Two Chairs.


Pastor Cass wrote the truth, and it’s beautiful.

HUSBAND. DADDY. CHILDRENS PASTOR.

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We work hard each week to make sure that classrooms are ready to go and that volunteers have all that they need, in order to create environments where kids can connect with a leader, with other kids, and grow in an authentic faith of their own.

We work hard each week to make sure we have the right songs picked out, that the Bible story is properly communicated, and that we have some fun games picked out.

We work hard each week to make sure that our volunteers show up and are ready to be present in the life of a child.

We work hard each week to assure that our ministry is a safe place for families to be a part of, and that what we do partners with families so that they can win at home.

We make sure that we have dotted the ‘I’s’ and crossed our…

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My Autistic Son


Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. – Romans 12:12

Ten months ago, five years after he was diagnosed as a “spectrum” kid, I faced my worst fear to date about one of my children – that he was different. What’s wrong with being different in an American culture that spreads cheer about being unlike others?

It’s “ok” to be trans, gay, and even criminal. But it’s not ok to sport bald patches on your head from pulling your hair out. Cutting next? Or just a destroyed head of beautiful, thick hair?

It’s not ok talk in incomplete sentences, miles off topic, when only one or two people in your life can understand what you mean or what you say.

It’s not ok for a boy to cry at age 11, at the drop of the hat. Not just because of fear, but sometimes because of disappointment.

It’s not ok to have a wildly inappropriate reaction to minor things that most kids would brush off, or even sulk about for a bit, and then move on from.

It’s not ok. It’s really, really not. I fought this for years because I convinced myself that all the weird things about him would sort themselves out. Why? Because I had also convinced myself that it was all my fault, and if I would just straighten up and fly right, all would fall into place. Perfectly. Or at least well.

So, ten months ago, it hit me like a freight train, and my anxiety over his future has skyrocketed ever since. And nine months ago, my husband and I pulled him out of public school. Forever.

And now I am a STAHM, wife, and full-time fifth grade teacher. To one student. And I too want to rip my own hair out of my head. Frequently.

I push, push, push – and he pulls, pulls, pulls that hair out. And it’s easy to blame it on the ex-husband, his new wife (oh, so easy to blame her), their insane young twins, or even the ebb and flow of the tides. But the truth is, that kid spends more time with his mother than his biological father. So I better get it together.

I have been expecting results from an autistic son with slow processing issues, and I don’t mean realistic results. I mean grade-level results, which is completely ridiculous on so many levels. I’ll give you one: he’s supposed to be in sixth grade. He was held back in kindergarten. He can’t do sixth-grade stuff; he can barely manage fifth. We’re both frustrated and sad and overwhelmed.

I was reading home life this morning and something caught my eye, which then made me roll them. It’s an article about students with learning disabilities, and shows tips on how to make their brick-and-mortar classroom life more manageable.

Truly, it could apply to homeschool kids like mine, kids who are slow (but smart), creative (and not always on task because of it), misunderstood (but amazing), and goes against the grain of every single thing public school teachers had recommended I do for years. Some samples are the following:

“Simplify directions.” – As many times as I have given this child multi-step directions (as his teachers told me to), he got them wrong. Every single time!

“Accept short-answer responses instead of complete sentences.” – Are you serious? How is he going to compete with his classmates? And then I read a sample of their work on a discussion forum my son had to enter for a grade. He wrote better than many of his peers. In complete sentences. With big vocabulary words. The reason? It was fun. So I know he can do it. I just need to pick my battles. I think.

Here’s one that boggles my mind, though – avoid activities that are competitive. What? He’s a boy! And his mother is super-competitive! We tried soccer for about a year. He loved it at first, and then hated it because it made him feel bad about himself. He didn’t understand the game, really – it’s hard to teach it to a child who processes things too slowly. Sports move fast. He thought he was supposed to score every game.

Now he is learning tennis. And he’s thrilled! Everything about it is fun. Even the matches don’t feel competitive to him. So maybe this advice was good too.

I don’t have all the answers. And yes, the stress level is high. I’m a type-A neat freak who likes to have all things done my way. I am impatient and my expectations are far too out of whack to be effective at teaching this amazing child – a lot of the time. I have to rope my husband and both sons into cleaning part of the house each week because I just don’t have enough hours in the day, and I intensely miss those hours when both kids were at school. It was quiet, peaceful, and I could get everything done. That includes writing. I’m trying to finish my second novel and am so behind, it won’t be ready by Christmas (barring a miracle.) Sigh.

You want to know what bothers me the most, though? Here it is, and I’ve hardly mentioned it to anyone – I can’t blame autism and learning disabilities on his biological father. I can only blame them on myself. And I just figured that out – about a week ago.

Once again, I was just hit out of the blue by that freight train. All the things that frustrate me about my son are things that I did at his age. I passed those on, not his bio dad. I did that. I created a baby that grew up to become just like me when I was 11. It sucks so bad I cannot even describe it.

The good news is that I am a college-educated writer. I struggled with math, that’s true – but I got a diploma. I was able to learn and grew to love it. I still do.

There’s that fear, though, that maybe all that was just a fluke, or that he’s worse off than I was. I know that I’m taking the right steps at the moment – homeschooling him was the best thing for him. It’s shown me, though, how incredibly far behind he is. I would never have known it from the cheerful teacher conferences where I asked the right questions and got the “right” answers. Or maybe public school teachers just have that playbook to follow because there’s nothing else that can be done. Bull! It’s true that he had forgotten how to learn, that he didn’t understand participating in class, and that his test-taking abilities were spotty.

It’s also true that he is able to learn (now), he loves participating in on-line lessons with his peers, and that test-taking is still hard for him (but he’s improving).

A few days ago, we were studying the American Indians. He is fascinated, just like I was at his age. He wasn’t so great at picking up all the facts from the lesson, but he was listening to every word I said. How do I know? Because when I explained the difference between an Indian hunting buffalo and a white man hunting buffalo, he was very quiet. Later, as we went over the material (again), he repeated everything I said about that.

Some of you have autistic children who are far worse off than mine. My kudos to you! It’s a rough road, and if it were any harder I don’t know how I could handle it. Then again, we’re moms – when it gets tough, the good ones roll up their sleeves, down some serious caffeine, and handle their business.

Keep trying! Your children are worth your best effort, and they’ll forgive you for your worst efforts as long as they know one thing – that you love them and will fight for them. Forever. Every day. No matter how infuriated you get, how frustrated they get with you, or how hopeless it seems at times.

Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God,and once again I will praise him,my savior and my God.– Psalm 43:5

His answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.– 2 Corinthians 12:9

But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles;they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.– Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

Rebellion & Authority


As a child, I early on developed a habit of rebellion towards untrustworthy authority.

This habit became who I am. And now that I am out from under said authority figures, the means how I navigated what I felt was right became a means to navigate to get what I wanted.

The result? A hardness of heart that reveals itself to my family and people who know me well. A terrible example to my children and the ungodly as to Who and What God is and how to glorify Him.

And where has that gotten me, practically? Anxiety, being easily offended and popping off at the mouth when I am, far too much opinion spewing from my mouth, an immense amount of anger, bitterness, and resentment, and most of all, a dichotomy inside myself that is constantly at war.

You see, I want to obey God. I  want to do what is right. I want to be a Proverbs 31 wife; have a wonderful marriage; be an excellent mother; and to raise godly boys. But how can I do that when I have set myself up as my ultimate authority figure?

The world rejoices at folks like me because I do not represent God, and when I do manage to behave and have the faith that He wants me to, I present a confusion to them. How can she be this, and believe that? No wonder I am under condemnation most of the time.

I know that sanctification is a process. It takes time. Your whole life. However, I should be further along by now! I know that a lot of what I am dealing with in my life, right now, is a direct consequence of outside forces that were way beyond my control. I am aware that my anger is a natural. I am aware that defense mechanisms come into place for logical reasons.

And I am also aware that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness means that I should be able to operate outside of all that in a manner completely different from who I am. Not easily, but possible. I am aware that many of the consequences I am facing, and have been for more time than I care to share, lie at my own feet.

What’s the answer? This is an issue I have been facing most of my life, and I still am unsure. Being a Christian doesn’t give me all the answers! It actually gives me lots of questions, and while that is frustrating, I want GOD to be my ultimate authority figure. I do not want to rebel against Him.

Lord, I am praying to You this afternoon in a spirit of contrition, repentance, and a sincere desire for forgiveness. I have wronged You and others and I have wronged myself. Only You can take this deeply entrenched sin in my heart and fling it to the four corners of the Earth, and I ask – I beg – for You to do that now. What my life will look like when I am not in complete control is not what I’m afraid of anymore. What my relationships will be like without me as the ultimate authority does not interest me at all. All I want is to be obedient. That’s it, Father God. Obedience to You and You alone. I do not owe that to my parents, my husband, my friends, or my family. I owe that to You and then to my pastor, and I trust that You have provided an honorable man in that scenario. A man of integrity, love, compassion, grace, and wisdom. However, YOU alone are the be-all and end-all of my faith. The rest, I know, will settle out how You want it, in a way that is best for me and those closest to me.

In Your holy name, Amen.

May y’all be BLESSED today!

 

Psalms 1’s True Meaning


Psalms 1

The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Verse 3 is my absolute favorite. It is a perfect refreshment. What a promise!

But…who is the promise for? You see, I’ve believed in Christ for almost 30 years and right now, I sure don’t feel that it’s for me.

But I’ve challenged myself to persevere, so here’s the best I can do, and please forgive me if I get it wrong.

If a man trusts godly counsel, meaning he lives his life based on what godly men say and believe, and doesn’t form his innermost circle with ungodly men, but instead is happy and content with the meditations of Jesus (because at this point, “the law” is not our only means of pleasing God), he shall be greatly blessed.

How shall he be blessed? He will bear fruit because he lives his life fully intent on pleasing God, and because of this, everything he does for God will succeed and thrive.

Verses 4-6 are entirely self-explanatory, so let’s focus today on 1-3.

Do these verses say we should not love and even befriend unbelievers? No, I don’t think so. It means when we have major decisions to make and need counsel, it is not to these we should go. When were are stumbling, it is not to these we should seek to spend time with, because they will cause us to stumble even more.

I once sat down with two women – one a believer and the other not so much. I explained a situation I was having trouble with, and both of them encouraged me to not worry about it. Despite its totally unBiblical nature. Despite its harm to me and my family. Two friends. Two friends I loved. Both way off base.

Friends, it isn’t enough to “believe.” You have to walk it out. Every day, the very best you can. Not because you are following the law, in the sense that striving is how to please God, but in the sense that you take the law that applies today and you live by it.

What parts of the law do not apply today? As believers of Christ, we know that once the veil was torn asunder, the need for blood sacrifice was over. The only way to repentance and forgiveness became going to the Feet of the Father and pleading with Him to forgive us, and knowing that He has without having to slaughter to get it.

Sometimes, unbelievers and Christians are the same thing. We all know baby Christians – some of you are one, like me. Those who desperately needs the father’s milk. Those who desperately want to drop the past like the bad freaking habit it is. Those who can’t quite do it on our bad days. Those who take one giant leap into awesomeness and 10 steps back into sin.

I’m not talking about these people. Well, that’s not entirely true. IF these friends read the Word, and know what it says, and are sincerely trying to follow it, then while I would not rely on their counsel alone, I’m not saying they shouldn’t share their advice with me, or that it would be wrong. I just would need to make sure I seek advice from mature believers.

The bottom line, I think, is this – when we seek after the Lord with all our whole hearts, then He understands what is truly in them. He understands that our sin is something we despise, something we tear at as it pierces our flesh – we want it gone.

If, like me, you find yourself facing this, in this particular season of your life, don’t lose heart. That beautiful, crystal-clear river is YOURS for the taking too! You don’t have to wait. You have it now. Maybe if you believe it, I can believe it too.

If you hang on to Jesus, then one day this affliction of your soul, this time in your life when you feel empty and lonely for the intimacy of God, will seem to you like exactly what He wants it to be – a season of refining, of building patience, of being drawn to God with your mind when your heart isn’t in it. A season of learning that feelings aren’t what we base our decisions on, but choices.

The Perfect Woman


I have known some real beauties in my life. By that I mean they are just naturally beautiful, gifted, kind, generous, fair, and have been blessed by wealth. Let’s see. Let me count them…whoops. I made a mistake there.

I actually don’t know any of those “lucky” ones after all, because as humans, we all have flaws. Maybe it’s only in the movies that we see visions of these lovelies, living a charmed life.

Or maybe you know someone like that. A woman you’d love to hate, but you just can’t because she’s so amazing.

Here’s what most of the women I know are like – their eyeliner might be a tad off if you look too close because they were drawing it on while their toddler peed all over the floor (those pesky kids just cannot make it to the bathroom on time); they have put aside their gifts and talents career-wise while they have and raise children; their generosity and mercy often comes because of not fitting in with other women and girls; they’re wealthy and beautiful, lovely and kind, but one or all of their kids has been struggling for so long with school that they’re at the end of their rope.

To men, the perfect woman is thin or just curvy enough, is an excellent cook, rarely speaks a word that isn’t 100% edifying to his ego, makes other men jealous of him, is smart and makes a good living, has plenty of sex drive, and…well, for some of them, if you throw in that she’s a Christian, that’s just an added bonus.

Am I too jaded? Maybe. A little too experienced with the wrong kind of man? Perhaps.

Answer me this – why do we tell our children they are perfect just the way they are, flaws and all, but cannot say the same about our mothers, sisters, friends, pastors’ wives, mother-in-laws, or colleagues? What is this innate need to find the imperfections of women we know – or even ones we’re just people-watching – in order to feel better or worse about ourselves?

I don’t think it’s culture or models or living in an affluent city full of gym bunnies, like I personally do. I think it’s human nature. And that is one tough mother to fight.

Before my husband and I got married, we did about a five-minute “marriage counseling” thing with our then-pastor. He said that he prances around in his birthday suit, despite aging and whatnot, while his wife covers her eyes. Face it, ladies – men just keep getting older while we’re supposed to stay the same as we looked on our wedding day.

Here’s a fact of life – there are more men on this planet than women, and a man would be hard-pressed not to find another woman who would take him if you didn’t. I’m not saying he will or even wants to – I’m just saying that I think that’s why most of us are so obsessed with getting older. We can pretend it’s for our friends or society as a whole, but if we cut all the you-know-what, I think you would discover that being attractive to men is what drives this. Especially your man.

It’s tough being a woman. Everyone else’s life can appear so perfect, and even when you know it’s not, they seem to be handling the challenges with more grace and serenity. But we all have secret hopes, desires, and dreams that we don’t always share with anyone else. That we put on the back burner for later in life. And as time marches on across our faces, breasts, and butts, we realize there is no later. There is no second chance. The time has passed for most of us. And even if that dream or wish isn’t as important to us, we find ourselves mourning the passing of it just the same.

So basically, life can just become a big ole pile a poo and we can just wallow in it, with our Sunday-smiles for others while we die inside. Or – and aren’t you glad there is one? We can look at life the way God intends us to.

You have a choice, regardless of circumstances, to look at your body, your home, your kids, your husband, your friends, your job – your life – with compassion and mercy for yourself and for the people in it. When I stand in front of the mirror and frown at my belly bulge, I have to remind myself to cradle it like I did when carrying my boys. LIFE has grown from that part of my body. Suck it in and put on some lipstick y’all.

Or we can just stew in the disappointments. I am staring 40 in the face, and alternate between grief and excitement. I keep waiting to mellow. I hope it comes soon. I want to age gracefully, so I pray for that when I realize I am not.  A woman’s life is not at all better than mine simply because of her address and the labels on her clothes.

I think to have compassion for other women, we first have to extend some radical grace to ourselves.

Christian Politics


Oh, goody! Right? How many of you – Christian or otherwise – wish you’d never seen that blog title?  Aren’t we just totally sick of the whole thing? Well, for those of you who keep reading…thank you. I’m not going into an over-long post today. It’s just that I haven’t blogged on politics in a really long time, and although I’m not at all itching to, I figured it’s time. I warn you now that I have nothing earth-shattering to relay to you.

Here it is. For many Christians, the world as they know it will end when the next United States president takes office. It doesn’t matter who it is. For many other Christians, unless Donald Trump is elected, the Rapture ensues.

Well, I can’t tell you when the end of the world is coming. Much as I like to think it – and tell it – I don’t know everything. I’m not God. That’s it. I’m not God. None of us are, so none of us can tell when it’s going to be over.

What I can tell you is this. We live in a country of remarkable freedom. Christians aren’t being annihilated here – at least, not physically. We can go to whatever church we want and can worship a plant or a tree or a river or a statue or the Living God.

But this comes with a caveat because while we are not being killed for our beliefs as Christians, we are most definitely being persecuted, and while I personally don’t subscribe to the panic that Hillary Clinton will wipe us off the planet, I do think the event of her taking office will start a chain reaction of fear of panic for many Christians. She won’t have to do a single thing – just becoming president will be enough.

I know how bleeding-heart, flaming liberals think. I used to be one. I know the feminist mindset. I used to have one. But I think this is rare – to be able to adequately see and relate to both sides of the equation between the conservative left and the liberal right. If you don’t have personal experience in this area, I must tell you to be quiet. As my Daddy would say, sit down in that corner and hush. Hush up, now! Something that seems crazy to you makes total sense to millions of people, and has since time began. Read, talk to Christians, and get their perspective.

What I think of either of these candidates isn’t relevant. First, it won’t change your mind. Second, I think at least 80% of us want neither candidate to take office and, at this point, would elect Sponge-Bob Square Pants if it were an option.

So here’s what I propose. Come on over to MY side. It’s nice here. There is a bit of worry, but it is largely overshadowed by faith and trust that although Nope or Noper may become the leader of the free world, y’all, thank the good sweet Lord that Jesus is King! I will give unto Caesar what I must, but my heart, mind, soul, and body reside in a heavenly home. Even now, while I yet live. My home is not this planet. My home is in the heavenly realm.

When I get het up, as they say, my “Alabama country girl” comes out. So listen up. I’m gone tell y’all something important. God, should He choose to light the world afire if Clinton is elected, is gonna take me home, so go on and light it up! And if Jesus comes down at the election of Trump and snatches off that toupee (did anyone think it was real?), I will laugh as I join the rest of you sinners that are heaven-bound.

However, if God has decided to just let things roll, let’s roll with it. He has worked through far worse leaders throughout history. In fact, He’s worked through every single one. That’s right. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It is all to His purpose. So just breathe, y’all. Love. Honor others and respect them. If that’s beyond your purview right now, keep your darn mouth shut! Life is short and heaven is long, so do good while you can and rejoice that despite the situation, the Godhead has got this.

 

Lord, How Long?


Have you ever asked that question of Him? Gracious, but I have. So many times I can’t remember them all. In fact, some of you might be asking God that question this very minute.

Actually, the sentiment comes from what I just read – Isaiah 6:11, in which Isaiah asks that of the Lord, and the answer isn’t comforting. “And He answered, until cities lie waste without inhabitants and houses without man, and the land is utterly desolate.”

Whoa. God didn’t say it was until the people thought they’d had enough, or one more week, or one more day. He said until the Earth is empty. That’s a really, really long time. How many of us can hang in there till then?

I know the context of this verse isn’t even about us in particular. I’m not taking this out of context to make the Bible say something it doesn’t. I’m just asking you, “Lord, how long?”

How long will my kid struggle at school? How long will my husband struggle at work? How long will my wife struggle to find a good friend? How long will I have to watch my mother suffer with death that won’t come? How long will it take me to forgive the man who shot my daughter? How long will I be poor? How long will it take to find someone who genuinely cares about me, and not my money?

How long, y’all? I can’t tell you that. It may be until tomorrow, or in 30 minutes, or – God forbid – the end of time. It’s not the “how long” we should be worrying about. It’s the “how” we should ask.

How, Lord, do I handle this hot mess? How, Lord, do I find joy (not happiness, which is an emotion that is fleeting, that comes and goes, but true joy – which isn’t always a feeling and is more often a choice)? How, Lord, do I wait for the answer?

Get out of your own head for a minute. Step back and look at the problem objectively – as critically as you can, considering how close you are to it. Now, here’s the fun part. Leave it there.

Yes, that’ right. Step away from the problem and don’t touch it, look at it, or think about it. For at least a few hours if you can. Come back to it. Nope? No answer yet? Leave it again. This time, leave at the foot of the Cross and leave it there.

It isn’t yours anymore – it is HIS.