A Precious Find

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But What About Dash: How to explain Jesus to children on the Autism Spectrum

Last week a friend of mine asked me a question. She works for a preschool and also teaches Sunday School, and she has several kids with autism in that mix.

Her question was, “How in the world have you and Mr. Incredible taught your boys about God? How can I as a Sunday School teacher help the children in my class who are autistic gain an understanding of Jesus?”

The question is a hard one to answer, given that people with autism are visual and concrete. They like to SEE, and they like literal.  How does “Jesus lives in your heart” come across to them? I can only imagine.

While thinking about this, I was reminded of when Princess Buttercup was around 3 1/2 years old, and she understood about as much as any three year old that we all sin and need Jesus to take that away for us, and to accept Him into our hearts. It was an amazing night, the night she accepted Jesus.

I remember the following Sunday as if it is the present, not confined by time passed.

We are at church, standing in worship and I am heavily burdened with the thought, “But, what about Dash?”   How will I ever be able to explain God or Jesus to him?  He can’t “see” Jesus, he couldn’t possibly understand the concept of three persons in one, and those being invisible and living in your heart? It makes no sense. How will He ever understand?”

And God meets me right there. Stops me in my thinking tracks and says with a thunderous voice in my heart, “I made him the way he is.  I know how to reach him.”

It struck straight to my core. I didn’t have to figure it all out. God already has.

The captain crashes

One of many unusual places we found him alseep

Dash has always had sleeping problems, as is common for children with ASD’s.

At the age of 2 years 4month, he broke; he gave up his nap in the day and he gave up sleeping at night.

He was suddenly not able to calm his body down.  He would run from one end of his room to the other and crash into the wall and then reverse direction and repeat. Back and forth he’d go until 2am or later, when his body would become so exhausted it could no longer comply with his mind and he would collapse into required sleep.  This is when we “knew” something was wrong and started delving into researching what this could be.

Eventually we discovered Melatonin (Benadryl did not work) and we could finally get him to sleep at a reasonable time–compared to 2am, not reasonable for most 2 year olds!  He’d still often wake up in the night and play and just stay awake.  He slept anywhere between 2 and 6 hours a night.

So when I heard him up in the middle of the night one night shortly after God convinced me that He could reach him, I wasn’t too surprised.

I was surprised, however, to hear what I heard.

I imagine he was standing on his bed, but I don’t know this as the door was closed and I did not interrupt what was going on.  I felt like I was standing on Holy ground.

At the top of his lungs, he was singing, “I stand amazed in the presence, of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how he could love me, a sinner condemned unclean.” You can listen to the song here: I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous)

I wonder to this day, what happened in that room.   When I am in Heaven and can ask such questions, I fully expect to find out that Jesus was there; in his room. And Dash stood amazed in his presence. Goosebumps rise and I quiver just thinking about it.

I imagine he was singing the words to the song that explained what was happening at the time. He would often use phrases from songs to say what he didn’t have words for. He didn’t know how to comment, but what he’d see would remind him of a song, so he’d sing it.  Just like the time when I was pouring berry juice concentrate that was a deep dark blue-purple.  Instead of saying, “Wow, that sure is blue!” , he started singing, “I’m so Blue-ue-ue Blue-ue-ue Blue-ue-ue-Ue, I’m so Blue I don’t know what to do!” (from Madame Blueberry, VeggieTales)

Dash has always loved music.  Good music, like the kind we like (insert snicker).

He could sing before he could say words, which wasn’t until he was well over 3 years old.  Every night we all cuddle together on the couch and watch music videos of our favorite artists. We listen to music in the car, in the house. All the time.

Music has a way of reaching us where plain words to not; music can bypass the brain and go straight to the heart.

And God used that, to reach Dash.  He used music to bypass the literal, the visual and penetrate his soul.

_____________________________________________

So back to the original question:  How do we teach the boys about Jesus; how do you teach children with autism about God?

Taking apart what has happened so far in Dash’s 9 year old life, I guess my answer would be mostly to pray for God to reveal himself in a way that he can understand; to reach him.  Next to that, I would recommend using visual tools like felt boards, and pray. And I would recommend using music to teach, and to pray.

Basically, I don’t think I did anything but provide an atmosphere that made it easier for them (Dash, and Sketch who is 7 years old and also has autism) to understand and then let God reach them, his way. No one is too hard for God to reach.  And it may not be “hard” at all, just different. Some people with ASD’s have a more-than-usual closeness to God, they are very aware of his presence.

All this being said, I encourage you to remember that we don’t have to figure it all out. God already has. Our best tool is prayer.

2 Cor 10:4  “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

To us mere neuro-typical types, autism can seem like a stronghold. I think this is because we don’t understand it all.  But God does.  And we are called to pray, which holds divine power to break though…to reach.

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

 

On the Playground: The Power of Encouragement

Sketch digging sand

“Hi, do you want to play with me?” She asks, watching Sketch play with the tractor in the sandbox.  She couldn’t have been more than four years old.

He continues to dig up sand and pour it into piles.

“Hi!, You forgot something! Your shoes!”  She points to them, still at the end of the slide, right where he left them.

Still no response.  She goes over to him and taps him on his shoulder. “Hello!  Do you want to play with me?”

At this point, not sure how Sketch would react to this, I walk over to him with Polkadot riding on my hip.

She climbs up the ladder to the slide.  Polkadot admires her, wishing she could play.

“Ah Dat?” She says, pointing at the little girl.

Sketch continues digging up sand.

“Look Sketch, this little girl wants to slide with you.”  He follows my point and looks up at her.

“See the double slide?  You can race with her just like you do at the Bounce Zone!  Do you want to slide with her?”

“Yes!” He says.

Yeah! He finally wants to play with another child!

He climbs up the stairs, slowly.  Very slowly.  Scripting all the way, his favorite show which takes place on a playset similar to this one.

He reaches the top, turns around and slides down the opposite slide, paying no attention at all to the little girl.

My heart aches her, poor things is trying so hard, so persistently encouraging my boy to play.

She isn’t put off though, she doesn’t give up trying to play with Sketch.

The girls mom comes and takes her back to the soccer game in the field next door.

Sketch continues playing by himself, happily talking and signing to himself.

I swing with Polkadot, and watch Sketch play by himself.

A couple minutes later, I hear footsteps of the little girl pitter-pattering heavily behind us, getting closer and closer.

“I SAW YOU” she yells to Sketch, “I was watching you!  Do you want to slide with me?”

I hold back laughter. This girl is not going to give up!  I wish I could take her home with me!  How good she would be for Sketch, on his case constantly!

I already have this girls future planned out; she’ll be a Special Ed Director at a good school, and she will never give up, even with the hardest kid to reach.  She has the gift of encouragement and she is not afraid to use it!

And neither should we.  We all need encouragers like this girl in our lives, and we all need to be that kind of encourager to others.

How great would it be if we didn’t give up, but persisted in spurring each other on?

If we were being built up by others every day, how much better would our days be? And what a gift to be able to encourage someone else!

I think we need more people to take after the example of this little girl.  More who say, “Hey! I was watching you!” and encourages us along in our journey.

Just today at church, someone did this very thing for me, and it made me want to finish this story that I’d started last week.

Encouragement is a powerful thing.

1 Thessalonians 5:8-11 “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (Italics added)

Was That A Vacation?

Six and a half hours into our drive home, with just a little over 1 hour of driving left, the worst thing that can happen–that dreaded “what if?”, happened.

They say 90% of the time, what you most fear never happens.  I guess that was true on this trip.  More than 90% of the time was fun, but that 10% that was bad, was very, very bad.

9 year old Dash (adhd/autism) would correct these numbers to 1 1/2 hours out of an 81 hour trip = .02%.  Technically, we got off light.  It should have been 8.1 hours of what we feared most, and for this (not happening), I am very, very grateful!

It’s so easy to let the torture of being crammed in a car with 4 children (2 adhd/autism, 1 neurotypical, and one 7 month old) and a husband for that last hour+ with the baby crying, which set of my 6 year old Sketch (autism/anxiety/adhd) into one of those classic autism-screeches that just blows your eardrums out along with the few brain cells that were left behind after childbirth, cloud your thoughts of EVER doing something like THAT again!

But, now that time has calmed me down and blurred the horrors of last night (NOT), I’m ready to think about the other 79.5 hours of the vacation that were really, quite nice!

We went to the same hotel we went to last year, and met Mr. Incredibles parents there.  The main attraction at this location is the indoor swimming pool.

It was truly one of the best vacations we’ve had.  Normally we laugh (read cry) at the thought of a “vacation” because it is so exhausting to take our family anywhere, but this time… I think it counts as a true vacation!

As a family, we had no children missing at any rest stops or during the hotel stay. We didn’t even feel the need to booby-trap the door to our room so if anyone tried to escape in the middle of the night, the noise would wake us up…well, ok… Mr. Incredible did leave a very noisy bag of chips in front of the door the first night, just in case (by the way, have you noticed how loud chip bags have become?  Sunchips are especially noisy.).

We had NO COMPLAINTS from the people staying beside us or below us for noise or stomping or screaming!

During the entire trip, no one bolted!  I am still in shock of this one!

Every single one of the kids surprised me with how much they have progressed in the last year, and how well they were behaved.

Dash slept like he normally does at home instead of keeping his reputation up of 24/7 wakeful hours 3 days in a row. He was wonderful swimming, and compared to last year, he was not afraid of getting his face wet, or going under water. He didn’t “drown” even once!

Sketch handled so much change and even several disappointments very, very well.  He was absolutely amazing in the pool. He  has made so much progress!  Last year he wouldn’t leave the steps leading into the pool because he didn’t want to get his swimsuit wet.  This year, he went all the way in and traveled the perimeter of the pool all the way to the super-deep section of 4 1/2 feet (insert big proud smile here)  and climbed the ladder to get out of the pool all by himself.  He was his very happy self, a side of him that his grandparents haven’t seen before because he’s usually too stressed out by all the changes and the new environment to “be himself”.  But this time, he was hilarious and engaged with a lot of back and forth interaction.  He also coped with no DVD’s for the entire trip. This was an accident, we’d brought them, but we did not have the power cord to the DVD player.  He handled it amazingly well (insert another big smile here).

Princess Buttercup had a great time, as always.  She had a blast playing Dicecapades with her Grambo (what she calls her grandma).  She was a great big helper with her baby sister and her little brother.  She shared a room with her twin brother (Dash) and there was minimal complaining and fighting!  She also practiced playing underwater this year, something she wouldn’t even try last year.  She learned to “sit” on the bottom of the pool and dove for quarters with Dash!

Polkadot was a little angel.  She even slept pretty well for her first road trip!  She was very alert and happy, taking in everything she saw.  She wasn’t so sure about Daddy jumping out of the water unexpectedly with goggles and wet hair, but she adapted after that initial shock just fine.  She had a lot of fun showing off all her “tricks” to Grambo, like zerberting a fresh spoonful of baby food right at her (ha ha!) and sitting up big and tall, “reading” her board books. She even handled her very off-schedule days with no problems at all. She never cried when she was tired, she just would fall asleep and wake up happy.  Quite a big surprise!

And, Mr. Incredible behaved himself as well (hee-hee).

There is so much to be thankful and grateful for on this vacation.  Taking out my treasure stone that I kept to remember the lesson I learned last year about the gifts God gives us (click here for more on that),  I have decided to “let go” of that .02% of yuck, and cling to the wonderful memories and good times we had.

Colossians 3:15-16 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Treasures From Distant Lands

Princess Buttercup Sewing her Owl

Or, not so distant, as the Lands are just as close to me as the Land of Autism.

I have been tinkering with the idea of expanding the content of my blog from writing mostly about Treasures found in the context of raising children with Autism, to include writing about the Treasures I find from the Land of My Other Children, and the Land of Dealing with Aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the other Lands I travel through In Life in general.

Yesterday, I read my dear friend Fi’s blog, Wonderfully Wired, and saw that she is also being led in this direction so I have taken that as confirmation to do the same.

It’s so exciting to explore new lands full of adventure!

As a teaser to what’s to come… Here is the Treasure I’ve found this morning:

“Mommy, I forgot to tie my knot!” Princess Buttercup says in a “that’s silly” kinda voice.

She has been sewing her Owl pillow that she got for her 9th birthday in November.

“Oh, you don’t want to forget that!  Bad things happen when you forget to tie your knot!” I say, as I imagine all the work of pulling a string through all those stitches just to have the stitches come out as fast as they went in.  All that hard work for nothing…

I think about the knot at the end of my string…like an anchor, Jesus.

The Knot

If I were sewing through the tough fabrics of life without my knot, I would either get No Where, or, I would have a very Hard Landing.  I’m sure I would not have survived some of those Hard Landings if I didn’t have Jesus holding me, catching me as the Knot anchors the first stitch to the fabric.

Hebrews 6:19-20  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”

Numbers 24:21 “Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock”

The question of the day is:  Do you have a Knot at the end of your string?

Bonus:  Princess Buttercups Treasure:

A home-made needle threader!

Home-made Needle Threader

A Way in the Desert

Where am I? It’s so cold and windy here…and dirt is everywhere!

Why is it so dark?  Maybe I still have my flash light…oh, there it is. Good, it still works.

Now, how do I get out of here? Maybe if I just keep walking I’ll find the way out…or, at least something familiar.

What is this? Something is sparkling in the dirt–the wind must have uncovered it. Let’s see… Hu? Oh wow! A jewel, like a sapphire!  It looks like there is something engraved in it.

Where are my glasses? Here they are. Ok, let’s see…Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving.  I remember! How could I ever forget that lesson.  Giving Thanks for everything, Yes, that is how I can get through stressful times, by searching for the gifts God has placed in my life and truly being thankful for them. Yes… recognizing the gifts He’s lavished on me really helps keep my mind on Him instead of my problems. I definitely do not want to forget that hard-learned lesson. Hum… I think I’ll just put this in my bag so I don’t loose it.

Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Last year was not what I would call a good year, and sometimes I think to would be nice to be able to walk through it leaving behind all the hard things that happened–actually forgetting, and grabbing on to the treasures. I bet my bag would need to be bigger than I expect.

A friend has told me that the way to get through the seemingly impossible times, the way to be content in the worst of situations when there seems no end, is to recognize and think about all the good things that are going on around me instead of focusing on the negative things. The secret is to acknowledge the gifts, the Giver.  They are always there, as He is always there.  It is hard sometimes to shift our gaze from our troubles,

“But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3

but when we do, He lifts us up our of our constricting place, and sets us in a spacious one.

When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;

he brought me into a spacious place.

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can mere mortals do to me?

The LORD is with me; he is my helper.

I look in triumph on my enemies.

Psalm 118:5-7

I’ve decided to pick eight treasures that I was given last year, eight gems engraved with a word of remembrance that I want to make sure I take with me into this next year.

1) On the Emerald is engraved the word Time.  I want to remember to be present in the moment, appreciating the White Spaces when they come and being thankful to God for the breaks, no matter how small.  Refusing to give in to the temptation to re-live or stew in the dark space–the stressful events that can easily suck away more time than it should, if we let it.

2) On the Amethyst is engraved the word Hope.  I want to remember that His promises are true regardless of my circumstances… that no matter how bad things get, I have a hope and a destiny waiting for me. Because of that, I can take the cup that God hands me, and see the blessings that He’s given through it.

3) On the Rose Quartz is engraved the word Persevere. I want to remember that I can “keep on keeping on” when things get hard just like Jesus persevered.  He kept going, even to his death, all because of his love for me, so that I won’t “not grow weary and lose heart.”

4) On the Sapphire is engraved Thanksgiving.  Remember to search for the treasures God pours down on me, and be thankful for them.  Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

5) On the Diamond is engraved Provision.  Remember that everything I have have, comes from God alone.  All things, not only income and possessions, but my HELP comes from Him as well.  Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”  He provides for me according to His riches, not mine.

6) On the Aquamarine is engraved the word Remember.  Remember all that He has done for me from trading places on the cross-putting on my filthy rags and giving me His righteous royal robe, to remembering His promises are always true regardless of the circumstances I see before me, to remembering his Word, and keeping it in the forefront of my mind.

7) On the Ruby is engraved the word Desires.  I want to remember that our loving Father sees the desires of our heart, and He loves to give that desire to us, even when we’ve long given up hope for it.

8) On the Topaz is engraved the word Purified.  I want to remember to lay down my “sufferings” at the foot of the cross, and let Jesus purify me and strengthen me though the trials, instead of fighting tooth and nail against it.  1Peter 4:19 “Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good”  I want to remember that God’s plans for me are much better than I can ever imagine, and that he promises to use the fires of life for good.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me, that at least sometimes, God makes the “way though the desert” by laying treasures out like bread for a bird along the path.

This year, I believe God is saying to me,  “I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Happy New Year everyone!  What Treasures will you bring along with you through the year?

Psalm 65:11 “You crown the year with Your goodness & even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” (NKJ & NLT)

Faith looks to God alone; laughs at impossibilities; dances in anticipation of tomorrow. (The Lewis Awakening of 1858)


Muller Moments

When we don’t behave as Sketch expects, he gets mad.  For example, when we are driving somewhere, Sketch (and Dash too, for that matter!) have strong opinions on what roads we should take to get there.  This caused such problems, since they never agreed on the correct road, that we instituted a rule:  All the time, the driver picks!  It took a few weeks of disappointments when we went our way, but it did pay off and we could have somewhat peaceful drives again.  Sketch continued to request the route he wanted, and we’d faithfully chime, “All the time the driver picks!”  He’d come to love to hear that response, because that’s what happens when he gives a direction.  He could count on it.

Well, one day we found out how much he counted on it.  Usually, we turn right onto his favorite road, but it was a day with heavy rain, and part of the road was not paved, so we opted to go a different route.  This time, as we approached the road we usually take, Sketch requested, “Go straight!”  Typically, we would have said, “All the time the driver picks” and turn right anyway, but on this day we did to go straight because of the rain.  Sketch reached near panic level when we went straight, even though that was the way he said he wanted to go.  A full fledge tantrum the rest of the way home, followed.  All because we didn’t do what he expected. We didn’t behave.

Recently, it seemed to me that God wasn’t behaving either, and I felt like having my own tantrum!  I thought there was some “rule” in the Bible about how many “big problems” God would allow a person to go though at one time?  I was still in the middle of finding out I was struck with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Still had yet to see the Rheumatologist.  Still very crippled from the raging pain in my joints.  And then God allowed another “big problem”.  Mr. Incredible may loose his job!

God didn’t behave as I expected, but he did behave according to His promises.  He upheld every one, and our family as well.  He let me experience a taste of what George Muller experienced as he believed God for providing his every need, and every need of the orphanages he created.  I call these experiences, “Muller Moments”.

Here is what happened:

My “Mueller Moments” happened a couple months ago when my husband got word that there was trouble brewing with the parent company where he works.  That was Wednesday, September 28th.  By Friday morning, in an unfair and un-real set of events, he and all his coworkers were fired and the office was shut down.  This was the last day of the month, meaning we were also suddenly without health insurance.  To complicate matters, Cobra wasn’t even an option since the entire office was shut down, there was no insurance group to “Cobra” to.

There are no words to express the panic and stress that followed the news on Wednesday.  We were unable to sleep, literally sick to our stomachs….  I was still in the beginning of understanding my illness. How could He allow this to happen now?  How could He let this happen with a new baby to care & provide for?  God was not behaving the way I thought he should!

Thursday, Mr. Incredible went to work and cleared out his office, in expectation of the worst occurring.  I tried to recapture some of the sleep that I had missed the night before, so I took Polkadot to the changing table to give her a clean diaper before tucking her in.  As I looked at those diapers, seeing how many were left I worried about how we will buy diapers if we suddenly have no income.

I took Polkadot up to bed and attempt to sleep…my head was buzzing from the adrenalin that had been surging in my mind.  After about 40 minutes, I finally felt myself start to nod off to sleep.

RING! RING!    RING! RING!

Of course, the phone rings!  Frustrated to be woken, I answer the phone. It’s someone from our church. She wanted to know if we could use any size one diapers, since her son just outgrew them.

“Yes, we’d love to take them! Thank you so much!” I said.

Wasn’t I just worried about how we’d get diapers?  Did this really just happen?  I mean, I know God says not to worry, but it is really hard to apply that when fearing the very floor of your house is about to be ripped out from under your feet.

When Mr. Incredible was done packing up his personal things from his office, he came home…  Because of how badly the RA was raging through my joints, I needed his help to make dinner.  I didn’t really feel like eating, but was very grateful to have as much food in the house as we did.

I add the final touch to the dish I’d made, sprinkling cheese on top.  I secure the lid and let the heat melt the cheese.  The table has been cleared off, and I go to the cupboard to get the first plate to load a serving onto.

KNOCK–KNOCK–KNOCK

Who on earth could that be?

“Hello?” I answer the door with the blue plate resting in my arm.

“Hi, I’m Theresa, from ladies Bible study. I brought you a meal.” She had a still-hot, ready-to-eat meal in her hands!  I’d forgotten it is Thursday, and the people from my Bible study were bringing us meals since it was so painful and hard for me to cook.

“Thank you, very much!” I said as I flash back to a story I’d read about George Muller, who started orphanages in England, and would only ask God for the things he needed to start and maintain it.  He never asked a person for anything.  God always provided.  One time though, things got really tight:

“I hate to bother you , Mr. Muller, ” began the matron, “but it’s happened.  The children are all ready for breakfast and there is not a thing in the house to eat. What shall I tell them?”  

George stood up.  “I’ll take care of it. Just give me a minute,” he said. 

Before going to the dining room at Number One Orphan House, George walked out into the garden.  “Abigail, Abigail, come here, ” he called.

Abigail ran up to him. “What is it?” she asked.  

George reached down and took her hand.  “Come and see what God will do,”he said as he escorted her to the dining room.  

Inside they found three hundred children standing in neat rows behind their chairs.  Set on the table in front of each child were a plate, a mug , and a knife, fork, and spooon.  But there was no food whatsoever to be seen.  George watched as Abigail’s eyes grew wide with astonishment.  “But, where’s the food?” Abigail asked in a whisper. 

“God will supply,” George told her quietly, before he turned to address the children.  “there’s not much time. I don’t want any of you to be late for school, so let us pray,” he announced.  

As the children bowed their heads, George simply prayed, “Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat.  Amen.”

George looked up and smiled at the children.  “You may be seated,” he said.  He had no idea at all where the food he had just prayed for would come from or how it would get to the orphanage.  He just knew God would not fail the children.  

A thunderous din filled the room as three hundred chairs were scuffed across the wooden floor.  Soon all three hundred children sat obediently in front of their empty plates.  

No sooner had the noise in the dining room subsided than there was a knock at the door.  George walked over and opened the door.  In the doorway stood the baker, holding a huge tray of delicious smelling bread. 

“Mr. Muller,” began the baker, “I couldn’t sleep last night.  I kept thinking that somehow you would need bread this morning and that I was supposed to get up and bake it for you.  So I got up at two o’clock and made three batches for you. I hope you can use it.”

George smiled broadly.  “God has blessed us through you this morning,” he said as he took the tray of bread from the baker.  

“There’s two more trays out in the cart,” said the baker.  “I’ll fetch them.”

Within minutes, the children were all eating freshly baked bread.  As they were enjoying it, there was a second knock at the door.  This time it was the milkman, who took off his hat and addressed George.  “I’m needing a little help, if you could, sir.  The wheel on my cart has broken, right outside your establishment.  I’ll have to lighten my load before I can fix it.  There’s ten full cans of milk on it.  Could you use them?”  Then looking at the orphans, sitting in neat rows,  he added, “Free of charge, of course.  Just send someone out to get them.  I’ll never fix the cart with all that weight on it.”  

George dispatched twenty of the older children to help, and soon they had the ten cans of milk stowed in the kitchen, where it was dispensed with a ladle.  There was enough milk for every child to have a mug full and enough left over for them all to have some in their tea at lunch.

Half an hour after George and Abigail had entered the dining room, three hundred orphans with full stomaches filed out.” pp 166-168 from George Muller, The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans, by Janet & Geoff Benge

As the picture of this scene replayed in my mind, I stood in shock at the door with my empty plate.  I put the plate down and received the hot meal.  I turned to Mr. Incredible and said, “We just had a Muller Moment!”

Funny thing is, that we didn’t need a meal that night. We had one, literally ready to be dished out onto plates.  But God burned deep into my soul, that He is aware of what is happening, and He will provide. We can count on it. He even provided when we thought we’d be in need, but actually had plenty, so that we wouldn’t worry. So we would trust Him.  So I would know that He is my provider, not a job, not any person, but God alone.

Friday, it was official that everyone lost their jobs. I was sick, still, thinking about how badly things could turn out.  There was no way we could sell our house.  And just imagining having to move and find new in-home supports, new schools, new IEP’s, new teachers, new doctors, new specialists, all while Mr. Incredible (hopefully) starts a new job, was overwhelming!

Remembering George Muller, and how he would not worry, but believed God to provide for everything, thinking about how he prayed specificially for every detail of his needs, I decided that I was being called to do the same thing.

I went upstairs and prayed over every single bill we had, every upcoming expense, every need I was worrying about.  I was specific, to the point of praying for long sleeve onesies for Polkadot, and some jeans. The weather was getting colder and she only had summer clothes in 0-3 month size.  I asked God to provide for everything. I didn’t ask a person for anything, I didn’t mention what I had prayed for to anyone.

The next Tuesday our Bible study met again.  A friend greeted me with a gift bag, a belated baby-shower gift since she was in another state when Polkadot had her shower.

I could not believe my eyes when I opened that bag and saw some long sleeve onesies and a pair of jeans!  And, in 0-3 month size!  Most people buy up for a new baby, but she bought the exact size she needed right now.

God provides.  He promises it and tells us not to worry about anything. He knows how hard that is for us, but he also knows how good it is for us to not be anxious about anything.  So he promises us that He is our provider, and He always keeps his promises!

Everything has turned out ok.  Mr. Incredible was offered a temporary but full time (with benefits) job the same Friday that he lost his job.  We thought we had no insurance for October, but in some unknown strange set of events, the insurance we had with his previous company was reinstated, retroactive to October 1st and his new insurance started November 1st!  God took care of all the details.

As Beth Moore said in the video sessions for Believing God:  Sometimes God doesn’t move the mountain, sometimes he splits the mountain in half so we can walk through it.

That’s exactly what happened.  When there was no way, God made a way.

I don’t know about you, but I’m Believing God!

The Writing’s On The Walls

Sketch told me the words to write, and where to place them. Then he added his own words and drew the frame.

This is my first post written from a special guest, Kay Lutsky!  Kay has been a friend of mine for over 23 years.  We now live many states apart, but keep in touch via facebook, which is where this post originates. I had posted the picture above in an album called The Chalkboard Kid.  Sketch (age 6, with autism/adhd)  has taken to writing on his walls with chalk, and often he will write the lyrics to his favorite songs.  When Kay saw this, this was her response:

I guess I should start with how this all started. Merri posted a picture of what is on the walls of  Sketch’s room. It really touched my heart, and the more I thought about what he wrote, the more I was blown away.

I know that what he wrote was actually lyrics to a song, I think by Chris Tomlin, but at first glance it appears to me that these words are written as a note to Sketch from God. God telling Sketch that he, Sketch, is beautiful. That to God, Sketch is a treasure and God has plans for him. Wow! Talk about positive reinforcement! I think we ALL need to have this written on our walls where we can see it day and night and remember that we really do mean that much to our Heavenly Father.

Then it struck me, Sketch’s walls are covered with these lyrics, these messages from and about our loving God and Savior. These words of God…(warning track jump)…This young man literally rests surrounded by the word of God, every night. This is where my mind got blown away. I mean literally and figuratively this little guy has got it right, don’t ya think? Here I am 40-something years old and I still have a hard time with the concept of rest, and I can’t begin to fathom how to rest in God. Yet, it’s so simple. We just need to surround ourselves with Him and trust what He says.

Every where we look we need to search for Him. We need to surround ourselves with His Words, not our own. We need to surround ourselves with music about Him, not worldly things. We need to talk about Him, not hide Him in our hearts. We need to talk to Him. We need to listen to Him and learn about Him from His Word. It always comes back to His Word. It is powerful and provides the (to borrow from my preacher dude’s sermon) “guard rails” in our lives. When we know His Word it helps us know which paths are righteous (check out Proverbs), and lead to life (good things) and not destruction (really bad things). How did I miss it before?

My family and I will have to move soon. My two teenagers think that Sketch is really “cool” for having chalkboard walls, and now they want them too. Wouldn’t it be so incredibly great to grow up surrounded with His promises on our walls? I wonder what difference it would make in my children’s confidence levels, and their relationship with God? If our landlord says “yes,” I think I’ll help them paint.

Thank you Kay for sharing this with us! It reminds me of Deuteronomy 6:6-9
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Sketch wrote all these lyrics himself, to Chris Tomlins "I Lift My Hands"

Sketch's favorite verse.

Sketch And Our Journey with Food Allergies

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week.  So I’m dedicating this post to my youngest (for now) son Sketch, who has Autism, Adhd & Food Allergies.

Sketch and our journey with food allergies:

It seems like Sketch was born with eczema.  as an infant he had it all over his face, patches on his arms and legs, and thickly on the top of his feet.  He didn’t wear shoes for the first 2 summers, because the heat of the socks & shoes made his eczema too itchy to bear.

Sketch also had severe reflux, which made laying down flat painful for him, and the angle of the infant car seats made the reflux worse, a guarantee to spit up all over himself & the seat.  He stomach emptying problems that made the reflux worse so his food would stay in his tummy longer than it should, making it easier to spit up even hours after he ate.

Around the age of 10 months, the ear infections started.  They didn’t stop until he had tubes put in place at the age of 2.

Around the age of 11 months, we went to the Pediatric Gastroenterologist. The bloodwork came back showing elevated Ig-E levels, meaning he had allergies.  They couldn’t tell yet if it was to food or environmental things, but they wanted to do a test for EE (Eosinophilic esophagitis), that required to put him under anesthesia.  We decided to put that test off, because he was so sick all the time, we didn’t want to put him “under”.

At the same time the tubes were put in place (age 2), the asthma started. Severe asthma.  He spent much of the next two years on nebulizer treatments and steroids to control his breathing.  This was an extremely scary time! Little did we know, that some of those severe asthma attacks were likely his body going into anaphylactic shock.  I always kept a couple doses of steroids on hand, so we wouldn’t be caught after hours without any help.

Also around this time (between 18mo and 2 yrs) Sketch started self-limiting the foods he’d eat. He started out being the best eater in the house!  He would eat a variety of colors and textures with no problems at all.  At this point (he’s now 6) he will only eat a handful of foods that are brand-specific, and his protein is self-limited to yogurt. No meats, no vegetables (unless you count Lays Potato Chips, or all natural Cheetos (corn)),and one fruit (apples).

We thought once the ear infections were under control with the tubes, that he’d start eating better.  But, the opposite happened.

So we decided to have him tested for food allergies.

Although painful for everyone involved, it did reveal the cuprit.  This first test showed severe Egg allergy.  We were advised to wash all the dishes, pots/pans and counter top/tables with vinegar, to break down the egg protein. At this point Sketch refused to eat eggs (one of his previous favorite foods), so we were surprised that this was causing his problem. However, the rest of us ate eggs and the proteins on the plates were not being properly broken down by regular washing. We needed the vinegar to break it down further.  No eggs.  Do you know how many things have eggs in them?  Who’da thought Mayonnaise and Salad Dressings or French Vanilla Ice Cream could be life threatening!   No more bought baked goods…everything had to be made from scratch to avoid the egg.

We thought we were going to see great progress in Sketch’s health at this point, but we didn’t. He was still breaking out in eczema, having severe asthma attacks, and now hives.  The allergist did not think there were more food allergies so he refused to re-test.  We changed allergists at this point and re-did the food (and environmental) tests.  Sketch (now 3 1/2 years old)  tested positive (severe) to Eggs, mild to Peanuts and mild to Banana.  Do you know how many antihistamines have natural banana flavor in it???  And since Banana is not a major allergen, the FDA does not require it to be posted on a label.  So we had to call all these companies to ask. Yes, his Zyrtec has banana in it. Time to find a new antihistamine!

(Oh yeah, and that dog we had?  We trained her on peanut butter.  Gone is the dog.  Well, actually we had already given her away — long story for another post!  But, quick warning:  If a “service dog” is sold for way less $$ than other service dogs…she’s probably not a service dog at all!”)

After eliminating the Peanut & Banana along with the Egg, the Asthma finally got better.  He maybe needed the nebulizer once or twice through the next year, only when sick with bronchitis.  The next year was even better. We still give him his controller and albuterol treatments when needed (usually when he’s sick) but we have needed no nebulizer treatments or steroids for over a year!!

However… Sketch was still breaking out in full-body eczema and mild hives.  We suspected more food allergies and had him retested this past fall.  The recent results are Severe Egg and Severe Tree Nut allergies.  Peanuts and Banana’s no longer tested positive, but because Peanut allergies are so life-threatening, and tests are not 100% accurate, they said to continue to act as if he’s allergic to Peanuts.  He can now have Banana, although, he won’t eat it so who knows if he’d react???

We are sure that Sketch’s food aversion is related to all these allergies. He’s learned that food hurts. It’s a hard thing to unlearn or understand (some food hurts and some doesn’t), and will probably take many years of teaching and trying.  Meanwhile, his weight either drops or he remains the same as his height continues to tower.  We supplement with Udo’s 3-6-9 oil (hidden in yogurt) because he has zero Omega fatty acids in his diet. He’d deficient in Vitamin D (which we supplement) and many B vitamins, and fiber.  His calorie intake is insufficient.   Now we are trying to find supplemental drink mixes to boost his calories and nutrition since he refuses food. The challenge:  To get him to drink it!!!

How it effects us:

Fear.  Panic.  Will they remember at school?  What if someone doesn’t wash their hands?  What if someone doesn’t recognize one of the many hidden ingredients that contain egg?  How can we go to someone else’s house for a playdate, or a meal?  Will we ever go out to eat again?  Will I have time to bake everything allergen free for Sketch, who won’t even eat the food I make? 

It’s just awful.  And it is very real.  

This week Sketch was playing on the playground at school, picked up some allergen off the equipment (kids at lunch outside before this) and rubbed his eye.  His eyes swelled and hives started all over his face.  He became extremely tired (low blood pressure is a sign of pending anaphylactic shock).  The school caught it in time and gave him benadryl, called us to come get him.   He was just being a kid playing on a playground. It really shouldn’t be another thing we need to worry about, but it is!  

The best description for what it is like to have a child with severe food allergies, is this video from the Food Allergy Initiative:

To complicate it even more…add in the autism.  With the autism comes an inability, or reduced ability to communicate and understand language. Sketch can quote to you the foods he’s allergic to, but that won’t stop him from reaching out a the grocery store to grab a carton of eggs.  He doesn’t  “get it”.  And if he finally tries a new food, like toast, which is safe at home… will he understand that not all bread is safe because many are made with eggs?  Is he then more vulnerable to ingesting allergens?? The black & white-ness of the thinking with autism is a help and a hinderance. 

The Treasure in the tragedy: 

The fear & panic are very, very real, as is the danger.  

But the security handed to me by a loving God is bigger than that. 

He has proven to be watching over us and protecting us over and over again.  

His promise to protect us, His ability to see everything, along with His promise to  use everything for good, is what provides the anecdote to the anxiety.  

He knows where all those hidden allergens are, and He is able to protect my vulnerable child.  

And, when the reactions happen anyway, it isn’t because He wasn’t looking, He wasn’t on a break, snoozing away or  distracted.  He has a plan for that.  In the big picture, He has plans to use that for some very great good.  In that I can rest. (Well, at least until I forget and then I worry again until I remember)

Food Allergy Stats:

* A new study has found that one in 12 U.S. children has a food allergy and for 40% of these children, the allergy is life-threatening. 
* Injectible epinephrine is the only way to reverse anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction. 
* People with food allergies must carry epinephrine with them at all times. 
Proud Supporter of KFA profile picture* Oral ingestion is the most common and serious form of exposure to a food allergen. 
* Prior to eating, food labels should be read since ingredients can change at any time. 
* Scraping off or picking allergens off of food will not make it safe.
* Sharing utensils, beverages or food with a food-allergic child is not safe.
* Saliva from other people or pets can contain allergens and may cause an allergic reaction for a food-allergic child.

Provided by an organization that has provided incredible support and information to us, Kids With Food Allergies. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org

The Desires of Your Heart

I remember walking around the neighborhood with my then fiance’, talking about what we’d name our future children.  We had 6 names picked out, three boys and three girls.

But then we had twins…then autism, then ADHD, then another boy, and then ear infections, severe asthma, multiple food allergies, constant illness, and autism again, and ADHD again… that kinda put a damper on the thoughts of having any more children.

I had totally given up on the thoughts of more children, but I so much wanted a Rebecca Joy in my arms.  I think I may have even gone through the grieving process that this would never happen.  If anyone asked if we would have more kids, I’d always reply with a quick, “NO!”  (with the “are you crazy? We have enough going on as it is.” implied!)

We were overwhelmed enough.  It couldn’t even be thought of.

But God knew how much we wanted another child, and probably…it was Him putting that desire in our hearts.  He saw past all the rubbish, stress and insanity of our lives, and he decided to give us a baby girl after all…

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

How wonderful is that?

I had my first ultrasound this week and she (yes, the answer to Princess Buttercup’s prayers for the last 2 years have been answered with a big, “YES!”) is doing wonderfully!

Here is a picture of my little skeleton:

A final thought: From the beginning, God has had good plans for our lives, and no circumstance, no illness or disability, no evil intentions, not even Satan himself, can thwart His plan.

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.” Isaiah 46:9-11

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