Debbie's Perspective

Just my thoughts of the day.

Selective Listener?

Luke 6:27a ~ “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!

I was just walking toward the kitchen as my husband walked past me and quickly said, “Don’t worry, I have already asked her to clean it all up.”  Then he promptly left the house for work.

I hesitantly walked around the corner and came face to face with my teenage daughter using her feet on two dish towels swiping away at the floor.  When she saw the look on my face she said, “Mom, you should be glad that I already cleaned up a lot of it.  It was really messy earlier.  Great! I thought as I surveyed the flour and powdered sugar dusted counters, the sink and counter full of dishes, and the little drifts of powdered sugar clinging to two of the cabinet doors.

I was already frustrated irritated, okay let’s be really honest, I was angry with her over two other incidents in the last couple of days.  So last night when she just had to bake these cookies for the school project – at 10:30 p.m. – I went to bed.

After cleaning the kitchen (grudgingly because the bus doesn’t wait, and let’s face it, her cleaning methods were just making a bigger mess at the moment), but having her make her own lunch because I was taking care of her mess, I sat down to have a little quiet time with the Lord hoping for a new perspective on things.  He never disappoints.

I was reading the verse that practically screamed off the page at me, “But to you who are willing to listen…”  Well, of course, I listen.  Those who don’t would be the unbelievers or those who pick and choose what they want out of the Bible, right? I felt the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart and ask, “Are you sure it isn’t talking about you?”

Okay, Lord, show me what you want me to see.  He said, “Well, now that you are willing to LISTEN, I’d be happy to show you.  Just keep reading.”  As I read about how I am to love, be good to, bless, and pray for my enemies, I realized I wasn’t even doing that for my family so how could I possibly do it for my enemies.  Oh no! I was a selective listener.

Of course I love my family, I do good for them, I bless them, and I certainly pray for them.  I justified the situation; after all, I was just a little mad at the moment.  But wait, this passage doesn’t stop at those.  Oh goodness, there is more!  What about turning the other cheek, offering my shirt when my coat has been demanded of me, and giving freely without asking for anything in return?  Surely this isn’t talking about my situation because I’m dealing with my child, not enemies.

Hmmm, let’s see.  The end of verse 35 says that if I do all of these things I will truly be acting as a child of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  Then in verse 36 Jesus says, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

I know sometimes I have to chastise and discipline my children, and it is clear in God’s word that He does that to us, His children, because He loves us.  But, He is also compassionate toward us, and sometimes just makes sure we are listening and then teaches us the right things to do.

 

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Not Just A Baby

I said goodbye to my daddy this past week.  As I sat by his bedside and his last hours grew near, my first thoughts were, “Lord, I had hoped we would get through Christmas.”  But as the hours ticked away, and my mother and sisters and I sang hymns to him, read scripture passages, and prayed, a different feeling filled my heart.

I know why I celebrate Christmas; the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but there is that part of me that thinks Christmas should be happy and cheerful, pretty and fun, and  family and friends getting together to celebrate.  It’s Jesus’ birthday!

Losing my daddy this time of year brought an unexpected understanding that deepens my joy of the true reason I celebrate Christmas.

Psalm 23 was one of my daddy’s favorites.  This past week as we read it over him many times, each time I read, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me,” I was aware that we all walk through that valley; we will all face death one day.  Our journey here on earth will be done, and then what?  Because of the baby Jesus lying in a manger, we can face that day with great joy and rejoicing if we’ve accepted and received His free gift of salvation by believing and placing our faith in Him.  If we’ve opened our eyes to see that He isn’t just a sweet story about a tiny baby and nothing more.

That baby was the physical manifestation of the promises throughout the Old Testament; the prophecies of a savior.  Salvation came to earth that day in the body of a baby boy, but that baby would grow to be a man, die on a cross, and rise from the dead so that we might have eternal life.  That day marked, in our physical realm, the beginning of God’s plan of redemption being fulfilled.

He is so much more! Simeon in Luke 2:28-32 saw that in the tiny baby he held – Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

My heart is saddened that I’ll no longer be able to see my daddy here on earth, but because of the baby Jesus the angels proclaimed, the shepherds came to see, the Wisemen traveled so far to worship; the Savior of the World, my heart rejoices because I know I will see him on the other side of the veil in the presence of our Savior.

Isaiah 9:1a – Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

Isaiah 9:2 – The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Christmas has not been overshadowed by this loss because I understand that my daddy is finally truly home for Christmas. He is seeing with his eyes what we can only get a glimpse of in our hearts.

Thank you Lord Jesus, Light of the World.  May those walking in darkness turn and come into your glorious light, may they come to know the joy and peace you so freely give.

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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You Can’t Discipline Autism Out of a Child

Autism AwarenessI  don’t write this because of one particular incident, but for the many smaller incidents, comments, and attitudes over the years.

My son looks like the typical 8-year-old — two front teeth a little too big for his little-boy mouth, a sprinkle of freckles across his nose and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He is active and bright, and, to the casual onlooker, he is just another little boy.

So when he darts away from me running for a door to open and close, or screams and cries as he pulls away from me trying to make it to a door he shouldn’t touch, he seems to be a defiant, out-of-control kid who needs some good discipline to make him stop.

There have been those over the years who have said, “Just don’t let him touch those doors and he will eventually learn that he can’t do it.” A clear sign that they have no idea of the driving force behind my son’s need to open and close doors.

I’ve tried to understand this need my son has for doors. Since his need to open and close them rises with his anxiety level, I often have wondered whether their constant sameness gives him some sort of comfort — an order to an otherwise out-of-order situation.

I think if I could ever really delve into his mind and truly understand, I might be awed by the complexity of it or laugh at the simplicity. All I know is that it is a need that goes so deep in him that I will never be able to punish or motivate it out of him. So it is left to me to continue day in and day out to teach and train him that there are doors he can touch and others that are off-limits — and hope that one day the logical part of his brain will override the reptilian part and he will gain at least a small amount of control in this.

He is making progress, even though it is slow.

The meltdowns stemming from the answer “no” do not come from a lack of being told no, as many would suspect. There have been comments along those lines — or those who have even stepped in and thought that their stern voice or ultimatum would somehow do the trick, leaving me to deal with the even greater or longer meltdown.

My son doesn’t want to lose control. In fact, he hates it. He is heartbroken afterward because of his actions during a meltdown. His driving need for order or comfort in his anxiety overwhelms him, and he finally breaks down.

No amount of discipline in the form of punishment is going to stop this. All I can do is continue to give him strategies and alternatives for times like this. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, he has consequences to those actions.

Those who believe that he “just needs to learn to mind or just needs a firmer hand” have not lived the years with my son that I have. It shows their lack of understanding of a mind that could read at 2 but wasn’t toilet trained until 7. A mind that understands what you say to him but has difficulty communicating back with language.

They have no knowledge of senses that are messed up so that normal sounds like water running in the sink can be very painful to his ears but some loud siren might not even make him flinch, as if he were deaf. A gentle touch could hurt where a firm touch could be comforting.

They are unaware of an anxiety level that is always there, controlled on the surface but ready to break through when there is too much movement, noise or change. They have no true understanding of how that breakthrough looks like a defiant child but is merely a child no longer able to win his hard-fought battle.

I have to keep my eyes on the goal: my child’s life. I can’t let others’ judgments or opinions of my parenting veer me from my course. My job is to continue to try to understand my son and try to see the world through his eyes so I can teach and train him to somehow fit into our world the best he can, at least as far as acceptable social behavior is concerned.

I will not frustrate him more and put even harder burdens on him than he already bears just for the appeasement of those who don’t understand. Thankfully he has many people around him who feel the way I do and understand that you can’t discipline autism out of a child.

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RELINQUISHED

The Dream
There was an ancient people who built a tower. God judged and destroyed them.

A new people were trying to build the tower again, not to be rebellious, but they thought if they could build the tower in just the right way, it would be accepted by God.

They built and built, but not with bricks and stone; they built with houses, cars, papers, books, ideas, and the very lives of people. They planned and schemed, but no matter how hard they worked, the tower kept being built exactly as the first one. No matter what they did or how they maneuvered things, every time it was the same as the first.

The people asked God to start over, but once again, no matter what they did, it was always the same.

On their knees a cry went out to God that it was “Impossible!”

The answer came: “You can’t out think, out strategize, out maneuver, or out guess God. That is impossible.”

The people cried out, “Then what do you want from us? What can we do?”

God answered, “I want you. I want your love, and your obedience. You belong to me.”

Anger rose up from the crowd, “Like a servant or a dog?”

“No. Like my child.”

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Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

My dream pictured a people just like me trying to please God, but trying to do it their way at the same time. Not purposefully trying to rebel, but still wanting to be in control. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the desire to be in control is just wanting to do a good job, be competent, and get it right.

There is a fine line between wanting to bring excellence to God and running the whole show. The line is between a relinquished heart and self. They must meet on the altar.

Which will I choose?

A life planning, maneuvering, and strategizing how to get the pieces to fit or a life relinquished to a loving Father who places each piece to carefully craft a perfect plan?

One produces a lopsided, ill-fitting structure, and the other produces a stunning tower; a dwelling place for the King.

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Love’s Layers – My Journey

Love is one of those elusive things that has many layers which only time and experience can uncover. There are Aha! moments where you believe you’ve found the answer to its meaning, but I propose that those moments are just the realization of a new layer you never knew existed before.

As a child, love was my mother serving me chicken noodle soup, Sprite, and saltine crackers when I was sick. My mother is the hinge pin in my understanding of love. She was the first to model it for me as she went about taking care of our family. She was always there for me; interested in my thoughts, friends, and life. Even when she was angry, her voiced raised and eyes narrowed, I knew without a doubt she still loved me. Love to me as a little girl was all about being safe and taken care of.

Boys, boys, boys! Oh how they changed my view of love. Unearthing another layer to love’s secrets brought a roller coaster ride of emotions. I began to experience the heart pounding, butterfly evoking type of love. My heart was whipped around from elation to heartache and back again. While exhilarating, thankfully it was only the birth pains of true and lasting love.

Once married and living day to day with my husband, a new discovery of love came about in a less pleasurable kind of way. This discovery, filled with eye opening clarity that only reality can bring, was quite necessary to the longevity of my love for my husband; the hard work of commitment.

I first heard about commitment in the pre-marriage classes we took. I sat there nodding my head as we were told that there would be days that you didn’t feel love for your spouse, but a commitment to them and your marriage would get you through. At the time, I didn’t understand what it really meant or what it would look like. I was under the illusion that I would always feel this emotion filled love for my husband. It didn’t matter that everyone else I knew had lost that early lover’s elation and moved on into a more steady solid love. To me that love looked boring and lifeless. We were different; we would be like the romance novel lovers with a little less drama.

It’s amazing how towels on the bathroom floor, having very little money, and differing views on how things should get done can send you head long into understanding commitment. Your eyes are opened to the fact that you can really love someone, but not really like them some days. What once seemed like a boring lifeless love looked different from the inside. It was safety.

I was beginning to realize that my mother’s commitment to me is what brought the feelings of safety into my life. It was now my commitment to my husband and his to me that brought safety into our marriage. There were moments when he still made my heart pound and butterflies flutter in my stomach, but I realized without the commitment it would just be the emotion filled rollercoaster I had known as a teenager.

Children can definitely open your eyes to a layer of love called responsibility. In my life, the moment I understood this truth happened when our first son, Taylor, was a month old. It was a stormy evening with the threat of tornadoes around us. The wind began to blow hard, and the tree in front of our tiny duplex began to whip around violently. With the fear that a tornado was on top of us, we ran to our small utility room and huddled on the floor. My baby son was sleeping in my arms totally oblivious to the danger around him. As I leaned over him with my husband leaning over me, I realized that I would willingly give my life for this precious baby boy. I would put myself between him and whatever came at us.

As my husband leaned over us both, it occurred to me that he was willingly putting himself between us and harm’s way. My heart swelled with love for him at that moment. I realized then that not only were we committed to each other for a lifetime, but we were responsible for each other and this child of ours. This knowledge added a weighty layer to what I understood as love, but a layer that bound us together in a way we never could be without it.

Responsibility is that part of love that binds you together during the hard times. It’s the part that says, “I’ve got your back, and I know you’ve got mine.”

I’ve been married to my husband now for almost 30 years. We’ve had lots of opportunities to practice commitment and responsibility, as well as experience emotion as high as the clouds and as deep as the ocean. Love is like that. When you love someone very deeply, they can elicit the most wonderful joy, but also the scariest anger.

When Taylor was nine we adopted a baby girl, Grace. We were at the birth, and held her just moments after she was born. She instantly was our baby. When she was four months old she was diagnosed with a terminal muscle disease. Two months later we were finalizing her adoption when the case worker asked us if we had considered not adopting her and giving her back. The thought was ludicrous to us. She was our child. Again, that sense of responsibility in love came to the surface. I was willing to do whatever it took to take care of her. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t given birth to her, she was my baby nonetheless.

There were days of feeding tubes, breathing treatments, and hospice nurses. We loved her deeply through it all. This is the layer of love I can’t explain. It is the layer of love that is commitment, responsibility, and emotion even when you can’t get anything in return. I guess you could call it the unconditional part of love.

Our daughter relocated to heaven just two weeks after her first birthday. With all the parts of love in place between me and my husband, we survived the heartache. We needed them all to get through it.

Six months later we adopted another baby girl. Our daughter, Hope, is healthy and strong, and a total joy to our lives. Just 18 months after Hope was born, I gave birth to our son, Carson. He was a big surprise. After 19 years of marriage, infertility, multiple miscarriages, and adoptions I had given birth to a boy.

Life continues to surprise us. When Carson was two, we learned he had autism. That journey is another story, but it has taught me many more life lessons along the way, and continues to develop my understanding of love. I don’t know if there are any more layers I haven’t uncovered yet or if I will just continue to learn the complexities of the layers I already know. All I do know is it takes a lifetime to truly understand the meaning of love.

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