Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guess Who's Back!

A gap in communication is one of those things that vary in acceptance depending on the relationship. I can go for a long time without talking to a State Trooper and it doesn't bother me. If I go a few hours without talking to Christy, then I lose my bearings a little. I don't know where this blog ranks in those standings, but I think by any measure it's been too long.

Some of you may well ask why we have abandoned our post (tee hee, pun intended), and some of you may not have noticed at all. There is no one reason why the spigot of hilarity and reality was squelched - it's the conspiracy of the mundane. Everything in life can pile up on you at times, right? For us, the pile consists mostly of feces with some mental illness sprinkled on top.

So, if you're curious about the 2nd-grade-aged boy running around my backyard in nothing but the skin the good Lord gave him for covering, yes, that is one of my sons. If your mind is of the steel-trap variety and you clench onto the question of, "what happens if he poops?" then your answer would be, "familiar calamity." He doesn't like clothes. And since he has endured more pain and difficulty in his short 7 years than most of you have known in your entire family tree, he gets to be naked in the backyard if he wants. I assume in the preceding statement that your family tree doesn't comprise surviving genocide or multiple generations living under the same bridge.

Josiah occasionally poops in the yard. Yes, from time to time the unthinkable becomes reality. I actually prefer the carport poop to the grass by the fence poop, but opinions will vary. Christy will likely say that the grass provides a natural mechanism to bio-degradation, but I like to know where poop is in relation to my feet, and therefore prefer the concrete. The tricky one is the traveler. This is a road-trip of a poop that may start in the shady environs of the carport but then move through the driveway and end by the swing set.


If we get lucky, then we catch him in the act. He is never allowed to be alone, yet watching him jump and holler in the yard can wear on the senses, so some of his guards will distract themselves. Olivia is more bookish than even myself, and our shared downfall is the page-turner that becomes the turd-smeller. Christy loves her some social media on her iPhone, but often will get a friend request she wasn't expecting. Jack doesn't require outside influence to be distracted - he is perpetually distracted. Jack can be literally standing on the offensive element and not realize it's disposition. As I've told him many times, in that father voice I've learned to affect, "one day you're gonna get hit by a bus."

Why do we put up with it? Why don't we do something? Well, what? After you've chased him down and diapered him for the umpteenth time, you start to feel like a Republican Congressman and just give up. You tell yourself that he pooped earlier and maybe you'll get lucky. Such delusion. You become dulled by his repetitious activity and think he won't deviate. A fool's paradise. Then he gets still all at once and it's all over but the Clorox.

Listen closely, my beloved. He was gonna die. You heard me, the doctors at the prestigious university medical center had given us a small chance at him surviving. Yes, we had heard the same thing about his brother Jack a few years before, but one is not bold in these matters. He was in a tight spot, medically speaking. We were terrified. We trusted God. We prayed that our little boy not escape our grasp as soon as he fell into it. Just let him live, Lord. And he lived. And he is still living! He's a fruitcake with nuts for icing, but he's ours and he's an answer to prayer.

So I put the question to any of you with precious little ones that are the apple of your eye. Would you rather them be snatched from your life or poop in your yard? I think I know the answer.



*For those parents looking for tips on how to prevent fecal smearing, check out our post entitled Poo Diggers. These outfits have been tremendously helpful, but, in the heat of the summer, Josiah insists on stripping when outside. And for NOW....it's not worth the meltdown.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Happy 40th Dad and Mom!

I can't think of a better post to write than this one upon our return to the blog. We have had a long break for various reasons that will be explained in future posts, but today I want to focus on two people who make living with Autism a little easier every day.

My Daddy and Mama started dating when he was in college and she was in high school. Mama's brother John Lee was my Daddy's roommate at Bob Jones University. Mama has often told me that she knew she wanted to marry my Daddy when she was just fifteen years old. Today marks their 40th year of marriage, but, in some ways, I bet they feel like it was just yesterday when he took her on his college dating outing.

I had a blessed childhood, and my parents made a home full of faith, love, and service. They argued infrequently, and, when they did disagree, they made up quickly. They taught my older brothers and me the importance of loving God, loving each other, and loving others. If someone was to ask me to pinpoint the single most influential lesson my parents taught me, it would be "to do my best in whatever God calls me to for the glory of God and the eternal good of others." My Daddy always says to Finish well.

Often I think about the fact that my parents are not just grandparents to children with special needs. They are also parents to a daughter and son-in-law who have some pretty unique needs. They have had to actively parent me far longer than they probably ever imagined, but they have done this in love without ever complaining. When we need them, they are always there. They choose to help us in practical ways that make a huge difference in our ability
to just keep going. My parents greatest desire is to see us Finish well.


How does all this relate to Autism? I thank God every day that my parents taught me to focus on eternity. This life is not all there is. God has a perfect plan for us and our children, and we can trust in that on good days and bad. My parents have a marriage that has stood the test of time and trials. They have experienced joy and sorrow together, and their example is one that gives me such confidence in God's sovereignty and love for His children. They are the best parents and grandparents I know. They give me an even greater desire to Finish well.

Dad and Mama thank you for your faith, love, and support. Thank you for still taking care of me, and for so sacrificially caring for my family! Happy 40th Anniversary!





Daddy and Mama with their 40th Anniversary present (pictures of all the grandkids)!











Friday, March 22, 2013

Every Life Has a Story

I heard it said that if you treat everyone as though they're hurting, then you will be right most of the time. It's true - you never know what's going on in the lives and minds of the people you encounter. Maybe a lot of people who see my family in public think that Josiah is undisciplined and rude, and that makes me wonder about the wrong assumptions I've made about other people and their kids. I can certainly afford to be more generous with my kindness.


http://youtu.be/2v0RhvZ3lvY

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Looking Back and Pressing Forward

-from Christy

Josiah was almost eighteen months old. Jeremy and I had been thinking for a while that something was a little off, but we soothed our concerns with the idea that perhaps our sweet boy was just quirky. My Mama and Daddy had been suspicious too, but they waited a little while to say anything. My Grandmother was close to passing, and Mama knew it just wasn't the time to tell me that she was wondering about the possibility of Autism.

I remember sitting in the living room with Jeremy one evening. I'm not sure which of us pulled the website up with a list of warning signs for Autism, but there it was. We read the list, and we sat in disbelief. It was like reading Josiah's biography. It was undeniable. This was our boy. I cried in bed that night as we lay looking at each other with Josiah between us. We fell asleep wondering if this could be and what were we going to do.

I awoke the next morning on a mission. Mama suggested a few people to call, and those people suggested a few people to call, and then I talked to our pediatrician on the phone. Dr. Mertz has become a dear friend over the years. He has walked through many difficult trials with us, and I knew he trusted my mother's intuition. Dr. Mertz asked me what things were concerning me, and he agreed to make a referral to the Children's Developmental Services Agency for testing. Dr. Mertz and a few other precious friends gave me very clear direction those first few days. Our initial meetings with the CDSA confirmed our fears, and, by the age of two, Josiah received his official diagnosis of Autism. 

And so began the flurry of therapies. Speech, Occupational, and Educational. I researched and I made appointments with a neurologist and a developmental pediatrician. Josiah underwent an MRI with contrast and genetic testing. It was at our neurologists office that I first heard the term ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. The doctor assured us that the therapy is exceptionally costly, and he said that there were several other alternatives that would provide Josiah with every opportunity for development. He was right about ABA being expensive. Jeremy priced it, and, for one month of therapy, it would have taken our entire monthly income. It just wasn't a possibility. So I set out to learn about every therapy and early intervention we could get for Josiah. And we did them all. We drove to and sat through hours of therapy each week. I am thankful for those times because I now have the confidence that I did everything I could do. The therapies and therapists were good and so very supportive, but none of us had a clue just how severe Josiah's Autism truly was. 

Four and a half years later, our sweet boy has had almost no developmental gains. He now has the diagnosis of severe Autism and intellectual disability. We often hear from those working with him that he is one of the most severe children they have ever seen with this disorder. The Alamance Burlington School System (ABSS) just recently approved Josiah for homebound education, and they have brought in a well known ABA consultant to work with us. We are so thankful for this opportunity, but we are guardedly optimistic. We really like the consultant, and she understands and agrees with what we have been saying about Josiah for a long time. Our goals for him are the same, and she has given us many reasons for hope. Not hope like "maybe he will earn a PhD someday," but hope like "maybe he will potty train and maybe he will learn a few signs." Hope is a blessing! 

After our first few meetings, I was left thrilled about being hopeful, but heavyhearted that we were just getting access to ABA now. The therapy the consultant is using is actually a version of ABA called the Verbal Behavior Approach. The book we are reading makes so much sense. I have been left wondering why I have never been told about this book before. 

I know this is a lot of rambling to get to the point of this post, but here it is......To every Daddy and Mama out there wondering what to do, to every parent out there wishing they would have, and to every one asking what if, all you can do is your best today. God is in control. He gives us knowledge when He wants us to know. Our job is to do the best we can for our child with what God has given us. And so I am trying very hard to take my own advice right now. Stop what if-ing, Christy. Do all you can for this sweet boy today. Tomorrow will come, and God will give you the knowledge and strength for tomorrow. 

For all those Mama's looking for a way to start implementing ABA and Verbal Behavior techniques at home, here is the book you need. I am recommending it not because we have seen great gains yet, but because it is important to hope. Love and Blessings! 
     

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

from John Piper


Don't miss the Summary and Applications at the end. This is right where we live.

When Jesus Meets Disability: How a Christian Hedonist Handles Deep Disappointment


The Works of God Conference

God's Good Design in Disability








A Christian Hedonist believes that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. As Jonathan Edwards says,
God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.  When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.  His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.1
Which means that we can never reduce God-glorifying obedience to the actions of our body or our reason. God-glorifying obedience always includes the state of the heart.
[As Paul said,] Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
We can never reduce the virtue of giving to the act of giving. God loves a “cheerful giver.” He is more honored by joyful, hearty giving than by constrained, begrudging giving. And so it is with all our acts of love.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Physical actions alone, even the offering our bodies to be burned for others, are not glorifying to God where joy in him — treasuring him — is not the ground and goal of our actions.

The Sorrow of Deep Disappointment

So this puts a very high premium on the state of our hearts. Which makes the issue of profound disappointment with all its sorrows especially urgent. How does a Christian Hedonist experience the sorrows of deep disappointment? The shock of a baby born with multiple disabilities? The jolt of an accident that leaves you paralyzed for life? The experience of growing up from birth to adulthood on a path of fifty surgeries? A marriage dominated by the never-ending vigilance over a child, then an adolescent, then an adult, who can’t care for himself? The onset of a disease that gradually takes away your muscles till all you can move is your eyelids?
I take it as a given that these things cause sorrow, grief, pain, heartache, groaning, frustration, and deep and long-term disappointment. The Bible has much to say about how to think about suffering, and how to deal with suffering. But the Bible never denies that there is suffering. It never denies that Christians experience the powerful emotional effects of suffering: we groan, and we hurt, and we weep.
So my question, then, becomes, how is all this sorrow and grief and pain and heartache and groaning and frustration and disappointment experienced by the Christian Hedonist? By the person who believes that God is glorified most in all of us when we are most satisfied in him?

The Preciousness of God's Sovereignty

So my focus in this message is mainly on the inner-workings of the Christian soul, not mainly on the theological foundations of God’s sovereignty. It is true that, without God’s sovereignty over disability, the inner-workings of the soul that I am going to talk about would be impossible. So I will say a word about it. But mainly I want to describe from the Bible the paradoxical emotional experience for disappointed saints who believe that God is most glorified in them when they are most satisfied in him.
The reason the inner-workings of the Christian soul are not possible without the sovereignty of God is that the strength of hope and peace and joy and contentment and gladness and satisfaction and delight in God that sustain the soul in sorrows of life-long disappointment are rooted in the confidence that God has the authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to accomplish all the good he has promised to do for his embattled children. In other words, no obstacle in nature, no obstacle in Satan, no obstacle in the failures and sins of man can stop God from making all my experiences, all my brokenness, all my adversaries, serve my eternal wholeness and joy. If you listen carefully to that, you can hear that my exuberance for God's sovereignty rests not mainly on his causality in the past but mainly on his powerful capacities in the future. In other words, the main reason God's sovereignty is precious is that he has power to fulfill impossible promises to me in my seemingly hopeless condition. His ruling the past, including my brokenness, is simply a pre-condition of this hope-filled power.
So let me give a very brief glimpse at this sovereignty.

In His Hands

One of the most sweeping and foundational texts on the sovereignty of God deals directly with disabilities. In Exodus 4:11 God answers Moses’ fear that his eloquence is insufficient for the task, “The Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” Disability of speech impediments, disability of deafness, disability of blindness — God says, are in his hands to give and to remove.
To which we may respond by asking: What about natural causes? What about Satan? What about the sins of others against us, or even our own sin? And the answer is that these are real, but that none is finally decisive. If any of these play a role in our disability — and they do — they do so within God’s sovereign plan.
For example, Romans 8:22–23 makes it clear that our physical groaning with disease and disability is owing to the fact that our bodies share in the fall of all nature into futility.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
So one cause of our physical and mental brokenness is that we share with the whole creation in its subjection to futility. But that creation is under the detailed governance of God. Last Sunday I preached2 on this and gave texts to show that the roll of the dice, the fall of a bird, the crawl of a worm, the movement of stars, the fall of snow, the blowing of wind, the loss of sight, the suffering of saints, and the death of every person are included in the word of God: “I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10). And in the word “He works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
So yes, there are natural causes for our disabilities, but none of these natural causes is ultimate, none is finally decisive. God is.

Under God's Governance

So it is with Satan. He is real. And he is involved in damaging and hurting God’s people, including physically and mentally (Acts 10:38). But he is under God’s governance. In the book of Job Satan must come to God for permission to hurt Job (1:12; 2:6). And when he has done his work, striking Job with loathsome sores (2:7), Job says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”(2:10). And the inspired author of the book says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). And later said that Job was comforted “for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11).
So, yes, Satan is real and no doubt has a hand in causing many diseases and disabilities. But he can do nothing without God’s permission. And what God foreknows and permits, he plans. And what he plans for his children is always for their good.

Even Sin and Its Effects

And so it is with sins. We may smoke our way into emphysema, or we may lose a leg because a drunk driver crashes into us. But neither our sins nor the sins of another are finally decisive in what happens to us. God is. And the Christian may write over every attack of nature, Satan, or sin the words of Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” And the reason we can say this, even though we are undeserving sinners, is that God said it first over all the sins that brought his son to the cross for us. Herod, Pilate, cruel soldiers, shouting crowds — you meant my son's execution for evil, but I meant it for good (Acts 4:27–28). That's the foundation of all the good God promises in and through our disabilities.
And the good God has in mind for his children is has an immeasurable number of layers. He means it for greater faith: 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” He means it for greater righteousness: Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” He means it for greater hope: Romans 5:3–4, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” He means it for the greater experience of the glory of God: 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
You, Satan, you, natural causes, you, sinner — you all meant my disability for evil, but God meant it for good — the good of greater faith, the good of greater righteousness, the good of greater hope, the good of greater glory. Or, as John 9:3 says, don’t even consider secondary causes: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Only God Is Decisive

So this conference is based on the conviction that even though nature and Satan and sin may have a hand in disability, and should be resisted with prayer and truth and medicine, nevertheless, they are not decisive. God is.
And therein lies, for us, not mainly a theological problem with the past, but an invincible hope for the future. If God is sovereign then nothing is too hard for him. And by the blood of his son he has promised infallibly: I will meet all your needs according to my riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). My power will be made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I will strengthen you and help you and hold you up with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). I will not let any testing befall you for which I do not give you grace to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).And I will take the sting away from your death with the blood of my son (1 Corinthians 15:55f). And I will raise you from the dead imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52), and I will “transform your lowly body to be like my glorious body, by the power that enables me even to subject all things to myself” (Philippians 3:21).
And I will do this without fail because I am absolutely sovereign over everything and therefore, “I can do all things, and no purpose of mine can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). This is the foundation of our hope and the key to the inner-workings of the Christian soul. 

How Christian Hedonists Grieve

So that is what I turn to now: What is it like for a Christian Hedonist to experience the sorrows of deep, long-term disappointment in view of this kind of news? Or, more specifically, what is it like for a Christian Hedonist to grieve deeply, sorrow deeply, hurt deeply, and yet never relent from the conviction that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him?
One true and inadequate answer to the question of how the sorrow of disability relates to the pursuit of joy in God is that they are sequential. We move from sorrow into joy and from joy into sorrow. Each is real, and each occupies our heart and different times. For example,Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” So there is a season of sorrow followed by a season of joy. (See also John 16:22)
That’s true. There are seasons of weeping followed by seasons of great rejoicing. But if we stopped with that, it would be very superficial. It wouldn’t account for the deepest inner-workings of the Christian soul. The question would remain: During those times of weeping, can God be glorified also by a simultaneous (not sequential) experience of satisfaction in God, a simultaneous joy?

Simultaneous Rejoicing

That is the paradoxical emotional experience for disappointed saints that I want to point out from Scripture. The clearest expression of it is in 2 Corinthians 6:10 where Paul says, we are regarded as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Which is followed by “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Paul really means it when he says that he is sorrowful. The word (lupeo and congnates) is used 18 times in 2 Corinthians. This is Paul’s most grieving letter.
And well should he sorrow when you read the list of his burdens:
We commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities . . . imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger” (2 Corinthians 6:4–5). “. . . with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–27).
When he says in 2 Corinthians 6:10 “sorrowful yet always rejoicing,” he means real sorrow. Real grief. Real pain. Not physical pain, but the emotional effect of pain. This is a real psychological state of Paul which we usually consider the opposite of joy. Sorrow tarries for the night; joy comes in the morning.
But that is not what Paul says here. He says, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” In other words, he really meant it in Philippians 4:4 when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” He meant it when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoicealways.”

A Paradox of Christian Experience

This is not a sequence of sorrow and joy. This is simultaneous sorrow and joy. Charles Hodge comments on this passage:
This is one of the paradoxes of Christian experience. The believer has more true joy in sorrow, than the world can every afford. The sense of the love of God, assurance of his support, confidence in future blessedness, and the persuasion that his present light afflictions shall work out for him a far more exceeding and and eternal weight of glory mingled with his sorrows, and give the suffering child of God a peace that passes all understanding. He would not exchange his lot with that of the most prosperous of the children of this world. (Commentary on 2 Corinthians, 164)
“Sorrowful yet always rejoicing” — this is the paradoxical emotional experience for disappointed saints. Paul is testifying that sorrow and joy are both possible at the same time in the same soul.

Same Time, Same Heart

Here is another example of it. This hits very close to home for any of us who may have family members or people we care about very deeply who are not saved. Paul says inRomans 9:1-3
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish.” Has Paul forgotten what he wrote: "Rejoice always, and again I says rejoice!" There is no reason to think he has. If you asked him, I do not doubt that what he would say is: “Anguished, yet always rejoicing.” Unceasing anguish. Unceasing joy. Not sequential, but simultaneous.
From a different angle he says the same thing in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” You might think that this can be sequential. But not really. The more people you know, and the more you care, the less sequential this can be. Right now you can probably think of someone you care about who is grieving. And you can think of someone you care about who is rejoicing. Paul’s testimony is that we can have deeply felt empathy for both of these people at the same time, in the same heart.

Discipline and Delight

This paradoxical experience of the Christian soul is less surprising when you realize that in the Scripture God himself is pictured as having this same capacity for paradoxical emotions. Consider Proverbs 3:11–12 which is quoted in Hebrews 12:5–6,
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
It’s the word “delights” that captures our attention. Because it’s in tension with “the Lord reproves him.” It won’t work to say that he is reproving the behavior and delighting in the person. No, he is reproving the person and delighting in the person. God can and does delight in us because of Christ and because of evidences of his own grace in our lives. But he also sees our defects and does not delight in them. God has pleasure in me, and displeasure in me at the same time. In fact, I would say, it is his pleasure in me because of Christ, that keeps his displeasure from being contempt, and makes it healing.
So let me draw the pieces together in a conclusion and then give you five applications.

A Summary Statement

God is so sovereign over the disasters and disappointments of our lives that he is able to make everyone of them serve our everlasting joy in him. This sovereign grace is the ground of our joy in the sorrows of deep disappointment. Not merely the ground of our joy after the sorrows of disappointment (as true as that is), but in the sorrows of disappointment. The Christian Hedonist does not merely pursue joy after sorrow. He pursues it in sorrow, in disappointment. His watchword in this life is 2 Corinthians 6:10, “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

Five Applications

  1. If you experience this paradox of emotions (sorrowful yet always rejoicing) you will never have to pretend. Your sorrow will be real. And your joy will be real. You won’t ever have to be ashamed of saying, “I am very sad,” because it will not contradict, “I am very glad.”
  2. If you experience this paradox of emotions (sorrowful, yet always rejoicing), you will be able to bear the weight of sorrow that is inevitable in a world of so much sin and brokenness. The joy you know, in the very moment of heavy sorrow, will keep that sorrow from crushing you. It doesn’t make your sorrow less weighty. But it does make your sorrow less destructive.
  3. If you experience this paradox of emotions (sorrowful, yet always rejoicing), your sorrow will not ruin the joy of others, and your joy will not offend the sorrow of others. Your joy will be deep with its roots in the springs of God’s grace — the very same grace that sorrowing souls need. And your sorrow will not be morose or gloomy or self-pitying. It will have real love in it that cares for the good of others, and will not ruin anyone’s party.
  4. If you experience this paradox of emotions (sorrowful, yet always rejoicing), the ministries of your church — from the worship service, to the youth group, to the ministry of disability — will be free from silliness and trifling, and will have the aroma of Christ, with his wonderful paradoxes. The aroma of Christ who wept over Jerusalem: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41–42). Yet who “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children’” (Luke 10:21). He wept and he rejoiced over the same city in the same condition. The spirit that will pervade your church will be a joyful seriousness, and a serious joyfulness.
  5. If you experience this paradox of emotions (sorrowful, yet always rejoicing), the beauty and worth of Christ will always be exalted — because you are always rejoicing in him (and he is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him) — and the ugliness of sin and all its effects will be shown for they are — because your glad and healthy heart is made sorrowful by it.
Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. May the Lord work this paradox — this miracle — in our lives.

By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nurture your faith in humanity a little today

This video went around Facebook (which is where I saw it), but even if you've seen it, there's always value in reminding yourself how awesome people can be. Our family literally survives on the goodness of God displayed and distributed through other people.

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."-Mark Twain


Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making a Contribution

It's our belief that God's sovereignty is perfect and absolute. That means that a person with a disability doesn't bless others despite their circumstances, they bless others through their circumstances. Incidentally, Jalen has a Dynavox very much like the one in the video, but he doesn't control it with his eyes. That would be a monumental improvement to its cleanliness though.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Dreams of a Father

- from Jeremy

We dream dreams for our children, do we not? As with any starting point in life, we have expectations for the progress and outcome when we are preparing for the birth of a new baby. There are hopes and ambitions - each one different from our neighbor and each one the same in some large points. I am no different.

I dreamed for Olivia that she would blossom into the same beautiful flower that her mother is. That she would be generous and loyal - that she would esteem family and home above all else and foster an environment of of joy and devotion as her mother has done. I dreamed that she would someday find a man, a tall and powerful man who was capable and kind, and who would be as stalwart in his love of her as in his love for Jesus. In my dream she would be a loving mother who brought her children to see their grandfather to be doted over and indulged.

I dreamed for Jack that he would grow into a man of action and kindness. That he would be enterprising in his service to God and others. And that he would be blessed with a wife of beauty and compassion, who would buttress him in the ways that he was weak and encourage him in the ways that he was strong. That he would lead his home and be an example to his friends. And that he too would bring his children to the old homestead to receive the same well-intentioned counsel that he had come to value from the moody old man.

I dreamed for Josiah that he would follow his brother in resolution and goodness. That he would be the physical and emotional presence that his namesake, my father, is so well known as. I dreamed that he would be powerful of mind and constitution, and that he would uphold his father as he had been upheld in youth. That he would find a wife to be his match and his temporal salvation, and that they would raise up ever more grandchildren to play and fuss at holidays while Christy and I looked on.

I dreamed for Jalen that he would be a powerful and striking man of universal appeal. That he would have the perspective of white culture with the pride of black culture. That he would share in my love of hip-hop and his mother's love of gospel. That he would be a mender of hearts and a builder of alliances. And that he would find a lovely wife who would be the counterpoint to him in every beneficial way. Maybe I dreamed in a little more detailed manner for him owing to the nature of his entrance into our home.

I dreamed for Judah that he would mirror the vivacity and solidarity of his childhood home with his adult life. That he would be fierce in his love for his siblings and parents, and that the strength which he drew therefrom would be the seed of greatness in the family he would found on his own. That he would seek a wife who would not only love and embrace him as a man, but also yearn for connection with his people and heritage. And of course, that he would bring many children into his home to share in the dynamism and love of a large family.

I try not to think about what might have been,
'cause that was then.
And we have taken different roads.

As I look at Josiah on a night like tonight, my love for him is as big as the cold, starry sky. He is six and a powerful boy physically. He evidences a love for Christy and I that matches ours for him. He runs to us and looks deep in our eyes. He laughs and laughs and we laugh back and reach for him and delight to hold him close for just a split second before he's off again. He jumps on the bed that we're laying on and we reach for him with hand and foot to keep him from toppling over the footboard or slipping off the edge. We try to catch his attention and give one another a kiss to make him giggle and shriek. He will never know the dreams I dreamed for him, and I wish I had never been so presumptuous about the future.

Jalen is another matter on paper, but no different in my heart. His narrow little world of words lacking true meaning and actions without thought may never be the same world I live in. He is beautiful in soul and appearance, and he loves music, but if he is ever to be a leader and a husband then we will need an unprecedented miracle. He is smart to be sure, maybe brilliant - not in ways that mean fame and fortune, but in ways that may mean productivity rather than isolation. I love him dearly and am so glad to have him in our family, but my feelings are always ringed with a gossamer halo of regret for the dreams that I had.

For the other three children, my dreams have changed. Now they are more of a pleading reaction to my nightmares. I hope that they will find it in their adult hearts to care for the brothers of their childhood. I pray that they will be tender to their brothers' needs and forgiving of their difficulties. I hope for and encourage them to find a mate that will be kind and generous to my precious and vulnerable babies. My dreams have gone from bright, bold ambitions of glory and blessing for each to plaintive, quavering hopes that they will forsake themselves for the good of the least of these their brethren. My chest tightens even at this writing to think of what has been taken from me - my dreams.

We can't go back again
There's no use givin' in
And there's no way to know
What might have been.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beauty in Suffering: Honoring Joseph

- from Christy

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing . . . Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:2, 12
People often ask us, "How do you do it?" How do you face what God has called you to with a spirit of faithfulness and a desire to be joyful no matter what? We of course share our complete inability without the sustaining grace of our Heavenly Father, but we also share the fact that we know God has been preparing us, for many years, individually and as a couple to face the trials and joys of Autism. Yep, you heard me right. There can be joy and indescribable beauty in suffering, and one of the ways God taught me this was through the joy and heartache of losing Joseph.
Joseph Todd Nance was born on July 6, 2005. He surprised his parents Tommy and Stefanie by arriving prematurely during their summer beach trip. After a helicopter ride to a hospital equipped to care for a baby being born six weeks early, Stefanie gave birth all alone to their first born. When they returned home, they set out on the adventure of all first time parents of learning to care for and love their baby boy. They could have been considered more cautious than most, documenting every feeding, every time they gave him gas drops, every diaper change, and the time and length of every single moment that Joseph slept. They were meticulous, and cautious, and superb at being Daddy and Mommy to their precious Boo. 
I had grown up beside Stefanie's family my entire life. She knew my love for children and she knew my experience with caring for a premature baby. Our Jack had been born ten weeks early, and he spent the first six weeks of his life at Duke. I was thrilled when Tommy and Stefanie asked me if I was interested in caring for Joseph when Stefanie returned to work. They knew that I would care for Joseph like he was my own, and our children Olivia and Jack were excited to have a new baby and future playmate at our house. Joseph provided me that fulfillment that I longed for that comes from caring for a new baby. And so we settled into our routine of early morning pick-ups at Hico Baptist Church (which was halfway between Tommy and Stefanie's house and our own), and of Joseph's scheduled feedings, diaper changes, and naps. I had no idea what God had planned, and how we would forever change our lives on October 18, 2005.

That day started like any other. Jeremy was home for a bit that morning, and so he kept Olivia and Jack at home while I made the trip to Hico to pick up Joseph. I can see it like it was yesterday. After Stef gave some instructions, kissed Joseph and said her goodbyes, we were off to the house. The morning was uneventful other than Joseph having a monstrous spit up after eating his bottle and before his midday nap. Spitting up was common for Joseph, but he got me good that time. Let's just say it required a complete change of clothing on my part. After I changed Joseph, I got him all settled down for his nap. The kids and I played with toys in the same room where he slept, I put away laundry, and I checked on him several times. Right before putting Olivia and Jack down for their naps, I checked on Joseph again right before 12pm. I will never forget that moment. The moment when I realized that Joseph wasn't breathing. The moments that followed felt like an eternity. Olivia and Jack were by my side the entire time. They are moments that come to my mind often. Some of the most heart-wrenching and painful moments of my life. But in the midst of agony, there was also beauty. Tommy and Stefanie were unwavering in their care and concern for me. In the midst of the worst moments of their lives, the fact that they even thought of me leaves me speechless to this day. Tommy crawling out of the police car just to embrace me and tell me everything is going to be okay. The gift of being able to dress Joseph for the last time. The beauty of kneeling before Stefanie with Joseph's head in my hands while she called out to our Heavenly Father brokenhearted but rejoicing in praise for the gift of mothering Joseph. I remember locking eyes with Tommy as she prayed. We both knew that it was as if heaven had opened, and Stefanie was surrendering her most precious gift back to Jesus. I felt as if I was truly on holy ground. Joseph's memorial service was perfect, and the love that Tommy and Stefanie had for him could not have been more beautifully conveyed than when Stefanie read the letter she had written to her sweet boy. I could go on and on.

Jeremy often reminds me that we make God so small when we try to pinpoint one specific "why" for the trials He brings into our lives. God has used Joseph's life and death to touch many people, and I know that He is continuing to use Tommy and Stefanie to this day to encourage others. I promised Joseph, as I held him for the last time, that my life would change. That I would be better for loving him. God has grown me and changed me through all of this, but it hasn't been easy. I have dealt with immense guilt for not being able to save Joseph. It has been a lesson in surrender. Surrender to God's sovereignty. It meant acknowledging that I trust and believe that God is the giver and taker of life, that He appoints a specific day for every man to die, that He orchestrates the events in our lives primarily for His glory, but also for our good if we love Him. I would be remiss if I did not mention how God has used the unconditional love of my husband and the gift of his wise council to see me through what would have been unbearable to endure without his loving support. Jeremy has been my greatest confidant. He knows my thoughts in my darkest moments when I am allowing myself to get swallowed up in grief. Those moments when I am tempted to make God small and me big. None of this is about me. It is about my Heavenly Father, and how He chose to use the life of a precious little boy named Joseph Todd Nance to bring Him infinite glory and to remind us all that His ways are past our understanding and that we can find comfort in knowing that He indeed brings beauty from the ashes of our lives.

Choosing to see the beauty in the suffering of losing Joseph, prepared me to see the beauty in Autism. "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 1:33-36