am utterly exhausted to make others happy. Here, Joyce taught me to stop and ask myself "why am I doing this" with just about everything I agree to. Then I will know if I am truly doing this for God or am I doing this because of status or to make others think better of me. You see, if we're doing it to help others that is good but it has got to be from God. Each time I agree to drop off a dinner to someone who is sick, volunteer at school or church or anything else I'm going to stop and ask the questions that Joyce wrote on page 150. I encourage you to do the same. I'll bet we find ourselves with a lot of free time that God will need.

The "Loving The Unlovely" Test
This is truly a hard test but I love this test. I have several of these kind of people in my life. It's hard to hold a conversation with them. It's hard to wrap ourselves around them so that they can feel the love of Jesus. But you know what? I was one of these people at one point in my life. Fortunately for me, I had a true friend who "loved the unlovely" and showed me Jesus. That's what we need to keep remembering. When the test gets really tough, pray that He will show us how we can help this particular person and what we can do to show His love.

The "Test of Time"
When I first read the title of this section, I thought Joyce was going to talk about the "everything happens according to his timing" idea. Then I realized it was something even bigger. It's the test of how long we will be faithful to God. A day? A week here and there? An hour? What will our answers be for this test? I'm going to strive for my entire life. I know that through this "Test of Time" there will be all of the tests mentioned above. To me, it's worth it. I know that He is with me and I know that He is shaping my life into the life He needs it to be. If I get distracted during these tests and I'm not answering correctly, I'll pick myself back up again and keep taking the tests until I pass with flying colors.

I think about all of the tests that we, as autism moms, face on a daily basis. I know it's hard. I know it's scary. I also know it's very rewarding. I know that God sees all of our struggles, our dedications and our faith in Him. I also know that one day our God is going to look at us and say "Well done my good and faithful servant." Matthew 25:23

Thank you for this wonderful chapter and incredible book. Thank you for bringing us all together on this blog to help learn more about You and how we can do better for You. I pray that You will help us all be strong during our times of testing. Help us know the right answers to these tests so that we can go through them quickly and grow to be the person You need us to be.
In Your Name we pray,

Bible Verses
These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold––and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. -1 Peter 1:7

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections. -Psalm 26:2

[God says], 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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Past the Roadblocks

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 9 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 9, Overcoming the Obstacles to Success with an interesting and insightful story about a very smart donkey. The donkey fell into a deep well. His owner, the farmer didn't know what to do and decided to bury the donkey in the well. He figured that the donkey was old and it would be too much trouble to try and get him out. The amazing thing is that every time a shovelful of dirt fell on the donkey, he shook it off and climbed on top of it. Eventually, the dirt that was intended to bury him was used to eventually lead the donkey to climb out of the well. Who knew we could learn so much from a donkey! Joyce uses this to encourage us to "let the circumstances that could suffocate you be the very situations that strengthen you and raise you to a new level". (p.127) Every time we encounter a disappointment or endure an especially difficult period, we can use this principle. Once it is behind us, or under our feet, we can move onward and upward, closer to where we need to be. Looking at it this way, I've got quite a few illnesses, regressions, doctors, professionals, IEP meetings and other difficult learning curves under my feet. Learning from, making the best of, and sometimes just plain surviving is also a victory and just as valuable as a big gain is when it comes to getting my son to where he needs to be. It's also so important to take into account the work that God is doing in me, the qualities He's honing and skills that I wouldn't learn otherwise, not to mention the ripple effect of lives that are touched by our journey through autism.

Joyce identifies seven obstacles that Satan uses to block us from persevering to our victory. They are: The Temptation to Quit, Personal Problems, Rejection, Wanting Too Much Too Soon, Inconvenience, Jealousy and Selfishness. As we've seen in previous chapters, it is often when we are on the brink of a major breakthrough that the enemy pulls out all the stops to try and get us to give up. I think that at different times, I have been guilty of falling prey to just about all of these. Fortunately she also gives us great ways to combat these roadblocks so that they don't derail us. It's sometimes hard to remember that pushing past these kinds of obstacles glorifies God, show's His hand and makes the victories that much sweeter.

The Temptation to Quit
: I think this one ties in and relates to all the others. This journey through autism is by no means fair or reasonable. Throughout our struggles there are many seemingly legitimate reasons to not push through and continue with what we believe God wants us to do individually. Joyce recommends that we are to immediately turn to God in prayer and resist this at the very instant the temptation to quit hits us. On page 130, she states, "Be sure that you work with God and pray that you won't surrender to the temptation to give up. Ask Him to help you to finish what He has called you to do, be all He wants you to be, do all He wants you to do, and have all He wants you to have."

Personal Problems
: Have you ever noticed that personal problems often come at the most inopportune times, detracting from where you believe God wants you to focus? On page 131, Joyce states, "To be people who remain determined and diligent, we must learn how to make it through times of personal pain." She does clarify this to add that there will be times where we simply can't keep a commitment and that is the right decision. But, in every situation possible, it is so very important to keep our word, and continue doing what God sets for us to do, especially when we can help someone else.

When we step out in faith we will often have to endure criticism or may even lose a few friends. Joyce states on page 132 "We need to remember that we may not please people all the time, but if we please God, that is what really matters." God is teaching me about this in my own life, little by little. I'm learning that overcoming this will not only help me get closer to my goal, but will also leave me with a sense of self-worth that is unshakable. I think that having full confidence that you are doing what God wants you to do and full knowledge of His love for you is such an amazing gift.

Wanting Too Much Too Soon:
Once I got to this part, I felt the need to underline, highlight and star this section because this is definitely a trap that I fall into. I am probably most guilty of trying to get ahead of myself and God, doing too much too fast and not having the patience to wait for Him to lead me. Joyce puts this into perspective beautifully on page 135, "Eagerly embrace the times of teaching and preparation He takes you through, even when it seems painfully slow. Don't long for too much too fast, be thankful every day that God is bringing growth, expansion, and new opportunities your way in His perfect timing."

: It is amazing how much we have at our fingertips so easily. We are able to accomplish and learn more in a shorter period of time than ever before. Sometimes we expect this to mean that we won't have to face as much difficulty. Joyce reminds us of how God can use every difficulty for our benefit when she states on page 136, "He made you in such a way that the best comes out of you when you face hard situations and you experience joy and strength when you overcome them."

This is one that we really don't like about ourselves. This is especially devious because it turns us against eachother as women and mothers, when we can accomplish so much more as allies. It is also a good way for the devil to take our focus off of what will help us. On page 137, Joyce writes, "Part of overcoming the obstacle of jealousy is trusting God enough to believe that His plan for each of us is perfect."

At first I thought, "But how can we be considered selfish? So many mothers give up and sacrifice so much for the benefit of their children." Joyce reminds us about the nature of our flesh, stating "It says that feeling good right now is more valuable than living a disciplined, committed lifestyle that will result in the achievement of our goals and the fulfillment of our destinies." (p.139) We have to remember that our enemy will use anything he possibly can to keep us from doing what God wants us to do.

Thank you so much for each mother that is a part of this study and for this wonderful book by Joyce Meyer. Thank you for your faithfulness to our children and in our journey to be in closer relationship to You. Help us to recognize and triumph over the things that keep us from you and your purpose for our lives. Give us the wisdom, patience and strength to persevere in our efforts to help our children. Teach us to see how You work in all situations and give us the faith that is needed for complete trust in Your perfect and wonderful plan for our lives. May we always be brave enough to follow where you will lead us. We ask all of these things in your name, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Being Successful at Never Giving Up

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 8 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 our previous chapters of Never Give Up!, Joyce Meyer gave us so much hope and encouragement to Never Give Up. She really lit a fire under me to draw closer to God and to push through this difficult journey with autism. Finally, in Chapter 8, she really gave me the tools I need to stay focused, committed to God and to not give up.

In Chapter 8, The Keys to Success, Joyce Meyer gives us the four important keys to success. They are commitment, determination, waiting on the Lord, and taking time to be refreshed and renewed. I'd like to spend a few moments this week discussing each of these keys and how we can use them during our difficult moments in autism and in life.

Commitment...."Without commitment, people give up easily; they have no staying power at all. If you want to be one who never gives up, commitment is the key." Joyce Meyer page 109
I think about our lives with autism. I'm sure they are very similar in many ways. I'm also sure that they are very different as well. On thing is that is similar in all of our lives is we have a child who is desperately counting on us to be committed to helping them through this. Even when the days are tough, heck even when the weeks are tough, we have to find it in us to be 110% committed to helping our children. Joyce encourages us to get the "radical commitment." On page 111 she writes "This is the kind of commitment that stays steady and strong throughout the course of a lifetime, and I hope it is the kind of commitment you develop in your life. You may not have it down perfectly, but if you want to move on with God and be blessed in your life, you need this kind of radical commitment-the kind that follows through even when times are tough, when you feel alone or rejected, or when circumstances look bad." In other words, on the months where money is beyond tight, on the days where you feel no one else can possibly know what it's like raising your child who has autism, and in those moments when you feel like your son will always have autism, you stay committed. God has you exactly where He wants you. You trust in Him. You commit to Him and you commit yourself to your child. You push forward to the next day and the next to help your child be the best he can possibly be. Most importantly, do what Joyce says to do when it gets really tough, "learn to say form the core of your being 'Nothing is going to shake my commitment in this situation. I am going to see it through to the finish. I will not give up, no matter what." (page 111)

Determination...."When we receive Christ as our Savior we receive God's Spirit; we receive a new "want-to", a determination that enables us to achieve goals and pursue dreams that seem impossible." -Joyce Meyer page 112
Here, Joyce tells us a story about a young boy named Ben. Ben did not perform well in school. He went through a time in his life where he had uncontrollable anger and a bad temper. His mom knew something had to be done so she prayed. She prayed that God would show her what she needed to do to help Ben. She then did as God showed her. Ben ended up graduating from high school with honors, went to Yale University, then to medical school at the University of Michigan, completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in Maryland and in his early 30's he became the director of pediatric neurosurgery. This story is so inspiring to me. Not only because it's a story about a young boy who went from being labelled a "dummy" by his fellow classmates to a neurosurgeon, but also because of his mother's will to never give up on him. She covered her son in prayer and listened to what God needed her to do. I believe that's what God wants us to do for our children as well. Pray that God will show us what He needs us to do for our children. Pray that He will show us what supplements or therapies to do. We need to stay determined to help our children. I love how on page 114 Joyce writes "If you are determined enough, nobody-no evil force from hell, no person on earth-can stop you from being successful. If you will obey God and do what He tells you to do, and if you will be determined to outlast the devil every single time he comes against you, then nothing will be able to keep you from reaching your goals."

Waiting on the Lord..."When success does not come easily, when we find ourselves frustrated and weary in our efforts, we need to wait for the Lord." -Joyce Meyer page 118
That's where I feel like I'm at right now, waiting on the Lord. I'll be honest with you, my son just turned 7 last month and this is not where I thought we'd be. Even when they gave us his diagnosis four years ago, I always thought by the time he was 5 he'd catch up to his twin brother. Then when he turned 5 my thoughts turned to he'd catch up by the time he was 7. He's now 7. Don't get me wrong. I am so thankful and feel so incredibly blessed by him and all of the progress he's made. However, my dream of my son being completely healed from autism is not working out to my timing. I believe God is trying to pull me closer to Him during this time and something is keeping me from getting closer. I'm not sure what. But, after reading this chapter, I'm going to spend more time waiting on Him. I am thankful that Joyce included in this chapter what exactly it means to "wait on the Lord" because I really needed some help with this. On page 118 Joyce says "it simply means spending time with Him, being in His presence, meditating on His Word, worshipping Him, keeping Him at the center of our lives." She then writes "While we wait, we need to aggressively expect God to do great things in us and in our lives." I believe that God still wants me to research all of the different therapies, supplements and biomedical treatments out there for my son. I also believe he wants me to spend as much time as I possibly can playing and being there with him. I don't think that by "waiting" for Him, He just wants me to do nothing. He wants me to continue doing what I'm doing for my son but take the time to be with my Father as well so that I know what He needs for me to do. I also know that for me, the more time I spend with God, the better my attitude, my outlook and my emotions are. Remember what Joyce says on page 121..."Waiting on the Lord does not have to be complicated. Just put Him at the top of your priority list. He wants you to have and enjoy a quality of life you may be missing because you are not spending time with Him."

Renewal..."If we don't take time for renewal, we are in danger of reacting to our circumstances emotionally, which always means responding without wisdom and often contributes to making bad situations even worse." -Joyce Meyer page 122
I don't know about you guys but by 7:30pm, I'm done. I've got to get my kids into bed and quick. I try to do it in a very nurturing Mrs Cleaver way, but most time it ends up with me rushing them to bed so that I can have what I think is my "renewal" time. I turn on my favorite shows and just totally forget about everything around me. There, I've had my renewal time, right? Wrong! I've learned a lot lately about what my body needs for renewal. The top three things are sleep, healthy eating and exercise. If I do all of these, I feel rejuvenated! At least physically. Emotionally, not. Joyce has shown me how much more renewal my spirit needs. I need time alone with God. I need to try to fast. (Probably not 40 days but I'm sure I can try a shorter one.) I need to turn off all of my electronics and just be with Him. (He can make me feel a whole lot better than an episode of Oprah, and I love me some Oprah!) Joyce writes on page 123 "We need times of real quiet because we can connect with God in awesome ways in those places of deep peace and quiet." I believe that this can help me get even closer to God.

We all get to the breaking point where we just don't know if we can go on. Autism can be extremely draining. However, we have our child and God counting on us. We can use these four keys to success that Joyce gives us to help us press forward. When it gets tough and we feel ourselves wanting to give up, let's say to ourselves what Joyce writes on page 115....

"Oh no, you don't! Stop your whining and straighten up right this minute!"-Joyce Meyer

Bible Verses
So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]. Isaiah 26:4

Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness. Psalm 31: 5

Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psa. 27:14