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Thankful for Godly Mothers

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST

The prophet Jeremiah included words of encouragement for Jerusalem and especially for those who trusted in the Lord. When I think about Mother’s Day approaching, I think about all the amazing mothers who trust in the Lord while raising their families. The words in Jeremiah 17:7-8, apply to all the godly mothers I know, including my own.

“Blessed is the man (or mother) who trusts in the Lord,
   whose trust is the Lord.
He (She) is like a tree planted by water,
   that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
   for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
   for it does not cease to bear fruit” (words in parenthesis, mine).

I am thankful for a mother who took me to church. And though she could not carry a tune, she also taught me her favorite hymns, so that sitting in church I could make a joyful noise unto the Lord and join in with corporate worship.

I am thankful for a mother who taught me to say “Yes, I did it,” “I am sorry,” and “Please forgive me.” I learned the appropriate response for my sins, and how to ask forgiveness, first from others and later from God.

I am thankful for a mother who taught me from a young age to say the “God is good” prayer at meals, then encouraged me to pray “thank you” prayers before I went to bed until prayer became a habit. As I grew, my mother would pray with me for all of my personal problems, big or small, and was quick to remind me when she saw God’s answers to our prayers, until I began to seek them out for myself.

I am thankful for a mother who helped me memorize scripture. Our Sunday School class regularly rewarded us with bookmarks or pens when we learned the Ten Commandments, or other portions of scripture that were part of our lessons. My mother celebrated those rewards as if I had graduated with an advanced degree. To this day, those verses remain in my heart…

Moving Towards People with Autism in Faithful Friendship

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR

Have you ever had a friendship that started out, at first, on the worst possible footing—and yet, somehow—it grew anyway? I have an autistic friend who can testify that is exactly how our relationship lurched forward. When we first met, while I was leading a national disability ministry, my “wheelhouse” was primarily in the area of intellectual disability. At that time, I did not have any close personal connections with adults who have “high functioning autism” (a misnomer in and of itself). Lori was the first woman I had ever encountered who carried this descriptor.

We met in 2013 at our denomination’s annual General Assembly. While working the booth for our ministry, Lori circled by several times and then finally came up and talked to me for a bit. She mentioned that she had a son with autism. I’d had those conversations with lots of folks before. Then she said, “I have autism too.” Now she had my attention.

Unhelpful Responses

When “typical” folks meet people with disabilities, we can often fall into one of three categories of unhelpful responses: condescension, complacency, or consumerism. In my experience, the most common response is one of condescension—a revealing of our own biases of superiority towards people with differing abilities whom we presume to be inferior to us. It’s an ugly disclosure when it happens. And it happens frequently. Condescension says much more about us and our distorted views of ourselves than it says about people with disabilities.

The second category is complacency. Complacency is indifferent to the difficulties associated with disability and deeply rooted in our postmodern cultural context. Complacency can mask as acceptance—but it refuses to acknowledge (or feel any responsibility toward) the ways that some degree of suffering always accompanies disability in how the body works differently than we expect it to. For people with autism, the differences in neurological functioning create very challenging sensory, communication, relational, and executive functioning hurdles. When we are complacent or indifferent toward those realities, we communicate to people with autism that we expect them to bear these challenges in silence.

The third trap is a consumer mindset—one that sees the person with autism, in this case, as a commodity. Wow—you inspire me. Wow—you’re not what I expected. Wow—you could be really useful to me. I fell into this latter pitfall in my first encounter with Lori. Acknowledging that I did not know nearly as much about autism as I really needed to, I was thrilled to meet someone who was not only a parent of a child with autism but also autistic herself. What a gold mine! That’s when the unfiltered speech started on my part. “Will you be my (ministry’s) Temple Grandin?” Yes. I actually said that. I know. It’s mortifying for me even now, just to type it, let alone acknowledge that I blurted it out. (In case you don’t know who Temple Grandin is, she is a woman with autism who is a world-renowned speaker on the subject and also a brilliant, accomplished researcher in the topic area of animal husbandry.)

What I Am Still Learning

I thought it might be helpful to share a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning) along the way about becoming friends with someone who is autistic. I’ve asked Lori to interact with me on this post as well, so this post is only Part 1 of 2, as Lori’s voice in this conversation is, of course, crucial.

In my experience, I think those of us who would describe our interactions with the world around us as “neurotypical” will benefit from recognizing that we subconsciously settle into several things in our friendships, without even being aware of them. “Easy” neurotypical friendships are often based on commonality, comfort, competence, and conformity. We find it easiest to relate to those with whom we share things in common, whose presence doesn’t require us to be uncomfortable in any way, where our knowledge of the world and how it works feels competent, and where there is some mutually agreed upon level of conformity.

Christ-like relationships, on the other hand, are not focused on “ease” but on “intentionality.”…

The Blood That Truly Saves

In 2010, my sister was diagnosed with MDS a “pre-cancer” where the bone marrow does not function properly. Without a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is highly likely a patient will develop an aggressive and terminal form of Leukemia (AML).

My sister received medication that kept the MDS in remission for years, however, in May 2016 the same week in which my younger sister Cathy was diagnosed with a recurrence of Breast Cancer, Connie’s medication became ineffective. In the fall of 2016, Connie’s condition worsened, and it was determined without a stem cell transplant, she would not survive.

My brothers and I were tested, (my older brother had died in 1988 and my sister Cathy died 6 weeks after her diagnosis). I was a 100% match, and I was overjoyed! The doctors began to prepare my sister for the transplant. She was placed in the transplant unit where she received harsh chemotherapy in an attempt to kill off the cancer cells without killing her.

I also had to prepare by having several tests and blood tests (22 vials worth). A week prior to the transplant I received daily shots of Neupogen to stimulate neutrophil production. While the neutrophils are multiplying, my bone marrow worked overtime causing at times severe bone pain. This process was difficult in many ways, but the physical pain and isolation for me to remain healthy, paled in comparison to what was going on in my mind and heart.

A Heavy Burden

The thought that my sister’s life was in my hands was at times emotionally overwhelming. What if after being a match, I wasn’t healthy enough to donate? What if I didn’t produce enough cells? What if I needed a central line because my veins couldn’t handle the extraction (I had to get a central line). What if it doesn’t work? What if… what if… What if my blood couldn’t save her? And, why couldn’t I have done something to save my younger sister? Lord, why Connie and not Cathy? Why couldn’t I save both? At times my heart was broken and torn!…

Perfectionism, Shame, and Freedom in Christ

DUSKI VAN FLEET|GUEST

Sitting in my counselor’s office the day after I lost my temper with one of my children, I shared the details of our hard day and my disappointment with how I responded. I tell her how puzzled I am when I mention my failures as a mom, because people often tell me they could never see me angry or yelling at anyone. They rave about what a wonderful mom I am and point out the ways they see me getting things right. It seems to me they think I have it all together, while all I think is, “If you only knew me. If you could only see how hurtful I can be.” 

Her response takes me by surprise. “Well, why can’t both be true?  Does it really have to be one or the other? Is it possible for you to be both a really good mom and a mom who makes mistakes?” Hold please, while I let this one sink in. 

Considering her questions, I began to think of other similar scenarios that trigger the same thought pattern within my brain. For instance, when I realize I forgot about a friend’s text from days ago expressing a need for help, I suddenly declare myself a thoughtless, selfish friend. When I interrupt my husband again and he becomes frustrated, I pronounce I am a terrible wife. As I thought about my roles in life throughout the rest of the day, I realized how often my failures define my identity. 

Stuck in a Thought Cycle

Black and white thinking keeps me stuck in a cycle of perfectionism and shame. I invest a lot of my time, thought, and emotional energy into learning how to love my people well. I also work hard to put what I am learning into practice. I love my husband and my kids so much, and I care deeply about their hearts and the stories God is writing for them. I want to be a part of those stories and impact them for good. I am a good wife and a good mom. That is one truth. 

There is also another truth. I am a sinner. I carry in my body the sin passed on to me and every human when Adam and Eve chose to sin. I live in a fallen world that has broken and wounded me. Evil is hunting me and through deception, wants to obliterate the good God desires for me, my husband, and our children. There are times I choose to believe the devil’s lies, and I emotionally wound the people I love. This grieves my heart…

Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives in the Wake of COVID

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR

My husband is a senior pastor, and we’ve served in ministry together for almost twenty-five years. Amidst the numerous joys and challenges of church life through the years, we have not felt before the kind of spiritual and emotional fatigue that has resulted from the effects of the COVID pandemic. Everyone has been burdened in some way by the pandemic, some more so than others, but because of my perspective as a pastor’s wife, I have a tenderness toward the stories I’ve heard from various pastor’s wives during this unique time.

Weeds of Discouragement

I’ve talked with some who feel defeated after thinking through new and innovative ways to carry on with ministries they’re involved with only to be met with little support. Other pastor’s wives seem to have relented to the seed of bitterness after hearing polarizing views from discontented members who swarmed their opinion through email, phone calls, and texts. And one dear pastor’s wife watched as the effects of the pandemic so permeated the congregation that the doors of the young church plant were closed permanently.

It’s easy to surrender to discouragement in light of the challenges in church ministry during the last year, but there are good reasons to push away the frustrated emotions. A bleak attitude can too easily lead to weeds planted in our heart, and these weeds produce buds when watered with our judgmental attitudes toward congregants. And they grow quickly when we blame our burdens on a particular decision or unwelcomed path.

Satan loves to see our hearts overgrown with these weeds which cause us to forget that God is working in and through His church…

Remember to Pray

SHERRY LANIER|GUEST

COVID pandemic. Wow! This virus which was unknown until recent days has changed our daily life. It has an impact on everything we do. ‘Did you bring your mask?’ ‘Did you check to see if this business is still open?’ ‘Did you make a reservation for church?’ All of these questions and many more reflect our new reality.

Yet, all that COVID has brought has not been negative. This new reality has also caused us to have new schedules that, for the most part, have given us more time to think, reflect, and remember. To remember is ‘to call back to mind what we once knew.’ For every believer, the importance and priority of prayer is something we have always known. But for many of us, we have had days where the busy-ness of a filled schedule has squeezed out prayer or reduced it to a last resort, used only when we have exhausted ourselves.

During these pandemic days, I’ve had the opportunity to stop and remember much. A renewed excitement about the opportunity to pray has been sweet. Reflecting over those times where the Lord has answered prayers in ways that were amazing and miraculous has brought a renewed joy and excitement about prayer. Praying through this current season and for what lies ahead reminds me of my hope in Christ in all things.

Three Truths to Remember About Prayer

The excitement and motivation to pray has grown for me as I have reflected on a few things about prayer; that prayer is a privilege, an opportunity, and a lifestyle.

First, prayer is a privilege made possible by the sacrificial work of Christ. A privilege is defined as ‘a special right’ or ‘a special honor.’ When we engage in prayer, we have the privilege of entering into the presence of God in a special way; that way, the ONLY way, is through our Redeeming Savior, Jesus Christ Who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (Jn. 14:6). We pray in His Name as He has broken down the veil through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and life-giving resurrection which makes our opportunity of praying possible. Through Him we have been given access to the very Throne of Grace so that we might ‘find our source of help in time of need’ (Heb. 4:16). 

Second, prayer is an opportunity to join our Father with what He is doing…