Autism, Motherhood and the Glory of God

On April 30, our eldest, Bailey, received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. She is on the “high functioning” end, meaning you might not notice right away.

We’ve suspected for months, after some divinely appointed friendships and interactions that opened our eyes to what might name what we’ve been experiencing with B for years.

I am many things. Sad. Hopeful. Thankful. Overwhelmed. And while I am a part of this story, this is really her story and I’ve wrestled with what to share and how much. I’ve landed on sharing what will bring Jesus glory and what might help others. Bailey would want the same.

So while her social skills will take some intentional refining, she is absolutely brilliant.  I believe and pray that she will be given a story to tell. The Lord will use her mind for his glory in a very specific way. And we pray for the grace to steward her life well. The Lord has given a gift to us in her. She is an answer to prayer for grace. Patience. Unconditional Love.

She is the polar opposite of my spontaneous adventuring spirit. She makes me plan everything. She awakens in me the eyes to see and have mercy on the fear she feels. She helps me explain everything I take knowing for granted. I can’t describe my nerves when we know something might overwhelm or upset her. But I also have no words for the joy and pride I feel when she is brave, calm, and even excited for “new.”

She went to day camp today. For most, this is not a big deal. A mere childhood right of passage.  But we’ve prayed over this day for months. Even paying the registration fee for this 7 hours of camp left me with a pit in my stomach knowing it just might not work. I might end up taking her home stuck in a loop of irrational fear.

At the last minute I tried to control the outcome and desperately tried to make sure she would know someone in her group.

Despite my (and the camp’s) best efforts, I failed.

Yet, in my failure and subsequent fear, I heard a familiar voice whispering,

“Trust me.”

We texted our people begging for prayer. I drove her out this morning talking about saying “hi” and asking questions to help friendships form, all the while my heart cried out “Jesus this is all on you!” over and over.

We met her group leader and a few other girls her age, and after about 8 hugs, Bailey beamed up at me and said “I’m excited mom!”

I walked out the door with a backdrop of loud music and laughter. No screaming. No one had to hold her back. I didn’t have to wipe away tears as I left.

She was happy while I walked out the door.

Amazed. Thankful. So.Very.Proud.

Feeling courageous in the midst of her fear will likely always be a war we’ll have to wage together. But as much as Bailey needed today to build her confidence, I needed it more.

I needed to give up control.

I needed it to be all on Jesus.

I’m going to wrestle this need to protect my daughter from loneliness, fear, anxiety, you name it, for years to come I’m sure. But this is a marker in the wilderness for us. Today was a day we will look back on to remember the Lord’s faithfulness and providence and care.

When I think about it, all of motherhood is truly all on Him anyway, regardless of the particular struggles we and our children might be facing. If we want to have any sort of peace and hope for the future of our kids, we need to wake up each day, give up control and cry out to Jesus “this is all on you! Help me today!” and look for the ways he answers our prayers. And we need to share them with each other when things are bleak. We all just need reminders now and then.

So just as Joshua set up the stones to be reminded of God’s protection and provision for them when they passed over the Jordan River on miraculous dry ground, these posts remind me of God’s miraculous-to-us interventions and provisions when we need him most.

20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.  And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’  then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
(Read more in Joshua 4)
Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear of your wondrous deeds and may we tell of your faithfulness to all generations.
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On Going Home…

There is an adventurer inside me. One who loves to tackle a new city, a new routine. New is my friend, my ally against monotony. Of course there is something to be said for familiarity, but I love knowing there are places to explore, unknown to me and my family. There’s a part of me that truly enjoys the unfamiliar. The unexplored. The new.

“Home” has been a vague term for us the past almost 5 years. We moved east and home became a place we’d vacation to, to visit family and friends we’d left behind. But then we’d also return “home” after the vacation to the surrogate family and friends God had given us among our church and neighborhood.  Some days we felt as if we had two homes. Some days it felt as if we had none. We left both of those homes in early 2017 at the call of the Lord and moved west, but our family has endured a minor bit of upheaval in the past year, and we are now 28 days from returning HOME. The place from which we came.

We are going back to where there lays no untrodden path. Places on campus have all been long-since discovered. Memories are now years-old.  Coffee shops, stores, parks and restaurants, while they have changed some in the past 10+ years, still line the same familiar streets and make up the memory-laden geography of the city of our college years.

For most, this would be a time of rejoicing. And we are too. We truly love home. For us the memories and family members and friends have been dearly missed, and we are so thankful to be returning. But for part of this adventure-loving woman, returning home is also marked with a touch of sadness. The maps have all been laid clear in my heart and there seems to be no more “new” to discover.

I love new places, and while I learn to love again an old place, I know the Lord will bring new people and he will help us continually make room for them in our family’s life. With each new school-year, the unfamiliar faces with their untold stories and unknown histories will be our adventure. We may walk the same streets and drink the same coffee day in and day out, but we will trust the Lord in the old, just as much as in the new. He brought my husband and me together in this place, and for reasons unknown to many but him, he is bringing us home.

And we are thankful.

**Also, this article was extremely helpful for me in identify the goodness of being home.

“We’ve learned our lesson: there’s nothing out there that can’t be found here. There is no beauty or brokenness that exists out there that can’t be loved or combated right here. We believe we’ve been prepared and called to live in this community, and until God providentially changes that, we’ll stay.
Because this is the deeper truth about place: no earthly place can fill what is ultimately a longing for a heavenly one. We can stay here because we know we’ll never find our final home on this earth.” –Hannah Anderson

 

When the year ends in Sadness

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced a year quite like this past one. What started with such mixed emotions as we prepared to leave our beloved church family and transition into full-time missions work among college students, will now end with the same feelings of loss coupled with anticipation as we close another (albeit short) chapter in our family’s story and look forward to turning the page into 2018. We enter the new year looking forward to the return of our family “home”. Back to our beloved Alma Mater.  But knowing we will dearly miss students and friends that we have loved deeply even during our short time in our current home.

So I’ve been pondering: how do we handle years that don’t go quite as planned? How do we look forward to the new year with joy, when the memories from this past year tend to draw tears instead of rejoicing? What do we do with the nagging questions of “why?” “Why that? Why us? Why now?”

Whatever your “why” question, I’m sure there are many with me this year saying, that is not how I expected this year to go. I know many who have endured very hard things this past year, and are probably more than happy to see the new year come.

As I reflected and prayed yesterday–seeking peace and comfort amidst the crazy, the Lord brought me to several chapters in Psalms.

“Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

….I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done:
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”

So take heart, dear friends. If this year was harder than you expected it to be, if the Lord has brought you through a valley–the loss of a loved one, a child, a dream—we still have hope.

We meditate on all God has done. Remind ourselves of his infinite care and love. We keep moving forward with our hands stretched out. We might be ending this year longing and thirsty. Our soul might feel a little dusty and parched. But we take heart knowing who holds the water we are able to draw from. Living water that we may never truly thirst again. We trust Him for eyes to see his hand ever moving, ever working so that we might praise him even before the valley reveals its purpose. We give him glory before the darkness gives way to dawn.

Friends there is only One who will ever truly satisfy, even amidst heartache, pain and trials. We can come to him in joy this year, or in tears. He loves to rejoice when we rejoice, and comfort when we mourn.

2017 may have brought many things, but above all I pray that (as it did for us) it brought you closer to Jesus.

We Sing for Those Who Can’t

I can’t sing. Well, at least not without crying. Not always sad tears, but usually there’s some form of lament residing. It began as the day we would leave our church in New York loomed closer. Call me sentimental, but I kept imagining Sundays without our family there, surrounding me, voices lifted high in praise to the King. And without fail, the tears would come. So I’d just smile and listen. And the sound…it was glorious. Sometimes I could identify voices, but mostly it was the collective song that moved me to tears. Their joy was my joy. Their sorrow, mine as well. We were together. Their voices were one in agreement that Jesus is King. Whatever our lot, it is well with our souls.

Then we left, and Sundays weren’t the same. We’d gather with a wonderful, albeit temporary for us, body and I’d wonder what my family in New York were doing. What songs were they singing? What were their prayer requests? What were they sharing during praise and sharing time? Communion suddenly felt strange…without our body with us, partaking together. But the singing. It’s always the singing that beckons the tears.

There are a lot of deep theological reasons to sing corporately every week I’m sure…but lately when my family gathers with another unfamiliar body of believers and they all begin to sing, my voice cracks and my watery companions arrive again. As I’ve attempted to sing amongst strangers (and yet still brothers and sisters), I have have learned that sometimes, these fellow followers of Jesus are unknowingly singing on my behalf. And if everyone who hated the music portion of a Sunday morning were to skip it, or keep their mouths shut, those of us who can’t sing for the moment would be alone in our silence.

Sometimes, we just have to sing for those who can’t. We raise our voice for those who are unable to find theirs, for a season or for this side of eternity. We sing for the woman who lost her husband and is struggling to find joy in anything other than the deep guttural trust that Jesus is king. We sing for the student feeling utterly alone in a new place, unable to swallow the lump of loneliness in her throat. We sing for the family who has lost a baby and can’t form the words or find the tune just yet. We gather to sing praise, and as we raise our voices, we lift our downtrodden bothers and sisters. We carry their heartache with our melody. We fill their painful silence with both lamenting and rejoicing, and remind them that they too will sing again one day.

But in the meantime they are welcome to wait. Listen and be washed in the words of truth. Their hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In times of trouble, they might not be able to say it, but they definitely need to hear it.

So from a former pastor’s wife who cries on Sunday mornings, show up and sing my friends.  You never know who needs your voice to be theirs before the Father.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

 

Gifts in the Temporary

There might be no greater privilege than for one who follows Jesus to leave everything to become a missionary. Particularly spending the time building a team of partners who pray and give in order to send people out with the Gospel to those who don’t know him. I don’t think I could have said this prior to this season, but I now know it to be true. I looked at “raising support” with fear and anxiety, but as we’ve witnessed the Lord answer specific prayers and raise up not just a team, but an army to surround us with prayer and provide the financial means with which to fulfill this calling on our lives, I am in awe.

We’ve been given so many evidences of His grace, I can’t even begin to describe them all. And even if I were to relay them to you, I’m not sure you would find them as sweet, because just as a gift is most often intended for a specific recipient, these gifts were meant for us. If I ever doubt his call on our lives, I have many proofs upon which to call to regain my assurance and move forward yet again in obedience and faith.

Amidst vast amounts of meetings and raising children, James and I have had to divide and conquer often, which means he does most of the official ministry partner development, and I basically keep our kids alive. We’re often tired, someone is usually sick, and we’ve had more sleep disruptions in the past two months than we have for years (not counting newborn stage because whew! that’s always the worst.) But we are grateful. We spend a lot of time together as an entire family, my kids spend almost every evening with grandparents and often aunts and uncles and cousins. We meet people we never would have otherwise who love Jesus and happily partner with us to spread the Gospel in Albuquerque among college students and, Lord willing, the whole city. We connect with old friends and visit the zoo and the pool and worship with a new (albeit somewhat temporary) church family. We cover my parents driveway with chalk and meet their neighbors. We live our fairly ordinary life.

And all the while we miss our friends. We talk of our people in New York often. Remind ourselves of fun stories. Our kids tell their biological grandparents about times they spent with people who adopted them as grandkids, and they have no idea how unique and special that is. I’ve been known to tear up on Sunday mornings knowing our church family is gathering without us now. Not having the freedom to truly put down roots yet and cherish a new church family because we have one more move ahead of us. And yet we have sweet friendships in a church here who are willing to take us in and love us and our kids, knowing full well we’ll leave them soon. That in and of itself is priceless.

The Lord is so very faithful, and for every ache and tearful memory, there are gifts and encouragements that can only be from above. We left a neighborhood that was so very precious to us, and the Lord has provided a house for us that will be one yard away from being backyard neighbors with our new Cru teammates. We left friends who were like family, and the Lord has been providing many connections with people before we even arrive.

As the sun begins to set on this temporary season and we can see glimmers of our new life dawning over the horizon (looks like we’ll be moving at the beginning of August, Lord willing, after we close on our house!), we are reminded yet again to treasure every moment and enjoy our time here in the temporary. We praise Jesus for his faithfulness to provide as we’ve obeyed, and we look forward with expectant faith to what he’ll do as his children (not just us) take up their crosses and follow Him to the ends of the earth.

Even to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Unseen Fruit of Foster Care

I removed the sheet, folded it, and thought of the babies I’d prayed for that never slept here. I wondered aloud why we worked so hard to get our foster care license in New York when God would then have us move across the country to start again. As I boxed up this little sanctuary we’d set up for babies in crisis situations beyond their control, I thought of young women and men bringing little lives into the world and having no idea how to care for them, wondering still what my role is in this fight for the value of all lives—unborn, terminally ill, black, white, old and alone, young and vibrant, full of life. All life has value, because we are created in the image of God.

Why did we go through all the work, jump through the hoops of becoming foster parents to then never get a call? I’m not sure, but we do know God is continually working in and through us. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

say-yes-to-god

Saying YES to God in the hard things is more important than my comfort. We didn’t have an extra room, a lot of extra time, extra money or even patience, but when it’s all said and done, all of those things are God’s anyway, and if he asks us to care for orphans and our fellow brothers and sisters in distress, that trumps my desire for a little more alone time or a few extra dollars for a vacation or my favorite latte. God asked us to merely say yes in this instance. Our obedience mattered more than the end result.

If we truly value the life of the unborn, we will value their lives once born. We need to be the first people women call when they need help caring for the children they chose to bring into the world. When a woman chooses to keep her baby in the midst of circumstances that caused her to consider abortion, she’ll need help. I don’t want to be a woman who desires to take the babies away from these women thinking I can give them a better life. I want to empower women (and men) to care for their children. To love them. I will be their cheerleader, prayer warrior, middle-of-the-night phone answerer when their baby won’t stop crying and they don’t know why. We will be there. Not in some nameless anonymous way. I want these women to know my name. To have my phone number. To know our door is always open and a safe place of refuge in their distress.

I don’t need to protect my kids from the hard things of this world. Yesterday I quietly watched my daughters playing. They have incredible imaginations and usually embody some princess or queen and invite me to tea or a fancy picnic. However, yesterday they walked through the house, arm in arm, discussing their plans for the day. They were going to the foster care place to take care of a baby who needed a home. My babies know the world is not as it should be. And they also know they can do something about it. Caring for children who need a home is already instinctively in them, because James and I have said we will be there. We’ve made it a precedent for our family from the very beginning. The idea of opening our home is so normal it’s part of their every day play.

If you care about ending human trafficking, becoming foster and adoptive parents is a front lines way to fight it. Kids who age out of the “system” have no family. No one to care for them. They are vulnerable to schemes and tricks that promise connection, community, and security but instead deliver them straight into the arms of evil. Read this article and many more like it for a more harrowing look into this reality.

We will not give up. We are moving to a state with some of the fewest restrictions on abortion in the entire country. We will be living in a city where homelessness, crime, drugs and addiction are rampant.  You won’t find me holding a sign outside of an abortion clinic, but Lord willing, you will find me on campus talking to young women. Praying with them. Asking questions. Offering my love, help, hope and even my home. All are welcome. No need is too great. No hurt is too deep. Jesus heals all wounds.

So sitting here, staring at the stripped mattress and empty crib, I know being certified foster parents in the state of New York didn’t produce immediate fruit we can see.

But that doesn’t mean it was fruitless.

fruit

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)

 

Minimalism Is Still About Your Stuff

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“I had everything I’d ever wanted. And yet, it still wasn’t enough. I still had this gaping whole in me, that I had been unable to fulfill by accumulating more and more stuff….”

………………………..

I had every intention of finishing the book I’ve been reading this evening. James was at our friends’ house, the kids were in bed, it was a much anticipated quiet end to a rather chaotic and crabby day. However upon his arrival home, he settled in to watch a (what I hoped would be boring so I could keep reading) documentary whose title alone made me put down my book and pay attention.

“Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things”

It’s on Netflix, so go ahead and watch it (after you finish reading this of course.)

We live in a pretty small house with 3 young kids, and I do fantasize about throwing every random small misplaced and broken (yet desperately loved!) toy away multiple times a day. We’ve never accumulated a vast amount of possessions, due in part to our relatively small living circumstances, and yet I’ve always been fascinated with the ability to just live with less. So Longbourn, you’ll have to wait for another quiet night.

As the men shared stories about life before their conversion to minimalism, instead of being excited to purge my house of even more toys, clothes, and books (Wait..no. Never the books) my heart grew heavy for these men. It genuinely surprised them when they realized their life of career, status and consumerism didn’t bring them the true happiness they craved. They had everything they wanted. And it wasn’t enough.

So naturally, they decided, the opposite must be true. Getting rid of all that extra stuff that left the promise of happiness unfulfilled will certainly fill that whole eating away at them inside. And it might. For a while.

It’s noble and I definitely understand and embrace the premise. But what these men failed to notice was that their identity still revolved around their stuff. “We are the minimalists.” Their whole message is about finding true happiness, not in having stuff, but now in NOT having stuff. It’s just the negative of the same image. Just as the accumulation of wealth leaves one feeling satisfied for a time, the dissolution of wealth and accumulated goods will indeed leave one feeling happy. For a time. But it won’t last.  The hunger will always return.

The documentary had at least one scientist (I can’t remember his exact title) who actually theorized that the biological need for more must stem from our ancestors who needed it to survive. We continue to crave more and more, but the accumulating of that “more” can never satisfy because for some reason we no longer need that biological urge for survival. I’m sure in his science-y lingo it made sense. But it’s just. not. true.

We do, as human beings, certainly have this inner craving. We all have this hole that we try to fill. You might deny it or not even see it, but deep down, underneath layers of things, clothing, gadgets, knowledge, exercise, food, sex, houses, money, experiences, it’s there. We feel…incomplete. So we better ourselves. We make sure we “self-care.” We surround ourselves with people who agree with us. We spend all our time helping other people. We fight for our political beliefs at the expense of friendships. We get rid of all of our stuff. Why? Because there’s something missing.

We are trying to fulfill a chasm in our soul caused by an ancient, severed relationship, and on our own, we are completely incapable of doing so. Without our trust in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our relationship with the God of heaven and earth, beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, will be broken. We will feel the dull ache for more. Contentment will eternally be just beyond reach. That longing you feel will only be fulfilled in Jesus. Not in accumulating things, nor in the abdication of that accumulation.

So by all means, remove the clutter from your lives. Get rid of things you don’t need. But also remember, “Sometimes all simplicity does is mask our pride and self-dependence. If we take a great deal of satisfaction in how little we need, in how much we reject abundance, simplicity becomes nothing more than an asceticism that, as theologian J. I. Packer puts it, is ‘too proud to enjoy the enjoyable.” (Hannah Anderson, Humble Roots)

You were meant to enjoy God, and life with Him. No matter how hard you try, nothing else will ever satisfy.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  (John 10:10-15, ESV)

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