Going Blue

Today is National Awareness Day for 2014! I know there are many days on the calendar that are designated for a special purpose or cause. In fact, you can find a 2014 calendar here that shares many of these special days. There are many people who suffer with many issues. Honestly, cancer sucks, diabetes sucks, cerebral palsy sucks, and the list goes on! For this day, we turn our attention to the effects of lives of individuals and families who are affected by autism.

We are one of THOSE families!

In November of 2012, we found out that one of our beautiful sons was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Later in the next year, we received the notice that a second son was diagnosed with autism as well. It is fair to say that it was a fairly complicated year.

Do you know that 1 in every 68 children are dealing with autism, which includes 1 in every 42 boys (www.autismspeaks.org)? Children with autism are more likely to be bullied or harassed. If you are dealing with this possibility I highly recommend checking into the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit and the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Tool Kit. You can find information about that kit here.

One of the struggles that we face as parents is that we face the comments and concerns of other parents and “concerned” adults. Our children have emotional outbursts that they cannot always control. Some of the simplest things can send them spiraling out of control. Recently, in school, a teacher was disciplining a whole class but our son thought they meant only him. He lost it at school. Autism is hard to explain to others because our children do not experience the world the way “normal” children experience it.

I am starting to hate the word, “normal!”

What is normal anyways? What does it mean to be “normal”? Are any of us truly normal? By definition, if we truly believe that we are all unique creations of a loving Heavenly Father, we are all different. There is no normal. Actually, normal is found at the foot of the cross. There is where we are all at the same place. But, I digress…

I do not hate autism. I cannot hate autism because autism is part of my kids. It is part of my family. It is part of what makes my kids who they are. Do I wish that things were easier for them? Would I take their place in a heartbeat? Will I fight every day to make sure they get the help and consideration they need to get where they want to?

YES

So, will you join me in remembering the individuals and families who deal with autism every day?

 

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 3-Two Generations of Service

I have served on, including this one, eleven deployments for disaster services. I have served in various capacities from operating canteens to working in the warehouse to being the Incident Commander. On all of those deployments, I never did something that I have now done. In Oklahoma, I have had the opportunity to serve with my mother, Major Susan McClure (Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Divisional Headquarters). My mother and I have both been assigned to this deployment as a Emotional and Spiritual Care Specialists. My mother has a long history of disaster experience stretching back over thirty years. Some of the skills and abilities that I have now came from somewhere!

Photo credit: Major Connie Long
Mom and Me at Plaza Towers Elementary
Photo credit: Major Connie Long

On Tuesday, we were both assigned to the same team that drove through the neighborhoods surrounding Plaza Towers Elementary ministering to the families and relief workers. I watched my mother pray with people and serve people and love people. Proverbs 22:6 KJV says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I grew up watching my mother serve OTHERS! She taught me the values of service to others. She taught me the importance of meeting people right where they are.

In our mad scramble to constantly improve ourselves, it’s quite possible that we are not taking time to learn from those around us who have been there and done it all before! I know where some of who I am came from! It came from my mother!

I am proud of who my mother is and what she does, but more importantly, I am proud of who my mother lives and serves for!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Serving through Education

Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. (1 Timothy 1:4 NLT)

I am a third generation Salvation Army officer (minister). For three generations, my family has been sharing and showing the love of God in the places where they lived and were sent. Of those three generations, I am the only one who completed my education beyond high school. My grandfather encouraged my parents to go further and they both took many classes beyond high school. My parents encouraged me too further and I completed my college education and in the future, plan to complete my Masters.

While I believe there is value in furthering your education and value in family tradition, if it does not lead people to faith, then it is meaningless. My grandparents and my parents are effective ministers in the places where God sent them, even without the education that I have received. I am effective in the places where God has sent me with the education that I have received. My education and “spiritual pedigree” exists to serve God and His people. If anything, I believe that increased education and understanding only increases our responsibility to go where God sends us and to serve where God places us.

My gifts and abilities, and your gifts and abilities, exist for God and God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

A Surprise Along the Way (2012 Easter SONrise Service)

Title: A Surprise Along the Way
Series: Walking the Road of Easter (SONrise Service)
Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
Theme(s): Surprise, God’s provision, Purpose, Importance

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT
Let’s catch up in our story! Jesus, our Lord and leader of our group, has just been killed and buried. According to tradition some of the women have prepared the requisite spices and ointments to anoint His body. They cannot anoint His body right away because of the Sabbath. There can be no work on the Sabbath! So far, everything was continuing on as usual.

At first light, the women gather up all of their materials and make their way to the tomb. There is something very striking here about the women’s behavior. Normally the body would have been anointed right away to complete the burial process, but this time it was interrupted by the Sabbath. These women knew the responsibility and its purpose. But, they did not know how they were going to move the covering from the tomb. They did not know how they were going to complete their task, but they knew their duty. They knew how much Jesus had meant to them and this was one way for them to show Him and others that they loved Him. They could have sat at home and wished that they could have completed it. They could have waited a few days and called a committee of the elders together to work on the problem. They could have petitioned to the Romans to have the stone moved away. They could have hired the Jerusalem Rock and Digging Company, Inc. But, they didn’t. They started out. They only knew that it had to be done.

Sometimes, life feels this way. We have a difficult problem or choice before us. We can choose to move or stay. Like the women, we can choose to move in commitment and devotion, knowing that what we are doing is important. Or, we can sit at home and blame people. We can sit around and wait for someone else to take care of it. What is amazing about this story is that if the women had not walked out in faith, then they would have never witness the “surprise along the way.”

Our lives belong to God. He has made us and given us purpose. He has also given us the ability to choose whether we will move out in that purpose or not. How can we know the full measure of God’s care for us if we stay at home? I think this shows us that God delights in surprising His people. He said it was going to happen. He gave them examples along the way that it would happen. He told them over and over. Why wasn’t everyone waiting out in front of the tomb for Jesus to appear? They had seen Him raise Lazarus from the dead. They had seen Him walk on water. He had healed the blind and cured the sick. Why didn’t they believe that Jesus might have one more “trick” up His sleeve?

We feel like that in life. We know all of the great things that Jesus has done for us. He continually tells us of His love and plans for us in His word. Yet, we are not waiting at His feet. Jesus uses these “surprises along the way” to remind us that He is still walking beside us. Whether it was a promotion at work or an unexpected gift from a friend, a kind note from a far away relative or the answer to the secret prayer of our hearts, God still cares for His people. He is not dead. He is not locked up in a tomb. He is waiting right around the next corner with a “surprise along the way.”

From Jeff Goins: Why Taking a Break from Technology is Sometimes Necessary

Why Taking a Break from Technology is Sometimes Necessary.

I found this article from Jeff Goins to be very timely in my own situation.

Please read his article, but here is some of the high points.

Lesson 1: Embrace your surroundings

While Jeff was “suffering” through Ireland and I am currently not, the beauty of God and His creation is all around us. While I am not usually the person who finds the beauty and joy in the worst places, I am someone who acknowledges that my heavenly Father is there with me. His presence, His glory, His joy makes somewhere, anywhere, beautiful!

Lesson 2: Embrace your inner life

Jeff mentions that the trip gave him the opportunity to “think, pray, and reflect.” A break from technology for me also allows me to meditate. And, yes, I know that there are negative connotations to the idea of meditation. Apparently, someone did not think so in the Bible. We are to “meditate of His word, day and night.”  Let’s not harp over translations or interpretations! Let’s agree that the idea is to focus, concentrate, can I even say obsess over the things of God.

Lesson 3: Embrace inspiration from other sources

While I have not been writing or creating long, I have already fallen into one of the easiest traps.  As soon as I started writing, I stopped reading and listening.  As soon as I stopped reading and listening, I started running out of things to say!

If I may be so bold, I would add another important lesson for me.  Jeff touches on it several times but for me it becomes almost Lesson 0!

Lesson 4: Embrace others!

Starting with my family and friends, I have become better at managing my relationships instead of enjoying them.  I have become better acquainted with their email addresses than their names.  Texting has replaced calling!  Emailing has replaced writing!  “Facebook”-ing or “Twitter”-ing has replaced “care”-ing!  (Yes, I know.  I spelled it wrong to prove a point!)

Once again, take a moment and read Jeff’s post.

Family Vacation 2011-Day 5, Staycation Day

Today was a great day!

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We visited the Flint Riverquarium. We saw fish and…

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turtles. They have a great place.

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We played the Weather Game!

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We saw lots of great animals!

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We went to the aviary.

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Xander wanted to take some pictures with a turtle.

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We had a great lunch with some friends!

Then we took the boys to see Cars 2 in 3D. It was a pretty good movie.

Then, we got home. The boys got to go swimming…

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and I got to cook dinner!

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We watched the new “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie. It was a great end of our vacation!