Sunday, May 27, 2012

April 27th, 2011 - Thirteen Months Later...O to be a funny looking tree!

On April 27, 2011, tornados ripped through my home state of Alabama. Every town in Alabama that I had ever lived in was hit by these deadly twisters, including my current home of Tuscaloosa. Although my home and family were spared the wrath of these storms, so many were not as lucky as me. You cannot drive through many parts of this state without still seeing the massive destruction left even 13 months later. Every day at work at the hospital, I look out a window that faces the destruction of Tuscaloosa and think about what happened that day and how over 50 people lost their lives as a result of the storm. Beside this window is a picture that was taken from the exact location 13 months ago. Those who were standing there watching, say it was headed straight for the hospital but turned at the last minute, giving only a glancing blow. I am left to wonder what would have happened to my town if the hospital had been hit. Tuscaloosa is coming back but there are still so many reminders of that day. I remember going through the damaged areas door to door providing care in those first few days, and those images will be with me for my life. But what sticks with me the most is seeing these huge trees pulled up from their roots and tossed about by the winds. Some trees withstood the winds though, even some that took a direct hit, and I remember wondering why that tree did not fall. Somewhere along the recovery path, I began to feel a bond with some of those funny looking trees. What was so special about the tree that it kept standing? Why was my home and family spared the death and destruction that so many others were facing? I have watched these trees over the last 13 months and have celebrated every new bloom and leaf that has indicated new life coming back. So many of us, whatever we are struggling with, whether it be autism or loss of relationship or loved one, can relate to these strong trees. And as I drive by these special funny looking trees, I pray... Thank you God for my roots. My family gives me strength to make it through every day, and I am firmly planted in God's love. No matter the highs or lows, whatever storm comes for me, I am a child of God and I know that when my eyes close here in death, I will be rejoicing with my Saviour for eternity. Thank you God for my bark. My armour shields me against many attacks, but sometimes, like those trees, the storms take my protection away and I, laid bare, must rely again on you for my protection instead of myself. Thank you God for my new growth. I praise You when the bad parts of me are taken away. Sometimes I have things in my life that although not bad, prevent me from the better plan you have for me, and therefore are necessary to be pruned away. Those hurt deeply, but you rain down new blessings upon me that lead to new growth and a closer walk with You. O, to be a funny looking tree!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Great I Am...Easter 2012

Today's sermon for Easter was about Hope. Where and who do we put our hope in? What do we hope for? My hope has been in my Lord since I believed in Him and turned my life over so many years ago. My hope for my children to know Christ had been present from the first moment I knew I was pregnant, but it was almost destroyed when I was told my child had autism. How does a child with autism understand God? My son has such a concrete brain and the thought of him understanding something that he can't touch has been a stumbling block in my own faith since he was diagnosed with autism over 4 years ago. God has been working on me about this weakness in my faith for a long time and I had come to believe again that God could reach my child, but I didn't know how. My heart has been feeling the need to talk to my son more and more about God recently and today at church while singing the song "The Great I Am", my prayers for God to make himself known to my son through the death and resurrection of His Son reached a new level of urgency. I was overcome by emotion and there is no telling what people were thinking, but I didn't care. I was in the presence of my Savior and He was all I needed. In those moments, I could see where my son was in the church and I knew God was there with Him making Himself known. Opening up the first glimpse into His Being and telling my son about His Son. God spoke to my heart and gave me a peace that surpasses understanding. I knew that the process of God opening up my son's heart to Him was started. I prayed fervently for God to use me in my son coming to know Him. After Church, I went to the computer to find a video of the song and came across a youtube version that someone had created of the song to the Jesus video. My son came and watched it with me and asked lots of questions. He learns so much more through seeing than hearing and I know the video spoke to him on a new level. He even asked to watch it again hours later.

As I rejoice knowing that God is at work here in my son's heart, I am left a little ashamed that I have not been as fervent in my prayers for all the lost. God, help me to see the lost as you do and to have the same urgency for their salvation as I have for my son. Now if that happens for us all who profess to be saved by Christ's blood, then we are in for a mighty change!

Lyrics: "I wanna be close, close to your side. So Heaven is real, and death is a lie. I wanna hear voices of angels above, singing as one...(chorus)Hallelujah, Holy, Holy, God Almighty, the Great I Am. Who is Worthy? None beside Thee. God Almighty, The Great I Am. I wanna be near, near to Your heart. Loving the world, hating the dark. I want to see dry bones living again, singing as one...(chorus)... The mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee at the mention of the name, King of Majesty...There is no power in hell, or any who can stand before the power and the presence of the Great I Am.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

God, Darkness, and Spiritual ADD

This weekend is the women's retreat for my church in Columbus, Mississippi. By falling on the weekend of the official start of basketball practice, I felt like there was not going to be a way for me to go. Then we find out that Friday's workouts were going to be early, and I felt that I could drive there and back for at least Friday night's session. Then practice got moved back two hours and I was tempted to just not go as it meant that my husband would have to have the kids at practice, but he was okay with that so I dropped the kids off and started off to spend some time with some godly ladies. Even though it was daylight and I had an address and GPS, I still managed to get lost because I did not see a sign that told me to turn. Luckily I still made it in time, and was there to hear God's word spoken to my heart, and even though I was only able to participate in a small part of the weekend, I felt like God had me there with a purpose to speak those words to me. The women that were staying had been challenged to not speak in the morning when they awoke until they all gathered for breakfast and to use that time to have quiet time with God. I knew that was not going to be possible for me at home, so I decided to use the drive back for my quiet time. Upon leaving late last night, I was determined not to get lost on my way home or repeat the errors I had made on my way there. I was on a road that was unfamiliar in the dark and I wasn't sure where I was going, so the darkness actually sharpened my focus. I had to be aware of every twist and turn in the road and rely on my lights to see the path in front of me. I was no longer distracted by the things on the side of the road because I couldn't see them in the dark like I could in the light. With my improved focus, I was easily able to make it home without getting lost.

Sometimes, we travel dark pathways in life. For those that know Christ as their personal saviour, God can use the darkness of our situations to help us focus our eyes on His light and not be distracted by other things until He leads us safely home to an eternity with Him. The path of autism has some days in the light and some in the dark, and for many parents, they become lost in the dark without hope of ever getting back to the light. Don't give up hope in the dark times, but rather think of the darkness as God's spiritual Adderall that is sharpening our focus on His Light that is leading us home.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

ASD and me

Three years ago, my world was rocked by three little letters. The letters ASD changed my life forever in a few short moments as my oldest son Will was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Hearing the diagnosis itself actually wasn’t a shock to me. There had been a six month waiting list to get tested and during that time, I felt as if I had searched the web from start to finish and already knew in my heart what the tests would show. What really sticks in my brain is the first moment that someone mentioned that we needed to get him tested for autism. Even as a physician, what I knew of autism was fairly vague and I was shocked how much I didn’t know. How could I miss something so huge in my own child? Through my web searches, slowly but surely the realization that my son had autism settled in my heart, and with that conclusion, I grieved for everything I had dreamed for him from the moment that I first held him. My son was still the same that he had been before the diagnosis, but I was the one changed. I struggled to talk to other moms, especially when they were telling stories about their “normal” children. How could I explain to others what I didn’t understand myself at the time? I was still struggling with my own expectations and learning how to guide my son through his own struggles. I felt lost as a mother, not knowing how to parent a child with autism. Suddenly, the basics of parenting weren’t applicable and I had to start over and learn how to get my child to listen and to make eye contact, learning the difference between an over stimulated anxiety attack versus a three year old tantrum. I was on constant guard, hoping to prevent a meltdown and feeling completely helpless when one occurred.
My biggest fear of all was that God couldn’t penetrate my son’s world and make Himself known. As I began to make great leaps in understanding my son’s way of processing the world around him and by watching him overcome so much, I was no longer afraid that God wouldn’t be able to reach my son and I repented that I had put limits on a limitless God. I know that autism had made me a better mother, growing my patience and appreciation of the daily victories, and I know that God has something special and wonderful planned for my son. Will changes people’s minds and hearts with an amazing perspective on the world that draws people to him. Understanding and hope are fostered through love and relationship. The ministry of Tuscaloosa Autism Education through Capstone Church was formed to raise awareness and bring hope to those affected by autism. Now God has put a passion in my heart for making others aware of autism. Currently 1 in 110 children (1 in 70 boys) have autism. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined! Children with autism have a delay or abnormal function of social interactions, language, symbolic or imaginative play. They tend to have no filter; they see and hear things that we don’t pay attention to. How hard it must be to focus when you see and hear EVERYTHING all at once. There is no way to tell a child has autism from their appearance, so when a meltdown occurs in public, many people look at you and your child as if you have 3 heads and are the worst parent in the world. I hope that through awareness and relationship, more people will think twice before judging those of us affected by autism and offer a helping hand instead of parenting advice. My beautiful boy lives in a world that is full of stimuli that hurts him, but he goes into it every day and tries to be a part of it. I can’t protect him from sensory overload all the time, but I continue to try and fight along with him.
Last year, I began to notice some of the warning signs of autism in my youngest son Jake. I had the overwhelming urge to say “God, please don’t put this on me too.” Then I cried for Jake but not myself. I was no longer afraid of autism, as I was when facing the diagnosis with Will. I mourned that my second child might have to face the same struggles as his older brother. God comforted me in my grief and my new attitude about autism was born. My response to the possibility of fighting these battles against autism with Jake also was “Bring it on!” and I became the warrior mom. As much as I had learned for Will’s battles, I knew I still had more to learn to help Jake maneuver these waters of autism if I was to have any chance to prevent autism in my youngest child. By going on the attack and starting therapies at such an early age, we are thrilled that Jake is without signs of autism at this time.
In spite of the autism, or better said, because of the autism, God has great plans for my boys and for me and I trust that He will see those through; and I promise to not get in the way with my doubts and fears. God keeps my hopes soaring and my expectations in check so that I rejoice in the daily victories and don’t despair in the temporary defeats. Raise your swords fellow warrior moms and let’s go battle for our children! See you on the frontlines...