The Lord tests the heart

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold,
but the Lord tests the heart.” Proverbs 17:3

The fire of the crucible is never meant to destroy the silver. The intense heat of the furnace will not destroy the gold. Fire improves upon precious metals, refining and purifying them. Likewise, the Lord tests our heart.

He allows the heat of our trials to refine our character and purify our heart. Will You test our hearts, Lord?

A wrong has been done against our child and we are in the midst of a battle for justice.  We are his protectors. We are the voice for our special needs child when he is unable to speak for himself.

The world fights injustice by productive means, but its justice also has the tendency to act out with vengeance or silly lawsuits. We cannot get caught up in the actions of the world. On the contrary, we are vessels of Christ and He desires to shine His light into this darkness.

I am very certain He has a larger purpose in mind for the situation we find our family in. We are just along for the wild ride. In the pain and discouragement of events exposed, we are willing to do what He wants us to do.

The problem is we don’t know exactly what He wants to do with all of the details of the event. But we do know the Lord will direct our steps. And when He does make clear to us what actions to take then we act with bold faith. No matter how personally uncomfortable it is to tread upon unfamiliar territory, the discomfort cannot be our guide.

So please Lord, keep our hearts in check. We acknowledge our hearts can deceive us. When injustice is carried out against our flesh and blood mankind has the potential to go overboard in response. We have no desire to push people to their breaking point in the name of justice. And we absolutely have no desire to shrink back, sweeping the injustice under the carpet.

Help us act in just and purposeful ways which reflect Your heart and honor You without our flesh messing it up!  Test our hearts O Lord, and refine them for good.

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How Great is the love of the Father

Father and son


“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” I John 3:1

Meditating on the Father’s great love for us, this picture comes to mind. A.J. missed his Daddy so much while he was away for a week serving in Mexico, that he ran quickly into his arms as soon as he saw his Dad return.  “Daddy! Daddy!” I was able to click my cell phone camera in time, because the strong embrace lasted so long. How great is the love of this father and son.

I have been a little wound-up lately.  My heart is racing as though I have consumed a tank of caffeine. It has been a difficult “Special Needs Month” as we deal with battles and situations beyond our control. The aching in my heart pulls me to crawl under the covers and sink into my sadness. But the Lord keeps giving me this picture of my child running into the arms of his father.

Is that the kind of love You have for me, Lord? Is that the kind of love You have for my child?

I choose not to hide under my covers in despair. Instead, the love of the Father draws me to His embrace with these comforting words from Psalm 121:

“I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber” NLT

It isn’t easy being vulnerable, but I have finally learned to allow the body of Christ to bear with me in my burdens. I am entrusting my special requests to trustworthy friends who pray on our behalf.

This is when I cry, when I let the walls of self-preservation drop and allow others to come along side us. Augh, this isn’t fun.

As anxiety rises up within me, my mind plays certain ugly scenarios over and over. The Lord interrupts my anxious thoughts, “Be still”  He says, “And know that I am God”.

I ignore Him, “Wait a minute Lord, I need to finish this thought”.

“Be Still” my Father interrupts me again, “And know that I am God.”

I took my thoughts captive and rested in the God who knows all, who loves my son and who will tend to His needs as the Loving Shepherd He is.

Today I choose to rest in the arms of our Father. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us!

“You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

It is high; I cannot attain to it

If I ride the wings of the morning,

if I dwell by the farthest oceans,

even there your hand will guide me,

and your strength will support me.”  Psalm 139:5 & 10

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When Mom messes up

Cade was biting his lip and wincing his eyes as he walked out of practice and stumbled toward me.  My heart often melts as his smiling face approaches the van, but there was no smile this afternoon.  With a look of discomfort he asked, “Mom, can I get a new pair of shoes?  My toes are bleeding again.”

Again? I was clueless my 15 year old had outgrown his soccer shoes for the 2nd time this season. He pulled off his shoes and exposed the bloody sock.  What kind of a Mom have I become?  I am always on top of these things; keeping my kids from wearing high-waters when they grow out of their pants and pressing my thumb at the tip of their shoes to check for perfect fit.

“I let my son down,” I thought.

I questioned myself as we drove to the sports store to purchase new shoes.  My oldest son loves to do whatever his brother is doing, so he too, wanted to try on shoes.  We noticed A.J. has been limping lately.  We inspected the bottom of his feet for splinters or other offenders, and could not figure out was going on.  When he stepped on the foot pad to measure his feet, the problem was evident.  He too, had outgrown his shoes and was limping around with scrunched toes.

How could I have neglected such basic needs of my boys?  I felt a little sick inside.

When I was a new Mama I imagined my husband being the one who would blunder with our kids.  I worried he would carry the baby seat out to the car, load up his briefcase, hop in the driver’s seat and speed away; absentmindedly leaving the baby on the curb.  I recited safety concerns when he rough-housed and reminded him of everything he needed to be aware of when I left him alone with the little ones.

But, the not-so- funny thing is, the blunders occurred on my watch.  I am the one who dropped a 1-pound can of kidney beans on our toddler’s head. I cried and stewed even though I knew he was alright.  After fretting for hours, I finally called the pediatrician in the middle of the night to explain the bean accident and tell him I feared I had damaged my son’s brain.  He told me to go to sleep.

“Give it a rest,” was the message I began to consider.  Being a faulty parent is inevitable.  Try as I might to be on top of every detail in my parenting, I’m going to mess up and make some blunders. 

We completed our shoe selections and walked to the cashier to make the purchase. My head hung a little low, but I resisted the urge to call myself any names like “Dingbat!” or “Bad Mom”.  I put my arm around my teenagers and squeezed them in to kiss their heads, “I’m so sorry I didn’t know you grew out of your shoes, son.  We want to take care of these things for you.”  They both leaned in.  “Next time you feel your feet do not fit your shoes, please speak up.”  (After all, one of them is capable enough to share the responsibility.)

Are you a mom who messes up?  With every blunder learn to give yourself a measure of grace, ask for forgiveness if needed and learn a little something from the circumstances. And if by chance you’ve been a little harder on that husband of yours, he will be grateful if you pass some grace and praise along to him, as well.

The words of a song written by the late Keith Green encourage me today:

 “Keep doing your best, and pray that it’s blessed.  Jesus takes care of the rest.  Yes, the Lord says that He’ll take care of the rest!”



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We swallowed our pride and invited in help


Our Family

Some months the stress and challenges of raising a child with special needs is pressing, tiring, even close to unbearable. I say close, because God always comes to the rescue when we’re in our greatest need!

On the other hand, there are weeks when life becomes status-quo…as far as special needs families go. We can laugh as a family like only a family who knows, can. These days, we are in challenging/laughing mode.

Our sweet, funny boy with Down’s Syndrome, has gone through his own tough times. In his pre-teen years, he developed behavior that is difficult to manage. It stumps his social and intellectual growth. It stumps our family’s ability to do things together in and out of the home. And it stumps me—the Mom with the M.A. in Marriage and Family, the youth worker, the educator of family life. After the trial and error of contacting “helpful” professionals, we requested the best, oldest (sorry if that offends you young ones), and most experienced behavior specialist.

Six months later the old male version of “The Nanny” walked into our home. I will call him Ned. Thankfully, he was not sporting a camera crew, but he interviewed, scrutinized, analyzed, and labeled our every move! How unpleasant to have all of our parenting and child’s idiosyncrasies listed in a ten page document.

Ned touts his prescribed behavior plan as if it is his religion—the only way, the right way. He talks down to us if we don’t entirely agree with him. My husband and I sit open-postured, trying to remain humble as we consider a new view. Silently, we are struggling with some of his philosophies. We burst out laughing sometimes when he leaves, yet we are ever so willing and desperate to try his plan.

Ned trained us, followed behind us and coached us. He plopped himself on our chair while I was cooking, or by the pool as the boys splashed and played. He entered our home for hours of observation. Sometimes Ned gave us a thumb up for his approval or pulled us aside to the dining room for a “talk” if we needed to respond differently to our child. At his direction we have role played, high-fived each other, yelled “yeah, great job!” louder and more enthusiastically than ever before. It has worked wonders!!

In a short amount of time our boy is productive, happier, using more effective communication, and negative behaviors are dwindling away. But it is not the end. Our family is in the midst of a grand process. Together we are struggling and giggling as we work it out. We can’t afford not to. As long as we desire our children to thrive and our boy to live his best life possible, we will diligently stick to the plan.

Have you ever thought about seeking outside support for your personal or family struggles? What keeps you from pursuing help?

I’d love to hear how you have benefited from the help of pastors or other professionals in your life.

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“I will even make a roadway in the wilderness”

I used to consider raising our child with special needs emotionally and physically manageable. But the “easier” early years slowly turned into years that felt like we were living in the wilderness. In spite of the love and frequent happiness we had with our boy, there came very difficult moments which turned into weeks, months, years. Behaviors and sickness developed in him; exhausting our every resource and emotional reservoir.

Attending school IEP meetings are a necessity for a parent who has a child with any kind of special need. Anker and I approach the meetings with much prayer cover, and walk away from them feeling a little successful and a little beaten down. A good portion in the history of our annual meetings include experiences of anxiety, school politics, frustration, and the inner pressure to keep our cool. I have often thought we should create, “I survived our child’s IEP meeting” t-shirts.

Today’s meeting was different. Within the opening minutes I had already burst into tears. I held A.J.’s 11th grade school picture up to the IEP team; his eyes crinkled from his huge smile. His teachers and therapists around the table swooned at his handsome happy image. This is how they perceive him every day at school.

“He is so happy, polite, and a leader. None of the previous behavior concerns have been an issue for months. We want to develop him as a teacher assistant: making copies, picking up and delivering mail, greeting office staff,” Miss June told the IEP team.

More encouraging words were announced as we were told his long-term substitute teacher has officially been offered the teaching position. June is a dynamic teacher. She is a rare gem in a pool of special education teachers. She instinctively understands our kids, expects great things from the students every day, and gets tremendous growth from them in return.

Through a series of bumps, politics, and teacher turn-over, our kids have suffered from the lack of consistent quality teaching. When our kids suffer at school, boy do we suffer at home! So, we have been praying specifically for June. Last year when she was released from the substitute position, we continued to pray the Lord would make a way for her in the classroom. Our special kids deserve such a gem in their lives.

We wrote letters to school officials, put her on our prayer lists, and we waited…waited…waited. At the moment I heard the words, “The position is June’s if she will accept it”, my tears flowed without warning. My lips quivered as I attempted to express our joy. One of the educational officials, always professional in her demeanor, fought back her own tears as she listened to our gratitude. “What a testimony,” the speech therapist added.

I was surprised a bit by the instant flow of tears on display. Deep within my spirit, I was praising and bowing to the Lord. The tears continue to drop as I reflect upon today’s meeting. In my absolute trust of the Lord, I knew I could ask Him specifically for a request, and trust that He could provide. At the same time, He gave me faith that all would be well. All would be well, even if A.J. had to experience another change of teachers. But I would keep on knocking on God’s door; asking specifically for June.

Now God, in His perfect way, has provided a beautiful gift for us. We have one less obstacle to maneuver and one less change to endure. He knows what is best for us and He knows when we need a break! Thank you, Jesus, for providing our family relief!

I mentioned earlier that raising our boy with special needs used to be somewhat easy, and then it became difficult… very difficult. As I reflect on the growth of our boy over the last two years, I can now say we are living with a new “easy.” God has made a roadway in our wilderness. He does provide rivers in our dessert.

This new place of living is where we have gained new coping tools, and effective behavior management. We have found contentment in our unexpected lifestyle. This is a refreshing place.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert” Isaiah 43:18-19

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Special needs, stress, and our summer vacation

Slumped on the picnic bench, I sit disappointed as I listen  to our son say, “No” for the umpteenth time.  It is the end of summer break and we are on our one and only family vacation.  Our oldest son, who has special needs, is filled with stress and anxiety this morning.  “No” is the limited word choice he uses to express his discomfort.

We apply our behavior plan, but the negative behavior looms.  The rest of the family continues discussing the day’s plans as we sit around the picnic table.  My mind wanders away from the conversation, wondering if there are other tools we could use to coax our boy along.  Sinking my chin into the palm of my hand, I watch him as he eats and I begin to pray, “Jesus, please help him be carefree”.

We couldn’t have picked a more relaxing, stress-free vacation place.  Regardless of the calm lake and lazy schedule, our boy was stressing over straws for his cup, climbing into a rowboat or walking up a small row of stairs.  The anxious behaviors interfere with his ability to enjoy new experiences and relationships.

Our family of five responds to his needs like second nature.  We take paths of least resistance; avoiding stairs and carrying straws in our bag.  We plan to ignore negative responses; trusting the lack of attention will deflate some behaviors.  And we carry a “tool box” of high fives, praise and gummy bears for his great behavior choices.

Brother encourages brother on the stairs

We have come to expect new situations will often create anxiety in our son.  A new place to sleep, a change in schedule, and crowds of people can throw off a normally delightful child.  This is the life of a special needs family.  There are times we respond to his behavior with our own erupting stress. More often we take deep breaths and dig deep inside ourselves to persevere and love and laugh, and sometimes cry, (speaking of myself).

Most of all, I pray.  Try as I may to be equipped with effective survival tools to empower my family, ultimately I have very little control.  I release our boy to One who loves deeper.  As everyone finishes their breakfast I silently pray, “Lord thank you for giving us tools.  Thank you for giving me a kind husband and compassionate sons.  But, I pray for a carefree heart in our boy.  He can’t pray it for himself.  I pray You’d work your Spirit within our boy…to relieve him of his anxieties…give him joy and rest.  Only Your Spirit can do that, Lord.  Do a mighty work.”

I’m going to pray this prayer relentlessly.

Take a look at Pt 2 of our summer vacation:  A New Day: Our special needs summer vacation

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