Seven Serious Game Changers When Your Plans Are a Bust

The New Year’s ball barely landed before our plans were busted. On January 1, 2018, at 5:00 in the morning, I walked my pale and feverish husband right into the emergency room.

Stressed
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The sun wasn’t even up. My thought was, If the sun isn’t awake, no one else should be either. No one has gotten the memo on that yet.

My son Jon was home most of December with fevers, seizure recovery, and flu-like symptoms. I counted down the days to New Year’s with a thermometer in my hand. Surely, by New Year’s Day everyone would be well. Right?

Wrong!

On New Year’s Day we were expecting friends whom I hadn’t seen in 32 years, but sitting in an ER at 5:00 that morning, it was evident the only entertaining we would be doing was inside a quarantined home.

But wait . . . the story’s just getting started!

For a Fantastic New Year, Focus on These Four Choices

For the last few years, I’ve welcomed the New Year with arms so wide open I could have hugged an airplane! FINALLY . . . this last year is O-V-E-R! Bubbling over with excitement, I hang up the new calendar and yell . . .

2018
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This Year Is Going to Be Fantastic!

Ever had one of those new years? The kind of year that was, let’s say, more “character building” than you ever could have expected?

While we often don’t ask for challenges, few things are as relieving as when challenges disappear in the dust of our rearview mirror.

Then . . . the new year started. It didn’t take long to figure out that the whole “character development” issue didn’t end just by turning the calendar page.

The Downs

Here are some things my family and I faced these last few years:

Twelve Significant Suggestions for Special Needs Holiday Success

When the kids were little, they would mark up all the catalogs to make their Christmas wish lists. It seems like yesterday. I remember their giggles of anticipatory joy, crossing off each day on the calendar until Christmas day FINALLY arrived.

Child
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Something about kids and Christmas . . . it’s almost magical.

But those magical moments changed the year I began to shop for my son with disabilities. He struggled with sounds that were too loud or when the weather was too cold, and all those Christmas catalogs packed with toys for typical kids meant nothing to him.

He couldn’t conceptualize the meaning of Christmas, which completely disrupted the traditions we had enjoyed for years.

It is difficult to navigate the holidays—or any major event—when a loved one in the family is incapable of understanding and experiencing the delight of it all.

Finding gifts for those who have . . .

Five Lifechanging, Unforgettable Gifts

I never thought a washing machine would be on my 3-year-old son’s Christmas gift list. Christmas came three weeks after my son was diagnosed with autism and global developmental disability—what used to be labeled as “mental retardation.”

Christmas
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While he wasn’t yet talking, he made his wishes very clear. Every time—I kid you not—we went to a place that sold washers and dryers, his inner radar immediately directed him to the display models.

He (and we) would check to see if they were “working” or “on display.” He checked them out top to bottom, inside and out, as if he was the manager signing off on selling the items.

We moved from washers and dryers to vacuums, then fans, wheels, and pouring water. Most who understand the autism spectrum know that machines that spin and turn visually stimulate parts of the brain and are irresistible to our loved ones with autism and sensory challenges.

What’s a Parent to Do?

How to Turn That Frown Upside Down

Let this article by my Dad, Chuck Swindoll, bless you this holiday season!

Too often, we pastors tend to wear our smiles upside-down. The burdens of ministry—especially during the busy holidays—often cause our joy to droop into deep-wrinkled frowns.

Smiling
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In case you need a little help with this assignment, read through this psalm . . .

Three Essentials That Will Revolutionize Your Holiday Season

Years ago, shortly after Thanksgiving, I learned my son had been horribly assaulted. Suddenly, all thoughts of a joyful holiday vanished. The last thing on my mind was giving thanks.

Family Eating Dinner
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Though the trees displayed the colors of autumn, my heart was the shade of deepest sorrow.

I remember two specific things about the holidays that year:

  1. It was the first holiday season my husband and I had shared as a married couple. With our new blended family of five kids, I wanted to make it super special . . . until I found out about my son’s assault. What timing!
  2. The deluge of police reports, doctor’s exams, new diagnoses of PTSD, moderate traumatic brain injury, tics, flashbacks, and nightmares smothered my ability to do more than show up and breathe.

My most beloved holiday season became scarred by an irreversible, deep wound that affected my whole family.

How Do We Move Forward?

How do we move forward when life hurts? That’s a question we all ask when life forces us to find a “new normal.” Some of us want to wait out the hard times because we’d like to believe that time heals all wounds.

Unfortunately, that’s a huge lie. Another way we try to move forward is by glossing over the pain with a thick coat of denial. We varnish over our pain by presenting behavior that appears happy and well-adjusted. Sometimes that looks like . . .

Fearless Friendships: What You Must Remember

The offer was terrifying, but I couldn’t figure out why. My long-time friend told me years ago that I should meet her sister. Apparently, her sister and I have incredibly similar mannerisms and an outrageous sense of humor.

Friendship
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On many occasions my friend has said she thinks her sister and I may have been separated at birth. This has been an ongoing discussion for 18 years.

Time Marches On

Now, a lot happens in 18 years. Think of where you were 18 years ago. Most, if not all, of us were in a totally different stage of life then.

Looking back over the last 18 years of friendship, my friend and I have experienced many life changes and challenges. Some years we’ve lived close enough to provide hands-on support.

Living Joyfully with Sorrow

Few things test our faith more than when our loved ones suffer. We question God, we question our faith, we question what we believe. Life can turn upside down in a second.

Few people understand this more than Tim and Jamie Schultz. Following God’s leading, Tim left a very financially secure position and entered full-time ministry.

Shortly thereafter, Tim and Jamie’s lives were forever changed as God allowed their daughter, Anna, to be born with life-threatening conditions.

Anna is alive today, but life for the Schultz family is never free from challenges.

Regardless of where your faith may be, this interview reveals that when we trust in a great God, He provides in ways we cannot imagine. Life is not without pain, but we can live fully and joyfully with pain if we put our trust and faith in the right place. This interview is life-changing.

Wisdom for the Anxious

Without question, anxiety is a pervasive problem in today’s world. We are bombarded with fear-laden messages of unrest and uncertainty, leading most of us to get all entangled with confusing, anxious thoughts.

Instead of taking things to the Lord and finding rest, we habitually ruminate over what we cannot control—which only makes things worse. Amy Simpson knows this cycle all too well.

Amy was raised in an unstable environment which caused tremendous confusion and anxiety. As an adult, Amy has faced her anxiety head-on and offers us all fantastic hope with truth that sets us free.

What to Remember When Your “Not-Best” Self Shows Up

I am not my best self in the morning. Sadly, this “not-best” version of myself must still carpool during morning rush hour traffic—a setup for the perfect storm.

Carpool
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I lugged my “not-best” self into the car and noticed my son Jon’s anxiety was high. Anxiety is one of his most difficult challenges. He is rarely free of feeling worried or scared.

Before leaving the driveway, his questions started. Now, I’ve heard all these questions before and have answered them many times.

However, when a change comes or an upcoming event looms, the questions reflect Jon’s heightened anxiety, not an “Oh, that’s right; I forgot” response.

I tried to answer his questions with kindness, knowing my tone was vitally important to prevent his anxiety escalating. I tried to maintain my loving, understanding tone and employed coping skills to reduce his anxiety.