Sophie’s Story: When Your Parachute Doesn’t Open


Skydiving is something that I hope I never have to do. For many people, it’s on their bucket list, something they want to check off while they’re on this earth. But not me. I don’t really even like flying, let along leaping from a plane aloft. No thank you.


This week I was listening to a testimony of an Ohio athlete, and she compared following Jesus to skydiving. My mind quickly began processing this idea – one thing I very much love (Jesus), paired with something else that at the very least I have no interest in, and at greatest, terrifies me beyond reason. I don’t want them to be the same!


But, here’s the thing – she’s right. Following Jesus is in some ways like leaping from a plane because it takes faith. Faith that the parachute will open. Faith that Jesus will rescue you.


Sometimes we let the bad things that happen to us in life convince us that Jesus has allowed our parachute not to open, and that he’s allowed us to spiral towards the ground and go splat. Pain. Destruction. Ruin. Rejection. Illness. Disability. Death.


But the more life I experience, the more I realize that Jesus never lets that happen. In fact, sometimes the very awful things that we walk through are the parachute of his rescue. You see, Jesus is not so much concerned with our comfort and our happiness; he’s concerned with our character and with our eternity. And he uses every single difficulty that we encounter on this earth to redeem and rescue our souls.


The story of Joseph is a testament to this truth. I cannot imagine literally being sold off by my brothers as a slave to a foreign nation. (Thanks for never doing that, bro!) I cannot imagine being wrongly accused of so much and imprisoned for years because of it. Oh, the injustice! Why is Joseph not an angry and cynical being?! After all the years of Joseph’s struggle, when he finally reconciles with his brothers, he says this:


“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)


Joseph had to have felt like his life was one failed parachute moment after another! Yet he chose to see the good that God was doing in the midst of all of it.


When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, I very much felt like my parachute had not opened, like God had not come through for me. But as I have walked this journey with her, I can agree with Joseph, that “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done,” and maybe even I would go so far as to say for “the saving of many lives.” Sophie’s disability has opened doors for me to ministry that I never would have imagined for myself. In many ways, I am who I am because of who she is, and I am doing what I’m doing because of her life and how God is using all of that to shape me. That doesn’t make it an easy journey, but then, I don’t think easy is really the point.

I’m honestly not sure what kind of a person I would be if it wasn’t for my difficult life experiences. In every moment that we feel like we are spiraling toward the ground, and the parachute isn’t going to open, we have a choice. We can choose cynicism, anger, fear, doubt. Or we can choose trust. We can choose faith. We can stand on the promise that God is working for our good, even when it is impossibly difficult to see it. And not just for our good, but for his bigger picture good, for his story, for “the saving of many lives.”




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A Walk in the Dark


Have you ever lost something extremely important or valuable? Misplaced items is one of my husband’s pet peeves. It makes him crazy! I can’t say it’s a good feeling in my mind, either. I realize my limits when something is lost, because I can’t find it. No amount of wanting to find it will make it appear to me. I feel powerless to locate the item, no matter if it’s important or insignificant. I am limited, because I don’t know where it is.


One of the items that seems to often go missing in our house is our three-year-old Hannah’s lovey, “Nini.” And she’s always lost at bedtime. There have been numerous times that Andrew and I have torn the house apart searching for Nini, sometimes for hours, while a distraught Hannah waits in her bed for her beloved blankie to be found.

Last week Nini was lost at bedtime, and as we retraced our steps through the day to try and remember the last time we saw her, I recalled seeing Hannah take her outside. Into the darkness I went in search of Nini, even though Andrew had already looked there. We had searched the house high and low for nearly an hour, so I figured a second look outside was permissible, and the urgency to locate her was quite real in my heart.



Out there in the quiet darkness of the night as I walked my yard, God’s presence felt so much more tangible than in the hustle and bustle of the day full of many distractions. As I searched, God called to mind several passages and parables of lost items from the Bible. But the one that stood out boldest in my mind was this:


“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)


I was searching for Nini with all my heart, with an urgency that I rarely feel when seeking the Lord. Yet, how much more valuable is his kingdom and his wisdom? Jesus teaches several parables on the worth of his kingdom in the gospels.


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matt 13:45-46)


All he had, friends! He sold all he had. His whole life didn’t compare to that pearl! We should be seeking Jesus and his kingdom with all that we have, because nothing on this earth compares with him.


How many worthless pursuits are we on in this life? What are we spending energy searching for and seeking that amounts to chasing the wind (Ecc 3)? Solomon calls those pursuits meaningless. Yet we chase them as if life depends on us obtaining them.


Isaiah also speaks of our earthly ambitions in a similar way:


“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (55:2)


As I walked over every step of my backyard looking for Hannah’s beloved Nini, I felt my priorities re-orient mentally. My faith and my pursuit of Jesus need to be first.


What in your life is taking time and energy that should be given to seeking Jesus? I know that we can’t just clear our schedules every day, call off work, sit in the woods and bask in his Spirit all day every day. We are called to our families, our jobs, our ministries. We need to do these things. But what are we doing to be filled with Jesus, to seek his kingdom, “and search for it as for hidden treasure” (Prov 2:4)?


I think it is as much a posture or attitude of our hearts as it is a time issue. First, we need to make time to seek Jesus. But, we can also orient our hearts towards him through all those things that we need to do, so that we are seeking him throughout our whole day. And when we do spend time alone in his word, our hearts and minds should be seeking him like precious treasure, rather that a casual exchange, as if scrolling through social media. I want my time with Jesus to be life-giving, active, and engaging, not just a mind-numbing scroll-through of my passage of the day.


At long last, Nini was found, hiding under the spare blanket at the foot of my bed. (Did I mention that Hannah is also a stasher? She likes to hide things… It’s SO fun, guys.) I was so relieved when we found Hannah’s precious lovey. But I was thankful that God took me outside to walk in the quiet and the darkness, to meet with him in an unexpected place and unexpected way. He’s there, in the middle of your ordinary, if you look for him, seek him out, search for him like a precious pearl. You will never be disappointed at the energy you spend seeking him with all your heart! And the good thing about searching for Jesus is that you won’t feel limited and powerless, because He always shows up to meet you!



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Memories of Daddy: Perspective

My favorite picture of daddy, in his heyday, tending his garden


This week I was lamenting to the owner of our local fruit farm after I learned that our late frost this spring stole nearly 80% of their fruit crop. “I’m so sorry you lost so much of your crop,” I commented. “I knew this spring would be hard on your trees.”


Her response shocked me: “At least we got some. We are pretty happy about that!”


Wow. 80% of their livelihood stolen by the frost, and she audaciously claims happiness.


This got me thinking about perspective and something my Daddy always used to say: “We’ll take what the Lord gives us.” He said this most often in the context of his garden, but he also said it about a host of other circumstances that life dealt us.


As I have taken on my first larger garden this year, this perspective has shaped my outlook, too. Gardening is really an act of faith. I put a seed in the ground. I tend it. I water it. I keep the weeds away. And I hope that God makes it grow to give us plenty of fruit. It’s not terribly difficult to look on my smallish garden this way, but I was pretty astonished that my local fruit farmer could maintain such a positive perspective about 80% of her livelihood!


We’ll take what the Lord gives us. It’s a posture that acknowledges his ultimate control over every detail of our lives. And it postures us correctly for gratitude, that what he has chosen to give us is, ultimately, for the greatest good.


Not everything that we are dealt in life is easy to be grateful for. I confess I am not often grateful for my father’s dementia. I am not grateful for a pandemic that has stolen what little time in his memory I maintain. I have seen him only once since the outbreak began in March. I’m so grateful for that visit though because it gave me glimpse of God’s continued goodness, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Because although dementia has taken him from my life and from the lives of my children in the way that I wish he could be there, it has also placed him somewhere else, somewhere that God knew he needed to be. As we visited with him and his nurse aid back in July, I realized that even though his mind his dimming, his light for Jesus is not. His nurse knows about the day he met Jesus and his journey with the Lord ever since. He has shared Jesus (on repeat, I’m sure) with many of the people who now care for him. I have to trust that this, too, is part of God’s good plan to redeem every circumstance in our lives. It doesn’t mean I don’t grieve our losses, but I can rejoice and be happy in what God is still doing.


We’ll take what the Lord gives us. We trust that he is good. We can choose a grateful perspective. What circumstances are you struggling with right now? Where is it hard to see God’s goodness? Instead of looking at the losses you’re experiencing, where can you see God’s loving hand still forming goodness? God cannot NOT be good, and he is always actively working to redeem every situation in your life and mine for the greatest good. I encourage you to choose a grateful perspective today. To audaciously claim joy in the midst of all your difficulties. To take what the Lord has given you and to say thank you.



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Sophie’s Story: Never Alone

As many parents faced the difficult decision this summer about how to choose schooling for their children, I made the choice to jump headfirst into the deep end. I chose homeschooling. I chose this not because we’ve been unhappy with our local school. On the contrary, they have been some of the sweetest, most supportive and encouraging people I could ever ask to have on my team as I raise my autistic daughter. I knew that homeschooling her would be difficult, but I felt that in making this choice, I could provide the one thing for her that the school could not promise this year, because it, too, was beyond their control. I could provide her with consistency. No switching between school formats. No blended learning, with this day being one format, and that format another day. No potential for weeks of virtual learning. (Can I tell you how much my kids LOVED virtually learning?! They did not.) I chose consistency and control over what my children would be learning this year when I chose homeschooling.


It has not been without much grief over the loss of such a wonderful team who has helped Sophie grow the past two years. (And Micah, too!)


Today as we headed out for a walk, we heard a car slow and pull near. As I looked over, I heard a familiar voice, “Hi Sophie-Girl!” And there in her black SUV sat one of Sophie’s special ed helpers. I was surprised by the onslaught of emotion I felt as we talked for a brief moment about how much we miss school and how the school team misses Sophie. I told her, “We may be back. It has been really difficult working with Sophie with no support.” I fought the tears as she pulled away. I felt alone. I felt the loss of a great team.


As we resumed our walk, Hannah (three) called out to her big sister, “Hey Sophie! Wanna hold my hand?!” They walked along, hand in hand. This made the tears come faster as I felt God’s whisper – “You are never alone.” The support looks different this year, but I am not alone in this journey. God placed the exact people in our family who were meant to be Sophie’s teammates and mine. He has also brought numerous friends with years of experience in homeschooling alongside me, as well as a few who are new to the adventure. I am not alone in this. Yes, we need to get some therapies in place to support her growth, and we are working to do that. But God knew what he was doing when he chose us to be her family, her team, her cheerleaders, and led us to choose homeschooling.


Micah recently told me he thought I was the “perfect mommy” (which of course touched my heart), but I reminded him that I’m not perfect, though I try really hard to be a good mommy. He said, “Well, then maybe I should say you’re the perfect mommy for this family.” I don’t often feel like I am measuring up, but I am doing my best to be faithful. My word for the year: “faithful.” I’m thankful for the reminder that God did choose me for this task, and I’m thankful for reminders like our walk today that I’m never alone.


Do you feel alone in your journey right now? So many of us are walking paths that we would never have chosen for ourselves. But God did choose them for us. And he is good. Praying today that you feel a sweet reminder that you are not alone in your journey either.




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Fear in the Storm

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

I grew up a fairly fearful child. Didn’t like loud noises. Scared of the dark. Afraid of storms. Didn’t want to be away from my mom. And I have spent much of my adult spiritual journey working through my fears with God.


Fear is a bossy-pants (as we like to call someone bossy in my house). It likes to control us. To bind us. To inhibit us from life. It paralyzes. And it has shown up big for many of us these past few months as we live through a pandemic.


My son Micah follows in my sensitive-hearted footsteps and struggles with fear. One of his big fears is storms. Twice this summer we have made this mistake of thinking that we could beat the storm rolling in while taking a walk after dinner. Last week was a particularly harrowing experience for Micah. Just a block and a half from home, as we were power walking, to put it mildly, there was a lightning strike just a couple blocks from us. Micah went into hysterics and climbed me like a tree. We consoled him, without losing too much precious time on our journey to beat the storm home. A neighbor popped out of her porch and asked how far we had to go, offered us shelter on her porch, offered to help us push our stroller home. Such kindness. I’m sure we must have been a sight – two parents with three frantic children, a stroller, and a 65-pound frightened and confused golden doodle, and a partridge in a pear tree. We thanked her and continued what was an all-out sprint towards home at this point.


Before the first raindrops fell, we were safely inside our living room. But Micah was shaken. At bedtime he timidly confessed that he was still feeling afraid from the storm. “Mom, I’m still afraid. Why didn’t God just stop the storm? Isn’t he big enough?” I love these honest moments. Haven’t we all asked these questions? Haven’t we all asked him why he didn’t just take away our storm? Haven’t we all been left feeling shaken and afraid because of our circumstances?


The truth of the matter is that, yes, he could. But sometimes he chooses not to because he has things for us to learn, or because he wants to bless us in the storm. But we have to be looking for those lessons and blessings. All Micah could see was his fear from his experience, but I wanted him to look through new eyes for the ways that God had helped us in the storm.


How did God bless us in our storm?


He sent a kind neighbor, whom we don’t even know, out onto her porch who saw us and offered help. That kind of kindness always touches me and assures me that God sees me.


He showed up in the storm; he protected us and brought us home safely through the storm, even allowing Andrew to see my cell phone fly out of my pocket as I sprinted towards home. He sees and controls every detail.


When we are walking through something fearful, sometimes we must do it afraid (thanks Elisabeth Eliot!). Sometimes fear is not removed, circumstances are not changed, and we must press on through the circumstances. Jesus is Lord of the wind and the waves, but let us not forget that he did allow his disciples in the Bible to experience storms before he intervened. The same is true for us today. Will we have eyes to see the ways he is working in our fear-filled storms?


Fear doesn’t need to bind us or keep us from living. We can enter the storm (and live through it!) knowing that Jesus is there.  That’s not to say we can be cavalier… wisdom has its place in life too. Perhaps the third time we consider a walk as a storm is rolling in, we will consider the wisdom of our previous experiences and stay home. 🙂








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A Lesson from Motherhood: Learn to Laugh (so you can yell less)

There’s two year old who lives in my house, so there’s a lot of angst to go around. She misses her siblings who have abandoned her for school all day. But when they get home, they’re tired, and they don’t want to play with her. She tries to bate them to play with her, but this just makes them mad and escalates the situation. There’s hitting, there’s shouting. There are so many tears.

So much change. So few coping skills. So many emotions. This all has led to a pretty angry atmosphere in the house. Unfortunately, anger is a fire that spreads. And the two year old has been setting the tone for the whole house.

In truth, it’s been my reaction to Hannah and her uncooperative siblings that’s actually setting the tone. Because I’ve given her control through my reactions.

Disturbed by the atmosphere in my home, by my own shortcomings, I searched for a devo in my online Bible app to get me reoriented in the proper direction. I found just what I was looking for in a study that promised to rid your home of angry parenting techniques. Sign. Me. Up. On the first day of reading this new study, I was cut to the heart by so many truths…

Blessing follows obedience. This is why I desperately want to teach my children the importance of obedience. Yet, my own angry responses were not obedient to God’s Word which instructs me not to sin in my anger.
In addition, I know that I don’t feel good when I suffer criticism, or if someone should yell at me. How can I expect my children to blossom under that kind of treatment?
Finally, the icing on the cake… “There’s nothing that anger can do that love can’t do better.” WOW. I got on Amazon, ordered the full book, ordered the study guide. Sold.

And then yesterday happened. I sent the children upstairs to wash their hands after school while I fixed a snack. I asked my son Micah to help his little sister wash her hands, but he passed the buck to his older sister Sophie. The one with autism. The one who loves to play in the water. Can you see where this is going? All you need to add to the picture is the knowledge that our bathroom sink drain is quite slow. I was busy making sandwiches, and you know, time flies and all, so I wasn’t tuned in to the length of time that the girls had been “washing their hands.”

Hannah walks out of the bathroom as I’m putting sandwiches on the table: “Mommy, I’m all wet!”

Indeed. Drenched is a better adjective. Saturated. Soaked.

Sensing that something was amiss, Micah bolted up the stairs. He loves to get his sisters in trouble. “Mom! There’s water everywhere! The girls overflowed the sink!”

Palm to face. Lord Almighty. “In your anger, do not sin,” I whispered under my breath repeatedly as I marched up the stairs.

What a sight to behold. The whole sink top was flooded, dixie cups floating tither and yon, and water was drizzling down the sides of the sink. It looked like the toilet, on the other side of the room, might float away. I think I even saw a lego man trying to hop into a boat among the bath toys.

“In your anger do not sin. In your anger do not sin. In your anger do not sin!!!!”

With a surprising clam only explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit, I sent Sophie to her room and began mopping up the flood. I found a lot of dirt in the process, so I guess that was good. The bathroom’s really clean now. Super.

But wait, folks, that’s not all!

After the great flood, we headed outside to enjoy this nice cool fall day. The children recently acquired a gift from their daddy’s work in the form of a power wheels vehicle that they can tool around the yard in. It’s large and a bit hard for me to wield, getting it out of the garage, past the minivan, up the small hill in our front yard, but I had promised Micah, the shirker who ultimately began the series of events that led to the great flood, so I got the car out, even though our time was cut short from the great mop up.

Micah drove the car into the back yard and started doing loops on the pre-approved track near our yard. Our three year old neighbor girl and my two year Hannah old jumped in to ride.

At some point while I was shooting the breeze with my neighbor, trying to catch just one little moment of sanity with another grown up, describing in elaborate terms the flood that had just occurred, Micah (the shirker) abandoned the ship to use the restroom (sparkling clean!), without my knowledge. And he left the three year old and two year old girls at the helm of the power wheels. (Shirking again!) Before I could catch them, they had run into the neighbor’s down spouting, rammed our fence, and pinned a patio chair to our tree, snapping it in two. As I reached them to get them out of this pickle, shouting and directing them to stop pushing the pedal, to reverse the car, to get out, to desist, for goodness sake, desist, they took good care to drive the car directly into my shins, and then, when backing up, over my foot.

“In your anger do not sin. In your anger do not sin. In your anger do not sin!!!!”

As I evacuated everyone from the power wheels toy-turned-weapon, I felt my ire raising. But I also felt something else: A holy desire to laugh at all of it. I’m a firm believer in the adage that motherhood is sanctifying. And if I’m going to decide to work on an aspect of my spiritual life, you better believe I’m going to have opportunities to practice. That is what is meant by the working out of your faith (Phil 2:12). God is not a genie in a bottle, good old Pastor Ron always says, who wants to zap you into holiness. If you want to get better at something, he gives you chances to practice. My day yesterday was the prefect example. I’m glad I was able to laugh, rather than scream or cry. Rather than a tone of anger, this is the tone I want to set for my home — a tone of humor, laughter, grace, and more grace.

You won’t be surprised to know that the same types of difficulties unfolded again this morning. (I’ve never mopped my floors before 8AM until today, out of necessity, I assure you!!) But I’m hanging on to my peace. My shins are still hurting, but my heart is happy.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov 17:22)

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Memories of Daddy’s Rubber Gloves

My Daddy is a day away from a move that he is totally unaware of. He is in advanced stages of dementia and is shortly moving to a nursing home to receive full time care. It has been difficult for my mind to even process this. Mostly it feels like an out of body experience. I live a couple of hours away from my parents, so it’s not part of my daily experience to see his dementia. When we are together, he tends to do well because he enjoys the company, even if he’s not always sure who we are. Daddy has always enjoyed life. I remember so many times he claimed to be a child stuck in a man’s body. Not far from the truth. He played often, told corny jokes, and never sat on the sidelines of life. He was a hands-on dad. Engaged.

This week all that he means to me and all that I’m losing hit me squarely between the eyes when my two year old came out of the kitchen wearing the rubber gloves he keeps at my house. She exclaimed happily, “Papa’s gloves!” Tears immediately filled my eyes as I helped her put her chubby fists deeper into the giant blue and yellow gloves that dwarfed her hands. His rubber gloves. Every time my parents would visit us, my dad would insist on washing the dinner dishes, and any other dishes left over from the day, for that matter. He always had to serve us in that way, even feigning offense if we tried to dissuade him. Like me, he prefers to wear gloves when washing dishes, so he purchased a pair years ago to leave at my house so that he’d be prepared to wash any time he came. He has always been the family “dishwasher,” even when I was at home, insisting on serving my mom by cleaning the dishes after she had cooked a meal for the family. Whenever I have lamented not having an electronic dishwasher, or my mother before me, he would say, “What do you need that for when you’ve got me?”

Funny how such a simple thing  as rubber gloves can set off the deepest emotional response. Partly the tears came because, even at two, Hannah knows whose gloves they are — evidence of the bond she already shares with him, and of his importance in our family. How I wish that she would experience the version of him that I know. These gloves remind me of all that we’ve lost to dementia. That Daddy has probably visited my house for the last time. That the gloves will be empty. That he is forgetting his grandchildren, and that they will never know the version of him that I hold so dear. That he knows me less and less each time he sees me. The thief of dementia. I miss the heart of the hands that once filled those gloves.

Whenever I slip on my gloves to serve my family, I am aware of the legacy he created, the servant’s heart he and my mom both shared with me and my brother, which we now have the opportunity to walk out. Though his yellow and blue gloves are too big for me to ever fill with my feminine hands, I know that through my heart, I fill them as I serve my family and my Savior.

Like Daddy, I won’t sit on the sidelines of life. He taught me by his example how to engage, to take action, to love, how to seize the opportunity, to fully live. During times of sadness such as this, it is easy to want to check out, to go numb so that you don’t have to feel the pain of your experience. But that’s not what Daddy would do and it’s not what he would want me to do. When my mom got cancer many years ago, I can still remember my Daddy sitting in his recliner, in the same position it sits tonight, calling each one of his closest friends, and through his tears, telling them the news. He never held back. Always engaged.

This week happens to be VBS for me, so I’m doing it with all my heart. For Daddy, and for the Savior he lead me to as a child. Daddy loved nothing more than spreading the love of Jesus to others, especially young people. That’s an opportunity that must be seized every single today we have, no matter what else is fighting to distract us. That’s what Daddy would do.

I’ve been singing this over and over again….


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Sophie’s Story: ADHD, I See You

Sophie finished kindergarten in May in good standing. Her reading level was early first grade level, and her math was progressing. It’s not her fave. Her handwriting continues to be a struggle for her, in particular because of her low muscle tone. All in all, her abilities seem to be what they should, but getting the child to focus, oh boy!

Near the close of the school year, we met to review her IEP, to make updates and to prepare for first grade. Throughout the meeting, over and over again her focus kept coming up as a problem. She’s a smart girl and she behaves well, but she was very busy and unfocused in the classroom. Her teacher feared that the level of independence required for completing work in first grade would cause many challenges for her.

So this summer we decided we would give ADHD medicine a try. I know people are all over the map on whether or not to medicate children for ADHD. After the past week, I understand that struggle. It is hard watching your child’s emotions swing wildly because of a substance you put in their body. It is hard weathering the sleepless nights with your child fighting insomnia. It is hard forcing your child to eat because they’re appetite-less.


Today was day 5, and boy did we turn a corner.

Sophie and I have been doing school worksheets together pretty much every day this summer in order to prevent the summer slide. When kids take an extended break from schoolwork, their abilities tend to slide backwards. So I knew if we were to see any improvements from medication, they would be easy for me to spot. Sophie’s unmedicated limit for worksheets was about 1 to 1.5 worksheets. This week even on the difficult days, we stretched that to two or three sheets.

Today blew my socks off. Check it out!

I have never seen Sophie color inside the lines for any length of time. While she might start a coloring page and begin as if she were going to color inside the lines, she would quickly move into scribbling, and then abandon the page altogether within a couple of minutes. Today saw at least 45 minutes of solid coloring. Inside the lines. You probably think I’m crazy to be as excited as I am about this. But for Sophie it is huge. See that’s the thing about ADHD, it masks a child’s true abilities. All along Sophie has had the ability to color inside the lines, but she has lacked the focus to do so. Time will tell if she can overcome the side effects enough that the good of the medication outweighs the bad. It was scary taking this plunge, but I’m glad we did if there’s even a chance that it can help Sophie be more successful!

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At the Farmers’ Market: A Harrowing Experience in Motherhood

I read this meme recently that shook me up a bit. It said, “You get 18 delicious summers with your children. This is one of them. Soak it in.” Wow. 18, huh? When you put a number on it like that, it does tend to give you some perspective. Who am I kidding? I already know just how quickly time is flying by as I raise my three monsters. But this meme made me feel all this pressure to have a memorable summer. So right out of the gate (it’s summer break day 4 today) we’ve been “making memories.” On day one we walked to the school playground, play outside with a neighbor, had an indoor picnic for lunch. On day two we had an outside picnic and attempted a farmer’s market. And that’s where the real memory making began….

This market was one that I hadn’t been to before, but I had heard good things about it. It’s a mid-week market, and about a fifteen minute drive from our home. I should have seen the red flags flying, giant ones, whipping in the wild winds of chaos in my home. Everyone was already grouchy. And then I decided to “make some memories” and drag them to a farmer’s market. “There’s free stuff for you kids to do!” I promised with a smile.

I could feel wisps of anger beginning to churn in my belly as we loaded into the car and the whining intensified. When your kids are two, five, and seven, everything is a race or a competition with a clear winner and a distinct and much shamed loser. Even opening the door to the van. Insert eye-roll. And of course it was too hot. And someone didn’t get to do it exactly how they wanted. More red flags flying before my eyes. But I persevered.

Must. Make. Memories. 18 summers. Only 18.

When we pulled up to the lot where the farmer’s market was held, I literally almost drove right by and took the kids to the park. I mean, how many red flags did I need to abandon ship? Evidently more than the dozen that had already flown in great billowing capacity in my mind. This market had all of five or six tents. And NO. Fresh. Produce. What!? A huge part of my motivation in coming out was to get some fresh produce partway through the week. I grew up on fresh fruits and veggies, and in the short growing season of Ohio, I want to cram as much flavor in my mouth as I can. Evidently in this smaller community, none of the local growers are ready to sell goods yet. Still I persevered. Must make memories.

We quickly found the kids’ tent where the much acclaimed free activities were located. And this portion of the experience was lovely. For about 7 minutes. The kids excitedly decorated a plastic cup, filled it with dirt, and planted a seed. They were delighted to spritz the cup with a gentle mist of water to moisten their newly planted seed. Then they turned their attention to the play doh area which was full of interesting fake natural adornments such as birds’ eggs, silk flowers and greenery, rocks, and bark. This kept them occupied for 2.5 seconds. Then came the question I knew was coming. “Mom, can we buy a treat?” Of course. I knew when we pulled up and saw so few tents that their eyes would immediately notice the tent of homemade baked goods. I doubted I could get away with buying them nothing. Although the fancy cupcakes looked absolutely delicious, I limited them to a large sugar cookie each, for which I had to pay a small fortune.

With nothing much more to see, we started to head for the car. Although the trip was underwhelming and shorter than planned, it hadn’t been terrible. Until that moment.

“Mom, I want to go over to that truck with the ice cups.”

“I’m sorry, son, we’re not going to buy an icee. You just got a cookie.”

Wild crying. “It’s so hot. I’m so thirsty. I want some ice!” More wild crying.

“I’m sorry, son. You should have told mommy before I bought you a cookie that you wanted an icee instead.”

More angry crying.

There are a few things that make my blood boil pretty quickly. One is a fit thrown after mommy has tried to “make memories” and done something special for the kids. Cue boiling blood.

As if one fit-thrower wasn’t enough. The littlest monster decided to join in because she had to hold my hand in the parking lot. Oh, the horror.

And, big sis decided she may as well join the mayhem, whining over the lack of water because mommy had not thought to bring any. And that was the last straw.

“I’m sorry Mommy doesn’t have any water for you guys. I was planning to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, not sugar cookies, so I didn’t know we would need water!” I ranted.

After many tears and more stern words about being thankful for an outing instead of throwing a fit, we were all inside our hot stuffy van. Had this been the end of the journey, we may all have survived unscathed. Unfortunately, we had an errand to do on the way home. Dun-dun-dun. All the mamas know that doing any errand with the all the babes when they are cranky and parched with thirst is the actual worst.

Into the Dollar General we went to buy buns for dinner. You see, I had forsaken my original dinner plan so that I could take them to the farmer’s market, all in the name of these unholy memories we needed to make. So now it was a quick dinner on the grill that we had time for, but buns we did not have.

Of course they saw the drink cooler by the cash register and began that awful whining that makes a mama twitch like a crazy person. I instructed the boy to grab a water for them to share. The baby went into writhing hysterics because I would not put her down and allow her to get in to all the many items nearby, and I would not let her hold the water bottle. And then of course there was big sis. She alone in a store is a handful. Her sensory issues demand that she touch and feel every last item she sees. Her ADHD runs rampant and she cannot listen to me to save herself. If I thought my blood was boiling before, I was wrong. Now all of me was boiling. It is truly horrifying when your good sweet children act so very badly in public. I gave them a stern talking to as we made our way to the car and they took turns quenching their desert dry mouths with that bottle of water that cost more than an entire bag of hotdog buns. Oh the memories.

I came home from this memory making excursion totally defeated and feeling like a failure. I should have been more patient. I should have maintained an ounce of humor over the whole thing. A couple of days later, I can laugh about it. It certainly wasn’t the kind of memory I wanted to make with my children that day, but indeed a memory was made. And all I felt as I reflected on this harrowing tale is how much Jesus I need.

It’s not so much the memories we can make, the experiences we can have, the parks we can go to, the picnics, or the farmer’s markets. None of that really satisfies our souls. And when we try to fill ourselves and our children up with these experiences that just leave us thirsty, parched for something more satisfying, I think we’re missing the point. Doing life with my kids is enough. Teaching them about Jesus, leaning in to life WITH HIM is what satisfies. He is what makes my 18 delicious summers with my children satisfying and wonderful and meaningful. If we did special things every single day of the summer, this would not equal giving my children a meaningful childhood. What’s meaningful is living life with them and leading their hearts towards Jesus. I think what was worst about this whole day was that I felt like I hadn’t led my children towards Jesus at all, but instead sped down the highway to hell! So for all of you folks out there basking in your delicious summer with your children, more power to you. We are just going to be over here taking it easy and soaking in some Jesus and loving on each other. I know that the meme which sparked this whole bout of nonsensical pressure in my mind is well-intentioned. As moms of littles we tend to function mostly in survival mode. And maybe that’s why the writer of this meme wrote it to begin with — maybe she spent too much time in survival mode and she regrets it. I hope I don’t regret how I’m spending my time with my children. I hope I play enough. I hope I’m a good mom. But I know for darn sure I will regret it if they don’t see Jesus in me and meet him in our conversations and interactions. Simple. Sweet. Living and loving. Jesus. That’s what I want this delicious summer to taste like.


Filed under Life Stories

Finding a Why in Sophie’s Story: Special Needs Ministry at Church

Seven years ago this June, my family’s special needs journey began. Sophie was four months old, and while she was meeting milestones like smiling, babbling, and rolling, her doctor discovered that her muscle tone was incredibly low. This, I now know, is a big, big red flag for developmental disabilities. Over the course of that first year in our special needs journey, as we waited and watched to see what Sophie would do, and as we began the barrage of tests and doctors, a never ending rabbit hole, searching for answers, God’s question to me resounded loudly: “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I have chosen the best plan for Sophie?” My answer was and continues to be, “Yes.” But in the past several months, I have begun to see the big-picture puzzle pieces clicking in to place. This is not just God’s best plan for the life of one child. This is God’s best plan for my family. This is God’s best plan for our church. This is God’s best plan for our community. This is God’s best plan for me. Because I have a child with special needs, God has opened my eyes to a great need in our community, which I would be blind to, if not for my sweet Sophie.

I recently started attending a small group for moms of special needs kids, and what I’m hearing over and over again is this heartbreaking statement:

We can’t come to church because our child has special needs.

This breaks my heart! Of all the families, special needs families are ones who perhaps need church ministry the most. The statistics about stress, anxiety, illness, fatigue, financial strain, and divorce are staggering in these families. There is a whole community of people who we as a church should be ministering to. God has brought this into my view over and over again these past few months. I can’t escape it. Everywhere I turn, he’s bringing people across my path to draw my heart and mind back to special needs ministry. I’ve been having one of those megaphone experiences with God. You can’t not hear it. You can’t look away, because like a focused parent, he keeps turning my chin right back to look where he wants. From every angle these past few months, God is bringing before me a special needs ministry at Life Church. This is not something I ever envisioned for myself, and yet I find it is something that I HAVE to do, because it is something that God envisions.

Last week, I received a text from a friend, Debbie, about a friend of hers whose 5 year old son has autism. Their family has been unable to attend church because of his needs. She wanted me to reach out to them, and gave me her friend Ginger’s number. She was excited to hear about my desire to have special needs ministry at Life Church.

Fast-forward to that evening: I took the youth group to see the new movie Breakthrough. I arrived early and stood near the door to pass out our tickets. As I stood there waiting, a young family came in, and their little boy, about 5 years old, politely said, “excuse me, are you in the line for tickets?” I explained that I was not, and the family moved on. But this little guy took a shine to me, and he kept coming back to see me over the course of the next 20 minutes as he waited with his family. He introduced himself, he asked my name, he invited me to his house. He wanted to know what movie I was seeing, and what snacks I was buying, and he shared what he was seeing and buying as well. Over the course of these four or five exchanges, his mom apologetically called to me, “I’m sorry he’s bothering you!” To which I responded, “that’s ok, I work with children! He’s fine.” I truly could not have been more pleased to be passing the time with this cutie! When I told her he had invited me over and shared their address, she chuckled and mentioned, “He has autism, so he doesn’t really understand some social boundaries.” I quickly reassured her that I understood, because my daughter has autism too. We went our separate ways and saw our movies. Twice in one day, I thought, God has brought special needs kids back to my mind. Wow.

After the movie let out, I stood talking with our church family. I turned around and saw this same young family coming towards me with my very excited friend Debbie. She was exclaiming, “Catherine, this is the family I was texting you about earlier today! This is Ginger and her son who has autism.” I stood dumbfounded. I know God crossed our paths that night for a reason. His eye is on these families. His heart is for them!

As I prepared to share this message with my church family this past weekend, I was overwhelmed with the realization that this is why I’ve been on this journey. Many people search for a why when difficult things happen in life. Honestly, I’ve long since given up on that quest, and I’ve made my peace with our life, because I trust my God. I wouldn’t change Sophie in any way. I wasn’t looking for why anymore, and yet suddenly I found a big piece of that answer. God will always use any difficulty in your life if you give it to him and walk in obedience. He wastes nothing. Opportunities will arise out of those trials, but it is our job to stand up and grasp them. To do something with the opportunity. To act. To obey. To find MORE in this life than our own happiness or self-service. So I am saying, “Yes.” Yes, to whatever God has for this ministry. I hope you can make your peace with your own why’s, and I hope that in some way God opens a door of opportunity for you to use your experiences for his kingdom. And I invite you to join me in this new ministry, whether you go to my church or not. I am happy to help other churches launch similar ministries so that we can reach more and more families. In whatever way you need to today, say “Yes” and embrace his opportunities for you.


Filed under Life Stories, Sophie's Story