Obedience School

“Obedience is the compass that guides you in the path God has ordained for you.”  – Abundant Living

I have never seen Sarah jump out of the bed so fast before!

Usually getting Sarah out of bed on school days is a multi-step process that can take several minutes of gentle wake-up calls to finally pulling back the covers and helping her get up. Sarah struggles to fall and stay asleep, but she equally struggles getting up in the morning. If I walk out of the room, she will climb back in bed.

But this morning it was different.

Kendall a few months ago bought temporary burgundy hair color to do with Sarah but they never had a chance to do it. Sarah found the box earlier this week and kept trying to use it on herself. I would grab it and say, “Oh! I think Kendall wants to do this with you.” I would then put it away, but only to have Sarah find it again. Later, I found Sarah watching Youtube videos of ladies dyeing their hair. YIKES!!

I said to David, “We can’t wait for the next time Kendall is home from school. Sarah really wants to do this. I’ll dye her hair tomorrow morning.”

The next morning I opened Sarah’s door and said, “Hey! Do you want to dye your hair this morning?”

I went back to my bedroom to find a pair of scissors I hide from Sarah (as you know, she has had issues of cutting her hair off so we hide all the scissors.) I thought when I dyed her hair, I could trim up her bangs. I walked only a few steps into my room and Sarah was right behind me. I have never seen her get up so fast!! I distracted her so I could pull out the scissors from my dresser drawer without her noticing it.

Sarah was so obedient. I read the hair dye instructions and it said she needed freshly washed towel dried hair. Sarah climbed in the shower and I washed her. When she got out she grabbed her towel and began rubbing her hair with it to dry it. She has never done that before!  I put an old paint shirt of mine on her and she sat on the floor as I stood over her and dyed her hair. She then sat on the bedroom floor for the next 30 minutes as it processed. I have never seen her just sit there for that long for anything! She really wanted this!!

Here is the final product (I opened the front door to get some natural light on it.):

She is BEYOND pleased!

I was so impressed with her obedience! I know it is because she really wanted it, but I think it stood out to me so much because I am struggling with obedience right now.

As you know, many schools are meeting on-line due to COVID-19, including Sarah’s school. We have done on-line school since March and it has been rough at times. Sarah struggles with the video calls and making eye contact with the class. During summer school, we would get through the morning video call with the teacher and she would then go and cry in her room for the next 15 to 20 minutes. Later, she would come down and we could get chunks of work done in between times of crying and meltdowns. I made the call that no matter what we would be done with her summer school schoolwork by 2pm. It wasn’t worth the fight! Summer school is supposed to be a bridge to help her maintain her learning, not to make her miserable.

On Wednesday, the teacher wrote that it looks like we will have up to six video calls every day (basically on the hour) followed by homework based on the call from 8:15am-3:15pm, Monday through Friday.

My heart sank. Six video calls a day, every weekday? I am speechless about this. From March – June, they had video calls a few days a week, Summer school was three days a week and she struggled with both. Now we will have 30 video calls a week! I must be there with Sarah as she doesn’t want to sit and listen. It is not easy.

I feel so selfish about this because I am dreading this. It is going to be exceptionally long days of meltdowns with no break. We will be trying to get the homework done during the hour, so we are ready for the next video call the next hour. For the time being, this will be my life.

Yet, God has called me to do this. How come obedience can be such a struggle sometimes? Pricilla Shirer says that obedience is God’s love language and we can show our love to God by obeying Him.

I want to be like Sarah who jumped out of bed and quickly obeyed all she had to do because she was excited to obey. Or like Samuel in I Samuel 3. Three times (three times!) Samuel thought the priest Eli was calling him and he jumped up to go to him. The first time, I can see me jumping up. Second time, maybe. But the third time?? I would be laying in my bed debating, truly deep-down debating, about getting up. Or, maybe waiting to hear being called a fourth time before I got up. Not Samuel! Each time, he jumped up to obey.

I want to be like that!

I began this blog with this quote:

“Obedience is the compass that guides you in the path God has ordained for you.”  – Abundant Living

God is directing my steps. (Proverbs 20:24 and Jeremiah 10:23) I want my obedience to be the compass to guide me to whatever and wherever the Lord is leading me to do. For now, the Lord is leading me to start off this school year learning obedience by helping Sarah with school. Hi, I’m Jill and I am in Obedience school. 😊

Looks like Sarah and I will both be learning from home. ❤

“Be obedient (to God), even if you don’t know where obedience might take you.”- Sinclair Ferguson

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” 2 John 6a

Dealing with the Long Chapters of Life

“There will be many chapters in your life. Don’t get lost in the one you’re in now.” -TobyMac #SpeakLife

I saw this quote my dear friend posted on Facebook and it was as if the words I have been searching for months finally materialized and were staring right back at me. I feel so lost right now when it comes to Sarah.

Since the fall we have hit a rough patch. Very rough. Sarah’s behavior has been defiant and, at times, aggressive. Her occasional nose picking has become constant. This would cause her nose to bleed all over her face and clothes. She would then blow her bloody nose without a tissue on the table or bathroom vanity. When we try to redirect or stop her, she becomes angry. In her frustration and anger she threw everything off the table and/or kitchen island and sent things crashing (and breaking) to the floor. She was slamming her bedroom door so hard that the decorative wood trim on the door fell off. She would then pound on the door (it wasn’t locked) so hard we thought she was breaking it. Moreover, the screaming was non-stop and the nose picking continued. We were at our wits end.

Late November, the doctor adjusted her OCD meds and we have seen improvement in the aggression, but we are still dealing with the nose picking. We are faithfully spraying saline drops in her nose and that seems to help. Her school has a behavioral plan in place and having her earn rewards if she can go a half hour without nose picking.

If there is a limit of what I can handle, I am reaching it.

Sarah’s behaviors seem to be a very long chapter in my life, and I have felt lost in it.

Isaiah 41:13, For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.

I have been thinking about this verse. I image that I am trying to follow the Lord, but I am lagging behind and I have fallen. The Lord immediately stops and turns around and comes back for me. He smiles at me as I am sitting on the ground. I laugh as I shake my head with tears in my eyes; frustrated that I find myself once again on the ground. He offers His hand and with my right hand I grab His and He lifts me up. He looks me in the eye, with no condemnation, no disappointment in me, only love. He reminds me not to fear, that He is here, He will help me and He goes before me on this journey. With that, it gives me the push I need to keep going.

One of the ways the Lord has helped me was through my parents. We were planning on going away over Christmas break but with Sarah’s behaviors, we knew we couldn’t. All the kids said they did not want to go if Sarah was going to come. Her screaming would be too much for the car ride. My parents offered to watch Sarah and we jumped at the offer. I think my mom barely hit ‘send’ on her text to me that I responded back with a ‘YES!’

It was a break we desperately needed. I came home refreshed and renewed to care for Sarah. It was just the help we needed. I am so grateful for my parents!! It was the helping hand I needed to get back up on this journey.

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This year our family is reading through the Bible together. This past week I read Genesis 15 when Abram questions the Lord of His promise when Abram has no heir. In fact, all the wealth he had acquired was to go to Eliezer of Damascus, his servant.

At this point, Abram just couldn’t see the next chapter. Abram thought, how can I be the father of many nations when I have no heir? The Lord gave a covenant and promise to Abram that he would have a son. While Abram didn’t know what came next, God does.

I find peace and comfort that my Lord knows, not only knows the chapter I am in right now, but also knows the next chapter, and the chapters after that. And while I would love to peek ahead (like I did with books when I was little and I wanted to know how the book ends), I am thankful He is with me, picks me up when I fall, gives me the help I need to face each day and reminds me not to fear.

This book is not over yet…and while this is a long chapter of my life, I don’t need to peek ahead. My God is already there and promised me it has a great ending.

1 Corinthians 13:12, ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.’ (ESV)

Stone to Flesh

My job as a mom is to protect my children and I was failing. I have shared that Sarah had terrible meltdowns when she was little. (Blog: An Autism Meltdown) When Sarah became angry, sometimes for no apparent reason, she would take out her frustration on Jack. She would hit him, pull his hair or scratch him. There were times I think she did it to see his reaction. He would scream or cry and she thought it was funny. She would clap her hands in delight. This did not happen all the time, but enough times that if I saw her screaming and running towards Jack, I would swoop in and protect Jack and remove her from the room.

This normally worked unless we were in the car. If for some reason she decided she was going to hit Jack, no matter where I put her (before we discovered Angel Guard she would unbuckle herself), she would pinch him or throw things like her shoes at him. I could not protect him if I was driving.

Here is a photo of the kids before we left on vacation.

Sarah is all smiles (she is directly behind Jack, back row left), but looks can be deceiving. I remember this trip well because she scratched him on the trip and we had Jim sit in between the girls to prevent her from unbuckling and moved Jack to Jim’s old spot.

What could I do? I had a child that directed all her anger and frustration towards her sibling. It seemed like she hated him. Out of all the kids, she picked on him. It was probably because he was the smallest/youngest, but what could I do?

I prayed for God to help me. I begged Him to soften her heart towards Jack. I thought of the verse in Ezekiel, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them a heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) How I wanted Him to remove her heart of stone and give her a heart of flesh!

Here is the thing and God’s infinite mercy towards us, God has given a heart of flesh twice the size of anyone I know in Jack. Jack has always loved his sister. In fact, he adores her. He has followed her to doctor and specialist appointments with no complaints and is truly proud of all she has accomplished. He and my nephew Seth were “Peer Pals” at her Autism preschool to help her and the other students socialize. He loved it! I would see him trying to get her to interact and play with the other kids.

Slowly Sarah’s heart towards Jack has softened. Now, she loves to be hugged by him. When she comes home from school, one of the first things she does is find Jack for her hug.

Jack’s love for her has only deepened. For Jack’s final in his Multi-Cultural class this year he had to share about his life and culture. He spoke about Sarah in his talk. I saw his notes on the computer and it said: ‘Sarah, my princess; I am undeserving of her and her fun; my life is so wild because her…

My princess? Undeserving?

Last week we drove to my brother’s church in Ohio to hear him preach. We had to leave pretty early from Michigan to get there in time for the service and Jack fell asleep in the truck. When I looked back I saw this:

The look on Sarah’s face shows a heart of flesh! She is so happy to sit next to him; holding his hand as he sleeps on her shoulder! When I took the photo, God reminded me of my prayer to Him so very long ago. How humbled and unbelievably grateful I am how He has answered my prayer! He can take a situation that seems hopeless and work a miracle!

It is such a great reminder to me, especially as this week she has been clogging toilets several times a day, wetting her bed, dumping her clothes out of her dresser and other things that make for very long days. If He can take a heart of stone and make it one of flesh, anything I face is nothing to the One who holds it all in His hand!

It is I who is so undeserving….

He Knows What We Need

Sarah’s daily chores consist of feeding the dog and empty the dishwasher. Regarding the latter, while she can unload the dishwasher, we never know exactly where she decides to put the dishes! It is more of “Tidying Up by Sarah”.  There are times I stand in front of my kitchen cabinets and think, “Where would Sarah put this item?” It is fascinating and sometimes hilarious where she put things!

A few weeks ago, I was making pasta salad as side dish for dinner and I asked Sarah to unload the dishwasher. She did it, but left two items on the kitchen island. I asked her to put them away but she gave me a blank stare. I repeated myself to put the items away and she looked at me and walked away.

Why is she not doing it?”

Then it hit me. She left out the colander and a bowl for the pasta salad. She knew I would need them and left them out for me!

It reminds of the most amazing miracle I had recently…

Jack and I went to look at colleges in the Nashville area. On the way home my GPS told me to get off the expressway due to heavy traffic/accident. While we were on this stretch of road on the outskirts of town, Jack rolled down his window to enjoy the warm weather. Then we heard it.

Bang, bang, bang, bang!

It sounded like something was under my car. Did I run over a plastic bag and it was flapping underneath?

As we looked at each other trying to determine what was causing the noise, my car dashboard flashed ‘battery system check’ as the dashboard lights dimmed.

Uh oh.

I called David and he said to find an auto parts store to see if they can test my battery. Jack did a search on his phone and thankfully there was an auto parts store on this same stretch of road only a mile away!

When I pulled in, I knew my car was in trouble. The store employee came out to test my battery, it showed that the battery was fine.

Then why the noise and the message on my dashboard?

Upon closer inspection, the employee made a sad discovery; my serpentine belt which runs my alternator and is a necessary part of the engine was gone. Totally gone!! The last of the belt must have been the flapping we heard.

“We are on our way home to Detroit. I have 8 hours of driving ahead.”

The store employee said that I would need a mechanic and no mechanics are open on Saturdays.

“And I am assuming no mechanics are open on Sundays, as well?”

She shook her head.

My heart sank as I thought about what I was going to do. Even if David hopped in a car that very second to come get us, it would be 8 hours until he reached us. Then what would I do with my car?  I used up all our hotel points already on this trip, so we would have to pay for two hotel nights. I would have to pay for an Uber ride to the hotel (wherever that could be in this remote area…). My mind was racing at the thought of how much this car repair was going to cost us.  I felt helpless and I prayed. No. It was more like a plea. As tears filled my eyes I cried out to my Heavenly Father.

“Lord, I need You! You are my Dad and your girl needs you! I don’t know what I am going to do and I really need You to help me!! I don’t know what to do!”

A few minutes later as I stood looking at my car engine, a man came up to see what was the problem. He quickly knew what to do. As he started to work on my car he looked at me with a wink and said, “I’m a mechanic.”

Within an hour, Jack and I were on the road. I tried to pay him but he refused and said he was paying it forward.

The Lord knew what I needed, much like Sarah leaving out the bowls, and sent help. It was a very clear and humbling reminder that my Dad knows my needs and cares.

“…how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” ~ Matthew 7:9b

Night to Shine 2019

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

(and the autistic can understand…..)

My heart is very full by the love and kindness that was shown tonight at the Tim Tebow Night to Shine Event hosted by Life Bridge Church and Northline Church in Taylor. When I think of all the people who were there tonight, who donated their gifts and talents to give my daughter a wonderful prom, I am humbled.

Sarah was so excited for tonight! We went to the Salvation Army last week to find a dress. When we walked in the store it was very busy and my heart sank.

Please, Lord, I don’t want a repeat of last year! I thought.

(If you missed that fiasco, here is that blog: Defender of the Defenseless)

Actually, Sarah did great in the store and we found a dress that was the perfect size for her.

Here she is with her brother Jack. She is ready to go to prom!

When we arrived at Life Bridge Church, Sarah knew the drill. She walked back to the hair and make-up station and waited her turn. I found out that it was two local salons that shut down their businesses early to come and volunteer their services. These ladies made each girl feel special. Her stylist Sarah curled her hair and pinned it back. She then finished it off with glitter hairspray. The look of pride on Sarah’s face was undeniable.

Then Sarah went to the make-up table. Bless Emily, the make-up artist, for trying to put make-up on Sarah! Sarah put her head down or squinted her eyes tightly. Emily was so patient with her. At the end, Sarah was very pleased with the final product! It was so cute!

Sarah was then given a corsage and had her picture professionally taken. She went down the red carpet with the “paparazzi” (church volunteers) cheering for her. To think these people spent their Friday night so that the 80+ special needs people each felt special is amazing! Each person was introduced as a queen or king and received the cheers and applause as if they were the only ones that came to the event.

We were so blessed to have the same volunteer aide we had last year. What a comfort for us to have her again! She knows Sarah and knows what she likes. I found out that Emily hired a babysitter for her own kids so she could spend the evening giving Sarah a special prom. I am floored that someone would do this for us! What a gift!

Emily certainly does know Sarah. They danced, took photos in the photo booth, took a ride in the limo, ate lots of food and Sarah’s favorite, sang karaoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For us parents, once again, Life Bridge and Northline gave us the royal treatment. We had a goodie bag (soooo excited to see they did the Tim Horton’s gift card again! Woohoo for Momma!), catered dinner, chocolate fountain and new this year….a massage therapist giving chair massages. (We never got to do it…it was very popular with the parents!) They also had raffles for gift card to restaurants. AMAZING!

The note on the goodie bag reads: “Whether you were strong to begin with or had strength thrust upon you by necessity. You’re one strong parent. One strong person.”  ❤

At the end of the prom, Tim Tebow spoke via video about how God has a purpose and a plan for each one and they are Kings and Queens of the prom because that is how God sees them.

The crowd erupted in cheers! Each one was given a crown. Tears flowed from my eyes as I saw their faces; such pride, such excitement!

Sarah was given her own goodie bag of the professional picture and frame:

Here is the picture, frame, photo booth photos, a key chain and photo, and a glow in the dark stick. Sarah took all of her items to her room right away. There is a nice blue glow in her room from the glow stick, but she is fast asleep. I was worried she would have trouble going down tonight because she was so happy but I think all the dancing wore her out!

We are so thankful for the Tim Tebow Foundation and Life Bridge Church and Northline Church for giving our Sarah a night that she and her parents cherish. Sarah was not different tonight; the one people stare at when we walk into a store or restaurant. No, tonight she was celebrated and loved as the person God created her to be. Thank you Life Bridge and Northline churches, and especially Sarah’s aide Emily, for being the hands and feet of Christ as a response for the love you have received from Christ. You shined Christ tonight and we are so deeply, deeply grateful!

For Christ’s love compels us..We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.”  (II Corinthians 5:14, 20)

 

Saying Goodbye to our Jethros

“The store is closing today, Jill. I went up there to pick up our prescriptions and she told me to tell you how much she will miss you. If you can go up there, I think it would be good for you to say goodbye in person.”

Yes, I need to say goodbye, I thought.  My night was busy, but I needed to do this.

When I walked into our Rite Aid store, I saw both pharmacists and the pharmacy technician behind the counter. There stood my friends busy working. I made eye contact with one of the pharmacists and she said, “Don’t make me cry!”

It was too late for me. Tears began to flow as each one came out behind from the pharmacy counter so I could say goodbye to each one personally. We hugged and exchanged cell phones numbers to stay in touch. As the one pharmacist began to type my name into her cell phone, I started to spell my last name. She looked at me and we both started to laugh. This woman knows more about me than a lot of people and certainly knows how to spell my name!

This might sound so strange to be upset about my pharmacy closing, but these people have been with us the entire time of our autism journey. David and I have felt like we are stumbling our way on this journey and these wonderful people have been our counselors.

It reminds me of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses was overloaded with work and he was weary from the daily demands placed on him.

Jethro listened to Moses and replies in Exodus 18:18-19a, “You…will only wear yourself out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.

Like Moses, we can’t do this alone. Autism is too big and heavy. We need help.

These wonderful ladies have been our ‘Jethros’. They have answered our countless questions, given us emergency refills when we ran out, or called doctor offices on our behalf. They have gone above and beyond what I would expect a pharmacy to do to help us. When I think of all the doctors, specialists, teachers that have helped us with Sarah, these wonderful ladies are right up there as part of our ‘Sarah team’.

When I was leaving the pharmacy tech told me, “I hope you know that the Gregorys are family to us!”

They have been family to us, too.

Today I said goodbye to a vital part of the ‘Sarah team’, but I am so deeply humbled and amazed how God has placed such special people in our lives. I am grateful that people truly care for Sarah and want the best for her, too.

This journey is wearisome, but I am thankful for these ‘Jethros’ that came alongside us in our time of need.  I pray God will be with them in this new chapter.

Imitator

Sarah has been fixated on 3 hole punching paper. At first I found all these round paper hole “chads” on the kitchen counter and on the dining room table. I wondered where they were coming from. Was Sarah making confetti at school?

Later in the evening I found her sitting at the dining room table 3-hole punching all of my leftover Christmas letter paper. By the time I saw what was happening, it was too late. She had just finished punching out the last stash of paper.

“Yeah, she has been doing that a lot lately.” David said as I held up my Christmas newsletter paper.

“Where did she find it?”  I shook my head that it was one more thing she has gotten into.

I had no idea what this fixation was all about until I saw old binders that Kendall left behind on the computer desk. They were placed with Jack’s school notebooks and binders.

“Jill, she made her own binders so she could be like Jack.” David said.

Sure enough, I opened up the binders and there was the Christmas paper she punched out as well as all the extra loose leaf paper we had in the house. She had used all of Kendall’s old binders, then made her own binding by taking string and lacing it through the paper holes.

It was so sweet that she wanted to be like her brother!

It reminds me of the time when Kendall was 10 years old and got her ears pierced. When we came home from the mall, Sarah was fascinated by Kendall’s new earrings. Kendall, who was not too happy about the pain, let Sarah examine her ears. She showed her the earrings we bought as well. The fascination didn’t stop. It was obvious that Sarah wanted her ears pierced, too.

But could she handle it? Would she pull out the earrings? Could she keep the post earrings in her ears for the 6 weeks required? Would she understand the pain that getting your ears pierced causes? After trying our best to explain it to her, we let her get her ears pierced too.

We went after school one day and Sarah was extremely giddy when we got to the store. She picked out the studs she wanted and eagerly sat in the chair. When the technician examined and prepped her ears she looked at me in bewilderment. She said that Sarah had marks on her earlobes. She said it looked like Sarah tried to pierce her own ears.

It broke my heart that Sarah wanted so desperately to be like her sister and imitate her that she tried to pierce her ears herself.

It makes me think of Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Sarah’s imitation comes from fascination and fixation of what she is trying to emulate. She studies and copies what she sees.

How this needs to be true in my own life! If I am to be an imitator of God, I need to study His Word intently, follow it so closely that it becomes second nature to me. What a challenging thought to live a life that it is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God! How would my thoughts and actions change?

I want to keep one sheet of the Christmas newsletter paper as a reminder that I am called to be an imitator of Christ! I want to study Him closely so I emulate the heart and mind of Christ in my daily actions and conversations.

Thank you, Sarah, for your example! You continue to challenge and inspire me!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Last Night of Childhood

Tonight is the last night my girls are together at home. Tomorrow Kendall leaves for college and while she will return for breaks and possibly next summer (unless a summer job prevents her), it will be different. Kendall will return as a college student and adult. This, in many ways, is the last night of her childhood.

I am taking this hard. Kendall has been ‘my girl’. God has given me such a gem in her! I enjoy her friendship! I enjoy being together and just talking. She has been such a help to me by starting dinner for me many times while I was still at work. She also helps me care for Sarah. If I can’t give Sarah a shower, she will or she helps me by getting Sarah ready for bed on nights when I am too tired.

More importantly, I wonder how Sarah will deal with Kendall leaving for college. Sarah adores her sister!

Kendall has promised to FaceTime with us so Sarah can see her. I do not know how much Sarah will understand, but this day was bound to come.  My girl has grown up and is ready to fly. Kendall is almost done packing her things. We have boxes by the door ready to go and I wonder what Sarah thinks of all of this.

Even when I was pregnant with the girls, Sarah liked to be close to her. Kendall likes to see my reaction when she says, “Mom, of course we are close! We were womb-mates!” (That made-up word grosses me out!)

But it’s true! Each time I had an ultrasound to make sure the girls were developing on schedule, poor Kendall was squished in the corner. The ultrasound would show her with her head pinned down to her shoulder. She looked so uncomfortable. It was no wonder Kendall went breach at 36 weeks, she was looking for room! Then there was Sarah. Sarah spread herself out like she was doing a spread eagle. More than once when the technician was looking at Kendall (Baby A) a leg would float by, then an arm. I asked if that was Baby A’s leg and she laughed and said, “No, that is Baby B. She is hogging all the room! She doesn’t want to stay on her side.”

When we came home from the hospital with the girls, we thought they would want to sleep together. They had been together for so long, we thought they would miss each other. That great idea lasted two nights. Once again, Sarah hogged all the room. She wiggled and kicked until she was free of her blanket that she was swaddled in and continued to wiggle until she was almost on top of Kendall. Kendall would cry and we would race in. After moving Sarah back, she would do it again…and again. We finally gave up and we separated them.

Now they are being separated by 155 miles. While it is not too far, it feels like 155,000,000 miles to my heart. This is one of those times my heart and head are disagreeing with each other!

This summer, Kendall found a spot near our vacation home with the least amount of light pollution. We went out around midnight as a family to star gaze. It was amazing! We saw shooting stars and the Milky Way. It reminded me of Isaiah 40:26, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.”

The same God who calls out the stars by name is the same God looking over my girls. Life is just going to be different now. This phase of our lives is ending, but I know in His great power and mighty strength He is in control. While this might be the last night of Kendall’s childhood, there is a bond between them that will always keep them in each other’s hearts that 155 miles cannot weaken. ❤

Bondservant

Today, Sarah signed over her rights.

Now that Sarah is 18 years old, she is legally an adult. Realistically, she can’t care for herself. To care for her and have the rights to do so, we needed to do something legally.

We walked into our county’s agency and we were led into a large conference room. The room was taken up by a large conference table that had twelve chairs around it. The legal representative sat at the front of the table and asked Sarah to take a seat. Sarah moved towards the other end of the table and sat down. Seeing this, we all moved down to be closer to Sarah.

The representative explained to Sarah the purpose of the meeting. She asked Sarah if she was an adult or child and Sarah said, “Child.” She explained to her that since she is over 18, she is now an adult. She asked Sarah again and she whispered, “Adult.”

The representative then began asking her questions: if Sarah wanted us to handle her money and her care, if we can speak to her teachers, her doctors and others on her behalf, etc. Sarah looked at us, looked down or looked around but for each answer she said, “Yes.” Sometimes she would laugh after saying yes as if she thought it was funny that the woman would even be asking her these questions.

The representative was satisfied with her answers and asked if Sarah would sign the papers making us her Power of Attorney. Sarah signed her full name in cursive (something we have worked on for years as a life skill). Two other people from the agency agreed with the representative and signed the Power of Attorney paperwork as witnesses. With that Sarah gave up her rights to us…willingly, wholeheartedly, and completely.

As we were wrapping up the meeting, Sarah decided it was the perfect time to do a spontaneous happy dance. She jumped up from her chair and swayed and flapped her arms, and wiggled her body. She threw her head back and let out a joyful giggle. Then she sat back down and looked at us like nothing happened. David and I looked at each other and just smiled.

As we walked back to our car, it hit me that our daughter walked in as a free adult, but chose for her own health and safety to be under our control for the rest of her life. Out my deep love for her, I want to protect her, care for her and want the best for her. It is an honor for me to be her Power of Attorney. It is something I don’t take lightly.

It reminds me of Exodus 21:2-6, if an Israelite was sold as a slave after six years they were set free. They could walk away free and clear of any debt. Or, they could choose to stay. They could decide that they want to serve and be under the protection and care of their master. If they choose to do this, it says in Exodus 21:6, “…then his master shall bring him to God and he shall bring him to the door or doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”

Sounds a bit gruesome, but this ear piercing ceremony was a public physical and permanent reminder that this servant is now a bond servant to their master. It was a voluntary decision of a lifetime commitment. They were bonded for life. It was done willingly, wholeheartedly, and completely.

When Christ died for my sins, He set me free; free from death, separation from God, fear, guilt and shame. He set me free from my bondage of sin.

Now this is what I think is a challenging thought…in many ways I, too, while set free and clear from my debt from sin, I want to serve and be under the protection and care of Jesus. I want to choose Him to be master of my life, knowing that out of His deep love for me, He wants the best for me. So, in many ways, I offer myself to be a bondservant. It is a lifetime commitment to serve the One who set me free. It is done willingly, wholeheartedly, and completely.

Like Sarah, it kind of makes me want to break out into a happy dance. ❤

The Oxymoron

“Why are you doing this to yourself? That’s got to hurt…”

Sarah’s eyes were opened wide and full of fury as she bit very hard into her arm. Sarah was 12 years old at the time and was upset about something. She came closer so her face was directly in front of mine. With eyes locked on mine she growled at me as she bit herself harder.

Knowing I needed to stop this, I used the trick I was taught at her autism therapy. I took her arm and pushed it towards her and she released her bite. Her teeth left deep impressions on her arm. With that she arched her back and screamed at the top of her lungs. She then she ran upstairs to her room and slammed the door.

I shook my head at what just happened; I longed to understand what sets her off.

I am thankful her therapist taught me this trick. I learned early on if Sarah tried to bite that this worked. Our natural tendency would be to pull away when we feel pain, but that actually makes things worse. The jaw is locked and it can do more damage. When she tried to bite me when she was younger, if I pushed my arm towards her, she had to release her jaw to adjust. This moment gave me the opportunity to break free. While I still might get a nasty bite mark, the damage is far less than if I pulled away.

I find it interesting that we tend to do this with the Lord. When we are in pain, our natural tendency is to pull away from Him. We are hurting and try to free ourselves from the pain, but sadly it makes things worse. We separate ourselves from the only source that can bring true and lasting healing.

Instead, we need to press hard into the Lord, especially when we are in pain. When we dig deep into His Word and devote ourselves to prayer, we find freedom and comfort in spite of the pain. Our circumstances may not change (we might still end up with a nasty bite mark), but neither does our Lord! The more you press hard towards Him, the more you see how much He loves and cares for you.

In many ways, it’s an oxymoron, to press in to let go, but it is true and it takes faith.

It reminds me of the story of Elijah and the widow in I Kings 17. She and her son were at the brink of starvation. Elijah asks her to make him a meal with the little food she has left. I Kings 17:13 says, “Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘This jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’

I imagine her standing at her table ready to make his bread. I think she would have had tears in her eyes and hands might just have shaken a little as she was about to pour out the little flour she had left in the jar. She had the choice, to do what he said and go out on faith, or not.  What if it wasn’t true? Elijah would eat her food and she and her son would basically eat just crumbs before starvation. This was an oxymoron; give him what little food she had and she will never run out. In our minds we think this is absurd, but to God all things are possible. This widow had the faith to push in and obey rather than pull away and keep what little she had to herself. Due to her obedience and faith, God provided many meals for her family and Elijah during the famine. Her obedience saved her family’s lives.

I want to be like this widow. When faced with tough challenges of life that I am obedient and faithful. Despite the pain, despite the desire to recoil, that I press in hard to the Lord and let it go for Him to handle. His loving hands are much stronger to hold whatever pain I am carrying.

To press in to let go…it’s an oxymoron, but it is truth that brings hope and healing.

Isaiah 55:8, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”