How about a little help over here?

We had prepared him for this day. Told him what exactly to expect. He knew just the number of pricks he was getting, and the shots he needed to get back into school for his 7th grade year. He knew just the time he needed to get up, and what they would require of him once he got there. He knew they MAY have an extra dose of vaccine, and he could get one prick extra. We had prepared him for every possible thing that could be expected.

“We have an extra dose of the vaccine, and he is scheduled for a weight and height check, too.”

Then it happened. Uh-oh.

“You did not tell me about height and weight! Two shots! I am only getting two shots! Because that is what you said!” Kicking. Yelling. Arms flailing. Looking more like a toddler, and less like a 12 year old (well, even more less like one, hence the height and weight check).

The meltdown he had certainly didn’t match the weight he wasn’t gaining. The meltdown he had was simply because Mommy forgot about that height and weight check. It was not on his “schedule.” Not what he was expecting. This is the norm when dealing with autism. Clearly I should know better.

“This is embarrassing. People are looking at us. I’m going to the Jeep.”

I get it. She, his older sister, had endured this just as long as we had. But she was 14. I am 43. My skin is tougher than hers. I had learned that no one was throwing you a bone, and they were going to stare, and he was still going to scream.

“Hun, I got a shot blocker. It makes it hurt less.”

There was my bone. Sweet Jesus. Where did this angel dressed as a nurse come from? And could there please be more like her? 

As we climbed back in our vehicle, my daughter spoke again about her embarrassment, and I proceeded to tell her this, about the girl she described as making faces and laughing:

“No one knows our situation. No one knows what he goes through. Or who he is. And after today they won’t see us again. They may even go home and be horrible to their parents. Or mean to their siblings. Or be big bullies in their neighborhoods or schools. I don’t care if they stare. What I care about is that you two know NOT to do that. You get and give shot blockers”

So. Which one are you? Because I know in the many years we have endured our son’s tantrums we have had some hand us a bone, and some just hand us stares. And I know many don’t know what to do, but a question asking us how to help is enough to make us feel less out of control, less incompetent, less wanting to melt into a puddle (or hide in cars).

On the way home, because I had bribed the kid with Starbucks just to get that weight and height checked without another meltdown (look, I gotta do what I gotta do), I heard from the backseat, “You want to try some?” At first I thought the sky could be falling. Was she being kind to her embarrassing, younger brother? 

As I questioned her character, because this is what “good” parents do when their kids are nice, this is what she told me: “Mom, he didn’t get his cake pop. I’m sharing some of my banana bread.” 

She had handed him a bone. 

Could you hand someone a dose of compassion instead of stares, snickers, and judgment that do nothing but add to the scorn they already feel? What bone could you hand out today to a person, a mom, or a desperate child in need? Do you have a shot blocker, a piece of banana bread, or a yummy cup of coffee to ease the burden for someone? It will not only make them feel a lot better, it’s guaranteed to lift you up too.

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25, NLT

It will all be OK

Ever skipped rocks across a body of water? Picked up one with just the right shape and texture? Tossed it in such a way that it skips over the surface of the water before it finally chooses the place it will finally sink? I’ve never tried it. But I have thrown a few. Outside our yard as kids, at the tires of cars that would ride by. Devious? Yes, maybe. But it always helped with the boredom, and it seemed fun until the day my brother and I got caught.

Chucking rocks at cars as they drive by doesn’t have carefree consequences as skipping them across a lake. Both are meant to be playful, but one has severe consequences if one of those rocks gets caught up in a tire, or worse-hits a target it was never intended to.

But both can be heavy. Bulky. Jagged. They can hurt if projected in the wrong direction. Cause great pain. Too much to carry around if lugging and holding onto too many.

Kind of like our burdens.

Like worry. It gets heavy.

Past hurts. They get heavy.

Even people. They get heavy.

And some of them, some of the “rocks” I was lugging around had become heavy.

I’ve blamed myself
And if I’m honest, maybe I’ve blamed You too
But You would not forsake me
‘Cause only good things come from You. Tasha Layton, “Into the Sea”

I blamed myself for the burdens that I had held onto for far too long. That I didn’t have enough faith. Wanted too much control. Went the wrong way and said “yes,” when maybe God said, “No.” And I blamed Him, too. Because He could take some of the hurts and burdens away in a hot minute, but He had not done as I had been asking.

Because I was still lugging too much stuff around

Think about the last time you spent some time on the shore, watching the waves crash. Anything in the path of the waves crashing either gets thrown back to shore, or thrown into the sea. As I walked along one morning, thinking of the burdens I had asked God to take. Those I wasn’t yet ready for Him to take. And those I didn’t yet realize I needed to give Him, I finally decided some things needed to be plunked into the sea. Only anything that came crashing back, because God had chosen it to, could stay.

Rejection. Approval. Shame. People. Control. Past hurts. The burdens of others. God, I give them to you. Help them not to pick them back up when you have left them buried in the sea. Help me to only pick up those things you have intended for good. Those things, meant for your purpose, you have decided was meant for me to carry.

I picked up a shell or rock, and one by one let each of the heavy, guilt-laden burdens sink into the sea. Surrendered them to Him. Knowing I would be OK. Knowing that once He grabs hold of these burdens, even if He sends some crashing back to me for some reason beyond my understanding; everything will be OK

What do you need to surrender to Him? What burdens or weights are you carrying around that you need to sink into the bottom of the sea? Allow Him to handle? To take away? Maybe it’s the weight of your sins-past or present. He doesn’t want you to carry that baggage. Maybe it’s the pain you still carry like a badge of honor. Or the burden of other’s expectations. Those are things He wants you to eliminate as well. Maybe you are the one carrying the burdens of everyone else. Toss it. Hand it over to Him. Give Him control of your burden, and rest in His promise that everything will be OK.

Placing your burdens in His hands

“You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” Matthew 21:22

Prayer. It is our connection to God. The way we seek answers, and intercede for those we desire to be healed, saved, or to find peace. Prayer is a daily act of thanksgiving, surrender, and sometimes even our heaviest burden. Especially when we pray endlessly for the same thing, and don’t see any results.

How are we burdened by prayer? Our requests become heavy when we pray, but we pray out of duty, because it’s an item on a checklist. Or when we pray, we don’t let God truly handle it-we start taking the wheel, and controlling the outcome. So we show a lack of trust in Him. A lack of faith.

Our hope and our faith becomes wrapped up in our ability, and what we see happening around us. We start to manipulate things the way we want them to be, and doubt creeps in when it doesn’t happen the way we want it; or the way we asked for it to. We start to believe we have the strength to move all the mountains before us.

This is how our burdens become too heavy. Those mountains become too steep.  Because we were never meant to carry them. And, we were not meant to move them.

Prayer requires a whole ton of faith.

When the deepest sorrow weighs on your heart
When you’ve prayed for answers but the answers never come
For every tear that you cry
There’s a promise He will make your burdens light. Jamie Kimmett, “Burdens”

Prayer requires we relinquish our control, and let God do what He promised.

But these burdens, the ones we have carried for so long. We hold onto them. We tend to them. We hope to fix. We run to save. We pray, but we still keep picking it back up again. Until they are too heavy.

We don’t have to.

We can pick up our load. Our baggage. We can walk it to him. Lay it down at His feet, and say: “God, take it. You deal with it. I can’t anymore. It is not mine to carry. I give it to you. Deal with it, as you will. As YOU will, not me. I didn’t ask for this burden. So You fix this, God.”

And then BELIEVE that He will. And this is what it means to have faith as you let go.To truly lay the burden down at His feet. You can’t see what may happen. You can’t see the end. You have no clue what’s gonna happen after you lay it down, you just know He promised. You believe in those promises.

And then…watch what happens.

You are gonna change. Like a visible change.

Because you ever seen someone carrying a burden? They have a look. They look weary. They have lost a light, a bounce, a luster. They are physically, mentally, and more often than not emotionally exhausted.

Matthew 10:28 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

So, when you take that heavy burden, and you lay it down…you look different. It’s not just a physical rest. It’s a soul rest. Because here’s what’s happening before hand. You are not only carrying the weight of everything, or that person, because let’s be honest it’s usually a person, or a situation that involves a person…and what’s happening is we are all like-“but I can save them, but they are going through hard times, they need me…” well yes, but they need God…and God will fix. You lay it down. Tell Him to deal with it, and then they (God and that person) can hash that out.

Yes. That seems harsh, because we also read we are supposed to carry each other’s burdens. But here is the thing-we are not supposed to play God. God does the heavy lifting. The mountain moving. We plant seeds. We encourage. We build up. We leave the saving. The moving of the spirit. The transforming to Him.

Carry it. Lay it down. God, you deal with it. As you will.

Look, I get it. I realize how hard it is to drop that burden, and leave it there for God to handle. Some time ago I had a burden. I had it for years. I probably put it on myself a bit, but I do believe God also gave this burden to me. But it became too heavy.

In the final moment when I realized I had to surrender, I wrestled with God, and I found this passage in 1 Peter 2:

He never sinned,
    nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
    nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
    who always judges fairly.
He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed.
Once you were like sheep
    who wandered away.

But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
    the Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:22-25, NLT

We can’t carry everyone. We can’t pick them up, and carry all their weight. We can’t do all the heavy lifting. Those burdens are heavy.

But God can.

And I knew then, when I laid it down. And I know now. Even if. Even if I never see it. Never see salvation in those lives I pray for. It is well with me. Because I did what God asked me to do. I prayed. I surrendered. I asked for forgiveness. I showed love. Compassion. Mercy. Even if. It is well. I showed Jesus to those who didn’t know Him so that one day they may turn to the guardian of their souls, too. I am praying for that, laying them down, and letting God take over.

That is faith.

I had a choice to surrender. They have a choice to choose.

Even if. I will be ok.

And that is where we have to be. Ok to lay it down. And ok with even if. Ok with being the surrendered one and saying “God, you got this, right? You deal with it. I’m gonna pray it out, over here, while you work it out over there. You carry the burden. I’ll pray and rest.”

God’s got you covered. And guess what…he has them covered, too. That burden. As long as they want it.

Lay it down. Pray it out. Let it go. It’s out of YOUR hands. So today, simply put that burden in His.

I do not own the rights to this song/video/lyrics.

The Messy Middle

There is a place I dread visiting these days. For anyone navigating this stage of parenting, you must know this place. It is hidden behind a door in our home. I know who is there. Problem is…I never know what is there. Meaning, I never know what mess I will find. Are those clothes on the floor clean? Are all those cups necessary? Does an actual person live in here? I want to spend time with my teens, but does it have to be in here? Does it have to be in the middle of this mess?

And all the parents of teens said, “Amen.”

Yet…messy teenage rooms aren’t the only messes we hide from.

We run from the messy middle of our own making. Of life’s circumstances. Of the things we just don’t want to discuss, or even deal with all the time. We even run from the messes of others, because we aren’t comfortable carrying them. Or simply don’t know how.

We dread going through the mess of life, like we dread going into our kid’s rooms, and in our dread we hide. We hide behind masks. We plaster on plastic smiles and happy faces. Pretend that everything is “a-ok” so that the outside world believes that all is good up in our heads, and all in our heart.

Or we retreat. We may run and hide. We may shut ourselves out from the world so no one sees us. So we don’t have to explain away our suffering. Or because running feels like pretending to us. Escaping.

We all have messy we don’t want to address, so we dress-up under our masks. We may hope our mask will “pretty it all up.” We fix the outside up, because that masks the pain we don’t address inside. We fix the outside up, because if the outside looks good, and everyone can see it, then life is all good, right?

Sometimes we even mask up by numbing. With whatever mask we choose to hide away behind when we can’t manage to pretty up the outside. The numbing that takes place in the only way we know how to manage that pain on our own. Binge watching. Eating. Gambling. Drinking. Dating. Sleeping. Or just plain running.

We pretend until we have managed the pain on our own. And we have come out of our mess on the other side. Seemingly clean and unscathed. Or so everyone thinks.

We miss something when we mask up. When we run and hide and shut others out. Or numb it. We miss out on showing others what it looks like to live through the messy middle. What it looks like to truly surrender ourselves to our pain.

To survive it.

Because we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. That we go through it unscathed. Not bruised. Not changed in some way.

No. We went through it. We didn’t put on a mask. We felt it. We couldn’t just numb it. It was painful. We couldn’t hide.

There is something to learn from those who pour it all out, and wade through the mess before them.

Who don’t search for potions, magic elixirs, and people to help them hide from it all.

Who do the work to get through the messy middle stronger, braver, lighter, and more ready to love than ever before.

Anyone can hide.

It takes a warrior to wade. To fight. To muddle through. To pray on knees, and cry hot, hot tears of defeat, anger, or bitterness. Sometimes all of them at once.

To not hide from messy, but to let it hang out in the open. To open doors that are scary to venture into. To have conversations that are uncomfortable. To admit that the mess was of our own making. To take ownership, and get to working on the clean-up, instead of ducking under the covers, and waiting for someone else to come from behind the door to do it.

To admit that through the messy middle, you doubted you would even see the end. Had lost faith in God. Saw more darkness than light. And yes…those prayers? They were definitely more angry than praiseworthy.

It takes bravery and courage to wade through the mess that way.

It’s not comfortable. No. No, it is not. But it is possible-together.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yes, we make mistakes. And we can admit them to each other, and get through them…with Him-together. But we have to be willing to release our desire to cover up. To cover up when we stumble. To hide when we fall.

In the messy middle, there is no place for masks. They don’t help. They only hurt. They don’t heal. They only cover up gaping wounds with bandaids that actually require stitches.

Be brave. Open the door. Wade through the mess of the chaos lying at your feet. Sit down with someone you trust, and share your messy middle. Because this…our mess. None of it can be waded through alone. It’s in the mess we see the love of God. It’s in our mess, someone else can, too.

It’s all going to be OK

Faith and feelings. Or “suck it up, don’t talk about it, just pray about it.”

I’m a straight shooter. I’m honest. I keep it real. I share my struggles. And, I value the art of vulnerability in our lives. Even among the faith community. However, there is often this idea that we can’t be vulnerable, be a mixed ball of feelings and still have an abundance of faith.

Here’s the thing. I am a Bible carrying, post-it note writing, war room crying, prayer warrior. I have faith. I also have a ton of feelings. Many I suck up. Many I just don’t.

Here’s why: We are responsible for what we damage when we are here. And too many are damaging hearts and relationships simply hiding their true feelings. Not being honest with self and each other to save face, and look good in a highlight reel.

Too afraid to admit they are a mess. When God already knows our messiness. We can’t hide it from him. We can walk around wearing a mask of macho and cool in our daily lives, but we can’t hide our broken hearts from him. We can come to church cleaned up and pretty on the outside, but we can’t hide what’s on the inside.

“Pretending away reality never makes things better. It just causes you to implode on the inside while smiling on the outside. That’s no way to live.” Lysa Terkkeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

So can we just admit to each other that we are not OK? That what we really want is someone who can be vulnerable enough to admit it, so we can finally say…”Oh my goodness. Me too!!!” And, tell each other that’s it’s OK to not be OK?

That it’s OK to miss someone. Because missing someone means we have also loved someone. We have a hole in our heart that aches because that person inhabited a place in it, and we now grieve for that emptiness. And it’s OK if your grief was short, and if your grief takes longer. It’s OK if you are missing someone who is still fully alive. It’s OK.

It’s OK to have big emotions. Like anger. Like sadness. Like frustration. Like loneliness. God made us with those emotions. He also knows every single one of them. He felt anger when he saw the evil he had created among the world, enough to wipe them out in the days of Noah. He surely felt sadness when he sent His son to die. He feels frustration when His purpose does not come to fruition because earthly desire takes over and wrong choices are made. He feels all that, too. We are made in His image. He gave us all these emotions so we would understand the one he wants us to use the most-love.

It’s OK if you didn’t cope so well with those big emotions today, and reacted in not so glorious ways. It’s OK if you yelled at your kids. It’s OK if you cried in your bed under the covers. It’s OK if you walked into Starbucks sobbing because they handed you the wrong coffee, desperate for one thing to just be right in your day (hand raised here). That’s all OK. Show yourself the same grace God shows you and start over tomorrow.

And know this: It’s OK if you are so not OK that you need a little extra help.

In a world where it’s better to look like you “got it going on,” with a plastered on smile, letting a big fat “fine” roll off your tongue, while inside you are dying, sad, lonely, and wrestling with emotions and thoughts that even scare you…look, we can’t afford to not reach out and get some extra help. Our minds, our hearts, and our souls are too valuable.

It’s OK if you need to call a therapist. It’s OK if you need some extra help from a pill. It’s OK if you need to admit, I don’t “got this,” and I need some help. It doesn’t make you weak or less of a man. It doesn’t make you less “Christian.” It let’s others know you value yourself to keep waging this battle that is taking over your mind, and that you are going to be OK.

It’s all going to be OK.

Would you carry my burden?

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Burdens

There is something I have noticed among us. A lack of empathy. A lack of desire to seek understanding when it comes to someone else’s burden.

Maybe it’s the rise of social media that tends to put us on notice when things are amiss. Maybe it is our busy lives that have established this pattern. This lack of response to the needs of others. But, honestly…we don’t carry each other’s burdens very well.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

We are quick to rejoice in success. Celebrate all the great things. As we should! I certainly want my achievements and all that is going right in my life to be acknowledged. You know…all those “happy” moments we tend to overshare with our virtual world. Celebrating is easy.

However, when that same brother or sister shares a trial, a burden. All is silent. Virtually forgotten. Simply because burdens are hard. And, we don’t like hard. We rarely know what to do with it, or how to respond.

I keep a devotional on my desk at the elementary school in which I work. I read it every morning before I start the day, right before I pray for each child that will grace my office threshold. And, on a day when I felt especially burdened, this is what I read:

“Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally he endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence. Jesus experienced the joy of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems faced here on Earth. He is the one who can say, ‘I’ve been through that. I understand.'” -Jennifer Benson Schuldt; Our Daily Bread 9/11/17

When others leave us when things are hard. Leave us alone in our weeping. We have Him. He will carry our burdens each and every time.

But, I am going to go even further by saying that we need to be Jesus to others as well. Carry a few extra burdens ourselves. Weep with some neighbors. Sit a while in their sorrow.

You do not have to have personally experienced every painful thing that another has to truly show empathy. You don’t have to even claim to understand them. Empathy gives you the ability to say “I haven’t experienced that, but it must be/have been hard.” Love gives you the capacity to reach beyond yourself and take time to say “Tell me more about it.” And, true compassion and understanding occurs when we readily seek to learn more about the hard stuff. To seek, ask, and find out how exactly we can manage to bear that heavy load together.

As brothers as sisters in Christ, are we like Him?

Do we provide a safe place for others to hide and rest? Do others feel comfortable sharing their sorrows with us? Do we respond like Him when we don’t understand the struggles of another?

And, if we, like Jesus, have felt pain and suffering, are we willing to reach out and listen to the pains of others? Or do we encourage them to “get over it,” well…because that’s what we had to do? Or, worse…do we simply walk on past, because it’s not personal enough for us? We don’t have time? Or, it’s just too hard?

The same Jesus who felt our pain would have sat down a while and listened. Reached outside the text boxes and hashtags of social media, and extended an invitation for coffee or to break bread. Tried to understand those he didn’t. He is our safe harbor, therefore expects us to be the same for others. Not to judge. Not to dismiss. Not to determine if our personal burden is heavier. Not to offer pat answers when we are too ashamed to admit that we really don’t have any.

I encourage you to shed the burden of technology today, and reach out to help pick up the heavy burden of another being. Walk alongside them. Weep with them. Hurt with them.

Even if you have no words. Even if you simply sit in silence. Even if you don’t understand their perspective. But, still showing that you are willing to walk with them anyway.

 

Drop the weight, and give it to Him

weight

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

The Olympics. What an inspiring few weeks. Watching athletes who have trained for months, some years in their various talents to strive for gold is amazing to watch and behold.

These men and women, of all races, ages,  and backgrounds have defeated many obstacles. Have shed some heavy burdens. Must train. Practice. Be disciplined daily in order to earn a spot on the most elite team.

Their training happens on the field. In the gym. On the beam. In a pair of skates. The court. They lift weights. They run. Swim laps. Build muscle. Stamina. Endurance. All the human strength possible to achieve the ultimate prize: gold.

My “race” this week was certainly not of the Olympic variety, but I had prepared diligently for it. Done my research. Practiced. Hit the gym, so to speak. Skated in the waters of number crunching. Phone call making. Calling in favors. Crisis management and prevention.

I used my human wisdom. My fancy earthly given knowledge. My human talents, and all my human strength.

Until I hit a brick wall. And all that human strength I thought I had…crashed and broke into a billion worthless and weak pieces.

And, I wanted to quit the race. Not show up. Cancel my membership to the gym. Throw the skates away. Leave the ball in the court, and not worry about who picked it up next.

But…I still had a race to prepare for…even with a crappy attitude. As I slammed down the simple snack that was supposed to drive home the message of “strength” that God’s Olympians possessed. As I grumbled over the pretzel stick and marshmallow that was supposed to represent the dumbbell that my poor, scrawny arms often lacked the strength to lift or carry. As I reluctantly prepared to train future Olympians in His race, I saw it…the key verse for the week:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

The very same verse that I had tattooed on my arm as a daily reminder of His strength that doesn’t live in these scrawny arms, but in my heart. My soul. My mind.

The same verse that I often forget to turn to when those dumbbells start to weigh me down again.

Those weights of sin. Rejection. Comparison. Loneliness. Fear.

When I feel the weight and pressure of the world and I turn to the wisdom of books, or of others before Him. I realized then, I didn’t need the rest of this lesson plan at all. I was living it. That very day.

Because through my human desire to do it all on my own, my temper tantrum, a simple treat, and tattoo these kids learned about strength not found on the Olympic track.

They learned (well, the ones that were not stuffing pretzels in their ears, or seeing how much of that marshmallow they really could stuff in their mouth….remember…I said kids…) that even Christians have “dumbbells” they carry around. That their pastor had carried some, too-ALL.DAY.LONG. That we are human. That we rely on our human strength. And because of this we will have burdens that are far too heavy.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11: 28,30

Oh, and I told them that, too.

That they didn’t have to carry all that weight around anymore.

And, so they dropped it. And, so did I.

Rejection. Bullying. Sin. Negativity. Disobedience. Loneliness.

And, I for one…feel so much lighter. And a little stronger and ready for the next “race” I know He has prepared for me.

So, I ask you this? What weight are you carrying that your arms just can no longer bear to carry? What are you trying to handle with your own strength? And, why are you still trying to carry it anyway? Drop the dumbbell. Just give the weight to Him.

Don’t Dismiss Our Struggles

Don't Dismiss

This post will be a little different then those prior to it. While I have spoken on several occasions how autism has affected our family, and written about our many struggles and triumphs, I have not always shared how the misunderstandings of others can often make us feel.

We have had many a success. Many a trial. Learned many a lesson. The overall incidences of autism are increasing, yet understanding and support is often still lacking. And, after 4 and a half years of jumping the hurdles of autism, it still surprises me that our struggles are often dismissed.

You probably don’t even realize you are doing it. I am sure you say these things in order to try to make us feel better. To bring a bit of “normal” into what often isn’t.

But, honestly….you unknowingly dismiss our struggles.

You dismiss them every time you say, “He doesn’t look like he has autism.” Well, that is good…..I guess. Maybe it is because autism doesn’t have a specific “look.” I don’t “look” like I struggle with arthritis, but I do. My daughter doesn’t “look” like she struggles with acid reflux, but she does. You don’t “look” like you have health concerns, but I bet you do. Just as I can’t look at you, or your children and see their struggles. Their feelings. Their hearts. You can’t look at a child and assume he doesn’t have autism. And, just as your child is different from your neighbor’s. Has different abilities. Different interests. Different habits. Every child with autism does, too. There is no “look.” There is no one way a child with autism should be. Because, he isn’t supposed to look like a kid with autism. He is supposed to look like the 6 year old little boy he is.

You dismiss our struggles when you say, “He doesn’t seem to have a problem with me. He always does so well with me.” I am glad he does, because this means we have taught him to respect his teachers and other adults. But when you say this, well…it dismisses our ability as parents. You also fail to recognize that the ability for him to hold it together in your space, in your classroom is the result of many therapy hours. Many trials and errors. Many attempts to control his environment at home. At church. At school. You dismiss the careful plans made to structure every activity, just so he will “always be good” for you.

You dismiss our struggles when you say, “It’s OK. Every kid/my kid does that, too.” Ok, so then you know what that ringing of the hands means right now, right? You know that in a few minutes he will be hitting himself in the face because that anxious ringing of the hands was not prevented, right? You know that he is now laying on the floor, kicking and screaming because the menu said hot dogs, and their must be hot dogs, right? You know what he means when he screams, right? You can tell me if they mean he is hungry. Mad. Sad. Thirsty. Lonely. And, you know they all sound the same, right? Good, because I can’t figure them out. But, I’ll overlook the fact that in your effort to normalize his behavior, you dismissed the fact that it is heartbreaking for us. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It makes us feel like failures. So, no….he is not like your kid, too.

You dismiss us when you remind us how it “could be so much worse.” Yes, we know. We realize many can’t have kids. Some have lost kids. Some kids are sick. Some struggle a lot more than ours does. But, when you say this you dismiss our compassion. Our ability to be empathetic. Our faith and trust in God. We know we are blessed.

We also know that compassion, empathy, and worse situations aside, our struggles are still real. The tears that pour in the bathroom during a long screaming fit. They are real. The frustration when the words don’t come, and we are left again spending half the afternoon figuring out a number of grunts and groans. That is real. The exhaustion we feel after planning every detail of every event, of every day, and the meltdown occurs anyway. It is real. And, yes….it could be worse. But, this….this is still hard.

We appreciate it. We do. We know you don’t know what to say. That you are only trying to help in whatever way you feel you can. But, please….if you love us. Don’t say these things. Because you dismiss our struggles.

And, in doing so, you dismiss that little boy’s, too.

Don’t Worry, God Will Handle It

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“Can I stay home today? I am not feeling so well.”

“Sure…” was my response. With a little bit of apprehension. A sinking feeling of dread that had me asking this usually compliant child if something was wrong. If he was really sick.

Now, why exactly would I ask this question? Come on! The child was sick! Certainly he had no other reason to stay home.

But the nightmare I had the evening before. The one that began with the same exact question, had my stomach in knots and my heart filled with worry.

What if? Should I stay home? What if this happens? What if that happens?

Worry.

This is not the only time I have been filled with worry over the last few weeks. Some rational and healthy. Others a little irrational and over the top.

As college looms ahead of us for our oldest son some of these worries include: What if he gets to college and hates it? What if he can’t wash his clothes? What if he doesn’t like his roommate? What if he starves? Gets lost? Doesn’t make it to class?

And, then there are the everyday worries that keep us in a state of constant pessimism, just waiting for that dark cloud to dump a bucket of rain right on us!

What if we don’t have enough money this month to pay our bills? What happens if the van breaks down? How will we fix it? What if something happens to them at school? What if she has problems with her friends again? What if he can’t open his yogurt? What if there is a substitute? What if they don’t like me? What if I say the wrong thing? What if just can’t handle this new job? What if I fail?

What if this nightmare really is coming true today?

Worry. Dread. A dark cloud of pessimism and defeat.

Until God reminds us not to worry. Until he whispers in our ears that He has got this. That, yes, some of those things could very well happen, and because He is always with me, and always with my children, I have no need to worry.

Don’t you call me your shield? Your protection? Don’t you trust me to do just that? Don’t I remind you that I will clothe you, feed you, and keep you safe? Yet you worry day in and day out.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

Sure. I know it is hard not to become anxious. Not to worry. It is hard as a parent, as a planner, as a control freak to let go of the need to control everything. Every little detail. Even those I know I can never handle on my own. And, while I know it is hard to let our children navigate this sometimes scary world without holding their hand all the time, and stressing over every event, every detail, every little thing, God says otherwise.

He encourages us to cast everything that burdens our hearts and minds on Him (1 Peter 5:7), because He will carry all those burdens for us with ease. Which means I don’t have to carry any of these worries with me. I can give them all to Him.

My worry over a silly dream made getting through my day so much harder. Worrying about something that could have happened. That would have happened according to His will if that were the plan, despite any changes I may have tried to make to control it. Despite any of my worries.

Worry that could have kept me from taking a step towards the promise God had given me if I had trusted my overzealous Mommy gut, and not my never failing God, and stayed vigil all day waiting for something, anything to happen. Because while that dreaded dream was certainly about school, God knew it had nothing to do with my kids, but a different set of kids who needed me.

So, while it may be hard to let go of our children. To let go of the need to constantly be there to protect them, and to let go of some of the rational and irrational worries, God wants all of our worries. They are His to carry. His to handle.

Yes, my son may go to college and turn some whites pink. He may have a roommate with whom he doesn’t connect. He may miss a class…or two. But, God will handle it.

I may say the wrong thing. I may not know what to say at times. And, I may fail and get it all wrong.

But, God will handle it.

He will handle the yogurt. He will handle the substitute. He will handle the mean girls on the bus.

I need not worry. God will handle it.

Let’s Be Honest…I Walk Through the Desert, Too

Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. Ephesians 4:25

We Have to Walk in the Desert, Too

Transparency. It is something I have come to appreciate. The art of showing emotion, letting others in on what is going on in life. Not hiding behind a smile. Not painting on a happy face. Not denying struggles. Being completely, and totally honest with another.

It’s something I have grown to appreciate. but not something that was ever accepted as practice growing up.

I lived in a home full of “stuffers.” We grew up believing that old saying…you know, about not airing dirty laundry, or what not. You had a problem, you stuffed it. You were having a bad day, you stuffed your emotions and put on a smile. Look like you have it all together at all costs. Don’t let anyone know the real you. The real issues you face.

Well, let’s be honest. I am over that.

And, let’s be even more honest…I admit it. I walk through the desert, too. Just.like.you.

I’m a mess and so are you. We’ve built walls nobody can get through.

Yes, I’m a mess. Just.like.you.

I have bad days, too. “I don’t want to get out of this bed and do a thing” days. “I spilled coffee on my white shirt, was late for work, and left my gas card at home” days. My bad days are probably just like yours, and my responses to them are, too. I vent, I rant, I yell, and (gasp) sometimes I let a curse word fly. But, I also pray. I get up and move on. I rejoice in the hope that tomorrow will be better.

Let’s be honest. I walk through the desert, too. Just.like.you.

I hurt, too. I have pain. I have struggles. There are days I wonder if anyone cares. There are days I feel alone. Broken. Confused. Useless. Just.like.you.

I am a parent. And, my kids…oh, my kids. On any given Sunday morning one may be laying, kicking, and screaming on the sanctuary floor, while the other stands sassing at the door. I struggle as a parent. I wonder if I even get any of it right. Just.like.you.

And, since I have my own kids…well, sometimes I can get easily frustrated with other kids. But, let’s be honest. Anyone who stands in the front of a classroom of 20 kids who have spent 15 minutes punching, yelling, running, and back-talking, and not one ounce of completing the tasks given to them would be a tad bit frustrated, too. And, yes…on those days I want to desperately run to the nearest exit and run away to the closest desert island. Because, on those days, I need a break. Just.like.you.

Let’s be honest. I walk through the desert, too.

I am human. I am a woman. An insecure woman. Sometimes a stubborn woman. I am a parent. I am a wife, and sometimes not a very good one. I get angry, sad, and scared. And, I am just.like.you.

So bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine. ‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides. And mercy’s waiting on the other side. If we’re honest. 

So, let’s be honest with each other. Let’s throw away the masks and be a little transparent. Let’s walk through the desert together.

When I want to come unraveled because autism came out to play on the way to church (and in the middle of the foyer), hug me and tell me I am doing a good job. When your kid is having struggles and acting out, know that I will do the same for you.

When your lonely, insecure, scared, and don’t know what to pray. Be honest. Someone else has been there, too.

When your day has been bad, and it keeps getting worse, paint on a smile if you wish, laugh about it a little, but be honest. Because there is someone else out there having a bad day, too.

We are in this thing called life together. We all have bad days. Bad months. Bad years. And, we all need a little encouragement along the way.

So, let’s just be honest. We all walk through the desert, too.