No Plan B

September 2, 2011

This morning I listened to my co-worker describe her daughter’s decision to transfer to another college.  Apparently, she has disliked her current school and is wanting to come back to Indiana and attend IU.  Knowing that this would be a large shock to her parents, she prepared a Power Point presentation to explain her rationale.

Of course, most of us found this quite comical. A Power Point presentation? Really? That’s a little overkill! As we joked, her mom shared that the title was ‘Plan B’.

It struck me later on that there is a large group of people in the world who believe they are living ‘Plan B’ or ‘Plan C’.  In that same moment, I thought that I am likely living ‘Plan EEE”.  I have had so many plans which have ‘failed’, I am likely looping through the alphabet for the third time.

Yet, something in me says that is not true.

My last post was about being appointed and having an appointment. I shared verses from Romans 8 and I find myself there, again, tonight.

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

When I first accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for me, I felt overwhelming gratitude all of the time.  I just wanted to offer my life my back to Him (I still do). I worked for years to root-out my sinful nature.  I studied the Bible and prayed. I worked hard to be honest and kind.  One day, I finally began to feel like a new creation.

And then, one Easter morning, I woke up and the day didn’t feel special anymore.  I knew Christ had died for me. I had seen him change me. 

Yet, I was missing something. 

For years, I went on feeling this way. I just figured that I was ‘maturing’. Then, I thought I needed ‘solid milk’.  In many ways, these things were very true.

Yet, I was missing something.

I read the verses from Romans and always assumed that I just needed to be more ‘spirit-minded’. And I worked harder at it.

Yet, I was missing something.

After ten years of this, I woke up one morning and I felt peace-less.

I was missing something.

I looked back on my life and felt that I had made all of the wrong decisions. I had lived a fairly upright life, yet it seemed there was nothing to show for it.

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ.”

I was missing something.

Even though I had lived ‘well’, so-to-speak, I felt condemned. 

In the process of being a ‘living sacrifice’, I had mistakenly come to the conclusion that I needed to do it myself. 

“God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

All these years, I had been trying to live a ‘good life’ for Christ.  I had tried to ‘root-out’ sin and live well. But God had already done that for me. I didn’t need to try so hard.  Even though Christ’s sacrifice had cleansed me, I was still dominated by sinful nature.  Letting my sinful nature dominate me, led me down a path of death. I stood looking back on things with regret.  I felt anything, but life and peace.

I was missing something.

I needed to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.  I needed to think about  the things that please the Holy Spirit.

“And now, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true…”  Philippians 4:8

For the last year, I have been watching for the feelings of condemnation in my life.  I need to focus on what’s true.  There is no condemnation for me, because of Christ. 

From sins to bad decisions, there is no condemnation.

Which brings me to Plan B or, as I referred to it earlier, Plan EEE.

As I thought about my life this morning, I began to feel the weight of past failures and disappointments – condemnations.

And then, I then I invited the Holy Spirit to show me the truth of my situation.

And I come back to those verses in Romans 8. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Do you get the sense that God doesn’t have a Plan B for you? Do you get the sense that nothing can separate you from Plan A? 

Do you get the sense that God is Plan A?

 

This Month’s Miracles:

  • Evan initiated a ‘high-five’ with me and actually said ‘five’. Amazing!
  • Evan ran up to Tessa and wrapped his arms around her – he said ‘hug’ while doing so!
  • Normally, we leave Mammie and Gramps house through the garage door.  However, the other day we left through the front door. Evan recognized that we were leaving and said ‘bye’ numerous times.
  • Evan has been saying ‘uh-na’ and ‘tessssssssa’….his sisters names!
  • While running through the apartment (his primary self-stimulatory behavior), he yelled ‘run’!  He was so excited…and so was I!
  • Evan reached up to give Jesse a hug at bedtime. Then wrapped his arms around his neck and squeezed.  Evan requests a lot of hugs and receives them, but ‘giving’ hugs is a little more rare. So special…
  • Evan moved up from the nursery to the preschool room at church! The big boy definitely enjoyed the new toys and was a pleasant addition to the classroom.
  • Evan started school. By the second day, he walked right on the bus with no problems. He seems to be enjoying his days and napping a little better in the afternoons. I think they may be wearing him out a little!

Overall, there have been quite a few words at random this month. Here are some goals that I am going to work for this month:

  • Use a PECS card for the school bus to show Evan where we are going and help him to learn that word. Figure out the sign language for it too and start using it!
  • Evan tends to wander during meal and snack times. I really want to nip this particular behavior.  At dinner, we will be continually sitting him back in his seat and prompting him to say or sing ‘all done’ when finished.
  • Gather and read resources regarding potty training children with autism. Evan has been tugging at his diaper, because it is uncomfortable. I feel this may be a sign to start moving in that direction.
  • I have been working on my ‘alone time’.  Each morning for several weeks, I have been able to set time aside to read my Bible and a small devotional. I really want to add exercise into this routine, because I want to be healthier. I know it seems like this goal doesn’t relate to Evan, but I am learning that I need some ‘me-time’.  Especially, since most of my time is ‘kid time’ or ‘work time’ or a myriad of other responsabilities!

If you think of us and are praying, then I’ve got a request. I’ve been feeling that God wants us to pray that our kids, and especially Evan, that they are fertile soil. The parable of the sower is typically meant to signify the way that different people respond to the gospel – we can be rocky soil, weedy soil or fertile soil.  I just really feel called to pray that my kids will be fertile soil for the right things – that the things we are trying to teach them and working towards will flourish and grow and take root in their hearts!

 

 

 

 

This Dream

August 25, 2011

I have this dream. It involves Jesse and I sitting on our couch in the morning. He’s sipping coffee and we are talking about the upcoming things in our day. Then, we hear ‘the sounds’ emanating from upstairs. And soon, six sets of little feet come pitter-pattering down the stairs. We help them grab their bowls of cereal and glasses of milk.  As we all converge around the living area, Jesse prays and reads something from the Bible.

That’s it. That’s my dream. Its simple. Nothing fancy. It has been my dream since I met him – Jesse. I always wanted a lot of kids and when he said 6 sounded fun – well, we were meant for each other. We got married and started building our lives together.

We bought a huge house and got pregnant. Our little lady arrived on the scene.

Around this time, we fell in love with the youth group at our church.  We felt God calling us.  At the same time, Jesse discovered a calling to return to college and study graphic design.  He started a work from home job and went back to school. I started working full-time.  We became the youth ministers at our church and we just felt so excited about the things God was bringing into our lives.  Soon, this little dude came too.  And we were very excited.

Jesse’s work-from-home job became demanding – they didn’t even give him 2 days off for Evan’s birth.  I had a c-section and had limitations – I couldn’t carry anything heavier than the baby.  This made it hard to care for our little ones.  In the end, Jesse had to leave that job.  We moved out of our gargantuan house and into a two bedroom apartment.  Six months later, we were officially in foreclosure.  I started working night shift. I got pregnant. We stepped down from ministry.  The bill tally was $1000 more than we made each month. Peanut butter and jelly was our daily staple.  It began to feel a little less ‘exciting’. 

In my third month of pregnancy, I developed kidney stones.  In my fifth month, overwhelmed by the circumstances around me, I became depressed and suicidal.   Our apartment lease ended and my parents offered to let us live with them. I think ‘very worried’ hardly described my mom’s feelings.

We moved in and welcomed some Good News.

At Evan’s 18-month check-up, the doctor was concerned about his lack of speech.  Soon we sat in a neurologist’s office and listened to his remarks that we were likely looking at ‘autism spectrum disorder’. 

In these moments, I felt so far from the patter of six little feet and Bible readings over coffee. Some days I still feel pretty far from it.  I wonder if it is even worth considering anymore. 

At the beginning of this year, a good friend of our’s prayed for us.  He told us that God was going to restore us this year.  I remember feeling hopeful and doubtful, all at the same time. 

Saturday was Jesse and I’s sixth anniversary.  Unfortunately, with my new job, I had not been able to request it off. However, that morning I received a call saying that I could have the day of.  Lying in bed, I began to think about the last year and the gratitude just overwhelmed me. 

We paid off over $30,000 in debt, when I only made $21,000 the entire year. We moved out on our own. Jesse got a job – a great one. I got a job – a great one, with great hours.  I’m starting to feel restored.  This morning, I had this song in my head:

It’s been a long, hard road these last few years. Yet, it seems we are finally rounding the bend.  In the end, all of the struggle, the pain – it led us straight to Him. We could not have survived it all without Jesus. It sounds hokey and cliche, but He truly has been our Savior. 

Which brings me to Evan…

I just hope this road leads him straight to You, Jesus.

Some Thanksgiving

August 4, 2011

All I have to say is that things are looking up! In the last month, we have had so many blessings! Here are just a few:

  • I got a new job on the mother/baby unit, which is a much happier place than the ER!  I miss the hustle and bustle of the ER, but I know God has brought me to this new unit for a reason.
  • Jesse got a job! When they offered him the position, they actually offered more than was originally budgeted for the position – because they liked him so  much!
  • My sister-in-law has watched the kids for a few weeks until the first paychecks arrive!  GOD BLESS HER!
  • We found a wonderful lady, experienced with children who have autism, to watch the girls permanently and then Evan as needed. She even helped us fill our the Autism Waiver for medicaid!
  • With both of us working, we quickly realized that we needed another car. Of course, we also quickly realized that we couldn’t afford one for at least a few months. A week later, my mother broke her arm (which is definitely NOT a blessing). However, it just so happened that we could use her car for about a month. Then, my brother offered to sell his nice, newer car to her inexpensively. This, in turn, allowed her to sell us her old vehicle at a price that we can afford. If we had bought a car at that price anywhere else it would be completely unreliable. However, we know this vehicles history – it has a brand new engine and clutch and is in great shape!
  • Lastly, I received a call from the benefits department at St. Vincent, where I work. They will begin covering ABA therapy in 2012. This is a huge financial blessing for us! 

In January, a good friend of ours prayed for us after church. He told us that God was going to restore us. I remember being so encouraged and at the same time wondering what it would be like to feel ‘blessed’. I always new that I was blessed. I have an incredible family AND an incredible God. Yet, things have been so tough for so long…I had forgotten what blessing feels like.

It feels good! *Smile*

Yet, I would never trade the last several years in for anything, because now I enjoy the presence of God. I love Him so much and He has been with me every step of the way. I guess I know that even if things weren’t looking up – He and I would be in the same place – together.

And that is the greatest blessing of all.

Psalm 16 

1Keep me safe, O God,
      for I have come to you for refuge.

 2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
      Every good thing I have comes from you.”
 3 The godly people in the land
      are my true heroes!
      I take pleasure in them!
 4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods…

 5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
      You guard all that is mine.
 6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
      What a wonderful inheritance!

 7 I will bless the Lord who guides me;
      even at night my heart instructs me.
 8 I know the Lord is always with me.
      I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

 9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
      My body rests in safety.
 10 For you will not leave my soul…
 11 You will show me the way of life,
      granting me the joy of your presence
      and the pleasures of living with you forever.

 

God has a purpose for giving Evan autism, Ashley. 

You just don’t know what it is yet. 

For the record, I hate those words.  Just don’t even try them on me.  I don’t believe for one minute that God gave Evan autism.  I don’t even believe that God made autism.  Why would a God who is described as love, kindness, grace, etc….give someone autism or even create autism? 

No one has given me a good answer for that question.  The closest was that the good of this situation would far outweigh the bad.  Even that seems unsatisfactory.  Certainly God – omnipotenet and omnicient and omnibenevolent – could come up with a plan that does not include autism.

In fact, I would like to postulate that He did come up with a plan that did not include Autism. 

It went something like a man and a woman in a garden named Eden…

And ends with a man on a cross and an empty tomb. 

He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our sins.

The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.

And by His stripes we are healed and made whole.

Isaiah 53:5

With a child who has autism, a parent rarely hears the words ‘healed and whole’.  They don’t come in the autism FAQ  or Q&A sections.  In fact, the mantra for most goes something like this.

No cause. No cure.

Rehabilitated at best.

Therapies are expensive and unproven.  Doctors are uncertain.  People respond to the ‘A’ word with confusion and glances askance.  And I hear them describe my child as disabled, when his laugh tells me otherwise. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

God can heal autism.  God will heal autism. 

And we will be part of that plan. 

Because we believe…

Jesus replied,

“If you have faith as small as a seed, you can say to that mountain:

‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.

Nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:20

MOVE MOUNTAIN!