Deep breath- it’s Monday

Part of the goal for Redeemed In Grace is to help you extend grace to yourself, as you learn to do this for others. And let’s face it, Mondays are the worst day to practice grace for most of us. The beginning of another week is a true gift, but it can also feel like the start to the daily grind. In order to help each other shift our gaze from the mounds of paperwork, laundry, phone calls, (fill in the blank), to an eternal mindset I have written a prayer for you today.

Because I believe that when our perspective changes so can our hearts. Gratitude begets a gracious spirit. So while the responsibilities and circumstances of life in general may not change, our attitude toward those tasks can. And hopefully you can discern this as a sincere effort to encourage you and not preachy. Because that is my prayer for you-  to be encouraged here in this little online space.

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Father,

May we rest in our salvation and pursue satisfaction in You.

Knowledge, love and faith are all gifts from Your Hand.

We acknowledge that our greatest gift is Jesus-

Prophet, Priest, and King.

He is worth following, worth living and dying for.

Christ is worthy of our worship at all times

from every nation.

Let us taste the fullness of joy that we already have in Jesus.

 

May we make You known by our choices, speech and actions so that this world sees the light of truth in us.

Awake us from the things that deaden our spirits and grace Your Church with zeal under the banner of Love.

Teach us to remember Your truth so that we sense Your Presence in this day.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen

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A Support System for Special Needs Families

I can’t imagine what life must have been like 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, when autism was deeply misunderstood or virtually unknown. Did the parents feel isolated in communities simply because their child did not fit the mold? Some were accused of not loving their children enough, termed as Refrigerator Mother Theory, which has now been debunked as complete nonsense.

Temple Grandin, a well-known autism advocate and also on the autism spectrum, remembers this first hand. Her mother was told she must be too cold toward Temple, to explain her irrational behavior. This was the conclusion of a medical professional in the 1950s! Other parents who felt hopeless sent their children to mental institutions where they lived out the rest of their days. I don’t think it was because they didn’t love their children, but many had few options and lacked community support.

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Today is vastly different from a time not too long ago, and for that I am grateful. Unfortunately it can still be a struggle for parents with special needs children to relate or share with those living outside their world. Things get lost in translation. It can sometimes feel like an alternate universe filled with IEP meetings, therapy appointments, medicine, natural supplements, working with educators and doctors to make sure your child receives exactly what he needs. I get excited when Jesse sleeps through the night. We celebrate little milestone achievements, like putting two words together, where some might take that for granted especially at age 6.

The “special needs” jargon sounds foreign to someone not in your shoes. Not to mention the emotional developmental delay for most on the autism spectrum. An outsider might conclude your child is “behaving badly” and “lacks necessary discipline”. It’s true they may act differently than their typical peers with public meltdowns, lack of social awareness, or stimming behaviors just to name a few. However, we work toward good manners and accomplishing life skills, but it may take our kids longer to get there.

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Even though family and friends rally around to offer support, a missing piece of the puzzle is found in support groups, organizations, or families on a similar journey. Our stories won’t look exactly the same because no two diagnoses are alike, but there will be an unspoken understanding. And thanks to the Internet, families who live in rural areas can still connect with others who feel isolated themselves.

You don’t have to do this alone. Sometimes we go through trials to comfort another weary heart on a path we’ve walked a little further down. I still can’t fully express my life to someone without a special needs child, and that’s okay. Can it be lonely and frustrating at times? Yes. But then I have a conversation with a mom in the same boat as me. We share a bond. I have met amazing parents who relentlessly advocate for their children. They remind me what we all should do- be a voice for the voiceless. This applies to so much more than the autism community.

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Most of us desire to be understood, to form a connection with someone we can identify with – to be seen and known. When we go through difficult times, isolation typically follows close behind. Extending kindness in the form of a hug, a smile, a prayer or simply your presence can do wonders for a hurting soul. The one thing we can offer each other is grace; Grace to practice patience and compassion. May we live each day with hearts open to the needs of others and may we receive the same kindness.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

The Christian Chameleon

I don’t remember the play, but I do remember that not even halfway through the 1st Act that I wasn’t going to stay. It was crude and filled with sexual innuendo, mocking sin. I sat contemplating how I was going to make my exit, since my seat was right in the middle of a row, there would be a whole lot of climbing over theatre-goers and “excuse me’s” as I tried not to step on toes, literally. I couldn’t slink out the back door without making a bit of a scene. For this girl who DOES NOT want to draw attention and is more comfortable observing as a wallflower than a participant, this was not an easy move. On top of that, I was with a group of college friends and it crossed my mind that I might be the only one to leave before the curtain came down.

Conviction is a funny thing though. It doesn’t leave room for much negotiation. I knew I couldn’t stay solely on the purpose that God’s values were mocked; HE was mocked. Fumbling in the dark to the nearest door I walked out despite what my friends thought. I can’t remember if all of them followed, but a few did. Driving home I considered how even believers today learn to compromise personal holiness just for the sake of fitting in. I have had my share of compromising as well, but this was one moment where I didn’t. It makes me wonder how the world views Christians. Do we look any different or do we try to blend in?

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Jewish men wear a kippah on their head as a sign of recognition. Muslim women cover themselves from head to toe in a burka. Mormon young men evangelize usually wearing black suits and riding bicycles all across the land. So how does the world spot a Christian? Jesus told the Pharisees they were like “whitewashed tombs”, beautifully religious on the outside but like dead bones on the inside. The Jewish leaders were zealous for their laws, traditions, and customs, but missed Perfect Holiness standing right in front of them. Christ pointed out that the people had lost zeal for His Glory.

Not too long ago legalism in the modern Church ruled the day as well. In recent years the pendulum has shifted with the aide of millennials to the opposite end. Christians are more relaxed in dress for church and worship preferences. These changes aren’t necessarily wrong as long as the preaching stands firm and the church is true. But I see the Church cowering to the culture and the consequence is that our Biblical convictions are watered down. Grace is abused and personal holiness neglected. We trade in reverence for Christ wanting to be entertained on Sundays instead.

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When the Church follows the trend of tolerance that the world has constructed, apathy for God’s righteousness ensues. Shallowness and compromise seep into our pews because of the belief that to evangelize the world you have to look like it. When believers lack discernment on what movies to watch, music to listen to, plays to attend, and just in general how we spend our time, we lose our privilege to be seen as God’s set apart. Jesus also says in another passage, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20). The product of our desires and what we genuinely value will come out in our everyday speech, actions and thoughts. This is what the world will see. Ask and trust God to move your heart to be zealous for Him, not lukewarm. Let the world know that you are not ashamed to stand up, or stand out, for Jesus’ Glory.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Loving the Summer You Actually Have

We are right in the middle of our summer vacation. Maybe you and your family have gone to the beach, the swimming pool, played outside, grilled out or piled in the car for a road trip. We traveled to the beach at the beginning of this month which was a treat because we had not planned to go. Summer usually brings to mind ideal images of fun and sun, but it isn’t always like this. Summer vacation with children is not one big ray of happy sunshine the entire time. I know this, so by mid-May I was mentally preparing to “sink or swim”.

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I’m genuinely thrilled to spend this time with my son, but also slightly terrified. As the fun increases, so does the workload for mom. There is generally about a week of mental transition for me to shift my attitude in how I approach these “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer”. I want to enjoy this precious time, to be fully present, not wish each long day away waiting for his bedtime to arrive. This can be hard on some days, but I know that my attitude sets the tone for the rest of the household. I don’t want to be the “grumpy mom”, so I wrote down a few ideas not just to endure the rest of the summer, but also like it.

Here are some ways to help you also love the summer you actually have:

1. Write a bucket list

Good for you if you have already done this! But it’s not too late to start if you haven’t. Jot down an overview of what you hope to experience or accomplish with your kids. Make sure to include lots of free and low costs options too. For example, make an afternoon of a water balloon toss and running through the sprinkler. Spend some time at your local pool, which usually costs a few dollars if you aren’t a member somewhere. Take note of interesting cities around where you live and make a daytrip to the zoo, aquarium, children’s museum, etc. Most afternoons Jesse and I go on walks in our neighborhood because that is something he really enjoys doing.

 

2. Write down dates of events

Is your city hosting a fireworks show? Or an outdoor family concert? Is there a $1 movie day? Write down the place and time or put it in your phone calendar so you won’t forget! Where we live there are a couple of websites that list things going on around the area. I look it over and make a list of the events I think might be interesting for us to do.

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3. Make a list of goals for that week

If I don’t write things down I either forget or feel very overwhelmed by my mental list. It just makes it easier to see on paper what I would like to plan for that week. This is also true in making lists for the grocery store and meal planning 🙂 Be sure to check your local weather so you can prepare for indoor activities if needed.

 

4. Have some kind of structure

I know this sounds counter-intuitive to the freedom of summer but I think having some idea of what to expect next actually helps children. For us, the days are separated into morning and afternoon activities. We usually come back home for lunch and have “rest” time (a.k.a. mom needs a break). Jesse lies down or plays semi-quietly in his room for 45 minutes to an hour.

We don’t pack each day from one activity to the next either. Leave time for the slow and even boring days because that is when creativity kicks in for you and for them! Remember that you are not an entertaining circus act – chores and adult life still happen, but don’t resent the interrupted moments with your kids either. It is definitely a balancing act, filled with lots of grace for moms and kids.

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5. Eliminate the clutter

I made a decision recently to try and stay off of social media as much as possible during summer vacation. I found myself constantly looking at my phone, as if the thing was glued to my hand. It made me wonder if that is how my son will picture me and it was convicting. I don’t want to send the message that this device or whatever I’m looking at is more important than him. So I decided to cut it out. Honestly it has been freeing for me because I needed to take a step back and make sure I had not become a slave to it. I think in our culture this is so easy to do because entertainment is literally at our fingertips so we never have to experience boredom…but I digress. I just know it has helped what I put my focus on.

 

6. Pray for how your kids will remember their time with you

Pray for a different perspective and attitude toward this ample amount of free time with your kids. Look at it as an opportunity to pour into them your time, love and wisdom. Seriously. Not every moment will be golden, but it can be a useful lesson for them and for you. (Sanctification anyone?) By God’s grace hopefully the good times will outweigh our moments of failure. Learning to love the realistic summer I have with my son, seeing it as a gift has helped me to enjoy our time together instead of looking at him as an obstacle to the “perfect summer”, because there really is no such thing to begin with.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Need more ideas for the summer? Here is a little list I made just for you!

 

*Bowling

*Library- check to see if your local library has story time for your children’s age

*$1 movie days

*Children’s museums

*Roller skating

*Ice skating

*Putt-putt golf

*Water parks/Splash pads

*local pool

*hiking trails

*arcades

*bike rides

*coloring/crafts/play-doh

*playgrounds

*sidewalk chalk

*blowing and popping bubbles

*neighborhood walks

*building forts with sheets and chairs

*playing board games and card games

*reading a book together

*treat them to McDonald’s, Chic-fila, etc. and have fun in the play area 

*use Pandora and put on a kid station for random dance parties!

*bake brownies or cookies together….can I come over?

 

I’d love to hear what you and your crew are up to this summer! What are some fun things you are doing?

 

 

Truth telling for Moms

I’m a mom who daily lives under a rock of guilt and failure.

I haven’t given my six-year-old siblings to play with.

 I haven’t worked hard enough (or at all) today on his developmental skills.

 He’s spending too much time in front of electronics.

 I could do this all day.

 

I don’t know if it’s because Jesse has Autism and is an only child that I put this added pressure on myself, or if all moms do this. I suspect we each have our areas we struggle in, the lies we tell ourselves. When I stop the merry-go-round of all the ways I’m failing as a mom, God is gracious to help me fight with truth.

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The truth is, my son operates differently than other kids and so his activities and interests will look different as well. The truth is, I’m doing a great job as his mom, but I’m not perfect either. God knows this. The Lord didn’t wait until I had my act together before He gave me a son. It is in the process of raising him that I am sanctified!

The truth is, I am already “enough” as a mom, wife, friend and woman because Christ is enough and He lives in me. Condemnation has no place here. When I remember this, I breathe easier again, my shoulders begin to relax and I get to enjoy my son instead of focusing on all the ways I don’t measure up.

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If I stay hunkered down in guilt, I can’t clearly see the amazing blessings right in front of me. God holds out this wonderful gift and I reject not only the gifts of freedom and joy, but God Himself when I’m wrapped up in my own shortcomings.

Mom life is hard, but the truth is He gave you and me specific children, with distinct personalities and skills, to love, nourish, and raise for His glory. We get to teach them about the Lord who is our life.

             Our kids are gifts to enjoy, little lessons to learn from, means of sanctification. Preach this truth to yourself today when you feel like waving the white flag. God gives us the privilege and responsibility to care for the least of these, right in our own tribe.

It first starts with us loving Him as our ultimate treasure. That’s the place where we parent well and do anything well. Our relationship and growing love for the Lord will overflow on whatever else we put our hands to do today. We learn that even when we mess up or they do, there is grace and forgiveness extended vertically and horizontally. We start to live the message of the cross and that is the truth we need to tell ourselves everyday.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

Jesus our Rest

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Here is a little prayer I wrote for you and for me. I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the unraveling of society in the anti-Christian culture we live in, along with so many other daily distractions that threaten the believer’s focus. When I find myself in a fog, I sit quietly and ask God to realign my thoughts…once again. Maybe you have been here too and need a prayer like this. Blessings to you today.

 

Lord of heaven and earth,

 

Free my mind from the cobwebs of lethargy,

complacency and spiritual stupor.

Help me to see You again clearly,

eagerly.

I pray You remind me of the simple

truths I know so well and still

forget each day.

Let me walk in Your footsteps,

as a child trails behind a parent –

trusting and unafraid.

 

You are Light covered in flesh.

How amazing that Hope met us

in our desperate, hopeless state!

Transform and purify us in joy,

eager to do the good works

You redeemed us for.

Help us recognize grace upon grace today

in thousands of ways,

multi-faceted like a million

diamonds on the jeweled sea.

 

Jesus is our treasure and delight.

We find God in His rich Word

which feeds the Beloved

like sweet manna –

bread from heaven.

The simplicity of the gospel

is deep seated

in mystery, wisdom, and beauty.

Help us to comprehend the sacred

privilege of salvation

and walk in this hour

with confidence in who we are,

resting in Jesus

our Eternal Sabbath.

 

Amen.

 

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