Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Out of My Mind"

Slightly outside the realm of my typical posts but I wanted to pass along an excellent book for those who love, know, work with, or simply want to better understand a non-verbal child.  The book is "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper.  It is a fictional story about a non-verbal child who has severe cerebral palsy.  Though it is a fictional book there are many children in the same situation that are not fictional.  They know so much more than they can communicate.  It truly has changed some of the ways I interact with our little guy.  It may be one of the best awareness tools that I've ever seen.  Thank you Sharon Draper!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's Do This

Very short and to the point this week.  As I continue to work my way through "A Praying Life," I'm finding that it truly is transforming my life into one that is routinely interrupted by prayer.  The more I pray about the overwhelming things of life, and the special needs life is full of them, the more my view of God's role has changed. 

Rather than being one of, "Lord please give ME the strength to do this." it has become one of, "Ok Father, let's do this."  HE never intended me to gain strength from Him in order to go off into my calling alone.  It has always been about taking HIS hand and doing things with HIM. All week I've had this picture of heading off into the world holding Dad's hand. Whew, what a relief this truth has been for me this week.

John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Twix? No Thanks - I'm Praying with Honesty

Do you remember the candy bar commercial where the child is embarrassing the parents by saying inappropriate things?  It was something like, “Daddy, his nose isn’t brown.” Or to the bride “My Mommy said she can’t believe you are wearing white.” The parent quickly shoves a candy bar in their mouth, a Twix bar I think.

That commercial came to mind last night as I was reading what is quickly becoming one of my favorite Bible studies, “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. It truly is changing my prayer life. As I was making notes for this devotional, I could feel God nudging me to make my prayer life like the beginning stages of writing a devotional. The beginning stages basically consist of putting every thought or idea on paper. I don’t worry about the grammar, the flow, or editing out the bad ideas. Everything goes on the paper and then I sort it out.

So many times I’ve become frustrated while praying because the distractions and concerns of the world crowd in on my thoughts. If I had been sitting there talking with my Papaw I would have simply voiced them to see what he thought. Yet for some reason when they pop into my mind during prayer I waste time wrestling with pushing them away.

In his book, Paul E. Miller explains our problem with praying as, “What’s the problem? We’re trying to be spiritual, to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that. We, like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to Him like little children, just as we are.”

I believe I will challenge myself, and you, to take the Twix bar out of His little girl’s (boy’s) mouth and speak freely. Of course, I do believe in praying the Word over our lives. But much like the sorting out phase of writing, those words come after we’ve gotten it all out on the table.

Ephesians 6:18 NIV

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Hmmm, I wonder if this can transform my prayer life from one that is always interrupted by life to a life that is always interrupted by prayer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Casting Down Imaginations

By the end of our hyperbaric treatments, we may be calling Ryan “Stretch.” The pictures just don’t do his length justice. This was the stretching time just after Tuesday's morning dive, dive 22. I can’t believe how tall he is. Even just sitting in his wheelchair he seems so much taller and stronger. Ryan isn’t the only one being stretched in this process.

The time in the chamber is stretching me as well. I’m feeling more and more accomplished at 2 Corinthians 10: 4 – 5 with every passing treatment in the small chamber.

2 Corinthians 10: 4 - 5
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

We “chamber parents” have talked about how we could let our minds take us to a state of panic if we didn’t stop them, if we don’t quickly take those anxious thoughts into captivity. While in the confined little chamber it is easy to start thinking about all of the what-ifs. What if the power goes out? What if the technicians left or something happened to them? ......WE'RE TRAPPED!!!!!!

When I briefly entertained those thoughts, I could almost feel my heart rate increase and my chest tighten, leading to a sudden difficulty in breathing. Now that is some imagination, creating difficulty in breathing while in a chamber packed with 100% oxygen.

To ward off those thoughts, I quickly became a fan of Nick Jr., the channel Ryan seems to like best while in the chamber. Miss Spider in Sunny Patch is my favorite. Does anyone else think that maybe the character of Miss Spider’s son, Bounce, might be based on Ryan?

Ok, praying that HBOT will assist with my self-diagnosed ADD.  Back to my "casting down imaginations" point, I pray that I will be able to keep those casting down muscles stretched out and remember what I have learned in the chamber:

1) When my heart begins to race from the what-ifs of life, I need to redirect my attention, not to Sunny Patch, but to God’s word. The most powerful word seems to be whatever He has spoken to me recently. He speaks and what He speaks is relevant to where I am today or where I’m headed so I need to write it down and reflect on it.

2) I’ve realized that when it gets hot in the chamber and Ryan is sprawled across me it triggers anxiety. That has me thinking about the anxiety triggers in life that I need to avoid – fatigue and failing to have quiet time with God are at the top of the list.

.....speaking of fatigue, I better do some avoiding of that anxiety trigger - Good night!  ; )

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greater Things Are Still To Come.....

Just a brief testimony today…….

I have been out of town with our son, Ryan, for hyperbaric oxygen treatments since 6/15. In the last few days I’ve struggled with being a little tired and homesick, missing Wes and Ems.  But….

Psalm 30:5
For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts for a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

This morning on our way back to the hotel after the 1st of 2 dives today, I looked back at Ryan and realized how tall and big he looks in his car seat.  Often, due to Cerebal Palsy, he tends to curl into more of a “baby” position.  But today, he is stretched out and looking tall and strong; he is looking like an inquisitive seven year old little boy.

I was also thinking about our dive this morning.  Until today, Ryan had not had much interest in anything outside of the chamber.  But he looked up and saw Ms. Susan and did a double take.  He made eye contact, grinned at her, and watched her walk back across the room.

As I was thinking about the above two praise reports the radio was playing “There is noone like our God.”  I couldn’t help but tear up and think, “No, not one!”  Then the rest of the verse hit home to me:

Greater things are yet to come.  Greater things are still to be done in this City. 
Yep, more tears.  This is most definitely a “to be continued” blog!!  I can’t wait to report on the greater things that will be done in this city.  Thank you all for praying for us.  We will be taking tomorrow off and meeting up half way with Dad and Sis for the afternoon (Praise God!!)  But after that, 2 dives a day until 7/6/11.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Don't Judge a City by the Metro

Our experience with the NYC Metro System is still speaking to me. Though Emily and I never really mastered the Metro, we did get better over time with finding our way around. We basically got better at correcting our mistakes and our first mistake was a doosy.

We were going from Flushing to Coney Island, or so we thought. We pulled our map out as discreetly as possible. Maybe we were a little too discreet because even after looking at it we still didn’t realize that we were headed in the wrong direction. The kind lady sitting next to me nonchalantly asked where we were going. We proudly said, “Coney Island.” In a very low, calm voice she said, “You are going in the wrong direction. You are in the Bronx. You need to get off at the next stop, cross over, and get onto the D, D as in Delta, D.”

The man across from her wasn’t nearly as gracious and loudly bellowed several times that we were a lonnnnnnng way from Coney Island that we had about an hour’s ride back to the other end. But our gracious new friend just kept quietly and calmly saying, “D, D as in Delta, D.” We did as she instructed and made it there safely.

Throughout the rest of our trip we struggled to figure out where we were based on the dark, ugly, dirty, blazingly hot, underbelly of New York City. Just when I would start dreaming about being at home sitting on our couch, we would make our way out and find a new beautiful view of something like Central Park or Time Square.

That feels much like a metaphor for our lives lately. Sometimes it seems that things go from bad to worse and it is difficult to see where God is going with all of this. In fact, I can feel just as lost in this journey as I did in NYC. Yet there is this excited expectation of what is to come. We routinely experience beautiful moments and evidence of God’s favor but God seems to keep reinforcing that something greater is coming.

My mind keeps turning to one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,“ declares the Lord, ”Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

As I was finishing up this blog, I listened to a sermon by Pastor Carr at Central Church of God on “Making IT Look Easy, Joy.” His definition of Joy reinforced all that I’ve felt God was saying this week. He said,

“Joy is the habitual celebration of victory regardless of the way things appear.”

If you are facing tough times just remember that the ugly stuff around you is just a Metro System that is taking you to a beautiful place. A place filled with stronger hope and faith than you’ve ever had before.

Central Church has some excellent sermons on line at

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Follow These Commands That All May Be Well

Last week my husband graciously agreed to watch Little Man, Ryan, while I went with our daughter, Emily, to New York City to celebrate her high school graduation. Because of health concerns, Ryan comes with a long list of do’s and don’ts. As I was preparing this list for my husband, I kept thinking about Deuteronomy 12:28, “…Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee….” I suggested that he watch “Gremlins” if he felt the urge to deviate from the plan.

Ryan is on a very strict diet to control seizures and must remain in ketosis. So, even one extra spoonful of carbohydrates, or the wrong carbohydrates, can lead to a seizure, cycles of nausea, anxiety, tears, and hours of beyond crankiness for all involved. Wes used to think that I was exaggerating; however, one rough night can make you a believer in the commandments of Ryan. I must say, he followed the plan beautifully.

I missed Ryan and Wes but on the way home from our trip I began to feel this sadness at the thought of returning to all that is on my plate. Of course, that doesn’t include being mom and wife – that I love. What I didn’t enjoy returning to was my work load, financial concerns, advocating for basic human decency, dead-end research into supplements and therapies, and lots of stuff that may or may not be a part of God’s plan for me. I could feel the tears welling up so I began to remind God that He said HE came that we might have life and have it to the full. He began to remind me of John 10.

….the sheep listen to His voice….

….the sheep follow Him…..

It seems that maybe I should be the one reminded to observe His commands that it may go well with me like “seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” I don’t know why it is such a struggle for me to stay on track with that daily quiet time or praying before taking on something new. Sometimes I’m like that cartoon dog trucking along saying, “Stay on the path. Stay on the path. Stay on the......CAT!!!!!!” Then I’m off track chasing after something that I haven’t taken time to pray about.

A mother's desire to see her children find fullness of life can easily lead to a mentality of leaving no stone unturned, especially in a health crisis. However, our enemy is the master deceiver who can steal, kill, and destroy our quality of life by strategically placing "stones" in our path. So, it seems that all I need to do to find life to the full is to just listen and follow Him.
John 10:3-5

The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.
Above - Ryan as we follow the plan....below Ryan when we've messed the plan up.  Time to reevaluate the plan I'm following for myself since I'm feeling a little more like the picture below.  How is your plan? Which picture best describes your level of peace? 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

Ah, the things we’re told that are scriptural. Our daughter used to tell us all about James chapter 15. Yes, I know, James only has five chapters but it was always entertaining to hear what she would come up with. She knew that it was a joke and that I didn’t believe her but we still had fun with it. “Moooooommmmmm, you know what James chapter 15 says?” I would humor her and ask her what it said. “It says parents obey your children.” or “Parents, give your kids chocolate.” There was always something new followed by her giggle.

I’ve heard people quote the Bible as saying, “Waste not, want not.” I knew it didn’t say that verbatim so I had dismissed it as being just a fairly wise thought. But this weekend I felt like God was saying that to me. It was in a far different context than I had ever thought of it. It all started with feeling lead to take communion more regularly as a reminder of who is in control of my life and who is not. God is in control, I am not. God is in control, Satan is not.

One morning as I was taking communion, I kept remembering scenes from The Passion of The Christ, along with on overwhelming feeling of “Waste not, want not.” With each heartbreaking scene, I began to realize that every time I entertain thoughts of anxiety, doubt, negativity, condemnation, or bitterness I’m just wasting the gifts that HE paid so dearly for.

–verb (used with object)
2. to fail or neglect to use: to waste an opportunity.

2 Corinthians 10:5

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought to obedience of Christ.
What are you wasting today? The way you finish the following sentence may be a key indicator of your area of waste. “Ow, no! What if…………………….”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ow Me of Little Faith

Thank you all for praying and please continue to remember our family. While waiting to see how all of the resent struggles will work out for our good, I’ve felt like God wanted me to pile up some “stones” to remind me of all that He has done for us in the past. “Ow Me of Little Faith” is the first of those stones.

Joshua 4: 6 - 7
“.... Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them......”
Ow Me of Little Faith  

Matthew 18:3
And He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

With Emily graduating soon, I find myself reminiscing about her kindergarten days. There are even days when I have to do a double take as I see those huge, brown eyes still filled with such child like faith that she looks like my little kindergartener all over again.

With the exception of a very tough time of testing, she has always seemed to have this excitement about approaching her God. She goes to Him with the same assurance and confidence that she used to have when bounding through the door as the ice cream truck made its way into our neighborhood. She was so confident that she didn't just come seeking one dollar for herself.  She often brought a friend, or two or three, and asked for dollars for the ice cream truck.

I remember when “ow me of little faith” was worried that she would be disappointed when God didn’t let her take the day off from school. She kept asking if we could skip school and work for the day. Normally, she loved to go to school but she really had her heart set on staying home that day.

Just like every other morning, we prayed in the car on the way to school. I reached back to hold her hand and prayed over our day. Normally, she would end her prayer with, "Mommy, you didn't close your eyes." and then giggle at the thought of me driving and closing my eyes.  This time though she prayed, “And God pleeeeeaaaassssssssse let me go back home today.” As we pulled into the parking lot, I tried to explain to her that I had a lot of work to do and apologized for not being able to take her back home.

I’m sure God must have been amused with me as I drove to work praying that she wouldn’t be too disappointed when He didn’t answer her prayer the way she wanted. I had barely made it into work when I received the school’s call saying, “We’re sorry but the power has gone out and it is too cold for the children to stay. You need to come back and take Emily home.”

That child giggled all the way home. That was the day that “ow me of little faith” realized my child could go over my head straight to God anytime she wanted. But it also served as a challenge to me to approach God with the same excitement and confidence - not a confidence that He will give me what I want but a confidence that He loves me and wants me to share all of my concerns and desires with Him.

I’ve had lots of little nagging concerns in the back of my mind lately. Reminiscing about Emily’s prayers have made me realize that I really need to bring all of those little nagging thoughts to Him. I’m still working on creating a habit of bringing everything to Him; but I must say that as relieved as I was to give it all to Him last night, I just can’t imagine that this will be a difficult habit to dive into.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Now What? Worship!!

Whew, rough rough week but thankful I came back across this lesson God taught me at the beginning of our son's health struggles.  I hope it will enourage anyone else that has had a rough week.  And please keep our little guy, Ryan, in your prayers as he struggles with seizures this week. week I hope to write about how God used all of the tough stuff this week for our He often does.

Now What?  Worship!!!!

What can you do after a doctor gives your child a diagnosis that seems to drain every ounce of energy out of your body? There’s a sense of urgency that you have to do something, and fast. But you don’t understand half of what they are saying let alone even begin to know what to do about it? Job went through something much worse than a health issue with a child; he actually lost all of his children. I had to see what a godly parent would do in the face of such grief.

Job 1:20

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshipped.

Of course! He worshipped. Although worship wasn’t the first thing on my mind, it should have been. I’ve watched children worship and witnessed the power of His presence. I’ll never forget bringing the neighborhood children into our house for Kidz Blast, a Bible club. We talked about how lifting our hands during worship was like giving God a hug and how we close our eyes so we won’t be distracted. There were about eight children and at the end of our worship song their eyes were as wide as saucers. I quietly asked, “Do you feel that?” No one spoke; they all just nodded their heads in wide-eyed agreement.

I’ve also watched children, labeled as ADHD, stand quietly with all of their attention on Him, worshipping. I don’t know whether they all truly have attention deficits, but I do know that there are no deficits as they stand in His presence and worship. Many times we adults also seem to have a deficit in our attentiveness to Him, especially during a crisis, which can only be corrected in worship.

We tell the kids every Sunday that praise is about thanking God for all that He has done for us and worship is about thanking Him for who He is. It makes sense that the first thing we should do when facing fear, grief, doubt, anger, and hopelessness is to remember Who He is. Only in worship can we redirect our attention to the One that can give us peace and strength.

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Such a pretty word!  Three little letters that can completely discount any negatives faced throughout the day, week, or even years.   There was darkness for three days; yet the Israelites had light in the places they lived (Exodus 10:23). The Israelites wondered around in the wilderness for 40 years; yet their clothes never wore out, nor did the sandals on their feet (Deuteronomy 29:5). 
My job was eliminated yet God provided a better job.  We couldn’t afford to take Ryan for hyperbaric oxygen treatments; yet friends raised all the funds we needed to take him in June.  Insurance placed limits on Ryan’s therapy that reduced his therapy to far less than he needed yet God gave us favor and the additional visits were approved. 

Matthew 28:8
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Lamentations 3:21-22
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.

Habakkuk 3: 18
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

On the flip side there is the word wait, which isn’t nearly as pretty. Sometimes the impact of yet is preceded by wait.
Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord.
Psalm 33:20
We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

No matter how painful, no matter how overwhelming, no matter how scary - your situation can turn around with one beautiful yet.
…….we wait in hope for the Lord and HisYet that is to come; He is our help, our shield and our Yet.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Just Shouts of God's Love For Us

A little more than 7 years ago, I sat in a movie theatre with my husband watching “The Passion of The Christ.” As I was leaving the theatre with an overwhelming heaviness, all I could think about was, “God, the Cross was more than we deserved. Why the horrific beating to pay for our healing? I would have just made us wait until eternity for healing.” I think that God wanted that part to stand out to me as an encouragement for the coming years.

John 16:33

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

He knew that in less than a month our unborn child would suffer a stroke. He knew that his stroke would lead to seizures, visual impairment, Cerebral Palsy, and developmental delays. I think He was saying, “Take heart! Here’s a gift of hope to pull you through this difficult time. I have overcome the world, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, and seizures. Here is a gift of peace; hold onto it.”

Some would say, “Why did He allow His own Son suffer? Why didn’t He prevent Ryan’s stroke?” Some even focus on the wrath of God over the love of God. I have questioned God at times but it seems we should question ourselves rather than God.

I’m not a great theologian but when Jesus cries out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I wonder if God the Father was looking away in an effort to contain the wrath of a Father whose heart was breaking for His Son – a Son who was perfect in every way.

If God, at His greatest moment of pain, was able to allow His love to control His wrath then isn’t His love far greater than His wrath? If God could wait for His Son to pay the full price for our son, then shouldn’t I be able to thankfully and patiently wait for this gift to be displayed in his life.

If God was willing to suffer more than we can even comprehend to give us more than we could ever deserve, who are we to question Him? And yet – He graciously takes our questions and uses them to lovingly teach us.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Perception Deception

One of the ways I know God is speaking to me is that He keeps bringing the same question or word to my mind until I sit down and follow His lead. This week the word is “perceive.” It all started when Emily and I were laughing about my van and its many noises. I was telling her that the squeaks must scare people because now people seem to scurry across the street much quicker these days when they are in front of me. She said, “Mom! It’s not the squeaking! It’s the sound of the engine revving like you are going to run over them!”

I’m the only one who is still willing to drive the van so I’m only used to the interior noises. Apparently, it is idling high and sounds like I’m on the verge of road rage to pedestrians. I began to think about other misperceptions of the Howell family.

Once when Wes was in the Army, we were being transferred from Ft. Bragg to Ft. Lewis. We went to Las Vegas on the way. With all of the lights and things to see, Wes incorrectly perceived the slope in the white sidewalk to be an entrance into The Mirage. Much to the dismay of the Asian sightseers with their brown sandals, white socks, and expensive cameras, he had no other option but to turn left onto the sidewalk. When I saw their faces and heard the string of foreign obscenities, I dove to the floor to spare my dignity.

To fall in line with his day of incorrect perceptions he belted out, “What are you doing in the floor?!? Get up here! I look stupid up here alone!” How someone sitting in the passenger seat hysterically laughing at him could somehow make him look intelligent as he drove through the Asians is beyond me. I correctly perceived that he could look stupid alone or we could look stupid together. Either way, a personal sacrifice of my own dignity would not alter his perceived intelligence in any way, shape, or form.

With all of the fallacies of our understanding of even the simple things, there is no wonder God felt the need to give us Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Even though He often reminds me of Proverbs 3:5, I still find myself fretting over the what-ifs or trying to imagine a plan that works all of our circumstances out for our good. Thankfully, God is helping me to grow stronger at resisting the thoughts that go against His Word.

In light of our family’s perception track record, the thought of depending on our own understanding makes our driving issues look intelligent.  We’ve actually made God’s Proverbs 3:5 case for Him. How can such limited minds, however self-imposed some limitations may be, correctly perceive the detailed plans of such a limitless God?

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Provision Will Never Run Out??

So many things in 1 Kings 17 and 18 seem to be jumping off the page at me lately.  Today it is the widow at Zarepath (1 Kings 17:7-16).  I can't help but wonder if she doubted the Word of God that came from Elijah.  Can you imagine what people this day and age would say?  Really? This jar of flour and jug of oil is going to last me until it rains again. Please!

She knew how much was in there.  She had already decided that there was only enough to make one last loaf of bread and that they were then destined to die of starvation.  I wonder if it was said with the over dramatization of Scarlet O'Hara, like I've often done. 

As a reformed (or nearly reformed) control freak, I've looked at our checking account and wondered how in the world things would work out.  As I drive a van with  more warning lights than a 747 (ok - slight exaggeration Ms. O'Hara), I sometimes wonder if it will really last until He provides another.

With each new expense or new van noise I think, "It must be about to rain soon."  But regardless, the provision in the flour jar and oil jug are just as impressive as the coming rain.

I love you Jehovah Jireh, my Provider...even when you have me working on a need to know basis.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Habla Christianese

So, the picture above isn’t exactly about today’s post. It was more about being finished with NASA way WAY before Wes was and about being over the Titanic history lesson during our 4 day Disney Cruise. “Imagine this dining room under water. Wow, imagine this theatre being under water.” I preferred to imagine a vacation without depressing thoughts. Anyway, I added the picture because it is as close as I can come to the thoughts I have about mysterious, overused, Christianese slogans.

My husband and I have sworn off the “religious debates.” They really aren’t productive. Wes is right about one thing though (ok, maybe more than one.) He has often told me that Christians speak a language that no one understands. I didn’t realize how correct he was until we went through our daughter’s migraines and son’s seizures/cerebral palsy. It made me realize how ridiculous some of my own advice must have been to those who were hurting.

One Sunday after a rough week of seizures and sleepless nights, one poor soul had the unfortunate opportunity to “counsel” me. He came up to me and said, “Now Ms. Anita, you just need to leave it at the altar.” I did keep my mouth shut and attempt a fake smile but I am not good at hiding my feelings. If he were even remotely good at reading body language he would have heard, “Look Bucko! You know what I want to leave at the altar…YOU, YOU are what I want to leave at the altar.” Then there was a whole string of Madea mutterings all the way out to the car. “Did you sleep through the night? Yes, yes you did. Did you hold your child while the seized in your arms. No, no you didn’t. Tell me……boy I will knock you out!”

Ah, another one that I love, “Let go and let God.” My thoughts have been no more godly on those responses, “How about I let go and knock you out!” Before you e-mail and lecture me, let me just say that those thoughts came at a very painful time for our family. And though you may find theology to back them up, a person in pain isn’t prepared for a theological lecture.

Finally, I began to figure out why those comments were so bothersome to me when I saw the frustration on our daughter’s face after she had been told that she just needed to “give it to God.” She had been struggling with some gigantic past hurts and that comment really wasn’t helpful at all. I could see the frustration in her face. I knew the feeling well, “What if I can’t figure out how to do that? What then? Will I just always hurt like this?”

Comments like that increase the pressure because they sound like we are in control of ending our pain. They imply that our enormous pain won’t leave until we get it right and take these mysterious, illusive actions: “Let go and let God.” Or “Give it to God.” Or “Leave it at the altar.”

We aren’t in charge of fixing our pain. We need the God of restoration. We need the Great Physician. He is the only one that can fix our broken-heart and heal our pain. What I wish someone had said to me was, “Anita, when you are afraid or hurting just keep asking God to take it from you and in time, little by little, He will. Every time those thoughts come in start praying and ask God to stop them.” That puts the burden back on God’s shoulders rather than our own. Our responsibility is to keep coming to Him and asking that He take it away. There’s nothing mysterious about that. I know how to talk. I know how to ask for help.

Oh, and I would like to apologize for any lame advice that I gave during my pre-trial days. I am very very sorry.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Becoming a Voice for the Children

I traveled to Columbia last week with a friend for the Disability Advocacy Day. We knew that it could be an emotional day but we didn’t know it would start so soon. As we were walking in we were behind a group of special needs adults. The two in the picture above particularly stood out to us. They will most likely challenge me to be a better person for a long time to come.

The gentleman with the cane remained quiet throughout the walk but his perseverance was inspiring. Though it obviously took tremendous effort with streets to cross, slops to navigate, and steps to watch out for, he never complained and diligently plugged away. Of course he didn’t have to talk, his friend, the other gentleman in the picture, was on the job.

He watched and reported every hazard along the way. I’m at a loss on how to describe the love and compassion in his voice as he announced each slop, step, or the fear that his friend’s shoe was coming off. And as any good advocate would do, he bellowed out for the group to wait when he saw his friend was being left behind.

His voice keeps running through my mind. Even when he bellowed to the group to wait there was no animosity or even the slightest irritation at the group for having left his friend. The next time I would hear such a compassionate voice would be while being on the verge of tears after stopping by Governor Haley’s office.

When we stopped by her office, we heard that a mom was waiting to see the Governor. Governor Haley visited her town the week before, after a fire had destroyed a factory. While there the father had spoken with the Governor and mentioned that his wife would be in Columbia for Disability Advocacy Day. The Governor asked him to have his wife stop by her office to see her.

We were very excited that she wanted to hear about our children. Sadly though, word was sent out through a staff member that she was busy and that her entire day was booked. No time had been set aside for our children even on the annual Disability Advocacy Day when 600 people planned to visit Columbia. The next scene was like something out of a movie.

I guess the lioness rose up in the mamas and we united as if we were all lifelong friends. I don’t remember all that was said but it ended with, “What could be more important than the quality of life of THIS CHILD or this one?” Then Moms around the room began repeating one after another, “Or this one.” “Or this one.” “Or these two.”

As we walked away discouraged, I once again heard the voice of peace-making compassion. It was a different gentleman but the same indescribable voice. He confidently blocked my exit by reaching out to shake my hand. While holding my hand, he began sounding out the name on what he thought was my name tag, a “Support the Ways and Means Proposal” sticker. “Is your name S, S, Susan?” Un-phased by the phonetic impossibility that Anita was written on my sticker, he loudly voiced his desire for me to have a good day. Little did he know that he had single-handedly made that possible and, in an instant, moved me from tears of disappointment to tears of joy.

I started out this journaling time by asking God how I could best speak for special needs children. Though I had hoped to speak with our Governor during our trip, I think the trip was about my learning how to be a better voice. So with these wonderful voices of love and compassion as my example, I pray that I will be able to follow the advice of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31: 8 – 9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Our children are facing Medicaid cuts that could dramatically affect their quality of life, not just for the present but throughout their lifetime. If we are forced to choose between occupational, physical, or speech therapy we are, in essence, choosing whether our children will be able to feed themselves, have healthy posture, or be able to communicate their needs and desires. These are choices that no parent should have to make.

Other than God, our Governor wields the most power in approving or declining cuts to the Medicaid budget. I pray that our voices will effectively, with love and compassion, call Governor Haley to follow the advice of King Lemuel’s mother as well.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Could Be On Your Third Set of Jars

Why does God let things get worse before they get better? Will they ever really get better? When things get worse is God mad at me? Have I failed? Is there hope? When I face obstacles does it mean God loves me less than those who "seem" to have unlimited favor? Maybe an answer to a bigger question resolves all of the “why” questions.    .....are increasing obstacles a really a sign of decreasing potential or could they just be a countdown to a move of God?

1 Kings 18: 33 – 35 NIV

“….Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” “Do it again,” he said and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered and they did it the third time. The water ran down and around the altar and even filled the trench.”

God lets things get worse so that there is no doubt that He is God. It is the modern day Mount Carmel challenge. “If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god, follow him.” All of those jars of water left no doubt that with man, Baal, and any other false god, a fire was impossible. Baal wasn’t even able to ignite the drought dried wood on his altar. Only with The One True God was this possible.

One of the differences in our modern day Mt Carmel moments might be that we aren’t as in touch with what God is doing. So, we become distracted by our need for “fairness”, especially when the odds seem to be stacked against us. Elijah was so in touch with God that he actively took part in tipping the scales of fairness in Baal’s favor. He himself ordered the jars of water added onto his altar.

His confidence in God has me now thinking of negative comments, like that of Dr. Fancy Pants, as a good thing. Yes, finally the third set of jars that completely eliminates the world’s ability to take credit for God’s work in Ryan’s progress. Now the empty checking account, broken head gasket, $50,000 price tag for a van with a lift are all good indicators that we are entering our third set of jars season. I fully recognize and admit that our needs are well beyond our own ability to meet, medically and financially.

Though we are still seeing the third set of jars poured out in our lives, like Elijah, I can hear the sound of rain and even see the small cloud, “the size of a man’s hand” in the distance. It brings a sense of relief because I know that the battle is not mine but the Lord’s. Whew!! I was tired of fighting and it is exciting to know that the best is yet to come. ;)

1 Kings 18: 38 – 39

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all of the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried,

“The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We Are, Thankfully, Outliers!!!

Thanking my God, my Savior, my Teacher, my Great Physician, my Healer, and my Counselor today that I AM AN OUTLIER. My husband is an outlier. My daughter is an outlier. And my son is an outlier. The world, without God’s wisdom, has no other source of understanding short of things like statistics. And wouldn’t you just know that God would show up and show off by creating outliers. People whose potential, for some inexplicable reason, exceed the world’s estimated potential.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
If I were to lean to the world’s understanding, statistically speaking, I should be married to an abusive alcoholic. I’ve been married to my husband, a man who loves and supports me in my hopes and dreams, for 22 years – I am an outlier. My husband should be a verbally abusive alcoholic. Even as a former Army Sergeant, our daughter always preferred his discipline to mine – he is an outlier.

Our daughter, who struggled with migraines for over a year, should have struggled with headaches the rest of her life. God lead us to a deficiency, the needle in a haystack, and now she has been headache free for more than two years – she is an outlier. Most children with Cerebral Palsy as involved as Ryan’s require a feeding tube. Yet, Ryan has never needed a feeding tube, never aspirated, and never had pneumonia – he is an outlier. A doctor told us, “The glasses prescribed by the optometrist won’t help.” Two years later his vision continually improves and, though he is visually impaired, he is no longer considered legally blind – outlier.

Statistics are only good for one thing and that is to assist His kids in understanding, “But by the grace of God, there go I.” Monday, before I came to this understanding, I was briefly distracted by a doctor’s comment, “A child’s chance of walking drops by 99% after the age of 7.” His comment was very random and out of the blue so I had no response other than a blank stare.

I suppose the awkward silence lead him to add, “Though there are outliers.” I wonder if, in the silence, he suddenly recognized a King’s Kid, an outlier, a child who might walk in one day and serve the good doctor a healthy dose of humble pie.

Matthew 19:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Ryan’s neurologist is a Christian man who recognizes that his own limitations in treatments do not define a child’s potential. He has always said, “I will never tell you what Ryan can’t do but what we need to do to help him. Kids always prove us wrong. There is a little girl in the lobby whose mom was told she would never walk or talk. She is running around the waiting room chattering away right now. I just hope that I can get her to sit still and talk to me.” -outlier.

If you are a King’s kid, you too ARE an outlier!!! Any other outlier stories to share? Please send a comment and I will post them as well. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Child Shall Lead Them

How is it possible to step on your own toes?  I found this from a few years ago.

Who hasn’t heard their parents say, "I hope God gives you a child just like yourself!" I often wonder if the main reason God allows us to be parents is for the tremendous learning opportunities that come from parenting someone just like us. We can definitely gain a new perspective on ourselves as we parent, or when we mentor other children in our church, family, or neighborhood.

Only when you watch your child question your trustworthiness, intelligence, or dependability, can you really understand how insulting your own lack of trust in God must be to Him.  I remember the day I learned that lesson. I was arguing with our daughter, Emily, that two plus two was four, when she was convinced that it was three, because her teacher said so. It was frustrating that she had so little confidence in my mathematical abilities. I remember telling her, "I’m a CPA. I’m quite sure that I’m capable of understanding basic math."

Mature, I know, and that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that I’ve shown the same lack of trust in God by doubting His Word at times.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Thankfully, all of my parenting lessons haven’t been toe crushers. Some have conveyed His love for me in ways I would have never thought possible. He used our son, Ryan, to teach me a lesson on His love for me.

Ryan suffered a stroke just prior to his birth and one of the side effects is that his vision has been delayed. One day, as I cried out to God asking him to please let my baby boy see my face, I suddenly realized how urgently He must want me, His child, to see His face.

Even though Ryan now wears glasses, each time we make eye contact I’m still in awe. In awe that he can see me, and in awe that such an awesome, loving God loves me and wants me to see Him.

Hebrews 2:6 (NIV)
But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful
of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Matthew 5:8 (NIV)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

In all fairness, I did need a lesson on letting go and turning things over to God. He taught me that lesson one day as I was talking with Emily. I was telling her how thankful I was that Ryan was doing so well. Then I began to feel sick just remembering the months of Ryan’s seizures. I was thinking, "No seizures since Thanksgiving. Thank you God! Gosh, that was awful!"

As my voice faded I realized that I was thinking out loud. Emily was surprised by my comment and asked why I hadn’t told her about the seizures. I told her that it was "adult stuff" for Mom and Dad to handle and that she didn’t need to worry about it.

Then my Teacher called a tutoring session. He asked why the seizures were "adult stuff."  I said, "Well, because she can’t do anything about them and they would just scare her anyway."  I could almost hear Him say, "Hmmmm." I knew exactly what He meant. It seems that I’ve been consumed with some "God stuff" lately – scary medical and financial strain that I need to let God take care of since I can’t do anything about them anyway.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

One Sunday, our Pastor was telling the kids that learning in school isn’t as much about learning when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, as it is about simply learning to learn.  If we can just take his advice and learn to learn from our children, the opportunities are endless. I pray that each conversation with your child will lead to a new divine revelation; an understanding of how He lovingly sees you – His child.

John 1:12 (NIV)
Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stop, Drop, and Pray

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.

I wonder how many people, in an emergency situation, would actually stop, drop, and roll. I’m someone that needs a lot of real life training if I’m going to know the drill and, more importantly, follow through in the middle of a crisis.

For instance, one time my uncle decided that there were so many new babies in the family that he needed to teach an infant/toddler CPR class for all of his nieces. I thought that I had the process down, until a few weeks later when our one-year-old daughter, Emily, passed out as I was dressing her. Yes, this brilliant, highly trained mother quickly flew into action--I SHOOK her! All of the "listen for breathing, check for a pulse" went out the window when I opted for a shake awake method.

Now put me in a routine parental crisis and I really do perform like a highly trained Mom. Like when I’m feeding our son, Ryan, I’m instantly prepared to duck and cover when he has a mouth full of oatmeal and the pre-sneeze squint crosses his face. Even though it took some repetition, I am quite proud of the work I‘ve put into mastering this skill, especially when I see my husband with a face full of oatmeal.

I thought that I had gotten pretty good at turning to God in a crisis. But the past couple of years have been a test of my trust in Him, and a test of my ability to quickly turn to Him in a crisis. Even though our daughter's struggle with migraines and our two-year-old son’s recovery from a stroke have been the toughest things I‘ve ever had to face, they have also provided the best opportunity for "stop, drop, and pray" testing and training.

"Wait and see" used to be my least favorite words, since that’s what we face so much with Ryan’s recovery. But as I have grown in taking every detail to God in prayer, "wait and see" has taken on a new meaning. I’m finally learning to wait and see HIS provision, HIS presence, HIS Word, and HIS peace.

Philippians 4:6 NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends
all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

There are still difficult days and, unfortunately, I still have days where I turn to prayer as a last resort. But the difficult days have taught me the importance of making prayer my first response. Day by day I’m getting better at turning to Him first; anything else is as silly as shaking a child that has passed out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

False Hope, Well Duh!

I found this lesson over the weekend.  It was written when Emily was 10.  It is interesting for me to look back at that time from a different place.  Sadly enough, I may just now be really living and understanding the lesson.  And, if I'm completely honest, I can still be distracted by those things that so easily keep me from entering His rest.  Thank you Lord for being the most patient parent ever!!

False Hope, Well Duh!!

"False hope! Well duh! Either you hope in God or you have no hope! There’s no false hope!"   That was our ten-year-old daughter’s response when a doctor wanted to hold off a few months on doing an MRI on her new baby brother. The doctor had wanted to avoid giving us false hope. I wish I could convey the neck popping, eye-rolling tone in our daughter’s response. Her confidence was contagious.

Emily accepts and finds comfort in what God says. And, through her example, she is teaching me to rely on His word more, and my own understanding less. I tend to place all of my focus on studying pediatric strokes and therapy while she tends to keep her focus on Him. She doesn’t need to understand all of the facts of her brother’s stroke. She just needs to understand who her God is; and that, she understands quite clearly.

I suspect that God was the first parent to say, "Because I said so!" But the accountant in me still struggles to reconcile the doctors’ reports and developmental delays with Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you a hope and a future."
At one point, during that first tough year with Ryan, I remember having this feeling of hope. I was so clueless that it confused me. Although Ryan was slowly but steadily improving, we hadn’t gotten some miraculous medical report of a healing and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight to the financial strain. So why did I have this feeling that something good was just around the corner? Instead of just accepting this wonderful gift of hope I had to analyze, define, and justify.

Proverbs 3:5 NIV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

There’s so much more to learn about placing our hope in HIM. But it doesn’t come from understanding, defining, or analyzing hope, itself; but from learning who HE is and why we can safely place our hope in HIM.
Things did get tougher for the Howell family.  Emily struggled with constant migraine and tension headaches for over a year.  There were times that I worried her faith, as well as my own, would not withstand the test.  I can thankfully say that, even with the beating our faith took, we have come out stronger. 

Looking back I can see that, for me, experience really is the best teacher.  There were things that I couldn't have learned as well through simply hearing.  Though not excited about letting Emily venture out into the college world, I am very proud of the godly woman she has become.  Her life experiences, and the maturity that came from them, give me the reassurance I need to let go...little by little. 

At 17, Emily has started her own photography business, a business that she wants to use for God's glory. She is retelling the Bible through photography as her senior mastery. She has set up a Facebook page:!/emilymichellephotos   Please visit her page, click the "like it" button, and pass along to your friends.  Though slightly biased, I know you will be blessed.

God Bless!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Go to THE Decision Maker

This has been a long month of stretching. I keep thinking about a lesson HE taught me during the rough IEP days. An IEP is an Individual Education Plan for special needs children in the public school system. Parents will agree when I say that Intensively Exhausting Plan would be a more appropriate description. The meetings are often stressful and emotionally draining.

Almost since Ryan entered school, the team wanted to remove occupational and speech therapy services. They felt they weren’t seeing enough improvements to justify their time. Thankfully, time has shown that theory to be invalid. He is making great progress. However, because the meetings were often heated and drawn out, I had always been fearful that I would fail him by losing his services. One late night all of that changed.

I was reading the law and came across the “stay put” clause. It said that if there was an item that the team wanted to change and the parent disagreed that it must stay in place until the parents had exhausted the dispute process. I jumped up from the computer, danced around while Wes and Emily looked on in bewilderment.

Just minutes into my “stay put” rap, God dealt with me. Instantly I felt ashamed that I had never jumped up once over promises I had found in God’s Word. In fact, I seemed to find more comfort in the protections of the law than I did His Word.

Now our battle has moved from education to Medicaid. Our state, South Carolina, has opted to balance the budget by dramatically reducing therapy services that our children desperately need while spending money to start a new "stop smoking" campaign. With the budget changing mid-year, children, like Ryan, who have gone over the new limit will be forced to go without physical, occupational, and speech therapy services for five months.

I find myself anxious about getting Governor-elect Haley to see the irreparable damage that could come from such a decision. I’m running speeches through my head constantly. “Physical therapy keeps him from losing the movement that he has, movement that prevents the look of depression in his eyes, movement that allows him to sit up straight and see his world rather than curling into an isolated lonely position. Speech therapy strengthens muscles, muscles that keep him from aspirating and developing pneumonia.”

After a rough conversation with a very disinterested Luke Rankin and a rude “gentleman” online, I was an emotional wreck. I now realize that I’m putting more confidence in our “decision makers” than I am in The Decision Maker. His Word says that it will never return void. His Word says no weapon formed against our children shall prosper. His Word says, God has plans for our children, plans to bring them a hope and a future. His Word says that all things work together for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. The laws may change but my God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. My favorite this week:

Psalm 41:1

Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
The Lord delivers them in times of trouble.

If you want to help give our children a voice, please join us on Facebook by searching “SC Medicaid Crisis – Help Our Children.” And above all, please go to The Decision Maker on behalf of our children. God Bless!!!!