Monday, August 8, 2016

In "it" for the long haul

Two people stand in front of their friends and family and vow that they are going to love and be committed to the other for the rest of their lives. They have no idea what the future has in store for them, but they promise to face whatever comes as a united front. They dream about what the future could have in store, make their promises, and march into the unknown hand in hand.

This weekend I looked over at the one I stood with over 30 years ago. He had our 21 year old son's legs draped across his lap as his head leaned against me on the other side. We were sitting in a theater watching Finding Dory, a movie made for preschoolers, as our son laughed LOUDLY (and not always at appropriate times) and made his happy noises (that often sound more like someone being brutally attacked than an outburst of delight).

We've grown accustomed to the uncomfortable stares as our 21 year old lays across us like a toddler and makes his unique sounds. The stress factor was in not knowing if the happy noises would suddenly turn into unhappy grunts and lead to aggressive behavior. We were on high alert to bolt for the exit door at any moment (with our son, not leaving him in the theater! Just being clear).

But the noises stayed happy, the stares didn't phase us, and we had a happy day. As I looked over at my faithful husband, loving on and truly delighting in our adult/toddler son, he winked at me. I was overcome with emotion. This was not the dream as we held hands and marched towards the future as 22 year old newlyweds. But thank God he meant what he promised when he said that we were in it together, whatever "it" turned out to be.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Great love could also be described as: "that someone lay down his dreams for his child" or "that someone lay down his comfort to walk a hard road with his wife" or "that someone lay down his pride and embrace a child with severe disabilities and behavioral challenges." , "that someone stay when most would go"...

Love will require you to lay down your life in one way or another. I have been blessed to see love up close and personal!

This journey with our son is not over and is as unpredictable as the day he was born. I am grateful for a partner who still holds my hand, looks at the unknown future, and says "We're in it together. Let's go!"



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

When Chaos Surrounds

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

You are probably familiar with that verse. But let's break it down:

OUR part:

1. Humble ourselves: that includes admitting our part in the chaos, our own personal sin, acknowledging our desperate need for God. WE CAN'T FIX IT....and that includes what we post on Facebook. Surrender fixing it and setting people straight. Concentrate on humbling your own heart.

2. Pray: In times like these that probably should include fasting, times of silence and listening, prayers in community, without ceasing, praying the Psalms, and praying on our own. I hope this crazy time in our country will teach us to pray!

3. Seek his face: Press into Jesus Christ, our Savior, like never before. Look to him. HE alone is the hope of the world and the hope for racial tension and our hope for the right person to be put into the White House. He has led other nations out of times of chaos and into hope.

4. Turn from our wicked ways: This is tricky because most of us are not aware of our own wicked ways, otherwise we simply wouldn't do them.

Let the Holy Spirit show you your own heart and your own sin. "Search us, O God, and know our hearts. Test us and know our anxious hearts. See if there is ANY hurtful (or offensive) way in us, and lead us in your life everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Honestly ask him to show you things in your behavior, words or your heart that are hurtful and offensive that you are blind to. Then confess it and turn from it. This is called "dying to self".

HIS part:

1. He will hear us: Do we honestly believe that God pauses and listens when we pray?

"I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways." Psalm 17:6-7

2. Forgive our sin: This comes on the other side of acknowledging and confessing our own sin. I start with MY OWN HEART. The sins that got us in this mess exist in MY heart! I hate that and I hate seeing it and acknowledging it! I need to do business with that instead of pointing it out in others! Then we confess our sin as a people, as a nation.

Dear Lord, please have mercy and do not treat us as our sins deserve you should!

3. Heal our land: Healing comes after all of these other things. We'd much rather skip straight to it.
HE heals. But we don't simply ask for healing, we go through all of the things that WE can do!

May we be people who are humble, who pray and who seek his face.

In the midst of this chaos may people see something different about those who follow Christ. And may that difference be love!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dare To Hope


Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is.
I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”
Lamentations 3:17-18

I was recently reading along in my reading plan and came across those words. “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost.”

I had to stop and keep my eyes on those words for a few minutes as they pierced my heart. I felt like the writer of that passage had taken pen to paper, thousands of years before I would read them, and handed me a way to express my deepest grief. I had so hoped for things that now seem lost. I even hoped "in the Lord"!

The prophet Jeremiah had a tough life mission. His job was to warn God’s people to repent in order to avoid exile. This was not a job that he sought out or applied for and even tried to run from. The mission came to him. He was chosen for the job.

If I had been Jeremiah, I would have interpreted the call as: “Make sure these people don’t blow it and end up exiled.” But his call was actually to WARN them, it wasn’t his responsibility that they listen and obey.

As the mother of a child who suffers and has multiple disabilities, I can relate to Jeremiah. This was a call I did not sign up for. I sat in the hospital for days, as he was in the NICU, sure that God had chosen the wrong momma, wondering if I could run. But once you fall in love, you really can’t run.

So we took our little guy home, and somewhere along the way I decided that the call was to fix him, not simply love, nurture and help him be the best he could be.

The book of Lamentations is the lamenting of everything coming to pass that Jeremiah had warned the people about. It is most likely written by Jeremiah himself. What more could he have done? How could he bear to see the people he loved, even with the grief they cause him, carried away?

Twenty-one years after taking my “special” baby home from the hospital, I feel like I’m sitting in similar rubble. My son’s needs became bigger than we could manage. The answers and miracles we hoped, prayed and fought for didn’t come.
 
In many ways, placing him in residential care a year ago felt like failure, a death to dreams, and a mission not exactly accomplished. And Jeremiah seems to understand my mother’s grieving heart as he expressed, “Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost.”

Fortunately I kept reading his lamenting.

"Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never end!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness.”

My eyes once again froze on the words, and I felt as if Jeremiah were whispering my ear:
“Dare to hope again, Angela…and remember! Remember who HE is. His faithfulness and mercies are great. His love will never end. Remember what he HAS done for you.
Lift your head again and DARE TO HOPE because of who is he and not what you see!”

As I am beginning to hope again, I realize that my job wasn’t to fix my son. I even realize that he’s not MINE at all! My job was to love, nurture, and move things forward for him, to do what God showed me to do one step at a time the best I knew how.

Jeremiah delivered his message and then sat in what he desperately did not want to be the outcome. And he found the courage to hope again. 

Hope is slowly filling my soul again as I am remembering that God is faithful to me, to Jim, and especially to Michael.

Out of my reach doesn’t mean out of God’s.
We will dare to hope!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hidden


Last night I went with a couple of friends to see the movie Joy. I haven't been to a movie in forever, so it was a treat. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this movie (mainly because it moves really slow and not much happens), there was a line that stood out to me and is a deep truth. I wish I could have paused the movie and written it down exactly as she said it.
Joy, the main character, is having a dream as she's trying to put the pieces of her life back together. In her dream she encounters herself as a little girl who says to her, "We've been hiding for 17 years. When you hide no one can see you. The problem is, you also stop seeing yourself."
That is not an exact quote, but the point was pretty profound, and we all do that to some extent. There are circumstances that can cause pieces of us to go into hiding: we get made fun of as a child, we learn to hide as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves, we get so busy just getting through the days that we lose parts of ourselves, we get disappointed by life so we stop dreaming and just go through the motions, we learn to meet the expectations of others...
But there is one from whom we can never hide:

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you"
Ps 139:7-12

This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.
After my son with special needs went into residential care and I got into the habit of getting quiet before God, I started discovering parts of myself that had gone into hiding during the 21 years of caring for him around the clock. There were things about myself that I had forgotten. But the things I had forgotten were in God's safe keeping. As I sat quietly with him, he began to remind me of how wonderfully he had knit me together and about gifts and dreams that needed to be revisited.
It's not a bad thing that I laid down my life in a sense in order to care for my son. It's a form of "dying to self". But resurrection follows dying. Sometimes resurrection can be scary, and we would rather stay hidden.
I pray that as you get quiet and still, you can discover things about yourself that may have been hiding but kept safe in God's heart. And may you also remember, or discover for the first time, how wonderfully you were knit together.

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!" verse 17This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.

After my son with special needs went into residential care and I got into the habit of getting quiet before God, I started discovering parts of myself that had gone into hiding during the 21 years of caring for him around the clock. There were things about myself that I had forgotten. But the things I had forgotten were in God's safe keeping. As I sat quietly with him, he began to remind me of how wonderfully he had knit me together and about gifts and dreams that needed to be revisited.

It's not a bad thing that I laid down my life in a sense in order to care for my son. It's a form of "dying to self". But resurrection follows dyI pray that as you get quiet and still, you can discover things about yourself that may have been hiding but kept safe in God's heart. And may you also remember, or discover for the first time, how wonderfully you were k

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!" verse 17

This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.

After my son with special needs went into residential care and I got into the habit of getting quiet before God, I started discovering parts of myself that had gone into hiding during the 21 years of caring for him around the clock. There were things about myself that I had forgotten. But the things I had forgotten were in God's safe keeping. As I sat quietly with him, he began to remind me of how wonderfully he had knit me together and about gifts and dreams that needed to be revisited.

It's not a bad thing that I laid down my life in a sense in order to care for my son. It's a form of "dying to self". But resurrection follows dying.

I pray that as you get quiet and still, you can discover things about yourself that may have been hiding but kept safe in God's heart. And may you also remember, or discover for the first time, how wonderfully you were knit together.

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!" verse 17

That is not an exact quote, but the point was pretty profound, and we all do that to some extent. There are circumstances that can cause pieces of us to go into hiding: we get made fun of as a child, we learn to hide as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves, we get so busy just getting through the days that we lose parts of ourselves, we get disappointed by life so we stop dreaming and just go through the motions, we learn to meet the expectations of others...

But there is one from whom we can never hide:

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you" Ps 139:7-12

This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.

That is not an exact quote, but the point was pretty profound, and we all do that to some extent. There are circumstances that can cause pieces of us to go into hiding: we get made fun of as a child, we learn to hide as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves, we get so busy just getting through the days that we lose parts of ourselves, we get disappointed by life so we stop dreaming and just go through the motions, we learn to meet the expectations of others...

But there is one from whom we can never hide:

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you" Ps 139:7-12

This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.

After my son with special needs went into residential care and I got into the habit of getting quiet before God, I started discovering parts of myself that had gone into hiding during the 21 years of caring for him around the clock. There were things about myself that I had forgotten. But the things I had forgotten were in God's safe keeping. As I sat quietly with him, he began to remind me of how wonderfully he had knit me together and about gifts and dreams that needed to be revisited.

It's not a bad thing that I laid down my life in a sense in order to care for my son. It's a form of "dying to self". But resurrection follows dying.

I pray that as you get quiet and still, you can discover things about yourself that may have been hiding but kept safe in God's heart. And may you also remember, or discover for the first time, how wonderfully you were knit together.

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!" verse 17

That is not an exact quote, but the point was pretty profound, and we all do that to some extent. There are circumstances that can cause pieces of us to go into hiding: we get made fun of as a child, we learn to hide as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves, we get so busy just getting through the days that we lose parts of ourselves, we get disappointed by life so we stop dreaming and just go through the motions, we learn to meet the expectations of others...

But there is one from whom we can never hide:

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you" Ps 139:7-12

This Psalm goes on to describe how carefully he was knit together by God's design.

After my son with special needs went into residential care and I got into the habit of getting quiet before God, I started discovering parts of myself that had gone into hiding during the 21 years of caring for him around the clock. There were things about myself that I had forgotten. But the things I had forgotten were in God's safe keeping. As I sat quietly with him, he began to remind me of how wonderfully he had knit me together and about gifts and dreams that needed to be re
It's not a bad thing that I laid down my life in a sense in order to care for my son. It's a form of "dying to self". But resurrection follows dying.

I pray that as you get quiet and still, you can discover things about yourself that may have been hiding but kept safe in God's heart. And may you also remember, or discover for the first time, how wonderfully you were knit together.

"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They canno

Friday, January 8, 2016

Perspective


Then I went into your sanctuary, O God…” Psalm 73:17a
Take a minute to read this Psalm. The first part clearly describes what we do when we try to make sense of things ourselves, in our own understanding. The way things LOOK are not really the way things ARE.

The Psalmist gets so discouraged as he tries to sort things out in his own head that he ends up saying things like: “Did I keep my heart pure for no reason?” (verse 13) “I get nothing but trouble all day long: every morning brings me pain.” (verse 14)

To me that sounds a lot like when my children used to say: “I never get to……”, “You never let me……”, “Everyone but me has a …….”, “I don’t have any friends.”, “Nobody loves me.” Hopefully a child who is convinced in his heart that those things are true has a loving parent who can patiently bring perspective and help them see truth.

“But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.” (verse 2)

So what do we do when we feel ourselves losing our footing? What do we do when we start wondering if God even notices or cares? What do we do when nothing makes sense and it seems like everything is out of control?

“Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant – I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you." (verses 21-22)

 We do exactly what the Psalmist did. “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God.”  
 
When I feel myself panicking or I start acting crazy, I know that I am not spending time quiet in God's presence. For me this is how I go into his sanctuary. I have to get alone, quiet, and sit in his presence, and he brings peace and rest to my heart.
 
In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Haley Barton describes what getting quiet in God's presence does for her. If you put lake water in a glass jar, the water will be dark and murky with things floating around in it. After the water sits in the jar without being shaken, the water begins to get clear. The longer the jar is still, the clearer the water becomes.
 
Ruth says this is what her soul does in God's presence. The more she sits still and quiet in his presence, the more still and calm her soul becomes. I have also found this to be true.

"Yet still I belong to you; you hold my right hand.
 
You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

But as for me, how good it is to be near God!” (verses 21-24, 26, 28a)

May he lead you to your glorious destiny!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Too High A Price

"The herdsmen fled to the nearly town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men."  Matthew 8:33

And just what had happened to the demon-possessed men? Jesus had set them free!

Can you imagine the herdsmen running through the town explaining that the men, who had been so violent that no one could pass through the area where they were, now were calm and in their right minds? No more walking around that area out of fear of these violent men!

Can you imagine how the men themselves must have felt? They had encountered Jesus, and he had set them free and their lives would never be the same!

The people came to Jesus after hearing this news:

"Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone." Matthew 8:34

This is not the response I would have imagined after hearing how Jesus had set these men free. Oh, but the pigs! Freedom surely was not the only message the herdsmen told, there was also the loss of a whole herd of pigs! That cost someone dearly!

Freedom came at too high a cost, so they begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone.

I can't help but wonder in what ways and in what areas I do the same? Where in my life do I desperately need and even want freedom, but it might cost me, so I invite Jesus to leave that area of my life?

What if freedom would cost me a friendship, or laying down my rights, or having to forgive, or moving, or my reputation, my job, or.....?  Do I end up like the people of that town? "Thank you, Jesus, but I'm going to have to ask you to go away and leave me alone. I cannot pay so high a price?"

May we embrace freedom, at whatever it may cost us, as we encounter and embrace a Savior who came to set us free!

Angela

Thursday, July 2, 2015

New Dreams


I have been drawn to the story of Lazarus lately.  (John 11:1-44)
Even though I haven’t recently experienced an actual death, there have been a series of “deaths” along this journey that we have been on with our Michael.

It started over 20 years ago when we had to die to the dream of a healthy baby and immediately thrown into the world of genetics, hospital stays and surgeries. We had no idea what life would look like for him or for our family, but we knew it would never be the same. We discovered we had deep unspoken dreams that we didn't even know were there. 
Dying to dreams would become a way of life, but with every dream that died there seemed to be a new dream that took its place:

 -Your son will most likely never speak….so we’ll find an alternative form of communication that he will be able to master and let us know what he wants and what is on his heart.

 -Your son will never reach a level of independence to the point that he could live on his own….so he’ll be eccentric Uncle Michael who is different from everyone else we know, but is a lot of fun!
 
-Not many people will "get" your son as his behaviors and appearance become progressively "not normal"....so my family will learn to laugh and take things in stride!

 -The country you are living in does not have what your son needs….so we’ll leave a ministry and people we dearly love and take him home and find what he needs there.

 -Even though your son has multiple issues, he will most likely outlive you and will need longer care than you will probably be able to provide.…so he’ll eventually live with siblings and their families and be just as loved as he is in our home.

 -Your son’s health is getting fragile and we cannot tell you what his future condition will be.…but he has a huge family who loves and adores him unconditionally and will find answers and care for him no matter what.

 -Your son is developing aggressive behaviors that require more than just behavioral plans to solve….so we’ll find a great psychiatrist who will help find answers to give him peace.

 -Your son’s issues are bigger than the behavioral plans and medications we are able to provide….so we’ll find the best hospital in the country and get him the help he needs.

 -Your son’s issues are more complicated than we thought and 4 months won’t be long enough for us to get a plan in place.…so we’ll fight insurance as long as we have to and travel across the country to visit him for as long as it takes.

 -Your son’s aggression is bigger than what you are going to be able to manage at home, even if you hire a full-time staff. He needs more than you can do for him ….so…….soooooo…...so we will find the closest place possible that can care for him and try our best to trust others to do what we long to do ourselves.

 -Your son will need to learn to cope without you, with a certain level of physical pain, to a large degree locked inside his own little world, and for some unknown reason will continue to express himself through aggression with people who know how to manage that and care for him. He will be “ok”, but you don’t get to define or demand what “ok” looks like in his life……..so…….so I can’t seem to find a dream to replace that!

 As I reflect on the story of sisters who lost a brother they dearly loved, I understand their disappointment that Jesus didn’t do what they asked him to do and knew he could have done.

 “But we sent for you in plenty of time!"

"But we know how much you love our brother, and you’ve allowed this to happen! "

"But resurrection and heaven don’t give me a lot of comfort in my grief today!”

 “But I still believe you are who you say you are even though my heart is broken.”

(my paraphrase from John 11)

 It’s interesting to me that, even though Jesus knows that he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he doesn’t try to console them with what is about to happen. Instead he is “deeply moved” and weeps with them right where they are in that moment.

 For some reason grief after death is important, even if resurrection is coming.

 Today as Jim and I grieve the loss of deep hopes and dreams, as we miss our son desperately, as we try to trust him to others and not become consumed with worry, we feel Jesus weeping with us. But there is a quiet whisper in my heart that says…..

“But you don’t know what resurrection is going to look like. Go ahead and grieve, it is an important part of the process, but don’t forget that I am who I said I am, and you cannot see what’s coming.”

 I don’t get to define what “ok” looks like for my son, and I don’t get to determine what resurrection looks like in our lives or in his. But I know we have a Savior who does not stay on a cross or leave people grieving at the foot of it.

 I will let him give the new dream when the time is right and trust that he has placed dreams in the heart of my silent son as well.

 And we will hope in the life to come!