The Life We Never Expected

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          The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson is an honest confession inside a home with two special needs children – both have different forms of autism. The Wilsons write about real life experiences mingled with sadness and hope. They taught me that it is okay to grieve the dreams I had envisioned for my son; the things all parents look forward to for their kids: little league sports, college, independent living, marriage and grandchildren. Some of those may eventually come true, but right now a typical life is not one of them.

Andrew, a pastor in the UK, is transparent with his own struggles, coming to terms with the life he never expected. All the “big” ministry opportunities he envisioned, traditional parenting, and a regular life, was thrown out the window. Rachel writes in a vulnerable voice, acknowledging that this is hard and messy; but they find moments of humor and sweetness too.

Having a child with any kind of disability is isolating. I feel like I’m in a foreign land most days, unable to relate to another parent’s struggles because we are on completely different plains. When I’m not in the right mindset seeing my son’s typical peers wrecks me. This book has been a lifeline to help me remember that I am not alone. Sleepless night after night? Yes. Multiple therapy appointments? Yes. Hyperactivity, missed social cues, and seizures? Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes it’s comforting to identify with someone else going through a similar situation. I highly recommend this book as an oasis for any parent with a special needs child. Furthermore, family, friends, and the church can glean a helpful inside look on what daily life is like in upside down parenting.

The hope Andrew and Rachel possess as believers is contagious. They live with a mindset focused on eternity – in a world free from autism, epilepsy, wheelchairs, tube feeding, or any kind of suffering. One day their precious children (and mine) will have fully functioning minds where normal conversation is possible. One day they will be finally and completely healed. The Wilsons have given me a breath of fresh air with their raw and truthful words. For that I am grateful.

Here is an excerpt from Rachel:

“We are, at best, sailing desperately into the fog, with ever-changing winds, choppy waters, blank maps, and no real idea what we’re doing.

But God is the Captain. He is the navigator, mapmaker, and expert […] as uncertain as our voyage is, there are solid landmarks ahead that are knowable and concrete because of the Captain.

[…] I know He will journey with us to the very end, at which point everything that is perishable and incomplete will be gloriously resurrected and healed.

So I fix my eyes, not on what is seen but on what is unseen. And I take a deep breath.” (p. 148)

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

When I don’t desire God (and 8 ways to help)

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When I lack the desire to pray or read the Bible there’s a problem. My mind turns into a thick fog, unable to hold firm to the truth I profess. My spirit becomes dry so I fill cracked cisterns with other things – distractions.

Studies show that the average adult attention span is less than a goldfish, eight seconds. The rest of modern society and I whip out our electronic devices jumping from one thing to the next. I am restless and unable to focus.

There is something unique in the current era that generations before us did not fight against. We now have the ability to be in constant communication, literally at our fingertips, with every form of entertainment seeping through our lives. There is no room for quiet, so we slowly distract ourselves to death.

I don’t want to paint a broad picture that all of modern technology is evil and we should just retreat like monks. What I am saying is that I think my lack of desire to be still before the Lord has a lot to do with the bombardment of ways to get my focus off of God and onto lesser things. Sometimes these dry spiritual seasons echo the state of my heart. Sometimes God uses these lessons to teach me something about Him, that only He can quench my thirst.

There needs to be a wake-up call in the heart of believers who fall into this trap like me. I noted eight helpful ways to stir our spirit toward God again:

 

  1. Moderation, narrow your search, turn it off.

Eliminate digital clutter by being intentional with how much time you decide to spend online. Stick to it. Time is a precious gift and it would be a shame if you realize at the end of your life how much of it was wasted on social media, Internet surfing, or a Netflix binge.

Beyond that, try unsubscribing to a few email lists you’re on, limit the number of articles or blogs you read. There are a billion zillion things to find online and there just isn’t enough time in the day to take in everything. Be choosy.

When you set time aside to study the Bible, turn off your phone and the T.V. or whatever else might be a temptation for you. These devices are tools meant to serve us, not the other way around. We are losing our ability to be comfortable in silence. Exercising personal discipline in pursuit of our rich God is priceless, I promise you.

 

  1. Read the Psalms.

Read it aloud even. Speak the words back to God like David did, crying out to Him. Highlight verses that the Holy Spirit teaches you. Meditate on it.

 

  1. Seek God in each page of the Bible.

As you read the Bible, look for specific attributes of God. Where is He and what characteristics do you see? Is He Faithful? Creator? Lawgiver? Redeemer? Shepherd? Teacher? Remember that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not us, so find Him in each page you read.

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  1. Pray.

Ask God to help you see clearly again spiritual truth. He is faithful and hears the prayers of His own. Ask for prayer from another believer – a trusted friend or someone else mature in his or her faith.

 

  1. Memorization.

Memorizing a Bible verse to carry with you throughout the week might be the one thing that sustains you. Repeat it frequently and let God use that truth to work in your mind.

 

  1. Work it out.

Taking a walk outside or some form of exercise is a great way to clear my head. I can take that time to walk in prayer, or just slow down long enough to notice God’s beauty around me.

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  1. Worship through music.

When I can’t even find the words to pray, worship music speaks for me. I punch in Chris Tomlin’s station on Pandora and my spirit is lifted once again. The melody soothes my soul and the lyrics remind me to worship the Living God.

 

  1. Write out your blessings, big and small.

Developing a grateful heart naturally leads to praising the God of grace, the Perfect Giver. You’ll be surprised at how blessed you really are.

 

Then wait for God to move. We can’t force the rhythms of grace. We ask, we seek, and then we wait. Even when the tumbleweeds blow in the desert of your soul, hold on to what you know to be true. God is keeping His Beloved. Sometimes we wander away and the Lord uses those seasons to grow us up in maturity. I usually learn the hard way. However the Lord of all decides to work in our fellowship with Him it is always for our good and His Glory.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

To the God who sees me

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Sovereign Father,

 

Sometimes I think You don’t care

and You must not be listening.

I get swallowed up in a

sea of humanity

and my troubles seem so

insignificant

in the grand scheme of things.

So I sorrowfully resign

that You must be too busy

to notice.

 

But then I remember

the many times before

You have proved Yourself

Faithful and Loving

even though

I am small in the cosmos.

Not only do You care,

but You love Your Beloved deeply.

You weep when I do.

You rejoice at my happy news.

 

El Roi,

The God who sees me.

Our fellowship is unbreakable,

sacred, a work of grace.

Forgive me when I doubt

Your Goodness.

Help my impatient spirit

to wait

when You seem far away.

 

Let Your Truth take root

in my mind,

as Your peace washes over

my anxious heart.

Because You are

the God who sees me

when I run after You

and when I stray.

Hold my gaze steady on Jesus

in the certain and uncertain times.

I will put my trust in You, El Roi.

 

Amen.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Further devotion: Genesis 16

Confessions of a childless stay-at-home mom

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I have floundered this first full week of school- what to do with myself, what I’m good for, that type of thing. I’m a stay-at-home mom without a child now from 8-2:30 roughly. Am I lazy? Do I have anything else to offer in society?  I start examining the world’s standards of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life and the toxic game of comparison begins.

Even stay-at-home moms with children ALL DAY find the time and/or desire to volunteer in the community, teach Sunday school, work part-time from home and attend a Bible study.

So here’s me the jellyfish just floating through life – well its how it feels anyway. What do you do when you feel like you don’t matter? Go out and get a job? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Those are wonderful things, mind you, I just don’t feel the need to do them personally. Am I “just a mom”? Or can I be more than that? Is it enough and can I learn contentment in being at home even when I have no one to mother during the day?

My work seems small and meager.

Invisible, insignificant.

…And that’s okay.

Most of the inner workings of the world go on without any fanfare, recognition, or even so much as a “thank you”. My self-worth is not wrapped up in what I do, how many plates I can keep spinning at once, but who I am in Christ.

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Shortly after winning their silver medals in synchronized diving, Olympic athletes David Boudia and Steele Johnson were asked by a reporter about their mindset with each dive. They admitted the pressure was intense to compete well, but that their identity is in Christ and not what they accomplish on the diving board. These young Olympians are secure in their worth because it isn’t tied to this world.

We may not be remembered in history (or win medals) for washing a pile of laundry, cooking dinner, or picking up our kids from school, but what will remain is how we reflected God’s character toward others. Whether your audience is one million or one, how you live should ultimately please the Ultimate One.

No one else has your life.

God gave it to you and the people in it to make much of Him, not yourself. There is a season and a time for everything. Thank God for the really good, the really hard, the really lonely, and the really ordinary times. As we focus on Jesus Christ, He will lead us, and our lives will culminate into worshipful living. Go to the Source of Life when you feel meaningless (or at least your work) and ask the Spirit to bless the work of your hands.

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Because when it’s all said and done, the most important thing you can do with your life is to pursue God and live out the faith you’ve been given. So for today? Enjoy God and His good gifts, big and small. Simply trust that in our unworthiness, Christ made us worthy of our calling. You are loved by God, and He is faithful to sustain you wherever He has placed your feet.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Missional Summertime

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This summer is already the best one yet as a mom who is now turning the corner to having a “big kid”. It is also the hardest, by far. His five-year-old curiosity and energy level daily leaves toys littered on every surface in the house. The floors stay dirty and the laundry list of things to do besides the actual laundry is high. I just have one child, but he always seems to be right under me – like in the kitchen, while I’m making dinner – when kids have the ability to multiply themselves to be everywhere at once.

In the school year there is more time to myself, so the summer schedule is taking some adjustment. But I love it. My little guy and I get to set our own itinerary (aside from naps, those are still essential) and we step out the door exploring our own backyard, neighborhood, and hometown. Days are filled with lingering at the local botanical garden, swimming at the Y, visiting the playground and trips to our library, which has an awesome children’s section.

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It’s a balance of playing with him, getting regular housework done (or attempting to), and still trying to maintain my sanity, staying human. Jesse is learning to entertain himself more, which is huge. But because he is an only child I want to make sure we have time together. In a lot of ways at this stage I am his main friend/playmate. It won’t always be like this so it takes effort to be cognizant, soaking it in.

Yes some days are super hard. I’m exhausted, he’s tired, it’s too hot outside and patience wears thin as whining rises high. Yes, on those days I just want to go be by myself in a room with some great air conditioning.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Other days, sometimes in the same day, are magical moments – pure childhood fun.

We take walks; he holds my hand. We set up the plastic pins to bowl in the kitchen alley, followed by eruptions of cheer. He cools off in the sprinkler, enjoying it for the first time this year and I sit back watching him marvel over the simple things.

Growing up I took those summers for granted, thinking I’d have them always. There is something unique about this season for a child. It is a time of transition, growing up, learning by play.

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Moms, the struggle is real and I’m not minimizing that, but I know I too often suck the joy out of each day with my complaining. We set the tone for our homes and if the kids see us short-tempered and even resentful, they’ll get the message.

Summertime is actually harder than the rest of the year, but its priceless time too. You and I have the opportunity to pour into their sponge-like minds and impressionable young hearts. Parents have the classroom 24/7 right now. What do you want them to learn from you in these few short months? What will they take away from this summer?

I’m finding that the reason this season is challenging stems from learning to daily die to self. Moms feel like they are constantly giving of themselves – making breakfast, picking up toys so we don’t break our necks, grocery shopping, sharpening our parenting skills, trying to make wise decisions on the fly.

I know you want to honor the Lord in how you raise your kids. I know you want them to love Jesus like you do. I know you hope your little ones (or maybe not so little anymore) will love God’s Word. And all of this begins with our example. The responsibility feels heavy, but also freeing as we live into the identity Christ gave us. Motherhood is our ministry; our families are the people we serve. Do they see Jesus in us? This summer, you have that time.

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All women, whether you have children of your own or not, have the joy of missional motherhood:

“Every Christian woman is called to the spiritual motherhood of making disciples of all nations.”

-Gloria Furman

We have a great opportunity during the summer months, when life is slower, and pockets of time are free. I hope you don’t get caught in a rut like I have recently of hurrying these next few weeks along. I don’t want to just meet my son’s outward needs of food and clothing, or just marking time. I want to get to his heart too. But you and I can’t do this alone. Ask the Lord to help you. Ask Him to provide strength each day. The most important thing we can teach the children in our care is to show them Jesus.

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Gloria Furman, author of Missional Motherhood, writes, “Jesus invites women to missional motherhood to follow His pattern, to trust His promises, and to nurture others by the power He provides.” The best sermon we can preach is the one lived out at home. There are a little over a dozen summers you have with your kids before they lose that valuable freedom. Use it well and enjoy the very good gift of childhood summers.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Let us not become weary in doing good: a prayer

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God our Father,

 

Let us not become

weary in doing good.

Let us not assume

Satan has won the war

and give up the fight.

Let us make Your Name

Famous

above all other names.

Help us remember who

we are

the seal of approval over us;

Redeemed, it says.

Forgiven proclaimed.

Adoption confirmed.

 

Keep us low

filled with praise and awe

over incomprehensible Yahweh.

Give us our Daily Bread

in Jesus

and let us not be ashamed

of the Gospel.

Raise up mighty warriors

in Your Powerful Name.

Equip this generation to

march boldly and joyfully

sharing the Hope within us,

spreading Light until

no darkness is left to hide.

 

You are our Treasure.

You are our Delight.

Strengthen us for today,

arm the beloved for warfare.

Go before us we pray.

Lead in grace.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.

May Mayhem: the 5 things I learned

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May was a little crazy wasn’t it? End of the year celebrations and preparations for the fall school year all clash in one month. I am ready for the rhythm of slow with no-where to be by 8am each day thank you very much. I could tell the teachers were drained too, all pushing toward that finish line. Well, summer is here. But before you start applying sunscreen and head to the pool, here are a few things I learned in the mayhem of May.

  1. Sugar makes me tired.

I took a three-month hiatus from coffee recently (who was that crazy person?) to taper off from caffeine. Well the problem it turns out wasn’t necessarily the caffeine as it was the sugar I put into my coffee. Sprite causes energy crashes too and that’s caffeine free, but loaded with sugar! So, I have acquired a taste for coffee without sugar and now all is right with the world.

 

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“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

  1. Memorizing Scripture can be easy!

Do you struggle to memorize Bible verses? Well, I did and one day I saw a picture on Instagram from Mary Kate Robertson who wrote a verse on her hand. I thought it was a great idea to have a daily reminder on something I see everyday – my hand or wrist. I wrote about how I try to do this and I hope you find it helpful.

 

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  1. Parents are usually the best advocates for their kids.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The United States of Autism. A concerned father who has an autistic son set out with a film crew driving all over the country interviewing other families living with the reality of autism.

Some of those parents are fierce, going toe-to-toe with state legislature and even Congress, petitioning for insurance coverage for therapies or investigating the Health Department in vaccine requirements for children. Some believe there is a correlation between the number of vaccinations a child receives at one time and autism. Others debunk this idea and conclude it is mostly genetic. Fascinating stuff. Meanwhile, the autism numbers continue to climb and it seems the parents are the only voices speaking up for these children.

 

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  1. Let’s address how Crazy Busy we are.

In the Western culture especially we are crazy busy. Kevin DeYoung, pastor, speaker and writer, struggles with juggling it all too, which is why he wrote Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem. We push ourselves beyond our limits and it is killing us.

DeYoung talks about stewarding our time and why saying ‘yes’ to more than we should is really a heart issue. That got my attention, especially when he concludes that a lot of our busyness stems from pride in various forms. It’s a short read and definitely something to think about.

 

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  1. This month marks the 1 year anniversary of Redeemed In Grace.

I cannot believe it has already been a year since I took a deep breath and hit publish on Redeemed In Grace for the very first time. I have loved doing this – the writing, connecting, learning, and even iPhone photography (no one was more surprised than me).

I am thankful to you, who have taken your valuable time to read what I write. Thank you!!

The Lord continues to teach me more about Him and myself. I realize I’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how great God is. He leaves me hungry for more of Him, so this blog is part of that journey – learning in knowledge, growing in grace; redeemed by Him and for Him.

However your summer looks I hope you find time to slow down a bit and:

eat watermelon,

(and ice cream),

walk barefoot,

go to the library,

grill out,

and watch the Summer Olympics of course!

Have a happy June 🙂

 

Grace upon grace,

April