Wonderfully Made

“I don’t know how much he understands about God. But I’ll never stop telling him that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. That his life brings glory to God. That yes, Jesus loves him.” I saw this caption on Facebook one day. A fellow special needs mom had posted it about her son. What simple truths to be instilling in our children. Truths I want Abigail to be reminded of daily!

First, that God made her perfectly. He might have spent a little more time on Abigail. No doctor may be able to tell us why she isn’t ‘normal’. But she was created perfectly – the way God planned. I wouldn’t change a thing about her. Her specialness and uniqueness only add to her vibrant little personality. Abigail is gorgeous. That perfect blonde hair and endless blue eyes. Her joyful spirit and contagious smile. It all adds to her wonderful-ness. I pray she always knows how beautiful she is and finds people who bring out her beauty. Not only on the outside, but I want her to grow beautiful on the inside too with a heart full of joy and an attitude of servant hood. For God did make her wonderfully!

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My beauty

Secondly, that her life has purpose. God created us to glorify Him and to fellowship with Him. No matter her ability in life. No matter what she can or can’t say. No matter if she’s valedictorian or barely graduates high school. No matter if she lives with us her entire life or she marries and has an amazing career. No matter what she does, I want Abigail to know she matters and she was created with purpose. Right now I am telling her story, but soon she will write her own. She is already a small light in this dark world. She brings such joy to people. She brings hope. She brings life. She brings encouragement. She brings passion. Her story is amazing, and her purpose is being laid as you read this. This girl will move mountains!

Last, that she is loved. Not just by me and her family and friends, but she is loved unconditionally by a loving Father. Jordan is an amazing father. He loves his girl so much. At just a day old Abigail broke out with sores on her body. The neonatal doctors came to our room and took our hours old baby for blood work and tests. Jordan had to go with her since I could not. He came back, closed the door to our room and simply cried on my shoulder. It was the first (and almost only) time I have seen my husband cry. He said it was awful watching them draw blood from Abigail. He loved her when she was hours old and that love has only grown more since. But as much as he loves Abigail, she has a Heavenly Father that loves her more. It’s hard for me to fathom more love than the love I have for Abigail. But I want her to know no matter what happens to me and Daddy that Someone else out there loves her, and He has her in the shadow of His wings. That’s actually her life verse I picked for her while I was pregnant. Psalm 17:8, “Keep me the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Jesus loves her this I know!

 

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They were the best napping buddies. Twins from the beginning!

Abigail may not be able to understand anything about God. She may not comprehend salvation. But Abigail can understand that she is beautiful. That she has purpose. And that she is loved. Three foundational truths every single person deserves to know. Not just children, but all of us. These simple truths are hard some days. Even I need the reminder that I am beautiful, that I have a purpose and that I am loved. As humans we are so quick to see the worst in ourselves and others. But today I am here to remind us all that we are all made wonderfully. I pray you know these simple truths today and I pray my precious little girl grows up with these truths implanted in her heart. Abigail is made wonderfully. She has an amazing purpose. And she is so loved! And so are you!!

 

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Making Lemonade

So many people think it’s the parent that helps his or her special needs child. In so many ways that is true. We are our child’s advocate – his voice when he cannot speak for himself. We fight hard for what he needs. And it often is a fight because people often do not help you. We help our child shine brightly in a world that often does not accept what is different or a little odd. We love when it is hard, and often fight battles no one will know. But I think any special needs parent will tell you that their child has helped them in more ways! I once read a parent of a special needs child say that she does not make lemons out of lemonade her son does. She isn’t changing him at all, he is changing his mother.
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My little girl teaches me every day that this path is good. Even with the shadows there is still sunshine!


As a special needs parent you learn that you are stronger than you ever thought possible! You learn to have patience and your faith has the opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds if you let it. We really are not anything special. We are just parents who love our kids, and like every other parent we just want what is best for them. Sometimes it’s easy to seem excited about your child’s progress, because even tiny new steps are exciting. But other times (a lot of times) this life is draining. Between doctors, tests, surgeries, paperwork, appointments, therapy, and their endless needs – special needs children require a lot of work! It is not always glorious and heaven like.
Every year around Abigail’s birthday is the hardest for me. It should be an exciting time as Abigail is growing older, but it’s tough on my mama’s heart. I try to make each birthday a big deal, and special for her even though she has no idea what is going on. I try to be excited and happy about a new year! But it is hard. This is often the time of year I get the most depressed. Yes, my little girl is another year older, but that means she is getting further and further behind. The clock moves faster than her progress, and it scares me. As Abigail gets older her disability will become more and more evident. It’s cute when she is two and can’t quite talk or walk or isn’t potty trained yet. But what happens when she is 6 or 8 or even 10 and can’t do any of these things still? It won’t be cute anymore. She will be labeled and judged and instead of people coming up and talking to her they will walk by trying to not make eye contact with the special girl in the wheelchair. So each year on her birthday I get a little sad thinking of how my innocent, beautiful girl is growing older in a world that is tough for those who are different.

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Birthday Princess

But like that mom said, having Abigail in my life is making me turn my lemon-like attitude into lemonade. These last few weeks I have had to do a lot of praying and soul searching to not get stuck in my hole of negativity. I want to be Abigail’s biggest cheerleader, and how can I do that if I’m crying about her getting older? But the one Truth that keeps coming back to me is that Jesus was scared of His calling too. God has called me to be a mother to a special needs daughter. That task is daunting and hard, and often I feel unworthy for such a task. But in the garden Jesus was agonized about His calling too. He didn’t want to experience the pain and separation of the cross. He sweated blood he was so agonized with His calling. But He knew this is what He had to do. If Jesus can wrestle with His calling them I know God will allow me to wrestle with mine. He allows us to have fears and doubts. He allows us to feel overwhelmed and uncalled. But it’s how we deal with those emotions that matters. Will we run to God for full reliance on Him or will we try to conquer our mountain by ourselves. Let me give you a hint – we can’t do it alone. Alone we will fail. But when we fully rely on Gods power and strength then he calls us to do things we never thought we could do. He empowers us. He emboldens us. He fills us. He washes away doubt and fear and worry. In Him alone can we face our calling. The journey is lonely many times. But God never leaves us. He always promises His presence! And in the darkness He only shines brighter.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:6
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

When all you have is God

Yesterday we started going to a music class for toddlers in our area. Abigail loves music and our therapist thought this would be a good way for Abigail to have some social interaction with children her age. We showed up and the teacher was terrific! We sat in the circle with about seven other toddlers and their mothers. Well the class got started and in true toddler fashion there was chaos! Kids were running everywhere. Moms were trying to calm screaming boys. And on top of it all there was musical shakers and drums being played. I honestly did not think Abigail was going to make it, but she did. She never jumped or cried. She also did not move a lot, but she sat and watched all of this going on around her. I was so proud of her! Then a mother of a particularly rowdy boy sat beside me and said, “Wow, I wish we could switch kids. She is so calm!” I simply gave her a sympathetic smile and kept singing. How could I tell this perfect stranger that this was huge for my daughter to not be scared to death right now? How could I explain Abigail is not calm, she just cannot move? How could I explain that I wish my daughter was running around and singing on the top of her lungs?  How do I explain that for us to be here with her child is a big step for us? I couldn’t, so I simply smiled and kept trying to keep Abigail calm.

I love my little girl! She is beautiful and wonderful and such a hard worker. She has come so far, and I know she is a fighter. But days like today I wonder why could she not be normal. She has no idea that anything is wrong with her, but she will never be able to play with kids her age. She will always be behind in some way. Having a special needs child is hard and it is lonely. But it is the not knowing for me that drives me crazy. Not knowing what her future holds. The unknown is scary.

No one likes the unknown. No one likes waiting. Whether it is waiting to hear back from a job interview or waiting to hear news about a love one   waiting and not knowing are hard. And we have been in this period of our lives for over two years now. I have asked God why many times. Why us? Why Abigail? I have asked for answers. I struggle with many things, so I have asked for more faith because that is what living in the unknown takes. Tried and true faith.

I do not like faith. I do not like it because to have faith it means you often cannot see. You have to rely on another to guide and lead you. I like to be in charge. I like to be independent and alone. I do not like asking for help and it is hard for me to trust other people. But that is what God requires of us. He requires total obedience and little steps of faith daily. He requires complete surrender and complete trust in Him. But most days I just feel like that dad in the New Testament who cried out to Jesus, “I believe but help me in my unbelief.”

I believe lots of things. I believe God is good. I believe He is love – not that He loves us (He does that too). But that He simply is the embodiment of love itself. I believe God is just, sovereign, merciful and full of grace. I believe He has made One Way for us to receive eternal life through His Son, Jesus. I believe He is holy. I believe God is who the Bible says He is. But I question His ways. I doubt His goodness. I do not understand His purposes. That is where I need faith. When I have a hundred questions that cannot be answered I must have faith in what I do know. And what I do know is that God is the God of gods and King of kings. He has this whole world in His hands and in the end He is the victor. He has defeated sin, death and Hell itself and I will follow Him no matter what. Because while my faith may be small, my God is big!!

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When Life is Hard

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Abigail has been wearing her glasses for about a week now.  She is as cute as a button in them, but they are not to help her see. Yes, they have a slight prescription for her far-sightedness but the glasses are mainly to try to help strengthen those eye muscles. Abigail’s eyes are actually what began this long, on-going process of finding what is going on with her. At two months her vision alerted the pediatrician something was not right, and we were sent to a pediatric ophthalmologist. For about her first year of life Abigail constantly looked up. Her eyes have fixed themselves, but she still gets cross eyed at times and her eyes are still shaky. Her eye muscles, as they are in every part of her body, are very weak. So the glasses are here to hopefully help that. We are supposed to wear them as much as possible. We normally get about six to eight hours a day in them. And honestly she does a lot better with them than I would ever imagine. When we first put them on on the mornings she does not like them and touches them repeatedly. But after the initial touching she really does not bother them, unless you leave her alone with them. Then they are off in a heartbeat. She knows the glasses are weird and she does not wear them unless we are around to watch her.

The glasses are new and I’m sure they are not the most comfortable things in the world. Her vision is adjusting to a new prescription and her unsteady eyes have to get used to seeing things completely different. Change is hard. It is hard for a young child and it is hard for a grown adult. As adults we learn to cope with change. It is the only sure thing out there, so we know our life will constantly be changing in some way or the other. Some people are better with change than others. I am one of those people who hate change with all my heart. I like order, routine and sameness. I literally could do the same thing everyday and be quite content. I understand that makes you world changers out there cringe to even read that last sentence, but that’s who I am.

This past year has had a lot of changes. Between moving, changing therapies, finding new doctors and new programs for Abigail, finding Jordan a new job, becoming a full- time mom, and trying to find a church home I am drained. That does not even include the little everyday routine shifts that naturally pop up with life and having small children. Life is crazy and I am starting to feel it. My body is tired, my head hurts and I am just worn out physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As I watched Abigail touching her glasses this morning I could not help but be reminded I am just like her. Life bothers me sometimes. It is annoying and I want to throw in the towel and go hide in my bed all day and never see anyone. It would be a much easier life that way. But those glasses have to be worn. No matter the amount of times I have to get little smudgy fingerprints off them, or how many times Abigail pulls them off they have to go on and be worn. They are helping Abigail whether she wants them to or not. She does not understand, but I know she has to wear them for them to help her. And in my heart I know I have to continue to live life because every stress, every worry, every decision, every tear shed, and every change is making me stronger.

God is still working on me. He gave me this life to reflect His Son, and I cannot do that the way I am as a rotten, spoiled sinner. Life is shaping me to be more Christlike everyday. Is the process fun? No. I wish I could rip off all the burdens and struggles like Abigail does her glasses, but this is the life God has given me. Today it feels very heavy, but it is often because I try to carry my load all alone. I am stubborn and independent to my very core. But God made us to be dependent people relying fully on Him. And oh do I need Him today to carry my load, to pick me up, and to stand my feet on solid ground. So my prayer today is that if you, like me, feel like life is hard or even just annoying then may us seek God’s face and may we fully rely on God who can take every worry, fear, burden and tear and give us freedom and life more abundant then we ever thought possible. May you dear reader find this abundant life in Christ today!

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My Dependence

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Me trying to help her up, but Abigail is trying to sit up on her own.

As a parent, praise about your child is the best thing you can hear. There is just a sense of pride about your children at all times, and when someone else expresses just a pinch of what you feel everyday it is wonderful! Today it was Abigail’s therapists that bragged on her. These ladies have been working with Abigail for about 8 months now, so they have been with her for about half of her life. They knew the 7 month old baby girl I brought in that could not even lift her own head and could barely even look at toys much less play with any of them. But today, therapy was a different story. Today Abigail sat on her little play bench and picked up toys and dropped them in a bucket. Today she loved reaching for bubbles and rattles that the therapist put in front of her. Today she even stood on her own two feet and was somewhat happy about it. Today she was amazing!

Abigail is growing up. She is still dependent on us for nearly everything from moving around, to eating, to caring for all the necessities of life. But for being such a dependent little oddler, she sure is stubborn (she gets that from her daddy, of course). As dependent as she is, she is the most independent little soul you will ever meet. She wants to sit up on her own so bad, and will not accept help until you literally start pulling her up yourself. She is not able to help herself in any way, and yet she will not accept the help a lot of times.  She has developed her own way of telling you she does not like what you are doing whether you don’t feed her fast enough or you make her exercise too long.

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Are we not the same way with God? I know I am. I am totally dependent on God for every breath, every dollar, and every bite of food. Yet, just like Abigail, I fight against Him and try to do it all on my own. Surrender to the one true King would be the best way, but it is not the easiest way. At least we make it a lot harder than it should be. I still cannot sing the words to the hymn, “I Surrender All” because so often I do not surrender much of anything. I want to hold on so tightly to all I have and all my goals, and dreams, and ideas. God is patiently saying, “Give them to me child. I will care for you. I love you. In me you can find all you ever want and need.” Yet, I strive for independence. When will I truly surrender all, and realize that God’s way is the best way? God’s way is the right way? And God’s way is actually the easiest way? When will I become fully dependent on God?

I am a completely dependent soul trying to be fiercely independent with my life. And God loves me so much He simply lets me. In a book I read once by Jeanette Oke, it compared God to a parent of a toddler. The parent would watch the toddler learn to walk and see the child starting to fall, but they would not help them. They child would tumble and fall to the ground and then the parent would help the child up to start the process over. When asked why the parent didn’t just step in before the child fell, the parent simply said, ‘if I didn’t let him fall He would never learn that I will be there to help him after.’ And that is how God is. He is always there. He knows if we are about to fall, but we must learn that we are solely dependent on Him. And if we were to fall, He is there to catch us every time!

As much as I love to hear praises about Abigail, I think God loves to hear His praises about Himself and His children. And just like with children, we all have baby steps to take to become the spiritually adults God has called us to become. But it takes laying it all down at His feet and saying ‘Thy will be done.’ It is a daily battle between the flesh and our hearts to say, ‘Here I am God. Use me and let me be all yours.’ May we die out to ourselves and take up our cross to live a life that is unashamedly all His, dependent on His every word.

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Encouragement for my Soul

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I love storms! I like to go out to our screen porch and listen to the rain coming down. I love watching storms roll in and lightning coming down. The thunder is loud at times, but it amazing that a storm has so much power and strength. It is amazing to see God’s handiwork even in the midst of something that is not always pleasant for a lot of people. It has been raining a lot this summer, and I love it. I remember last summer we never even got a drop of rain. We were in a drought and the land was suffering without the needed supply of water.

So often my soul is like the rain. I have had times in my life where my soul is refreshed continually with the rains of grace, newness, and growth in Christ. I have also had times of drought in my soul when my life was filled with doubts and worries. I would much rather live in those times of constant rain and refreshment any day. However, in those times of drought I am desperate to seek to Lord’s face and I know seasons of grace like rain will shower upon me once again.

I am reading 1 Kings in my quiet times, and I am in chapter 17 where the prophet Elijah is introduced. In verse one Elijah prophesies a time of drought in Israel. Drought and rain is a common theme in the Bible, as it is in life. But I love chapter 19. Elijah has prophesied the drought, a widow has taken care of him with her never-ending supply of bread, and he has seen God work miracle after miracle. Despite all that has happened, Elijah has run off to hide in a cave and die. He feels as if he is all alone, and the pressure to be God’s prophet is too much. However, at the end of verse 9 God comes to Elijah and asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah.” God tries to get his attention, and even calls him by name. God has to ask this question a second time and Elijah gives the same response. He still feels alone even with God speaking directly to him. So God sends refreshing rains into his heart. God tells him in verses 16-18 that he is not alone. God has someone perfect to take over for Elijah and he himself has saved a remnant of Israel. Elijah was never alone, but he had to be reassured that God was still for him.

I need reassurance a lot. Jordan hates this because so often I will ask him questions I already know the answers to. I just need to hear Jordan tell me those things again and again. So often the fear of being unloved, unwanted, or useless creep up into my mind and I need to be reassured that none of these things are true. Every person desires to be loved, cared for, and needed for a purpose. But as much as Jordan tells me these things, there is only one place I can find true assurance and that is in Jesus Christ. He loves me like no other person can. He gave everything to gain me, to call me his own, and he will not ever quit loving me. He cares for me and chose me to call his own. And in him I find my purpose and calling in life. Yes, I am a wife. Yes, I am a mom. Yes, I wear many hats, but my number one calling is a follower of God, a daughter of the King.

Does life get lonely sometimes? Yes. Do I need extra encouragement sometimes? Yes. Are there times I feel like my soul is thirsty for God’s grace and love? Yes. But I stand on the promises that God reveals in His Word. Just like he told Elijah and reassured him in his doubts, God reassures me every day that I am loved, cared for, and I have a purpose that can only be fulfilled through Him. That question He asked Elijah penetrates deep within my heart, “What are you doing here, Heather?” All I can say is that I am surrendering my life to God, and giving Him all I have.

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Clinging

“To grip tightly, to hold as if glued firmly,” that’s how the dictionary defines clinging. I have experienced a lot of clinging this week. I helped with the 13-18 month olds at Vacation Bible School this week. They are precious, every single one of them. But since I was there all morning working with those little ones, I was away from my daughter every morning. The little guys would cling to me as the morning wore on and they become tired. They wanted their own mommies, but in the mean time I had to do for them. Then I would come home and my sweetie would go crazy trying to get to me in her own way. I would pick her up and she would desperately cling to me, pleading with me not to leave her again.

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All those snuggles!!!

It makes me wonder what have I clanged to in my own life? What have I run to when I am hurt or tired or afraid? The things we cling to show where are heart really is because these are the things that we love most, the things we truly treasure. I personally have clung to my husband, to food, to worry, to writing, to busyness, and to television. It is in these things (and probably lots of other things) that I find comfort from the hardships and worries of life.

A man from my home church used to sing, “The Anchor Holds.” It is a beautiful song and so true. The chorus says, “The anchor holds though the ship’s been battered. The anchor holds though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.” In the midst of life, worries, and hardships God is still there anchoring us to Him. He desires us to cling to Him. Just as Abigail would not let go of me when I have been away from her all morning, He wants us to run to Him and hold on tight.

As Father’s Day is this weekend, I cannot help but think about how my heavenly Father has loved me and watched over me all my life. I live a very tiny life, but it is blessed in so many ways. I am thankful that God is a Father who loves us despite ourselves. He loves us despite what we have done or how we look or even how we love Him in return. He loves us because He made us, and desires us to know Him and His own Son. I am so thankful to have a heavenly Father who holds us, who comforts us, and who gives us grace and mercy every single day when we deserve none of it.

When worries and troubles come, or when times of joy and celebrating arrive, I want to run to my Father and cling to Him alone. I want to be so close with God that I know His heart and can reflect His love to others. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That is the God we serve, a God of all comfort who we can cling to tightly despite what we have gone through or what we have done. He desires us to come close to Him, and see whom He is. God loves you so much. My prayer is that this Father’s Day we all cling to the Father who has given us so much!

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Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!!!