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!!!!