Disappointment and Hope

An older woman with children grown sat in my living room listening to me pour my heart out. I listed specifics of disappointment I struggle with but it probably sounded more like a child whining. We didn’t know each other, not well anyway, having just met face-to-face for the first time that day. But she was recommended by a trusted mentor as someone who could listen and give counsel. I didn’t hold back, and after quietly listening letting me vent all my frustrations, she wisely directed me to the book of Job.

Here was a man who lost everything. His servants, wealth, all of his children, livestock, and income were gone. Then he was stricken with boils all over his body as the last blow. His wife and friends didn’t provide much help either, urging him to curse God and die, or confess some hidden sin he must have for God to permit all of this.

Job had no answers and he found no comfort.

IMG_1646IMG_1783

The last few chapters in Job are some of the most powerful words recorded in the Bible. The Lord decides to speak directly to Job, asking rhetorical questions reminding him (and us) Who is in control of the universe.

God basically tells Job that since He is all-wise and all-powerful, who is he to question the Lord?

My thoughts are so limited, my understanding as vast as the present day. I don’t know what will even happen beyond the end of this sentence. Not really. We learn from past history but God was actually there. Not only that, but He has laid out the future as well. He is there too.

IMG_3548IMG_1218IMG_1445

So this godly lady sitting on my couch pointed me to Job’s story to help me remember God’s Sovereignty and Greatness. Just like Job, our lives are one of many stories weaved into History. It’s not that our lives are meaningless, but in comparison to the Lord’s omnipotence who am I to stamp my foot and say “life isn’t fair”? If I know He loves me fiercely enough to send Jesus to die for my sins then can’t I rest in His wisdom for the rest of my life too?

The continued disappointment of infertility sometimes stings. I think I have a handle on it then there’s another pregnancy announcement or baby shower invitation. It’s like throwing cold water over my head. I’m stunned by the swell of emotions that come from a deep place inside me of something lost- something that never was.

Resentment isn’t far behind if I don’t quickly put a lid on the explosion of feelings. So I asked this woman what do I do when this happens? When I’m side-swiped by my own heart?

She encouraged me to go to the greatness of God when I feel jealous, hurt, left out, over a heart desire unfulfilled. That’s why we looked at Job. It is one of the best places to see the Transcendence, Sovereignty, and Wisdom of God. Only God is big enough to fill the gaping hole in our hearts.

FullSizeRenderIMG_0801

If I am not given more babies then He will give me more of Himself by helping me understand that only Jesus satisfies the longings of my soul. I may not understand why I have infertility or why God chose me and Jason to have a special needs son. These are worlds I never expected to enter, but here we are.

When we ache over unfulfilled dreams, we can always look to Christ. God proves Himself over and over to us even though He doesn’t have to. As we remember His past faithfulness, His present goodness, and future graces, well, these are gifts to cling tightly to. His love for us is still true, meeting us in the pain. Our Father gives us our Hope in the middle of Disappointment.

There is a song by Lauren Daigle that speaks directly to trusting God when life doesn’t turn out like you expect. I hope you are ministered to today in whatever loss or dream you’re still waiting on.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

Advertisements

2019- God at work

Have you ever wondered if God’s presence and divine activity is something that happened only in the Bible? After the canon of Scripture closed, so did God. He won’t “reappear” until Second Advent when all future promises are fulfilled.

It can feel that way sometimes, especially in our current climate.

But this isn’t true.

In studying the book of Esther at church recently, I was reminded of God’s presence now, “hidden but present”. The Lord moved powerfully behind the scenes to keep His covenant promise to Abraham in Esther’s time. God protected the Jews from total annihilation even though His Name is never mentioned in this book.

The hand of God was actively engaged then as He is today. Esther’s world didn’t honor God as Lord either- The Jews were exiled in captivity, far from home, without reminders of His presence. Persia was filled with extravagance, opulence, many gods, and wicked leaders. Not much has changed today.

FullSizeRender-3img_0178

It seems like God has forgotten us or doesn’t care anymore.

Yet our Father is with us even when our faith is small and the world looks bleak. Evil, sadness, weariness, even apathy, can’t win. We know God has the final victory and so I rest in that hope. But He is also here right now. The Father leaves His fingerprints in creation, wields His power in Heaven, commands the storms of nature, but gave us the unique privilege to not only work with Him, but to represent Him. God works through His people. He is working through me and you.

Just as the Lord used the actions of Mordecai, Esther, and even Haman and King Ahasureus, the God of this Universe can use our actions (even the failures) for His glory. It’s the mystery of God’s Sovereignty and man’s will weaved together.

I best understood this in reading Inconspicuous Providence. The author quotes an old Portuguese proverb that says, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” It doesn’t give us a license to sin, since God can use us no matter what, but an encouragement that though we fail God is not limited by how “holy” we are.

Our lives matter in 2019.

How we live it out day after day interests the Lord because He ordained each one. God the Father wisely placed you and me in this time in history with a purpose. It may not ever make headline news (thank goodness) but we aren’t forgotten either. Not by Him.

img_4784

img_4783

Unbelievers will face judgement one day. This is a tragic horror unless the Holy Spirit intervenes and repentance happens. Our eternity far outweighs the burdens we bear now.

Jesus loves you.

YOU.

Don’t forget this one soul-saving fact.

God is at work this day using His Spirit in all believers. What a humbling and comforting truth. Just like in Esther’s story, God will not let His people be destroyed. He will not give you up to Satan’s hell.

God is the Covenant-Maker and the Promise-Keeper who works all things throughout Time for our good and His Glory. Even in 2019.

God is in our midst.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

The joys and challenges in parenting a special needs child

January has been unexpectedly hard- and cold, but well, that one is to be expected.

We’re still settling into the “new house” as Jesse calls it. This doesn’t seem like home yet,  so we’re all a little displaced, since we don’t belong at our old house either. But I figure this will soon wear off and be a safe haven rather than feel like a guest in our own home.

img_0006

Along with that there have been particularly stressful moments recently trying to mother/referee Jesse’s rollercoaster emotions. Sobbing one minute and laughing the next, mixed in with a good dose of hyperactivity and whining tantrums.

It’s taken me off guard because it isn’t his typical behavior.

Is he tired? Should I change his diet? Special vitamins? Is this a normal part of growing up?

I can guess all day and go mad trying to figure out the solution- or better yet, the problem. He isn’t able to articulate all of his big feelings, so outwardly I try to calm him down. But inwardly I internalize.

Worry.

Stress.

Until the other day when Jason and I were attending to “new house” stuff I had chest pains. Normally I would shake it off (perhaps foolishly) but since I’ve had a run in with AFib there was concern. Each breath hurt my chest.

I’m fine now, but this pain lasted a day and a half-  soreness like maybe I pulled a muscle. Ironically Jason has had the exact same chest pain for 2 years. I did rest that day, just in case, but my fears of another heart problem were put at ease realizing he experiences the same thing.

img_0034img_0031

In fact, it makes sense now.

I’ve heard it said before that parenting a special needs child is on the same stress level as a combat solider. Well, I don’t know about that, but it serves up a great deal of learning challenges, misunderstandings, isolation, acceptance, self-help skills, and sleep deprivation.

This isn’t a sob story because goodness knows we have been tremendously blessed. I know that.

God has given us our son with a purpose. Some of the reasons I see so clearly and other times I do question why there are disabilities at all. It doesn’t seem fair. Looking at other cases just breaks my heart.

But here are two things I know:

One, I don’t want to ever pity another family with special needs children, but love them by being their friend. Enter their mess. Show compassion. Listen. I can’t understand the exact situation, but I can pray for them and even with them. This is what these families need.

To be heard. Seen. Validated. Loved.

Two, God gave me an amazing son who blesses others in a way I can’t fully understand. Sure he’s not perfect by any means but he loves cheerfully. My prayer has always been that the Lord will allow others to see His kindness and goodness through Jesse.

I believe God has honored this. 

My Father teaches me more and more and more patience when it comes to working with him. Jesse is the only extrovert in the family so he keeps me and Jason constantly climbing out of our comfort zones. God is inwardly refining my character, as well as showing me how to practice seeing others like Jesse does.

IMG_0204fullsizerender

This job is for life and I know there will be more joys and challenges with it. The joy is found by recognizing those moments as gifts and giving thanks. The challenges prompt me to pray more specifically and consistently.

Is it stressful? For sure. Is Jesse worth it? Always.

Knowing that God sees all even when no one else does helps me persevere. Jesus shepherds those that have young (Isaiah 40:11) and He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

I can rest in this, then take a deep breath.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

***I wanted to let you know that I have created an Instagram account just for this blog! You can find it here: @redeemedingraceblog . You can follow along to receive weekly encouragement, as well as the posts you already get in your inbox from Redeemed In Grace.

If you haven’t signed up for new posts to be emailed directly to you I think you should 😉 That way you can open it at your leisure, on the couch with a cup of coffee. That’s what I imagine anyway.

Thank you for being a faithful reader. You have no idea how much that means to me that you read these words the Lord has placed on my heart. My hope is that you are encouraged here. Happy reading and see you on IG!

 

The Life I Didn’t Expect

I found Meredith through Instagram, drawn to her heart in encouraging parents with special needs children. As a parent herself with a child on the Autism Spectrum, she offers her personal experience, compassion, and desire to champion for those who need an advocate. Welcoming another mama’s heart to Redeemed In Grace today.

Guest Post by: Meredith Dangel

***

I never wanted to write about autism.

My little family blog, which I started when seemingly anyone with an internet connection had a blog, was meant to document our days and stay connected to our far-flung family and friends.

I never wanted to be an advocate.

man in black jacket beside boy in pink jacket holding plush toy during daytime

You know the one, right? The attitude-bearing, button-wearing, walking bumper sticker that people avoid. I felt allergic to that. Honestly, I’m still allergic to that.

Yet, I am, without question, an advocate. I’d like to take you to the beginning, to share with you how God prepared me for this role, this passion, and this new career. The beginning, though, is my childhood and we don’t have time for that. I’ll take you instead to a feeling that was born inside me on the day a neighbor asked me a question about then 2.5-year-old Henry.

We didn’t know her well, but she was kind, bringing us a homemade cake just before Christmas and waving from her front porch whenever we pulled into the driveway. Standing in the front yard one afternoon, I shared how we were in the process of evaluating Henry for autism, but I was pretty sure the evaluation would be conclusive that he was, in fact, autistic. As she asked me questions about what autism means, I described it as best I could with just a few months of acquired knowledge. I’ll never forget what she asked then, not unkindly but uncomfortably: “So, they can learn the proper response to others’ emotions, but they don’t actually … feel it?” She gestured toward her heart as she said this.

***

I don’t know my exact response, but I remember fumbling. I tried to explain that, yes, they do feel, but my vocabulary was not yet nuanced enough to delve into the complexity of autism and the lack of empathy myth. On that day my effort to understand Henry, to support him with every resource Keith and I had to offer, blossomed into something more. I now wanted to help others understand too. I never again wanted to be stuck without words, to feel as if I had betrayed my son and those like him.

black and white blank challenge connect

lightstock_353593_download_medium_april_box_

The path I’ve taken isn’t for everyone and I would never assume it should be. God has nudged me into sharing my own story, educating others about autism, and even changing my career. To ignore Him and to hold tightly to the gifts I’ve been given would be a great shame. I often say if I don’t share my knowledge, I don’t deserve to have it.

Day by day, year by year, God has formed me into a person I didn’t know I could be. In parenting, I do seek advice and never stop learning, but I also trust my instincts. I am confident that I know my son and that a good and loving Father provides each day all that Keith and I need to parent him.

In both my private and public life, I take more risks (calculated and prayerful, of course) and worry less. Maybe that’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a mom of a child with a disability, but this part of my identity has made me braver than I ever imagined. For Henry and, most importantly, for God, I would do anything.

I would even wear a fundraising t-shirt. Maybe even a button.

 

img_2538-3

Meredith Dangel is a writer and speaker and soon-to-be mental health therapist who longs to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult – it can be beautiful.

http://www.meredithmdangel.com/

https://www.instagram.com/MeredithMDangel/

https://www.instagram.com/mamaneedsamoment/

 

Words to live by this year

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” – 2 Peter 1:3-4

Gratitude.

Contentment.

Satisfaction.

These are the words I want to practice more of until it becomes habit, until it is my nature.

Habits of grace.

fullsizerender-7

2018 was hard and wonderful. Isn’t it normally like that? Life is full of trials and joys. We moved into a new house and Jesse started a new school- again. He watched his first movie (Toy Story in case you’re wondering) over the summer.

We’re starting over in many ways but also living just as we have, day after day. This is a new year, but you are still the same you. We each have one life to bless others, worship the Lord, and use our gifts.

Our lives are filled with so many good things. We enjoy them with gratitude knowing Who lavishes us with these graces. But with all things kept in eternal perspective, only Christ brings purpose to even these earthly blessings.

Only God can satisfy a parched soul.

Only ‘I AM’ fills the cracks with Himself. Longing for the Lord is good- be patient and persevere in seeking His face.

Coram Deo. Living before the face of God.

We let our light of salvation flood out the dark- in our own flesh and the culture around us.  Jesus can use you this year to be an agent of change for His Kingdom, that is not of this world. That’s worth celebrating any day of the year 🙂

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

A Christmas Gift every day

There seems no end to the rush- from Thanksgiving, to Christmas, on into New Year’s. I’ve become a bit of a Grinch this season with the avalanche of activities, filled with HIGH expectations. Christmas is the one time of year where nostalgia perfection rules. We want to “remember what it was like when we were kids” and create those kind of memories for our children too.

It’s exhausting.

Maybe because we just moved the first week in December, Christmas has felt more like a to-do list on top of the normal day to day things, and oh, did I mention we just moved?!  Let me just hibernate like the bears do and emerge come spring?

Cynical, yes.

Even though the busy pace has threatened to undo me, God is lately at work tilling my heart.

I don’t want to miss the wonder of Christ’s birth.

IMG_4678IMG_4661FullSizeRender

Heaven met earth in a stable suited for farm animals, witnessed by only Mary and Joseph, then shepherds, and later on the wise men. Christ came without excessive decorum, but as a baby, the most helpless and vulnerable a human can be.

I pray to not get lost in the frenzied swirl of distractions or my own pessimism.

Because honestly, Jesus never asked us to wrap 1,499, 586 presents this season, or send Christmas cards with a picture of your family to every. single. person you’ve ever met, or attempt that cake from Joanna Gaines’ cookbook because it looks “Christmas-ey”.

All we’re asked to do is receive Him- the Greatest Gift.

It’s hard for us to be on the receiving end of things sometimes. In a self-reliant, self-made, autonomous modern Western world, we have to do something before we get, right?

God’s economy doesn’t operate that way. We don’t have to perform or earn anything. It’s not a rewards system like in kindergarten.

It’s all grace.

In the Advent devotional called The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp writes,

“You are most prepared for Christmas when you are done trying to make your performance into the gift and instead revel in His presence as the Gift”.

Does it mean we can’t be light-hearted and enjoy fun things during the season? Of course we can. We should celebrate, especially as Christians! But it does mean that we are free from having to tie one more ribbon or buy one more gift for the sake of a “perfect” Christmas.

You do not have to perform to be loved by Jesus. 

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

Yes, there may be pies to bake, rooms to clean, and even a few presents to wrap. But how we view Christmas is what matters in the hustle of the holidays. We can posture our hearts to worship knowing that we already belong in God’s family, no matter if the ham burns or you forgot to send a Christmas card to Aunt Martha, or that hard to buy for person hates what you got them.

Whether you’re familiar with the loud and busy of Christmas bustle or tucked away lonely, wishing you had someone to buy a present for, remember that Christ came for you too.

Jesus is the Greatest Gift we can have (and all we truly need or want) not just this Christmas, but every Christmas, and every day. One day we’ll see the Son of God who risked everything to save us from ourselves. He’s the Only One who can satisfy our cracked hearts, not things or experiences. When see Him face to face, that will be the best Christmas of all.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Growing in grace

If you haven’t noticed, on Fridays I’m taking time to post short reflections or prayers. Hopefully you are encouraged by them. This is a prayer from the Valley of Vision. It would make a great Christmas gift for someone, or for yourself 🙂

May you grow in God’s grace today. Blessings to you.

Spiritual Growth

“May I be consistent in conversation and conduct,

the same alone as in company, […]

May I never be satisfied with my present

spiritual progress, […]

May I never neglect what is necessary to constitute Christian character, […]

May I cultivate the expedient,

develop the lovely, adorn the Gospel,

recommend the religion of Jesus,”…

 

 

Grace upon grace,

April