Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Favorite Books about Autumn For Young Readers


     

          Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and there is so much changing as nature prepares for winter.
If you have little ones, this is the perfect time to cuddle up under a warm blanket and read about trees changing colors, leaves falling, apple picking and, of course, pumpkins.
I have listed a few of my favorites. Please share some of your favorites too.

  • ·         Squirrel’s Busy Day, by Lucy Barnard




A good book about friendship and helping others.

  • ·         Squirrel’s Fall Search, by Anita Loughrey and Daniel Howarth



A fun book about sharing.

  • ·         Apples and Pumpkins, by Anne Rockwell


This book is about the joys of fall

  • ·         P is for Pumpkin; God’s Harvest Alphabet, by Kahy-Jo Wargin



A fun way to teach little ones their alphabet along with the importance of remembering all God has given us.

  • ·         The Pumpkin Patch Parable, by Liz Curtis Higgs



This wonderful book explains how God removes all the icky in us then puts his light inside us.

  • ·         Trick or Treat Marley! By John Grogan



A fun book to read, especially if you love dogs!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

When bad things happen to good people

          


           This has been a hard year, hasn’t it? Every time we turn on the news, there’s another tragedy, another disaster, another reason to despair. So much loss, so much pain all around us. Yet, in the midst of it all, we’ve seen heroes rise out of the ashes, we’ve met brave individuals willing to risk their own lives just to save a fellow human being; flickering candles in a world of darkness.
            So where is God in all of this? Has he forgotten us? I am currently reading through the book of Job. Now there’s a man who had every reason to ask “Why me?” Righteous, devout and unwavering in his faith, Job was the Valedictorian of virtuous living. Yet God allowed the devil to dump trial after trial on the poor man.
            Why? It would be wrong to state that Job accepted his fate without asking “Why? Why me?” In fact, he poured out his heart to God, arguing his cause before Him. He grieved in a very public way, never ashamed of his tears and his pain. He owned it, voicing his inner agony over the loss of his children and the intense physical pain he was enduring.
            This still begs the question; “Why?” Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? We may not receive all the answers here below. But when we reach heaven, we will see how all the pieces of our lives fit together to form a beautiful masterpiece. Even those dark, misshapen ones.
One truth we do know is that we are all born into a sinful world. The devil is at work, trying to trip up as many souls as he can before his time is up. He wants to leave his mark before he is thrown into the lake of fire. Could God stop the devil’s evil plans? Absolutely. Couldn’t he prevent all the suffering going on in this world? Of course, he could. But that is not his ultimate goal.
God has a plan for this world that we’re not privy to. We aren’t in on all the details of His will. Yet, as Christians, we can rest assured that no suffering is ever in vain. No pain is ever without purpose. Though unpleasant, suffering is a part of each person’s journey.
One day, when we wake up in heaven, we will receive the answers to our whys. The reasons for our trials will be as plain as the nose on our face, an unsurpassed “Aha!” moment. But until then, God reminds us He is in control. Nothing happens to us without His permission.
Never lose hope in God, even when the hard times come. Though our pain be great, God is greater. He will be with us through the storms of life, pouring out His love and His peace into our lives.

I don’t know your particular story, your pain or your loss. I don’t know why God allowed it. But one thing I do know is that He cares. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Safe Place


God is our refuge and strength,
An ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging…
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:1-3, 10 (NIV)


            My son, Benjamin, has a ‘safe place,’ both at home and at school, where he can find respite when life gets a little too overwhelming. We’ve attempted to provide him with a place where sensory input is reduced and he is able to decompress. Because of his autism, these ‘safe places’ are necessary for him to be able to survive in a world full of stimulations, perceived threats and rational or irrational fears. In these safe places he can relax, renew and refresh both his mind and his body.
            I don't know about you, but I sure could use a safe place right about now; a place where I can shut out a crazy world and find rest for my weary soul. God offers a refuge, a place of safety, where we can find peace and hope in a dark world. Though the nations be in turmoil, though our very lives be thrust into confusion, we can always find comfort in God’s loving arms. In His presence we find rest, renewal and refreshment.
            God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In the midst of the storms that have torn through our nation, God remains in control. None of the ghastly events of the past months have caught Him off guard. He knows. He sees. And He cares.
            Need a safe place? The only refuge that offers true peace and comfort is Jesus-Christ. Come to Him, surrender your worries, your heartache, your fears and allow God to be God. He will always take care of His loved ones, even if He has to reach down and scoop you into His loving arms.

             

Thursday, September 28, 2017

To Stand or To Kneel




            While I try not to get involved in politics, especially on my blog, I do feel our country has completely missed the point behind the issue of kneeling or standing for the national anthem and our flag. I am not taking sides on the issue, but I do want to point out that we need to stop focusing on the “Who” or the “What” and concentrate, instead, on the “Why.”
            Rather than taking sides, why don’t we, as a nation, address the very issues that are causing the controversy? Let’s stop talking about our posture and start talking about racism, police brutality and judging one another. Let’s act, rather than react. Then our country can start healing.
            I think of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus invited those who had caught her in the act to throw the first stone. No one but Jesus could condemn her, because all had broken the Ten Commandments. Jesus could have hurled the first stone, because He was without sin. Yet instead of throwing a stone, he threw Mercy and Grace at her, recognizing that was the response that would bring about a real change in her life.
            Let’s stop judging, and start loving. Let’s stop reacting, and start acting. Let’s stop taking sides, and start working to unite our country under one flag. Let’s stop condemning the kneelers, and start addressing the very issues they are protesting. Let’s change our land so individuals no longer have cause to kneel before our flag. Let’s stop discussing change, and let’s be the change.




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Autism: Accepting the Good and the Bad




Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

Job 2:10 (NIV)


            “Your son has autism.”
            My husband and I stare at the doctor, sitting across from us. Her face is a blank canvas, void of emotion. I imagine there’s no easy way for physicians to tell parents their child has autism spectrum disorder. Yet the words are like a punch in the sternum, and I can’t seem to catch my breath.
The diagnosis is bittersweet. Bitter because of all it entails. Sweet because we finally have an answer and can focus on getting him the treatments and therapies he needs.
            The good and the bad. They often go hand in hand. Faith in God does not guarantee mountaintop experiences, one after the other. On the contrary, God often leads us into the valley to stretch our faith, teach us spiritual lessons or reveal His loving care towards us in a very personal way.
            I love Job’s perspective in the midst of so much loss; not only does he refuse to curse God, but he affirms God’s sovereignty and authority over his life. Job’s complete submission to God’s Almighty hand reveal a heart and mind that are fully surrendered to God, no matter the cost.
            This does not mean we should have a defeatist attitude or deny ourselves the right to grieve. Job’s grief was intense and it was public. He didn’t hold back the tears or shrug it off. No, he allowed himself to mourn the loss of his children, his workers, and his possessions. It’s important we do the same, acknowledging our own pain and all the losses that accompany a heart-wrenching diagnosis.

But we also need to reach a point when we can honestly say “God knows this, God allowed this, and God will get me through this.” May our surrender always speak louder than our struggle.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Escalator


The Escalator


             My son and I are footsore and tired after a long day at the mall. It’s time to leave, but this store has strategically placed the ascending escalators at the North end and the descending escalators at the South end. Rather than trudging clear across the store, my youngest son, who has autism, does the unthinkable. Mortified, I watch as he starts down the ascending escalator.
            Thankfully, there are just a couple of shoppers, being mindlessly propelled towards the next level, their hands tightly clasped around their most recent acquisitions. Oblivious to the scowls and frowns cast his way, and unfazed by the obvious fact that this method requires a little more time and effort, he perseveres, his determination to reach his goal growing fiercer with each step.
            That said, our son does many unconventional things. He’s not constrained by the conveyor-belt mentality embedded in today’s culture. After all, aren’t escalators merely powered stairs, programmed to move up or down? Shut off the motor and you have steps that can lead either way. So I have to wonder, is it necessarily wrong or simply a novel approach to the same old routine?
            Sometimes I envy my son’s spontaneity. Though he struggles more than most to attain his goals and might not accomplish them the way many of us would, he is not bound by expectations and conventions. He is happy to be who he is, as he is, even though it doesn’t always fit the standards society dictates.
I, on the other hand, am far too attuned to other people’s reactions and overly sensitive to critical stares. I’ve been raised to buy into that conveyor-belt mentality, taught to believe it’s the only way to succeed in life. But escalators don’t build character, strength and perseverance. They just carry you along, taking you to the ‘where’ without much consideration as to the ‘why’ and ‘how.’
            In a burst of rebellion, I toss inhibition to the wind and run down the ascending escalator after him. Mind closed to the glares, I choose the unconventional method. It’s harder than I thought it would be, but by the time I reach the bottom, I feel a rush of joy and freedom that is wholly new to me.
            Someday I’ll have to do this again. But only if my son leads the way.


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Saturday, August 26, 2017

FLYING LESSONS




            I hate it when my kids go back to school each fall. While many parents are glad to send their kids off on the school bus, I’m one of those parents who loves having my kids home. I enjoy hearing their laughter, interacting with them throughout the day and knowing they are close by. It’s like losing a tooth; I notice its absence and my tongue keeps going to that empty space until my brain finally adjusts to the new normal. Without my kids around, the house feels empty and strangely silent.       
While I feel anxious about sending all three of my sons to a public school, I especially feel tense in regards to my special-needs child. Each year brings new fears and concerns. Every morning, as Benjamin prepares to leave, my mind churns, running through the items he needs to take but can’t afford to leave at home lest he have a meltdown at school. Every time the phone rings my heart plummets. I wonder if the special education teacher or the principal is calling to ask that I come pick up Benjamin ASAP. What has he done now? I check the clock every few minutes, wondering how he’s handling his new routine. I pray he won’t have homework which will eat into his home activities and might cause a meltdown.
My kids’ school has been very good to all three of my boys, and the teachers deal with my special-needs child’s eccentricities, I still worry. I know he’s in excellent hands, that they have the training needed to deal with his autism. I know they love my not-so-little-anymore boy, yet I still struggle with not being there to watch over him.
            The thing is, when you have a young child with special needs, your life tends to revolves around his needs. Many of the choices I make center around his sensory issues and ever-present angst. I have become attuned to his silent cries for help (and sometimes not so silent ones), that when he’s gone I feel like a nursing mother without her baby; what do I do with that overflow of love and maternal sustenance?
After all, I’ve always been the one he turns to for comfort and reassurance. I’m the one who knows how to rub his head when he’s stressed. I’m the one who understands what he’s trying to say. I’m the one he’s always leaned on. As his mother, I’ve been so used to reading his body language, that I’m suddenly finding it hard to release him into this wild, crazy place we call ‘society’. I fight against the urge to keep him close, to be the buffer against a world that has the potential to cause him so much angst.
Now, suddenly, I have all these motherly instincts and acquired behaviors I need to switch off while he’s at school. I have to quell that anxiety that seems to rise up as I anticipate what might happen if he takes risks that might not work out well in the end. I have to learn I can’t protect him from the hurts and disappointments that will undoubtedly come his way. I have to wean myself off that innate desire to shield him from the very struggles that will help him grow into a capable, independent individual.
The beginning of school this year marks another step in encouraging my boy to become the man God created him to be. It’s time to surrender him to others who will also teach him valuable life lessons and guide him along those inevitable bumps in the road. It’s time to let him dream his dreams, even though I sometimes question them. It’s time to let go, to encourage him to go out in the big, wide world so he can become the best “him” he can be.
So today, I will resume those flying lessons. It’s not time yet for him to leave the nest, but I will continue teaching him flying lessons and how to stretch his wings. I will teach him how to get back up when he falls. I will take a step back and watch him from a distance, allowing him to be on his own more and more. I will teach him how to gaze at the horizon and dream big. And I will prepare my heart for the day when he will finally fly alone.
            Learning to let go. So difficult, so painful. Yet it is God’s design for parents. Fledglings are meant to leave the nest, not stay under the shelter of their mother’s wings forever.
Even those that might not fly quite like the others.