Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. We will not be doing a study this week or next so that we may all slow down and really find the Christmas spirit this year. Try not to get caught up in the stress and making everything important. Let's all slow down and really "be" with our children as we celebrate the day that Christ was born!

We'll continue our study with Chapters 7 and 8 after the New Year! If you have a prayer request or a praise, please share so that we may all lean on each other this Christmas season!

With lots of love,
Chrissy, Jessica and Nicole

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Delivered and Set Free

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 6 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or scripture in the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join together to fight this battle!)

Have you ever felt like you were bound, blocked, or just too confused to see what was once made so clear to you by God? The first thing I thought of as I read this chapter was the very beginning of this journey with autism, when I was researching, researching, researching. I felt nearly paralyzed and completely overwhelmed with all I could pursue to help my son. I relate to this where I am now also, as trials of various sorts come at me as I do my best to maintain everything I have in place and follow where we are meant to go. Sometimes the present crisis takes so much attention that it is easy to forget all that God has done for us in the past. It is easy and quite understandable to be thrown off focus in this way with so much going on.

It becomes very apparent in these times that we need to lean on God's understanding completely. Joyce shares a struggle that she had early in her ministry with confusion, self-doubt and unbelief. This nearly threw her completely off course to where she couldn't possibly see how her ministry could grow into what God had showed her it would be. In prayer, the Holy Spirit revealed and confirmed repeatedly that there were "mind binding spirits" at work. As soon as she prayed for deliverance, she was set free and was able to believe again.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. -Romans 8:26

This journey requires faith, stamina and motivation far beyond what any of us could have imagined. The only way to have this is through God. If we ask in prayer, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us things that we could not possibly know otherwise and lead us to pray the way we need to. We are drawn closer to God into deeper relationship and are better able to be used by Him.

As Joyce prayed for her deliverance, she confessed these two passages of scripture, out loud:

John 8:31-32
If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Psalm 107:20
He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.

I love the way Joyce reminds us that God "chooses weak and foolish things to confound the wise" (1 Cor 1:27, p.58). It may seem to others that we are foolish in our hope, optimism, faith and the lengths we are willing to go to for our children. It makes me feel better to know that even at my weakest moment, God can and will use me for something great. So if you've ever felt like you were too weak, confused, tired, weighed down or overwhelmed to make any difference, take heart! You are in very good company, as one who can be used by God in extraordinary ways.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for hearing us when we pray to you. Thank you for each and every mother that you draw closer to you and for all of the ways you have blessed us as we raise our children with autism. In the name of your son Jesus, and by the power of His blood, we come against any "mind-binding spirits" that have been causing difficulty as we live to fulfill your purposes. In Jesus' name, set us free from anything that holds us back and is not of you. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, give us faith, insight, wisdom, love, healing and deliverance where you know we need it most. We turn from our old ways of relying on ourselves and surrender fully to you. We trust in Your ways and Your perfect plan for our lives and the lives of our children. Speak Lord, we are listening. We ask this in Jesus' name.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It All Begins With Being Positive

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Chapter 5 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or scripture in the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join together to fight this battle!) shall be done for you as you have believed.... -Matthew 8:13

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.... -Proverbs 23:7

Negative Nancy....have you ever been called that before? I'm sure we all have. It's so hard in today's society to not be negative. We look at all of the devastation around us in this time of war, this time of poverty and this time of sickness and it's very hard to be positive. However, what Joyce teaches us in Chapter 5 is that now is the time for us to be positive. It doesn't mean you run around being Miss Perfect-Happy-Go-Lucky. It means that you have the faith in God to help you through any negativities that are thrown your way. You accept your situation and realize that it is happening but you also rely on God to allow the good to come out of it.

Being a positive person doesn't mean you are living in your own little perfect world where nothing can go wrong. It means that you can be the person that Joyce reminded us that Apostle Paul tells us to be in Romans 12:16....the kind who plans things but doesn't fall apart if the plan don't work out. I think back to the moment I was told I was having twins. For the next three years, I had our lives planned out. They would be the best of friends. They would go to school together. They would build forts throughout the house. Climb trees. Play in the treehouses. I even had them marrying sisters. All of a sudden, my plans came crashing down when one of boys was diagnosed with autism. Then, over the next three years I slowly watched their relationship change. I didn't have a choice. I had to change my plans. They were now in two different schools. One would make new friends. One would try his hardest to get his brother to play with him. Climb trees, build forts, chase him around the yard. He didn't care, just play with him. While the other slipped into his own world as we desperately tried to get him to be with us. As his mother, I had no choice. My plans changed. I couldn't be disappointed because then I felt like I was disappointed in God. This is the life we were given. God knows what we need in our lives. We just have to adjust our plans a little. Yes, my boys are the best of friends. Sure they may need a little help from me but they climb trees together, build forts, and play in the treehouses. (I even have two sisters picked out for them who live right up the street.)

Here's the thing, if we consume our minds with negative thoughts how in the world will good ever prevail in this world. Sure it hurts if what we hope for doesn't come true. But how much more sad is it if it doesn't come true because we didn't hope for it. As we pray for God's will to be done in our lives, we have to accept whatever his will is and know that it is the best for us all.

No matter what is thrown at us in this life...autism, cancer, divorce, poverty....we have to remember what Joyce tells us on page 50...."have a ready mind". Having a ready mind isn't being negative. It's basically accepting what is going on, being positive and trusting that God is with you through it. There's a bigger reason that we can not see.

I'd like to close this post with what Joyce says on page 50 in regards to the young lady whose engagement was broken off. (She put a small paragraph showing us how to have a positive ready mind.) However, I've changed it up a bit to focus it around our children having autism. I hope it helps you as much as it has me today.

...I'm really sad that my child has autism, but I'm going to trust God. I hope my children will still be the closest friends, share the deepest secrets and the have the most fun together. I am going to ask and believe that my son will be healed from autism; but more than anything, I want God's perfect will. If it doesn't turn out the way I want it to, I'll survive, because Jesus lives in me. It may be hard for a while, but I trust in the Lord. I believe that in the end everything will work out for the best.....

As Joyce puts it afterwards...."this is facing the facts, having a ready mind and still being positive."

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5

Dear Lord, I thank you so much for everything you are giving us through this study. I pray that you will keep us all safe from negative thoughts. Help us see the positive in everything that comes our way but to most of all trust in you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Little by Little

(Below are Jessica's thoughts for Chapter 4 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or scripture in the comment section below each post. Let's dig deep and join together to fight this battle!)

And the Lord your God will clear out the nations before you, little by little; you may not consume them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase among you. -Deuteronomy 7:22

This is a chapter I really needed to read, right now. I have been struggling with discouragement and it has been very hard to keep focus on what I need to do. That plus the beginning of the holiday season, and some other stressors make me really "get" the whole "Battlefield of the Mind" concept. I'm going to start out with what jumped at me right away, as if God meant it just for me.

"When you fail (which you will), that doesn't mean that you are a failure" (p. 40). Just last night, in a moment of weakness I asked my husband, "Am I failing Matthew?". In the light of discouragement (or as Joyce puts it, lack of hope), I was only seeing what he couldn't yet do. The truth of the matter is that my son is growing, learning and progressing-but little by little, often in a back-and-forth fashion, not in huge spurts. Joyce reminds us that we should turn to Christ and let Him be our strength when we feel weak. As long as we keep getting back up, and leaning on God, we can't fail. If I am doing what God wants me to do (which I believe that I am) and he is there every step of the way (which I know he is), then I know that only victory can be the final outcome.

Why are you so cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted withing me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God. -Psalm 42:5

Joyce identifies condemnation and discouragement as key weapons that the devil uses in an attempt to keep us from reaching our victory. This is a good time to use our weapon, the weapon of the Word, and speak out loud the truth of God over our lives. There are some key verses that I lean on heavily in difficult times:

Jeremiah 29:11
Romans 8:28
Philippians 4:13
Isaiah 40:31

Hope is the opposite of discouragement and getting ourselves in line with God's will for our lives will involve putting more weight on what God says for our lives than our feelings or even what we see in front of us. Hope creates strength and energizes us. There is great power in praying out loud the word of God and also in praise during the times you least feel like it. Praise keeps us connected to God, the source of all things at all times. It also confuses the enemy when we are praising when it feels more logical to despair.

I like how Joyce gives us two different scripts to illustrate negative versus positive thoughts. In this respect, I would like to humbly offer this prayer:

Dear Lord, I thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. I thank you for your love, faithfulness and patience with our human frailty. Thank you for setting us free from condemnation and for carrying the cross on our behalf. It is by your blood that we are made right with you. Help us to remember this always, especially in times of discouragement. Help us to always stay mindful of what you say about our future and our potential. Thank you for telling us in your word that you want good things for our lives and for your encouragement and your mercy. Give us the grace we need to develop the fruit of patience that you placed within us as we persevere toward our victory, little by little. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

With Thankful Hearts

(This week we are sharing five things relating to our journey with autism which we are most grateful to God for. We encourage you to share the ways that God has blessed you also by posting a comment. Each of us is gifted, loved and blessed by God in a unique way. We are sure that everyone will be encouraged by what we all share.)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
-Psalm 100: 4-5

Jessica's List:

1. God- Without the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I would be completely, 100% lost as to how to help my child. At best, I would have a shot in the dark. God's unfailing love and forgiveness have been a constant. There have been many times where I've wanted to give in to the temptation to just try things out of desperation to help my son or felt lost from frustration or sadness. God has always been faithful and helped me to get back up again each and every time.

2. Matthew- Through all of this I have the most amazing, sweet, resilient little boy to cherish, teach and love. He brings so much happiness, love and joy to my life.

3. Being a witness to miracles-Every step forward is appreciated so much more, and is such a source of hope for me. Autism is so very hard sometimes, but the rewards of seeing my son reach a new milestone are truly amazing.

4. A community of autism moms-This is a club that I never wanted to belong to, but is filled with the most determined and inspiring people anyone could hope to meet. I love the way we support, help and strengthen one another.

5. The change in my heart- Having a child with autism is continuously challenging on so many levels. As I learn, heal and grow, I get to know God better every day. I am also better at relating to others who are suffering and have a much greater capacity for love and compassion. In relation to this, I am also so grateful for any chance to use my pain and also my victories to help and encourage other mothers.

Nicole's List:

1. God- I am so thankful that you, God, continue to amaze me. On days where I just don't feel like I can give any more, you surprise me with the comfort and the motivation that I need. I am so thankful that I know you and know the power that you have over everything in this world.

2. Sean's Voice: I know there are days where I ask for so much God. Days when I beg and plead for you to help my son be able to hold a conversation with me. Days when I bargain with you to help my children form that brotherly relationship that other brothers have. Today God, I want you to know how thankful I am just to hear the sound of my son's voice. Whether it's scripting, a one word phrase or one of his phenomenal sentences I never thought I'd hear, I thank you for every sound he makes.

3. Friends: I have to give kudos to you God for giving me the friends who don't have children on the spectrum. Yes, they may not totally "get it" however, they help me appreciate things in a whole new light. Thank you for giving me friends and neighbors I can lean on, cry with and see the miracles that you do with my son.

4. My husband and my family: I thank you God for giving me a husband who is hard working and a wonderful father. Thank you for giving him the heart and the passion to want to help his children and most importantly want to spend time with them. I also thank you for blessing me with a family that is always there to lift us up when we need it.

5. Sean's Twin Brother, Hunter: I'll never forget the moment you let me know that I was having twins God. The excitement, the fear, the happiness, the fear :). I was so honored that you trusted me with two at one time. After Sean was diagnosed with autism, it was extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that one had autism and the other didn't. Then I was concerned what that would do to their "twin relationship." Yet you never failed me. You gave me Hunter, an amazing little boy who wants nothing but to help his brother be happy. You helped him form an exceptional "twin relationship" with Sean that they both treasure. You never cease to amaze me God.

We hope that you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving and look forward to resuming our study of Battlefield of the Mind next Wednesday!

Jessica, Nicole and Chrissy

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Let's Never Quit on God

(Below are Nicole's thoughts for Chapter 3 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or scripture in the comment section below each post. Let's dig deep and join together to fight this battle!)

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. -Galations 6:9

In Chapter 3, Don't Give Up, Joyce Meyer encourages us to stay strong and never give up. We are reminded of Galations 6:9 and how Paul encourages us to do the same thing. How hard it is though, to keep pressing forward when we see no results or no end in sight. I think about my child having autism. On the days were I see some sort of praise, accomplishment or hope it's easy for me not to give up on this battle in my mind. However, on the days where we have a lot of stimming, behaviors and no connecting, Satan has lots of room to take over with negative thoughts and worries.

Joyce reminds us of Isaiah 43:2...

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you. -Isaiah 43:2

In other words, God is with us every step of the way. I'm sure you've heard the saying of God will never give you too much that you can't handle. That's exactly what Isaiah 43:2 is saying while letting us know that God is with us through it all. On page 33, Joyce writes "The way God helps us make spiritual progress is by being with us to strengthen and encourage us to 'keep on keeping on' in rough times." We just have to believe.

Once we've made our choice to trust in God, sometimes we have to do so on a daily basis. Here Joyce shares with us Deuteronomy 30:19...

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live. -Deuteronomy 30:19

Here is where Joyce teaches us to make that daily decision of following the flesh or following the Spirit. We are told how easy it is to follow the flesh because we've been doing so our entire lives. However, now that we want to follow the Spirit, we need to make this choice daily. I think about what Joyce says on page 34 "When we begin to feel that the battle of the mind is just too difficult and that we aren't going to make it, then we must be able to cast down that kind of thinking and choose to think that we are going to make it!" As parents of children with autism, I think we need to write this quote down and carry it with us throughout the day. It's so easy to fall down to the negative thinking. What will my son be like when he's older? What if he never gets better? Is it my fault that he has autism? What if he doesn't want to play with the other children? Will he ever say a word in his life? We've all been there. The scary part to all of this is that our negative thoughts are like a snowball effect. The longer we think them, the more negative thoughts come into our minds. I believe it's important in moments like this that we not only cast the negative thoughts out of our minds quickly but that we bombard our minds with the positive things as well. As Joyce says on page 43 "Our thoughts become our words." Let's start thinking more positive thoughts so that our children hear more positive words. If all we're thinking is more negative then positive, our mood will be negative, our words will be negative and our children will feel it.

I love how Joyce shares with us the idea behind God being our "computer programmer." In other words, he has to take a life full of the wrong way to think and reprogram us to think the positive thoughts. It takes time but she reminds us that he's the best "computer programmer" ever.

I think one of the best things that Joyce included in this chapter is the section called "Turn and Take Possession!" Here we read about Moses when he pointed out to the Isrealites that it's only a short journey to the Promised Land but it's taken them forty years to find it.

"The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, You have dwelt long enough on this mountain. Turn and take up your journey and go to the hill country of the Amorites....Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them." -Deutoronomy 1:6-8

Joyce then asks us..."have you dwelt long enough on the same mountain? Have you spent forty years trying to make an eleven day trip?" I think I can be honest with you and share with you my answer. I have. I am stuck on a mountain and turning what should be a short amount of time into a long journey. It's time for me to make that daily choice, sometimes hourly choice, to get the negative thoughts out, never give up, have faith and trust in God that if my worries would come true that he would do what he promises in Isaiah 43:2 and I will not be overwhelmed, the fire will not burn me and it will definitely not overtake me.

Dear Lord,

As we come together to learn how to win this crazy battle between negative thinking and positive thinking, we thank you for always being there with us. We ask that you help us remember when a negative thought is overtaking us that we push it out of our mind immediately and bring in positive thoughts. We know that no matter what is brought our way, you have a bigger plan and are with us every step of the way. And we ask for your forgiveness when we allow the negative thinking to multiply in our minds instead of bringing it to you.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

You Are What You Think

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Chapter 2 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or even scripture on the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join to together to fight this battle!)

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...
(Proverbs 23:7)

Throughout this chapter, Joyce Meyer points out the parallel between our the quality of our thoughts and the state of our physical life. Aside from the verse cited above, the very first point she makes is that we can't "have a positive life and a negative mind" (p. 27).

As I reflect on the battles in my own mind, I can see clear patterns of how this works. If I am not vigilant, my thoughts and will automatically follow how I may feel physically or emotionally. If I am tired, it is easy to let my thoughts go down with my energy level. Before I know it, if I'm not careful I will be talking myself out of feeling productive. If I am feeling sad or anxious, my thoughts can spiral downward into all the reasons why I will fail at something or why I should not have hope. Also, if my mind is unoccupied, a random suggestion or thought can derail my focus and in certain situations lead to negative thinking. It is no coincidence that we feel attacked in our thoughts when we are feeling physically or emotionally vulnerable. As Nicole pointed out last week, our enemy has studied us carefully and knows our weaknesses.

The weapons Joyce mentions are praise, prayer and the word of God. We've heard the expression in sports that the best offense is a good defense. If we are going to win the battle in our mind, we've got to take action beforehand to make sure we are headed in the right direction with our thoughts.

Let's start with praise-I have heard that we can choose to either start our day saying "Good morning Lord!" or "Good Lord, it's morning...". I find that it helps me to begin the day with some sort of blessing like this. Like Nicole, I am also homeschooling my son with autism. This has been a wonderful blessing for our entire family and is truly an honor. However, there are days when I'm tired, not feeling well or just not always as motivated as I'd like to be. We start the day singing "This is the day that the Lord has made" (VeggieTales version). As soon as the song starts playing, he's on my lap smiling at me while I sing. Each and every time it makes me smile inside and so glad that we have this special time to learn together.

Prayer- It really was a good reminder for me to read that we can't conquer our thoughts on our own. No matter how much we strive or how many good intentions we have, there is no way to do this without God. In our prayers we can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us where and how to improve. God alone can give us the grace we need, this has to be a cooperative effort.

God's word-Throughout all of our bible studies, the importance of staying in the word is always highlighted. This really makes so much sense in the context of this book. By taking the time to renew our minds and meditate on God's word, we are in the key position to advance in this battle. For one thing, renewing our minds keeps us from feeling spiritually depleted and vulnerable to attack in this way. For another, we can fill our minds with good thoughts, God's thoughts, so that there is no room for negative thoughts to take up residence.

It is so important for us to understand how this works so that we can stay focused on our God-given work and not lose our peace. Joyce also reminds us that our actions and speech are the fruits of our thoughts. As I mentioned before, none of us should feel like a failure because we've tried and tried but just can't fix our thought life. We really do need the guidance and grace from the Holy Spirit. This is something that can take time to undo and heal, so we need to be patient with ourselves and trust God fully. He wants more than anything for us to lead positive lives with positive thoughts and won't give up on us until we do.

Bible verses:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
-Romans 12:2

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
-Romans 8:14

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2: 8-9

LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.
-Isaiah 25:1

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spiritual Weapons For Your Mind

(Below are Nicole's thoughts for the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter as well. Feel free to leave a comment, question or even scripture on the comment section below this post. Let's dig deep and join to together to fight this battle!)

Joyce Meyer begins Battlefield of the Mind with this scripture in the Introduction....

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical (weapons of flesh and blood), but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds. (Inasmuch as we) refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the (true) knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). -2 Corinthians 10:4,5

Chapter 1 begins with...

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood (contending only with physical opponents), but against the despotisms, against the powers, against (the master spirits who are) the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. -Ephesians 6:12

Both of these scriptures prove that Joyce Meyer is 100% correct. Our mind is a battlefield and we need to find our weapons quickly. We really don't understand how powerful our thoughts are.

"For as he (a person) thinks in his heart, so is he." -Proverbs 23:7

So, what are you thinking? What thoughts hold you captive all throughout the day, every day? Sometimes at night? For me, it's my children, my family. Usually it pertains to worrying about something. Mainly, autism. Sure, I can easily jump on the band wagon of having positive thoughts and not worrying. But like Joyce tells us in Chapter 1, Satan is patient. He knows my weaknesses and how to get me. Now I need my spiritual weapons.

Our three strongest weapons are the Word of God, prayer and praise. These three weapons can destroy Satan's plans. Here's the key...we need to spend as much time as possible in God's Word. Joyce encourages us to do this through "preaching, teaching, books, tapes, seminars, and private Bible study. But we must "abide" (continue) in the Word until it becomes revelation given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Continuing is important." She then reminds us of Mark 4:24..."The measure (of thoughts and study) you give (to the truth you hear) will be the measure (of virtue and knowledge) that comes back to you." The more time we spend knowing his Word the quicker we are to praise him and to pray to him.

Joyce also tells us about how Jesus used his spiritual weapons to fight the devil's temptations in the wilderness for 40 days. I remember hearing about this in church when I was little. (Luke 4:1-13) I remember thinking how important it was that I memorized scripture so that when I die if Satan tries to trick me I can fight him off and go straight to Heaven. What I didn't realize then that Joyce has shown me now is that we are in our wilderness now. Now is the time for us to know God's Word so that we know when a thought is from the devil and when it's the Holy Spirit nudging us. We need to pray to God asking for his help and praise Him for all of the wonderful things that are happening in our lives. We need to use our spiritual weapons to defeat Satan.

One of the biggest strongholds that Satan has on me is my family, particularly my children. He knows how to whisper my deepest fears at just the right moment to keep me from doing what God needs for me to do. I homeschool my son who has autism. Every Sunday night, I plan my entire week of schooling and usually come Monday morning I'm motivated and ready to go. Little by little, different thoughts slowly come in to my mind....he's not really learning anything from you, you're not that great of a teacher, he's totally blocking you out of his world...why are you even trying, you're tired...take the day off. Little by little he takes over my thoughts until finally I've given up. I have no patience. I'm frustrated. I question whether I should be homeschooling my child in the first place. (Enter the spiritual weapons here.) I pray. I ask God to show me if I'm doing the right thing. I praise him and thank him for giving me the ability to stay home and homeschool him. I ask him for help to reach my son. I pick up my Bible, read a devotion online or talk to a fellow believer friend and I'm ready. I'm ready for this war in my mind. I can't let Satan take over my thoughts, my mood and who I am. It's at this point I truly see the blessings in my son. I see him make gains in his academics that he's been struggling to do. Sure it may not be the gains I wanted to see by now but it's a gain and he's moving forward.

We have to remember that Satan knows us. He knows our weaknesses and when it's best to attack us. However, we also have to remember how mighty our God is and that he's fighting this war with us. It is so important that we do not let Satan win this battle in our minds. He's tricky and he can make anything look good even when it's not. The longer we let it continue, the stronger his hold gets on us.

Remember what Joyce writes on page 23..."...Jesus always stands ready to fulfill His promise to set the captives free. He will walk us across the finish line of victory in any area if we are willing to go all the way through it with Him."

Thank you for giving us a heart to want to know more about you and what we can do for you. We know that our minds are subjected to Satan on a daily, hourly and by the second basis and we ask that you help us continue to dive into your Word so that Satan may not have any hold of our minds.
We ask this in Your Name,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Each day in my inbox, I receive a devotional called, "Today's Word with Joel and Victoria". I find Joel Osteen's messages to be very positive and uplifting, especially when I feel I am struggling the most. Our walk with autism is filled with many trials. I felt that we all could use this post, entitled Don't Be Surprised. It reminds us that trials are inevitable but we can look forward to victory if we stay in faith. I hope that this encourages you as much as it has me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coming Up Next

We hope you enjoyed our study of Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life. For our next book, we have selected Joyce Meyer's Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind. We will be working from the book and the study guide in order to get the most out of this important topic, which is so relevant for our fellow autism parents.

We look forward to beginning our new study on November 3rd. Until then, please continue to join us each week as we share uplifting and inspirational scripture.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Living Statement

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 40 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, if you would like, we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment section below each post. We're sure you will lift someone's spirit!)

This is it, Day 40, we are now equipped with knowledge about all five of our God-given purposes for our lives here on earth. I'd like to list each one briefly with a verse of scripture from the previous days, so that we can also restate these purposes for ourselves in God's words.

1. We were planned for God's pleasure.

The Lord is pleased with those who worship him and trust his love.
-Psalm 147:11

2. We were formed for God's family.

Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. -1 John 3:1

3. We were created to become like Christ.

Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head of the body. Christ holds it all together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love. -Ephesians 4: 15-16

4. We were shaped for serving God.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. -1 Peter 4:10

5. We were made for a mission.

Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. -Matthew 28: 18-19

Day 40 recommends that we clarify further what this means in each of our lives by developing a Life Purpose Statement. This is something that will take us some time and effort, but can briefly and effectively keep us focused each day as we strive to live with God's purpose. In order to do this, we need to examine what the following aspects of Christian life mean to us:

1. Worship
"When God's at the center, you worship. When he's not, you worry." -Rick Warren, p. 314
This determines and points out the very center of our lives. If God is at the center, then we do not have to fear what life may bring us. We trust that all things will work out for our good (Romans 8:28) and will have the strength we need for any situation. (Philippians 4:13).

2. Discipleship
"God is far more interested in what you are than what you do." -Rick Warren, p. 314
God sees our hearts, and he wants us to use each situation in our lives to build and share the character of Christ. Good works done without right intentions ulitimately do not build God's kingdom and will not help you to become more like Christ. Real change starts from within, once God changes our hearts, our lives and relationships reflect this and blessings flow.

3. Service
This is where we determine what our greatest contribution will be. By taking an inventory of our God-given passions and gifts we can decide who we can help best and how.

4. Mission
Our mission is to bring others to the knowledge and salvation of Jesus Christ. On page 316, Rick Warren states, "Before most unbelievers accept the Bible as credible, they want to know that we are credible." The way we outwardly live our lives reflects our inner relationship with God. We can't teach others about God's love without showing a true example of this in our own lives. We need to keep our "walk" with God strong so that our "talk" has a true and lasting impact.

5. Fellowship
Although each of us has unique gifts and passions to fulfill God's purpose, none of us were meant to do this alone. Jesus loved his church enough to give his life, and he wants us to know this kind of love as well. We need to have good church communities, as well as communities of friends and family to nurture, strengthen and grow the body of Christ. Our community can shine a new light on our lives as we develop our Life Purpose Statement.

This is alot to consider and we are encouraged to take as long as we need to develop our Life Purpose Statement. Rick Warren also recommends that we make a smaller slogan-type statement that can easily be committed to memory and gives some great examples of how to do this. (see p. 317)

Most important, we are to take away from this book that everything is secondary to God's purpose for our lives. Once we set our lives to focus on God's purposes, we will be blessed because we are operating in God's will.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All for God's Glory

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 38 & Day 39 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

These words have been screaming at me from the front of The Purpose Driven Life book since we started this study in April. It's something I always wondered. What is my goal in life? After my son was diagnosed with autism five years ago I thought it was to help other mothers who don't know Jesus get to know him. After reading The Purpose Driven Life, I've realized it's so much bigger than that. Sure I need to reach out to other moms who have children with autism to show them how much Jesus can and will help us through this difficult time. However, it's so much bigger than autism. Autism is my platform. That's where I start. Where I go from there is up to me.

Day 38 & Day 39 really started to pull the whole book together for me. Day 38 taught me that I need to not only think about reaching out to my family and my friends and to local moms who have children on the spectrum, I also need to reach out to the entire world. That's a big job to put on someone's plate that already has a lot on it. But, stop and think about it. Who all are you in contact with that doesn't know the strength we have in Jesus? I have family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, therapists, doctors, friends on Facebook, friends on Yahoo groups, and so many more. We have been placed in their paths for a reason. How do we start? How can we make a difference in this world for God?

On Day 38, Rick Warren shares with us that one of the best things we can do is pray. On page 301, he says "The Bible tells us to pray for opportunities to witness, for courage to speak up, for those who will believe, for the the rapid spread of the message, and for more workers." He goes on "People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers." We need to start our mission by praying. God will lead us to our mission. Whether it's through the Internet or taking a journey across the world, it will happen. We just need to open ourselves up for it. I love how Rick Warren says on page 304 "There are over 6 billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found." How can you do your part to help? Start by praying.

On Day 39, we learn about balancing our lives. The Purpose Driven Life has taught us the five most important things to living our lives for God's purpose. On page 310, Rick Warren reminds us of how Jesus used these five things to prepare his disciples to do the same. "He helped them to know and love God (worship), taught them to love each other (fellowship), gave them the Word so they could grow to maturity (discipleship), showed them how to serve (ministry), and sent them out to tell others (mission). Jesus modeled a purpose-driven life, and he taught others how to live it, too. That was the "work" that brought glory to God." After everything that Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us, why shouldn't we be living a purpose-driven life as well? It all starts with a prayer. Praying is easy. God will show us where we need to be and who we need to help as long as we let him in. How much easier our lives would be if we could remember this. Remember what Rick Warren said on page 299..."The only way we make this paradigm switch is by a moment-by-moment dependence on God."

Get into the habit right at this moment of praying. Yes, we can still pray to God when we need his help, need a miracle, etc...However, what most of us don't pray about is our mission and who we can help. I know it can be kind of intimidating teaching someone about Jesus. However, if you stop and think about it, that's just Satan playing with your mind. What if they ask you a question you don't know? What if they laugh at you? What if they....? It's Satan. You know Jesus. You know what he's done for you in your life and what he will continue to do for you. All you need to do is show them his love. God is so awesome that not only will he bring us our missions, he'll prepare us as well!

As a side note, if you are looking for a short book on ways to share your faith, I've found great comfort in "How to Share Your Faith" by Greg Laurie. It's an easy read that has helped me a great deal. You may be able to check it out at your local library!

Bible Verses from Day 38 & Day 39
Jesus said to his followers, "Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone." -Mark 16:15

Send us around the world with the news of your saving power and your eternal plan for all mankind. -Psalm 67:2

Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. -Ephesians 5:15

Don't let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance. -2 Peter 3:17

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On a Mission

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Days 36 and 37 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I have learned through this book that in order for our lives to have meaning, passion and to make the world a better place, we must live with purpose. The only way this will really work is if we allow God to make His purpose our purpose. He prepares and trains us through our life experiences so that we can fulfill His mission: to share the truth about God, salvation through Jesus Christ and to impact the eternal destiny of the souls we come into contact with. In this way, our mission continues the work that Jesus began on earth. He continues his work by using people who were made for very specific purposes.

When we are operating in God's will, we can do very difficult things with peace and joy in our hearts and can go a step further to bless others. I really felt a great deal of connection to the statement that "Your mission is a wonderful privilege" (p.283) Whether we are working in ministry within our faith community or in our dealings with people in other aspects of our day-to-day lives, we have countless opportunities to impact others. There is no work that is insignificant to God, especially if it is done with great love and care. Going back to what I was saying about operating in God's will, I believe that a big reason why there is peace is that we know we are doing what we are supposed to, fulfilling our purpose in a way that is pleasing to God. I have been wrestling with the decision of whether or not to homeschool my son with autism. Once I felt that this was truly what God wants me to do in this instance, I was able to make the decision easily and have had tremendous peace and happiness. Before the decision, I was plagued with fears of not being capable or patient enough, and afraid that I would burn out. Those fears can still creep up, but more than anything I feel it is a privilege to be able to do this. I am still adjusting to how much work this endeavor entails, but truly feel so blessed and happy to do this work with love for God. Focusing on this helps to squash the fears and trust God to lead me. Anytime that we are given an assignment from God, instead of viewing it as an impossible undertaking, we can instead choose to see it as a great compliment. There is nothing more amazing than being used by God to impact someone's life, even more so to influence their eternity.

Day 37 takes our mission a step further by showing us what it means to be messengers of God. He has created each of us uniquely and formed us with a multitude of life experiences. Each one of us in uniquely equipped to be the ones in very specific circumstances to share the truth of Jesus through our Life Message in our words, actions and demeanor. I have always been somewhat intimidated by to commission of Christians to evangelize the world. This is not because I don't want to, but am not always sure just how to go about this in the way that will best bring someone to Christ. It is easy to avoid this and be tricked into thinking that we don't have what it takes to evangelize. I like the way that Rick Warren very plainly shows us how to extract our Life Message from our experiences and to begin by sharing our experiences with other people. I always thought you had to be the equivalent of a Bible scholar to make people understand and want to come to God. This is a great example of Nicole's point on Day 35 about impressing vs. influencing people. We most definitely need to continually spend time in, meditate on and grow in our knowledge of God's word. However, we need to make sure we use our experiences to influence instead of our knowledge to impress. Once we establish this connection, we are better able to share how salvation through Jesus Christ can change someone's life and eternal destiny. Rick Warren states this very well on page 290 by saying, "Shared stories build a relational bridge that Jesus can walk across from your heart to others." By answering the questions in Day 37 about our life experiences, we can have better knowledge of our Life Message and be better prepared to use what God has done in our lives to impact others.

Rick Warren also shares this from the Bible, that we are to "Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect." (p.291, from 1 Peter 3: 15-16) When you are speaking from the perspective of a shared life experience, you can do so with greater humility and compassion. I have learned in my most difficult interactions with people to ask God to show me them as He sees, or to show me their heart. When I am able to do this, I can find that humility and compassion, even if I don't have a shared life experience. In addition to how we are formed by our life experiences, God also gives each of us a different passion. This will often guide us to reach out to specific individuals, by feeling God's love for his children in a particular situation. As Rick Warren points out, giving us all different passions ensures that God's work gets done in all areas.

In all things, we must always stop and pray first. The early church members were empowered through the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. In the same respect, we should always trust in, rely on and look to Him in all that we do for God.

Bible Verses from Days 36 and 37:

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. -Acts 20:24 (NIV)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. -2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 (Today's NIV)

The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver. Listening to good advice is worth much more than jewelry made of gold. A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer. -Proverbs 25: 11-13 (CEV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. -Colossians 4: 2-6 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Impress or To Influence?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 35 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)'s not something that most of us like to admit we have. We like to hide them, pretend we don't have any or run from them. However, they're still there. Lurking, waiting to pounce on us, make us feel inadequate and keep us from doing what God wants us to do. It's amazing how God can take our weaknesses and the areas in our lives when we are the weakest and turn them into a strength we never knew we had.

Day 35 had countless points that I would love to share with you. Too many for me to even list. Therefore, I encourage you to read Day 35 if you haven't done so already and really learn how you can turn your weaknesses into something productive. If you have read Day 35, I recommend that you read it again when you are your weakest. I really love how Rick Warren reminds us of Paul and how we can be like him during our weakest times.

For now, I'd like to talk about one point in particular that Rick Warren lists in Day 35.

"At some point in your life you must decide whether you want to impress people or influence people." page 277

This really stirred something inside of me. I immediately thought to myself..."of course I want to influence people." However, we live in a world where we are constantly trying to be the best. The best mom, the best wife, the best friend, the best employee, sometimes even the best Christian. Today's society has put so much pressure on being the best that our world has become one to impress and not to influence. Reading The Purpose Driven Life is really showing me how God uses us to influence others. Especially in the area of our weaknesses, our storms, our most difficult struggles. It's really inspiring to watch how God can take a moment when we are at our weakest and see how he helps strengthen someone else with it. That is, if we let him. We need to be very humble and uplifting and share with each other our fears, weaknesses and worries. Then, we need to step back and let God do his work. As he's working in us, others are watching and are amazed at how we handle our situation. They see a strength that we couldn't see. They see a rainbow in the midst of our storm when we are blinded. The more we keep pressing forward and doing what God needs for us to do and trusting that he will help us, the stronger we get. Case in point number 1.... last week, my boys celebrated their 8th birthday. One of my boys has autism. Birthdays are suppose to be a time to look forward to and a time to celebrate. I can honestly tell you birthdays are hard for me. It's one more year that my son is more behind than I thought he would be at that particular age. I was harvesting a lot of feelings about this and actually waited until the last minute to even send out invitations. One day, I opened up to a friend who doesn't have a child on the spectrum but one whom I knew I could share this to. I was very vulnerable and it was difficult to share my fears and my feelings. However, I kept feeling that God wanted me to open up about this. I was worried I would cry. But then I thought who cares if I cry...why is it so bad for me to cry? So I opened up and showed every weak side of me with everything dealing with autism. I can honestly tell you that I have no idea if I helped her in any way. She did help me. After pouring my heart out to her, she was able to remind me how well my son is doing and how much more potential is out there. The birthday week was a huge success. God turned this weak time in my life around. I know that God used this particular situation for something even bigger. I may not see how it helped strengthen someone else but it felt really good to be able to open up and know that God will use it.

Case in point number two...I have several friends who have recently lost a child. I can't even imagine what it would feel like if one of my children died. It's heartbreaking and hard to even imagine. What is amazing to me is seeing the strength that each one of my friends have during this time. Not only the strength that they show but also where they are getting this strength...from God. During one of the most difficult times in their lives, they have shared their faith in God. They might not be able to see it at this time, but I can see this incredible amount of strength coming from their families and it has taught me how to turn to God to find my strength when I am weak.

Do you want to live your entire life trying to impress others? Do you want to devout countless hours trying to have the perfect kids, husband, house, family? You will spend so much energy on trying to look like you have the perfect life when none of us do. The best thing you could do is open up, be vulnerable and share your weakness with others. God will work through us to help each other become stronger.

I want to live my life influencing others. I encourage you to do this with me. Let's really humble ourselves and share our weaknesses, fears and storms with parents who have newly diagnosed children, with non believers, with parents who don't have children on the spectrum, with people who aren't even parents. Let's show how God is strengthening our weaknesses to any one who will listen. It's amazing who God has watching us when we don't even realize it and how much we are helping them when we let them in.

Bible Verses from Day 35

We are weak...yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. 2 Corinthians 13:4

I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people. 2 Corinthians 12:9a

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

See You Next Week!

As everyone is playing catch up from the long weekend and getting back into the swing of things with school, we will not have a study post this week.

Please join us on Wednesday, September 15th for the next installment in this study.

Hope you have all had a wonderful summer!

Nicole, Jessica and Chrissy

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thoughts that Serve

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 34 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I have learned that before your outer life can show a change, your inner life, or thoughts must change. It is really eye-opening to know that although I may work very hard at how I am perceived by others, what matters most to God is what is in my heart. Chapter 34 tackles this by showing us how real servants think.

I'm going to borrow this writing style from Nicole and list the points from this chapter that jumped out at me before I go any further:

Service starts in your mind.
Attitudes count more than achievements.
Real servants don't try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.
Your service for Christ is never wasted regardless of what others say.
Only secure people can serve.
The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.

The title of being a servant doesn't really sound very appealing in wordly terms. However, in the kingdom of heaven, there is no greater honor. I believe that truly becoming a servant of God in our thoughts and lives is a lifelong process. It matters to God that we continue, step by step in this process and continue to make progress.

Just as Joseph was entrusted as a steward when he was a prisoner in Egypt, we too are entrusted with great opportunities for servanthood. Joseph's good attitude and service earned him promotion after promotion, until he was eventually in control of Egypt under Pharoah. We may feel incredibly lowly as we deal with the day to day challenges, many which are upsetting and unpleasant. However, if we do our work with love for God and with a desire to use our lives to please Him, our good attitude and faithful service will help us to be promoted, both in this life and the next. As Rick Warren pointed out in this chapter, this promotion will likely not be accompanied by a glorious title or award. Every time our child makes a hard-earned and precious gain, there is promotion. Every time we are able to bear a challenge with grace, we are promoted and ready to move to a new level in our relationship with God.

The thing about God is that He sees and knows everything. He knows if we are doing something to look good or if our heart is in the right place. That is why what is in our hearts matters more than what others see on the outside. I really liked the statement "Only secure people can serve" (p. 269) Competitiveness, criticizm and petty comparisons cannot touch us when we know who we are in Christ. Rick Warren really explains this well by saying, "Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don't have to prove their worth. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider 'beneath' them". (p. 269) We are then freed from the expectations of others as we do our work. When we realize that we are working for God, and already have our value and acceptance from Him-the pressure comes off and we are free to truly shine.

Obstacles to thinking like a servant are also important to recognize. As the author points out, how we handle and perceive money is a key factor to how well we can serve. Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry talking about money, and how it can become an idol that replaces God. In fact, Rick Warren makes the point of saying that it is money that sidetracks people from serving God more than anything else. There is a great statement on page 267 that sums this up beautifully, "When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave" (Rick Warren) We need to check our motives, be honest and trustworthy with money, as well as use it to build God's church and help others.

Just as how we serve matters when no one can see or when circumstances are trying, it matters what kind of attitude we have when we are mistreated. People often expect the worst from others and it is a powerful witness when a person can be positive, kind and loving after being mistreated. This doesn't mean being a doormat, it means not allowing that person to take the joy of serving God from you or your personal peace. That to me is real power. It is also impossible to do apart from God.

Bible verses from Day 34:

Whatever you do, work at it with your all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. -Colossians 3: 23-24

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. -Philippians 2: 5-7

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me. -John 12:26

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Does A Servant Look Like?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 33 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

In the past few weeks we discovered our ministries by finding our shapes. We are now heading in the right direction. However, now that we know we are suppose to serve we need to ask ourselves another do real servants act? We want to be the best servants we can be. It's tough nowadays when everyone wants to be the leader. Rick Warren gives us the six characteristics of a real servant of God. They are: make yourself available to serve, pay attention to need, do your best with what you have, do every task with equal dedication, be faithful to your ministry and maintain a low profile. If you haven't done so, I highly recommend that you read about each of these characteristics in more detail. Rick Warren really goes into detail about each of these characteristics and how you can develop them.

For now, I'd like to touch on a question that Rick Warren posed at the end of Day 33.

Which of these six characteristics of real servants offers the greatest challenge to me?

I'd like to share with you my answer to this question. For me the answer was "Real servants pay attention to needs." I really try to pay attention to others who are hurting. However, it's difficult when you are hurting as well. Sure I trust God with autism. Although, it is a daily thing I have to give to God. As selfish as this may sound, there are days where I don't feel like serving. I can't see past my own needs to recognize others. I feel like saying "my day is hard enough." The selfish nature in us will try to put our needs in front of others which prevents us from serving others. I almost missed out on a wonderful opportunity for me to not only serve but for someone to serve me as well. I was having a very hard week. Autism was at it's peak in my home and I was so overwhelmed. A close friend who has a child with autism called me seeking guidance and prayer. I almost didn't answer my phone because I didn't feel I could do any one any good. (Isn't it amazing how God will show up and show how good He truly is?) I am so thankful that God encouraged me to pick up my phone. My friend and I were able to serve each other and give each other the strength we were both we desperately seeking. How sad it would have been if either of us couldn't have seen passed our own needs to reach other to each other. Even more challenging to me is being able to reach out to others who don't have a child with autism. God needs me to serve outside of autism as well. However, I get so focused on autism that sometimes it's hard for me to even see outside our world. Really stop and think about people around you and what they're going through. The friend at work who is making the difficult decision to move her mother into a nursing home. The family member whose husband is unfaithful. The close friend who just went through a divorce. We may not truly "get" what they are going through because we haven't experienced it but God still wants us to serve these people. He wants us to see beyond our struggles and reach out to others. After reading this chapter, I thought about a very close friend of mine that we'll call "Mary" who I believe has the biggest heart to serve. Last year, "Mary's" oldest child passed away from a rare genetic disorder. He was nine years old. A beautiful little boy who had a remarkable spirit. During this most difficult time in her life, "Mary" served me in more ways than she knows. In fact, I really don't think she even realizes how much she naturally serves others. It wasn't because I was sitting back thinking "how she has it worse than I do." It was all in the way she handled the most devastating thing that could happen to a mother....with compassion, understanding and faithfulness. She showed me how strong her faith was and how important it is to trust in God, no matter what. "Mary" taught me to totally give my situation to God and fully trust in Him. Now, she didn't do this in a big sit down talk over coffee. It was in her actions. I love to be around "Mary". Her faithfulness in God and how we should all feel blessed with what God has handed us is so catching. She is using her life and her child's life to serve others. Not only other parents who have lost a child, but to other people who are hurting. That's the key. We need to not only serve families that have children with autism, but we also need to reach out to others. We need to show others our faithfulness in God. We need to scream from our rooftops how much we trust in God even when our child seems to be regressing again. We need to show them all of the blessings that we are finding in the midst of our storm so that they too may see theirs. This is serving God. Think of how many people will hear your testimony and come to God as well.

Here's the thing, serving doesn't always have to look like bringing someone a meal, cleaning their house or taking them to dinner...don't get me wrong these are great ways to serve and I do think it's important to help others. However, we have to open our eyes, look past our own problems and reach out to others. We can use our testimonies to help others testimonies come to life. In my opinion, our best way of serving God and others is all in how we live our lives. It's all about how we handle what we've been given. We can do it to glorify God and reach out to others. Imagine our world if we all did this. If we all leaned on each other, served each other. Now that my friend, is a faithful servant. Wouldn't you love to get to Heaven and hear Jesus say to you "Well done my faithful servant, well done."

Bible Verses from Day 33
Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. -Mark 10:43

You can tell what they are by what they do. -Matthew 7:16

"If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." -Matthew 10:42

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Just Be Yourself...The Best You Can Be

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 32 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Day 32 begins with this Danish proverb:

What you are is God's gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God.

God created each of us uniquely, with great love and detail so that our gifts and talents complement and help eachother. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that we should be more like someone else or are inadequate because we don't have someone else's gifting in a certain area. Day 32 was a great confirmation to me that God created each of us with different strengths on purpose and that we will only cause frustration and stress if we try to be like someone else.

In our efforts to help our children overcome their obstacles, we are drawn to different teaching methods to build up their areas of weakness. This is a very important part of helping them reach their potential. At the same time, we should also be continuing to develop their areas of strength. In many instances, these strengths are what will set them apart and enable them to overcome their difficulties. We should also keep this perspective when evaluating ourselves. As autism moms, we are all drawn to different methods based on what our children need. We have collectively amassed expertise in many different areas and are often the best resource one another has. It is also easy in this position to feel like less than we would like to be when comparing ourselves to others-another trap. We are our children's best asset when we take the time to understand ourselves and operate from our own place of strength.

Rick Warren gives us some suggestions about where to start, so that we can discover our gifts and develop them:

Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. We do this by taking an honest look at what we do and don't do well, as well as where we've had our most success. Rick Warren recommends asking people who know us well and states that "Spiritual gifts and natural abilities are always confirmed by others." (p. 250)

Consider your heart and personality. This is another area where it helps to hear from the people who know us best. We have to ask ourselves questions that lead us to discover what we enjoy most, how we like to work best and how we perceive the world.

Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. This one takes a great deal of time. In fact, Rick Warren recommends we take a life review retreat, where we review our entire life and take the time to see how God has worked in our most defining moments. He also recommends keeping a spiritual journal, where we document the way our experiences have shaped us. (p. 252)

Once we have taken the time to understand ourselves better, God wants us to accept and enjoy ourselves. I was catching up on Joyce Meyer's Enjoying Everyday Life program and really appreciated what she shared about her own journey to self-acceptance. As she was studying and building her ministry, she was very drawn to imitate her pastor's wife. This woman was very soft-spoken, creative and very good at all things homemade. Joyce Meyer felt abrasive and inadequate as a homemaker in comparison. She became convinced that she needed to become just like her, and tried to grow/can her own vegetables, even make her family's clothes-just like this other woman. The results were comical and quite disastrous: a swarm of bugs attacked Joyce's vegetables (but the other woman's were fine) and she made shorts with pockets longer than the legs. Time after time, God confirmed that it was never His intention for Joyce to be anyone other than who He created her to be. She later found out that the devil had also convinced this pastor's wife that she was inadequate (too quiet, not bold enough) and needed to be more like Joyce. How unfortunate for both of these valuable and talented women! (Joyce Meyer: Enjoying Everyday Life, Letting Go And Learning to Enjoy, 2009) How often do we do this in an effort to be better when the best we thing we can be is ourselves-just as we were created to be.

As Rick Warren points out, part of accepting who were made to be is staying within our own limitations. If we try to act outside of God's plan for us, it is likely to cause stress and frustration. We can only do well that which God anoints and purposes for us to do. God wants us to find joy in serving Him with the gifts and talents he has given. As we do this, they will be blessed and continue to grow. As illustrated in Joyce Meyer's example, the devil will try to keep this from happening. He does this by tempting us to compare ourselves to other people and conform our ministry to another's way of thinking. (p. 253) Changing our God-given course of action in response to criticism is another temptation we may face to keep us from accepting and enjoying who we were made to be. (p. 254)

Once we are able to accept and enjoy who God made us to be, we are to continue developing those areas. As Rick Warren points out in the parable of the talents, this is a "Use it or Lose it" situation. The servant who used his talent fruitfully saw his talent greatly increased, while the one who failed to use his talent lost it. (p. 255). If we continue to use and develop our gifts they will grow and be blessed. We can set a good example for our children and encourage them to do the same.

There is one other example that I would like to share. As I prayerfully consider homeschooling my son with autism, I have been networking with other mothers to help me make a balanced decision. On a discussion board, some of the mothers were asking one another for strategies to help their children to develop their children's areas of weakness in visual and auditory processing. I thought that the best perspective came from a 50 year old woman with autism who shared about how she handled this in her own life. She stated, "all of us have weak areas that force us to rely on others who are stronger in that area...that's why we need eachother so much." (-qt) She also went on to share that love and acceptance (as well as a relationship with the Lord) were her biggest help. This personal statement that she includes in her signature is a great example of the lessons this chapter aims to teach us:

"Never forget how important you really are...that you are needed and loved. No one can replace you, and only you can do the best job of being you!" (-qt, used with permission)

Bible Verses from Day 32:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. -Romans 12:4-6

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in men. -1 Corinthians 12: 4-6

Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. -1 Corinthians 15: 58

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. -1 Timothy 4: 14-15

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting in Shape...Remember No Pain No Gain

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 30 and 31 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comments section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

"No pain, no gain!" When I hear someone say this I think of this really muscular strong man with his biceps bulging out screaming this to his work out buddy as they're lifting every single weight around them. "NO PAIN, NO GAIN! Come on buddy you can do it!" They welcome the pain because they know the outcome. They've put in the hours and have worked really hard to work through the pain so that they can get their "gain" that they are looking for. I believe we can take this same outlook on the pain we go through in life. I believe that what you do with your pain, aka what you've been through, helps determine your gain.
I want to spend the majority of this post talking about how we can turn the pain that we are going through with autism into something good. However, before we dive right into this, I want to share with you the points that meant the most in Day 30 and 31. They are:

1. Before God created you he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. How awesome does it feel knowing that what we're going through is not surprising to God! It may have taken us by surprise but not God.
2. You are the way you are because you are made for a specific ministry. It is so important that we discover what ministry we were born to do.
3. You are a combination of many different factors to shape your ministry. Rick Warren gave us the acronym of SHAPE to help us remember five important factors in helping us discover our ministry. They are:
a. Spiritual Gifts: you can't earn these gifts. They are given to you. Rick Warren tells us on page 236 " don't get to choose which gifts you'd like to have." He goes on explaining that no one receives all of the gifts. This would defeat the purpose that God has with us needing each other. It's important that you figure out your spiritual gift and use it. Otherwise, you may not be helping out someone that you're supposed to be helping.
b. Listening to your Heart. Enthusiasm and passion will guide you to what you love to do.
c. Applying your Abilities. These are your natural talents and they come from God. Page 244..."Whatever you're good at, you should be doing for your church." I believe we need to take this same approach to help everyone around us, including outside of church.
d. Using your Personality. Your personality was designed for a specific ministry. Here we're reminded that copying someone else's ministry never works. "God made you to be you!"

e. Employing your Experiences. This is where we go back to the "No pain, no gain!"

On Day 31, Rick Warren explains to us that one of the most important experiences that God uses to SHAPE us for our ministry are the painful experiences. When I got to page 247 and read..."Who could better minister to the parents of a Down Syndrome child than another couple who have a child afflicted in the same way?" my heart just stopped. I literally put down my book and smiled. I read it again but this time read it as "Who could better minister to the parents of a child with autism than other couple who has a child with autism?" That's us guys! Who can help all of the newly diagnosed parents out the most? Believers who have children on the spectrum. We can use our gifts, whether it be the gift of writing, the gift of listening, the gift of researching, the gift of caring, the gift of seeing things positively...we can use our gifts to help each other out. We all need the help. We all need each other's gifts. I think back to the day that my son was diagnosed. I knew no one. Had no one to talk to about this and really wrap my thoughts around the diagnosis. Friends and family tried to be there but they didn't get it. My church family was there to listen but couldn't really console because they didn't get it. Finally, I found a group of moms who have children on the spectrum who were also believers. They used their gifts to reach out to me. This made the biggest impact on me and showed me that I too need to reach out to other parents. Think about it...if we're all there for each other to help each other through the hard times, celebrate the good times and pick each other up when we would be that much easier. We could all use a little easy. We can take the pain we've been through in life to make that same pain a little easier for someone else. On page 247, Rick Warren reminds us of one important thing..."For God to use your painful experiences you must be willing to share them." It is so difficult to open up about pain especially when concerning our children. I don't know about you, but I know when I first starting sharing about some of the painful things we were encountering with autism, I felt ashamed. Not ashamed of my child. Ashamed of myself. I kept feeling that by talking about the hard thing I was going through with him that others may think I was disappointed in him or didn't like my life/family. It was very difficult to open up. However, the more I shared the easier it was. I realized that people didn't look at me or think of me as not loving my child. In fact, they thought the opposite. They couldn't believe the love, devotion and dedication I gave to my child and my family. However, to know this, I need to open up and share.
It is our responsibility as believers in Christ and as moms of children on the spectrum to reach out to other moms. Yes, it's important for us to be there for each other, comment on the blog when we have something to share and pray for each other. It's even more important that we reach out the moms that aren't the believers, that aren't following this blog, that really need us. I really loved how Rick Warren included Paul and his thoughts on Asia. As you read this again, think of what you are going through in your life. Think of a way you can share your pain like Paul did to help others.
"I think you ought to know dear brothers, about the hard time we went through in Asia. We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead. And he did help us and saved us from a terrible death; yes, and we expect him to do it again and again..." 2 Corinthians 8-10

Let's go back to our muscle guys mentioned at the beginning of the post. Imagine you just started working out. We didn't realize how much pain you would go through in the first couple weeks, days, even hours. What if you didn't realize that the more pain you go through the better in shape you will be? You'd quit, you'd give up. What if there is a mom out there right now who doesn't realize how these painful experiences will help her grow? We need to get ourselves into SHAPE very quickly and find our ministry so that we can help others.
Remember what Rick Warren says on page 248..."What will you do with the pain you've been through? Don't waste your pain; use it to help others."

Bible Verses from Day 30 and 31

Your hands shaped me and made me. Job 10:8 (NIV)

The people I have shaped for myself will broadcast my praises. Isaiah 43:21

God works through different men in different ways, but it is the same God who achieves his purposes through them all." 1 Corinthians 12:6

You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. Psalm 139:13

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings." 1 Peter 4:10

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How May I Serve You?

(Below are Jessica's thoughts on Day 29 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

I mentioned in a previous post that becoming a parent, especially to a child with autism taught me that I needed to learn more about true patience. In the same respect, I continually learn that it's not all about me. Day 29 takes us into God's fourth purpose for our lives, We were shaped for serving God. God saves us from destruction so that we can continue on in His purpose and plan, serving and assisting others with love because of the love He has shown us.

It is very difficult for most of us to step outside of our own lives. Especially in our unique situation, we are working so hard trying to meet our family's needs and we often feel too exhausted or overwhelmed to believe that we can be of any help in service to others. I think the first thing we need to do is value and recognize the great service we give in caring for those entrusted to us in our family, especially our special children. We then take this ministry that we are living in our homes out into the community as we care for and teach our children in the public eye. It is a powerful witness to other people, especially believers in Christ when we go about our work with kindness and love-in spite of how difficult or discouraging a situation may seem. When we encounter another autism mom, or even a mother struggling with a typical child and take the time to listen and offer encouragement, we are serving in ministry. We love others because He loved us first and offers us His love daily and freely. I love to see "veteran" autism moms mentoring and supporting moms of newly diagnosed children. It is a very pay-it-forward kind of ministry we have among eachother. I want to help someone else because I know how hard it is and it meant the world when someone else reached out to help me.

The moment we truly decide to make Jesus our savior and offer our lives completely to Him, the process of becoming a servant of God begins. Meditating on and studying God's word helps us to transform our thoughts, hearts and minds. Through a gradual process of stripping away the "self" focus of our lives, we begin to shift our focus to improving the lives of others. Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus continually served others by teaching, healing, praying and loving. We begin to have the heart of Jesus when we feel and do this in our own lives.

Chapter 29, Accepting Your Assignment, gives us the details of our servanthood or ministry as outlined in the Bible.

1. You were created to serve God.
This point, to me reminds me again of the shift that has to take place in our hearts. We make the shift from thinking about how others make our life better to "How can I make someone else's life better." At one of my friend's homes, there is a post-it note on the door leading to the outside that everyone passes on their way out that says "Do something nice for someone today." I love that.

2. You were saved to serve God.
On page 228, Rick Warren states, "Through salvation our past has been forgiven, our present is given meaning and our future is secured." A true measure of how much Christ is really in our lives is in our desire to serve. It spoke to me when Rick Warren also identified any act of service to others as ministry. It warms my heart to know that no small act of kindness on our part goes unnoticed by God. We are each ministers in our own lives and have an important role in the kingdom by building up the church (body of Christ) in our communities.

3. You were called to serve God.
It still amazes me to know before I was even conceived that God had firmly planned what my life's purpose would be, and that it is very important to him. After we invite God into our lives, the journey to spiritual maturity begins when we study the word of God. We then need to put into practice what we have learned. On page 231, Rick Warren writes that many believers "already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles." He also points out that the shift from "serve us" to "service" is not our first natural inclination, but a true sign of spiritual maturity.

In the end, we have to give an account to God about how we used His gifts and love to serve others. His son lived a life of service and died for us so that we could live eternally. We have already learned that we were made to live eternally. Growing in love and knowledge of God's son Jesus aids us in this process. Knowing that God never gives up on us and wants to give us grace for every situation helps us to believe that this is indeed possible.

Bible Verses from Day 29:

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10

By the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. -1 Timothy 8-10

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. -1 Corinthians 12:27

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.- Matthew 20: 26-28

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ways to Defeat Temptation and Why Does It Take So Long?

(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 27 & Day 28 of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)

Defeating temptation is probably one of the most difficult things for us to do in our Christian walk. As we learned in last week's post, we are all tempted. So how can we defeat temptation in a way that we continue to grow as Christians? We've learned that God will never leave us, he'll never give us too much that we can't handle and that he knows we can overcome these temptations. On Day 27, Rick Warren gives us four "biblical keys" to defeating temptation. They are as follows:

1. Refocus your attention on something else. As a parent with a child with autism, I face temptation every day. My temptation is to think negatively about where my son is. With this "key", I'm reminded to not focus on the negative things that he's doing and instead focus on all of the positives he's doing. In other words, I'm going to remember how well he did yesterday at his new social skills group instead of the fact that he's not playing with the neighborhood kids. Don't be tempted into thinking about how far they have to go, instead remember how far they've come in such a little time.

2. Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. This is really important. I think it's wonderful to have friends who can pray with you, over you and that you can pray for as well. Especially autism moms who are also believers.

3. Resist the Devil. That tricky Devil is very clever. It's amazing how quickly he can get control of our mind. Rick Warren reminds us that we need to take two very important steps to resist the Devil. They are to accept God's salvation and to use the Word of God. Rick reminds us on page 214 "Jesus modeled this when he was tempted in the wilderness. Every time Satan suggested a temptation, Jesus countered by quoting Scripture. He didn't argue with Satan." We can do this too. We just need to invest the time in knowing Scripture. God's Word will help us when we too are tempted. So when the thoughts of my son never being healed from autism crosses my mind I will remember Matthew 15:30 A vast crowd brought him the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others, and they laid them before Jesus. And he healed them all. (New Living Translation)

4. Realize your vulnerability. Too often, we don't recognize how vulnerable we are to temptation. This is when we get tempted by the same thing over and over again. If you know that when you get together with the other families in your neighborhood it always gets too overwhelming for you, then prepare yourself. Read your bible. Remember all of the good things your child is doing. Be prepared to go into battle with Satan so that he will not reign negativity over your thoughts.

I know for me, temptation is very real. Especially in dealing with autism. It always seems that when my son takes a humongous step forward, something happens to steal his thunder. Autism shows up and shows it's face tempting me to give up.

The one thing that is essential for us to remember is that it takes time for us to grow into the Christians that God needs us to be. Day 28 reminds us of this. On page 218, Rick tells us "While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow. God views our lives from and for eternity, so he is never in a hurry." We are also reminded how our generation especially is the "I want it right now" generation. We are spoiled with Internet, email, debit cards, credit cards, cell phones, etc. Why wouldn't we expect a miracle to happen right away? Day 28 reminds us that God is taking his time with us. We have to remember that we will experience struggles, problems, worry and doubt. However, it takes time to grow spiritually. You can't rush it. But, why? Why does it take so long? Day 28 gives us the five reasons. They are:

1. We are slow learners.

2. We have a lot to learn.

3. We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves.

4. Growth is often painful and scary.

5. Habits take time to develop.

We have a lot to learn during our time here on earth. God knows what struggles we are going to have to face in order to prepare us for eternity. Rick Warren says on page 222..."The Bible is filled with examples of how God uses a long process to develop character, especially in leaders. He took eighty years to prepare Moses, including forty in the wilderness. For 14,600 days Moses kept waiting and wondering, "Is it time yet?" But God kept saying, "Not yet." I find myself asking God the same thing. Is it time for my son to be healed from autism. He replies the same...not yet. I know that during this storm of autism God is developing my character. I also know that Satan is throwing temptation my way. I'm going to take these principles that Rick Warren gave us on Day 27 and Day 28 and apply them to my temptations in autism and other areas of my life. As a badly as I want to take that shortcut in getting to where God needs for me to be, I want it done right so that I'm the person that God needs for me to be.

Bible Verses from Day 27 & 28

Run from anything that gives you evil thoughts...but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. 2 Timothy 2:22 (LB)

Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different form what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

Everything here on earth has it's own time and its own season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV)

I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Philippians 1:6 (LB)