Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Total Submission

In March, I was struck by the example of Christ in His submission to God, His Father, while He lived here on Earth as I sat in our monthly church's ladies' Bible study discussing a chapter on submission and godliness from Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barabara Hughes, the book we are currently reading.  I was severely convicted by the ways in which I fail to truly submit to Christ my King.

Barbara writes: "The message of the Bible is clear: Jesus Christ is Lord!  It's a fact.  Bringing our lives into submission to His will in everything is the key to being a godly woman.  It is also the path to joy."  Later she also writes: "It is the love of God that motivates us to follow Christ's example and enables us to loosen our grip on our plans for our lives, placing ourselves squarely under God's loving rule each day.....We can fully entrust ourselves to our Father's beautiful plan for us."

As I read those words, I realized with frightening clarity that I don't submit to God's will in EVERYTHING and that I have a strong grip on my plans for my life and that I really don't FULLY entrust myself to my Father's plan for me.

The last few years have been especially frustrating for me.  I have such a deep desire to serve God through overseas missions.  I firmly believe that He has called me to be a missionary and that is His will for my life.  However, when we made plans to apply through Mission to the World to go into full-time foreign missions and pursued serving in Bulgaria a few years ago, we felt as is our lives came crashing down around us forcing us to come to a screeching halt in our application process and abandon all hope of going to a foreign field any time soon.  David's health had worsened to the point where he required weekly antibody transfusions.  Josh's struggle with Autism and a newly developing mood disorder made him quite unstable.  I was bedridden for 3 straight months with a migraine doctors could not control or figure out which also led to the discovery of a brain lesion.  Tim had his own battles.

Needless to say, my trust in God was shaken.  God had been slowly leading us along this missions path for years, and finally the doors were wide open.  We found ourselves walking through them frighteningly fast only to get through several and have the next door slam in our face.  How could God do this? Why was Satan winning this battle? In my desire to have answers and get to God's plan for my life, I picked up the pieces of my life lying around me and tried to manipulate circumstances, details, people, and ultimately God to make things work.

Obviously, my efforts got me nowhere closer to my end goal, but God used that time to teach me volumes of truths about Him.  Satan wins only if I lose all hope in God and my desire to serve as a missionary.  God is not finished preparing me for foreign ministry.  I am a missionary right where God has me and in the midst of life's struggles and THROUGH my struggles.  Now three years later, I finally come to the realization that God's ULTIMATE will for my life is for me to live in total submission trusting Him in all things.  It's been a hard lesson to learn but so important.

After that Bible study in March, I began seriously praying asking God to change my heart and help me release my grip on my life and live in total submission abandoning all hope in myself and my abilities and fully relying on Him and Him alone.  As the weeks have passed, I have felt weights fall off of my shoulders.  I feel light enough to soar like an eagle.  I have a greater joy in my heart than I have felt in a very long time.  I don't feel as stressed nor do I feel as anxious.

Being a person who likes to plan ahead and know what to expect and have control of circumstances (yes, I can partially relate with Josh in his own struggles with this due to his Autism), this has not been an easy thing for me to do.  I pray for help daily to place myself "under God's loving rule each day."  Some days, especially when the stress increases, I start to reclaim the grip on my life.  That's when I pray harder asking God to help me keep my hands off of His responsibilities.
There is no better place to be than in total submission of my Maker, King, and Father.  No matter the circumstances around me, I have joy, peace, and God's blessings.  I pray that God will continue to help me live out this important lesson.
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:7-8

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism Awareness and the Gospel

Joshua is on the far right of the picture
Once again, our family is doing everything we can to raise awareness of Autism in light of April being Autism Awareness Month.  April 2 is Wold Autism Awareness Day where many buildings and people light it up blue.  We participate in these activities in honor of our precious son Joshua (8 years old) who has Autism.  He has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), which is a moderately-functioning form of Autism.  A year ago, his diagnosis was changed from Asperger's Syndrome (high-functioning Autism) to PDD because of concurrent mental health issues he now struggles with which decreases his functionality.  If you are not familiar with what Autism is, please see the description at the end of this post.

I have been very burdened to pull the Gospel into Autism Awareness.  Too often, we look at the deficits those affected by Autism have rather than seeing them for who God made them to be.  God has made each person PERFECTLY - He does not make mistakes!  If there is any doubt, read these verses:
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13-14a,ESV)  
"Then the LORD said to him [Moses], 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'"     (Exodus 4:11, ESV) 
"...bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Isaiah 43:6b-7, ESV)
God made my son and others with Autism exactly the way He had designed and intended.  Josh's Autism is not a mistake.  It is God's design to show the glory of God in a lost and broken world. Joshua is VALUABLE.  What some may see as a weakness, God deems IMPORTANT.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31, ESV)
"On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable..." (1 Corinthians 12:22b, ESV)
"But he [the Lord] said to me [Paul], 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9a, ESV)
Joshua is NOT Autistic!  He has Autism!  He is not defined by his developmental disorder!  It is simply a characteristic that God placed in Josh's life to proclaim God's glory!  Joshua is an image-bearer of Christ, a child of the King.  His sins have been forgiven and washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by God's grace through faith, Joshua has an eternal home waiting for him in God's eternal presence where Joshua will some day have a perfect body without any limitations where he can continue to glorify God for all of eternity!

God has some incredibly big plans for this young man!  We feel overwhelmed yet honored at the task God has equipped and entrusted us with in raising this child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord for God's honor and glory!
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
The next time you hear about Autism or see a person with Autism, don't forget to look at them through the lens of the Gospel!  Praise God for His handiwork!

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder are the umbrella terms for a range of developmental disorders that cause difficulty with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors and often, many other struggles as well as some special gifts.  These difficulties present in varying degrees in different people.  I heard the saying once, "If you have seen 1 child with Autism, you have seen 1 child with Autism."  That statement is so true!  Each individual with Autism is uniquely themselves with their strengths and weaknesses.  The disorders under the spectrum classification of Autism from lowest functioning to highest functioning are:  Autistic disorder, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger's Syndrome.  For further information, check out the Autism Speaks website or see my previous blog posts linked below.

As of last year, 1 in 88 children in the United States have Autism making it an epidemic.  It is our responsibility, especially as Christians, to raise awareness and help these children and adults alike know how important they are and to help them feel accepted as Christ accepts us!

Past blog posts about Autism (most recent to oldest):

Russell World Autism Awareness Day 2012

The Impact of Autism

Lighting it Up Blue for Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness Month