20/20 Vision: Eye Therapy

When my youngest didn’t learn to read by the end of K5 I thought, Well boys sometimes need more time to mature. He’ll get it next year. When he still wasn’t reading by the in 2nd grade I realized there was an issue. After many discussions with friends, questions to professionals, and worried conversations with my husband, we ended up at a vision therapist’s office. (I hadn’t even known there was such a thing.)

A lengthy questionnaire plus an examination by the doctor led to a diagnosis that very afternoon – my son had limited peripheral vision and his eyes were not tracking together. Scary information for a mama. Had it not been for the kindness of the office staff, I very likely would’ve ended up in a puddle of tears. But our sweet doctor and her staff assured me that this was not an uncommon diagnosis, and that a few months of vision therapy would have him seeing as normal.

We went twice weekly for in-office therapy for over a year. We did exercises at home as well using the Brock string and other apparatus and visual exercises. Within weeks his reading began to improve and in just over a year he had finished therapy and learned to read! Success!

As I reflect back on this experience and the lessons learned, there are clearly similar lessons we can learn in the spiritual realm.

  • Living in community with other believers is important. It has been said “we b don’t know what we don’t know in life.” A godly friend, teacher, or mentor can often point out to us an area where they see that something is wrong. Physical eyesight can have problems and a person may not realize it because it seems normal to them, just as my son never realized his vision was limited. But when it affected his reading, I noticed that something wasn’t normal.
  • Some issues in our Christian walk will take months of work to correct them. Correcting bad habits takes training, scripture memorization, and prayer. A battle with an eating disorder, pornography, or substance abuse (among other things) may take months or years of prayer, spiritual guidance, and professional therapy to overcome. That time may seem long and challenging, but think of the lessons to be learned and the faith in God that will be developed. My son’s vision therapy seemed interminable as we were walking through it day by day, but looking back on it 15+ years later, it is just a small blip in the rearview mirror, and worth every moment of getting help.
  • Tools are necessary to spiritual growth; our main tool is God’s Word itself. Just as my son needed the Brock string and other instruments to develop correct visual perception, we need certain tools as well. God’s Word is the Swiss Army knife of tools (you know, the knives that have every tool you’ll ever need folded up into one pocket-sized utensil). Paul reminded Timothy of this when he said, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17 NASB)

We want to see the world clearly through Our Father’s eyes. We want our view of the world to be unclouded. We want to be able to understand the world accurately in these strange times so that we are not thrown off track by every whim of society or every bit of advice that proclaims itself to be true and for our best. God’s Word is the source of all truth. To have 20/20 spiritual vision we must soak ourselves in His Word, seek out Christian community to help us see clearly, and not grow weary doing good, but patiently allow God to work His change in us by living obedient and faith-filled lives.

Fill Up Your Tank Little Mama!

When my four, now adult offspring were babies and young children, I struggled. Loving, kissing booboos, doing laundry, feeding, cuddling, entertaining, picking up the mess, resolving quarrels, teaching them – these constant needs, demands, and responsibilities left me depleted. Frankly, my husband got worn out with my complaining and weariness and lack of energy for him. I wanted to enjoy my family, but I never seemed to find a chance to recharge my self.

It came to a head one day as I was whining about how house was a wreck and the kids seemed constantly clingy and needy to the point that I had no time for myself and not enough time to get everything done in a day.

After a long day of work, while Randy was sitting listening to my normal litany of failure and disappointment with life, he offered some unsolicited advice – which we all know is never appreciated in the moment. He said, “Deb, I think if you’d get down in the floor and play with them for 30 minutes or so first thing in the morning, they’d go play on their own and leave you alone for a bit.” I don’t remember my response (I’m probably blocking it out because it wasn’t pretty), but at a minimum I’m sure I huffed off thinking he was insensitive and just didn’t understand.

As often happens, God worked on me with Randy’s words after the fact. As I mulled them over in my thoughts, his idea sounded more and more plausible. Our family always talked about filling up our “love tanks,” wasn’t this just another way to do that? We even had a little hand signal that meant “hug alert.” (In other words, I’m feeling down and need a hug!) I knew my main job as mom was to love and nurture my kids and raise them to love God and others. But why did it seem like all the duties of the home trumped my willingness to just sit and play and love on them and fill up their little love tanks?

A couple of mornings later I tried my husband’s suggestion. After breakfast I parked myself in the floor with my 4 kids with Barney and Baby Bop blaring in the background.

I vividly remember that morning – we played with the 4-year-old’s Barney’s Tree House, moving the characters around and singing their songs. She was happy. The 10-year-old sat building amazing things with his legos and explaining all the intricacies of them to me. He felt I was interested in him. The baby lay gurgling on his blanket beside us slinging and chewing on toys and trying to “talk” to us, while the 7-year-old played mama to him and ended up bringing nearly every baby toy we owned to him. Those 2 were content. It was a joyous morning.

It was actually less than an hour before the eldest took to his room to complete his lego fantasy and the two girls headed to play with the Barbie house, Barney being long forgotten. I fed the baby and put him down for a nap. As I sat back down I realized the house was quietly running with just the babble of happy children in the background. I put on blinders to the housework that needed to be done and spent almost the baby’s entire nap contently reading. Lesson learned. My husband did know something about mothering!

Not every morning afterwards went perfectly smoothly like that one, but a new way of thinking and behaving was born out of that experience. What were my take-aways?

  1. Listen to the wisdom of my husband.
  2. Children are a treasure from the Lord – even when it doesn’t feel like it.
  3. Savor the moments / engage with my children. That moment – that day – will never be available to me for a redo.
  4. There is grace and a fresh start and hope for every thing I felt I have failed on.
  5. Don’t feel any mama-guilt over taking some healthy downtime.
  6. Spend time with the Lord.
  7. And last but not least – I am not always right, contrary to what I like to believe. I still have lots to learn.

Sweet mommies out there, give yourself grace. Kids learn even from, or maybe especially from, our mistakes. Take time to sit and love on and play with the little ones even when the house is a wreck. Take time for yourself – Bible reading, listening to good music, enjoying a workout, sitting on the back porch with lemonade – when your tank is full and your spirit and body are nourished you are more energized to pour into your kids and to nourish your family. Treasure your children and husband. And for heaven’s sake listen to that man God gave you, he may have the winning idea after all!

Parenting 101: Navigating These Trying Times

Encouragement for Parents

By guest author Kimberly Henderson

He sat on the bench, unwilling to participate in his first soccer game. The four-year-old looked cute in his new uniform, but there was nothing cute about his stubbornness. Despite pleas from his mom and dad, and yes there was an attempt at bribery, that four-year old was not going to play soccer. The ride home was quiet, and no reasons were given for this stubbornness and disobedience. Later in the afternoon, my son quietly and timidly revealed the reason for his hesitancy to play soccer – there were people on the field that he did not know! Ok. No, wait. What?? In all the practices and drills and game day preparations, he somehow missed a key component of competition – there are two teams required for a game. Shocked at how he could not know this and even more appalled at why that was a problem at all, that day I learned a lot about expectations. My son had expected one thing – to play with his teammates. However, reality did not meet his expectations when the other team took the field, and to him the only option was to sit on the sideline.

Unmet expectations can wreck a kid’s day.

Fast forward a decade to the spring of 2020, and I find myself and my family, along with the rest of the world, with expectations that are not being met. Expectations not met in a person’s life can manifest in disappointment, disengagement or even depression. Overnight, the enemy, who seeks to kill, steal and destroy, turned the world upside down. For our students expectations began to crumble: lost sport seasons, missed graduation ceremonies, and canceled recitals, classes and trips. As a parent my expectations cascaded down as well, from the simple – why is there no toilet paper in the store – to the complicated – how are we going to manage school and work simultaneously from inside these four walls? Even church services, a weekly source of encouragement and community, were limited. At times, I felt like I was watching life from the sidelines. 

As we navigate these situations and emotions brought about by a worldwide pandemic, it is important for us as parents to engage our students in conversation and in the Word. Ask your student about how they feel amid the changes and uncertainty. Remind them that their feelings do not define them or determine truth – the word of God does. Point them to Jesus, the One who is for them (Romans 8:31), the One who never changes (Hebrews 13:8), the One who began a good work in them and will complete it (Philippians 1:6). Two practical ways to point your students to Jesus is through studying the Bible together and practicing thankfulness.

As you disciple your student, remember the importance of spending time together reading the Bible. What seems like a simple step, if woven throughout the course of our days and weeks, will gird our students with truth and equip them for all things the Lord has planned for them. 

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

As we read the stories of God’s faithfulness throughout the Old Testament and traverse the New Testament and marvel at Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our students will have a foundation for making wise decisions and find their identity and security as a follower of Christ, not the fleeting pleasures and hollow promises of the world that can be gone overnight. 

Another practical way to point your student to Jesus is to practice thankfulness as a family. All of our families have been impacted by the coronavirus in some way – from minor inconveniences for some to major, heart-breaking losses for others. Wherever you are, know that the Lord sees you, and is near. He will comfort and bring peace. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Even in our darkest nights we can give thanks to the One who is with us in the trials and storms and disappointments. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As we give thanks as a family for even small things it helps parents and students alike to remember God’s faithfulness and His promise to always be with us. 

Despite the enemy’s attempts to sideline us all from living the life we are called to in Christ, the gospel will not be bound (2 Timothy 2:9), and His Word will accomplish what He sends it forth to do (Isaiah 55:11). Engage your students in conversation. Encourage them with the Word of God. Jesus knows what to expect in this life. He warned his disciples what was to come, yet comforted them with a promise of peace. Today we are also warned and comforted by His words.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Remembering 9/11/2001

Do you remember what you were doing that morning 19 years ago tomorrow?

If you were beyond childhood you probably do. The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon marked that particular morning indelibly in our minds.

But oh how easily we forget.

Today, the unity and crying out to God have faded away and been replaced by taking sides and a self-focus and willingness in society to ignore, deny, and despise our Holy God. The palpable feelings of “we’re all in this together” and the seeing the person beside you as someone you can and should help have gone. We are more self-centered these days, and evil seems to be prevailing.

So what are we to do? Throw our hands up in despair? Rant about it on Facebook? Write a blog? (Wink!) Join in the fray? Look out for number one and have a get-them-before-they-get-you attitude? These are human tendencies of ways to respond. But as Christians we are commanded to live up to a higher standard.

We are to have the mind of Christ.

Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

We are to keep always in our minds that we live in a sin-ridden world until Christ returns to redeem all of creation.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 NASB

We are to love God and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

We are to act with justice, kindness, and humility.

O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

We are to remember. Remember the Sabbath. Remember God’s covenantswith us. Remember the past and learn the lessons it offers. Remember all God has done for us. Remember that we are the created and He is the Creator.

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders, You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people. Psalm 77:11-15

20/20 Vision: Light to See

“A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the gospel.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

I was captured by this thought this morning as I read my devotional. It hit me very personally. My family – who live with me day in and day out – how do they perceive Christ through me? What am I reflecting of Him? What about those friends who know me best – is my character such that they see me as Christlike? Or am I thought of as the center of attention, the gossiper, the party girl, the one who has an answer, the one who’s always right, the shopper, the whiner, the worrier? Does it hit too close to home for you too?

We all are walking billboards. Within minutes of being around us, people can tell the things we are most passionate about. We, like the giant glowing jumbotrons in the end zones, boldly broadcast our beliefs and commitments, often without even realizing we’re doing it. We all stand for something. And it shows. But does what we show match what we really want to show?

Philippians 2:14-16 states,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…”

Shine as lights in the world.

I can’t help thinking of Times Square and the stories-high, glowing billboards. They flash their ads 24/7 brightly for all to see. What message am I flashing to the world?

Am I giving a message of legalism or grace? Acceptance or partiality? Genuine care or busy-ness? Love or hate? Kindness or gruffness? Hope or despair? Faith or fear? Joy or gloom? Turmoil or peace? Purity or evil? Obedience to Christ or disobedience?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24

Have I crucified my fleshly passions and desires so that Christ lives through me and shines to the world? Or does my life advertise a religion, a political party, a prejudice, or some other guiding factor other than My Creator God and His will and His love for the world?

What am I inadvertently telling the world about My Father God? About Jesus? About Christians? About the church? About my world view? My approach to the world, my mindset comes through in all I say and do.

Light shines. Light pierces darkness. Light makes manifest what cannot be understood in the gloom and darkness of this sinful world. Light is necessary for us to see clearly. Are we light givers to the world around us? Are you that trustworthy glow of a fully charged flashlight when the power goes out? Or are you a faulty dusk-to-dawn light leaving a dark corner for crime and mischief to flourish?

We have been given light, and therefore we have a responsibility to shine the light of Christ to the word around us. Let us be bright beacons for the wandering. Let us be illuminating lanterns that give a warm glow of truth, love, and comfort to all who come within our circle. Let us be a spotlight that boldly focuses the attention of all we meet on the One Thing of importance. Let us be the glowing billboard capturing people’s attention with the magnificence of the love of God. Let us be a flicker of a candle that helps others see truth through their dark situation.

Twenty-twenty vision requires light. Let us give that light to help others see.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

Shine the love of Jesus today!

The King Cares

Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-8 MEV

It started with a hooker….

I have a few narratives in my life that could begin that way…

This summer I have been reading. I chose to read random, suggested, long put away things that I would not have read during a typical school year. I have borrowed books from the library, ordered one or two from the online book purveyor, picked out copies of things from my own library, and I’ve read books loaned to me by friends and family with the promise, “Read this! It is so good!” For the record I found that one merely meh. Lukewarm at best and I was moved more by the Jerry Lee Lewis biography than the weeks on the NewYork best seller.

One of my borrowed selections was a book about Birmingham’s Magdalen…Louise Wooster, a Turn of the twentieth century Madame. Embedded within a book outlining her entrepreneurship here in Birmingham was her own autobiography. I opened that book expectantly and I finished it heartbroken. Like many women of her time, of our time too I suppose, her support system failed. Parents passed, provisions not prepared, she was used and abused. Eventually she was led into a life of prostitution, and finally she became an alcoholic and drank herself death. I know the story well, it has played out in my very own life, and I am a mama of three children as a direct result.

The book gave insight into lore and traditions and fun facts – I love a good bit of trivia. The benevolent Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, is based on Lou Wooster. The book debunks this as likely, but historically it could be possible. Also, when she died, businessmen from all over the budding Birmingham area who had been among her clientele sent their empty carriages as representatives of themselves to line the processional. A dark long black snake stretched for miles. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Downtown, and that’s where our worlds collided.

In her autobiography she mentioned how she loved fresh flowers and in her early days, pre-soiled-dove days, she grew brightly-colored cutting flowers that brought her joy. I completely identify with this very thing. Some people do not like receiving flowers for various reasons, but I am not one of them. In fact, I love a flower and I grow them just so I can bring them inside and enjoy them even more.

Lou also talked about the church women of Birmingham. She was careful at the time not to mention actual names, but she didn’t have to. They were the upstanding Christian Women of the community. She would offer them money and they would gladly take her immorally obtained funds. Yet the one time she called on them for help, for assistance that would cost them nothing but time and attention, they shut the door in her face in the name of Christian dignity. She would say in her own writings that she believed in Jesus and in His work, but that she did not want what it was that these women claimed was Christian. That resonated with me! Perhaps it is because I and generations before me have been rejected in the name of Christ, knowing full well that very act contradicts Christ Himself. When I finished reading I decided to visit her gravesite and to take her flowers, a single act a century later to solidify for myself to love better, and that, as mama says, just because you have Jesus is your name doesn’t mean you act like Him.

On Tuesday we headed out for adventure, by now I had read another few books and had a few history lessons in a graveyard up my sleeve. When we entered the cemetery we were met with a sign on the office. It began with, “Covid,” and I knew we were on our own to find Lou. We turned left and traversed up the hill full of monstrous Oaks, some standing tall and strong, others toppled by time and storms. We saw names familiar because of roads and communities, schools and hospitals that still stand bearing the names now written in marble. We learned via the googles that this place was 22 acres, and I knew then, finding Lou without guidance would be impossible. So as I stood and looked eastbound I asked Jesus to help me find her so that I could give her the gift I’d brought. We drove and hunted and looked, and we read from a history book of Birmingham’s early people. I figured Lou’s visit would have to wait until another day, post COVID when the world rights itself.

We were within walking distance of the exit, when a tree caught our attention. A single lightning strike had struck a huge tree. We are the wife and children of a meteorologist, so we parked the car to investigate. The headstones around us now secondary to this impressive force of nature. It was clear that very recently a single strike had stripped the inner bark into a strip of wood that fell in one piece onto the ground, chunks of singed bark thrown about the perimeter. I walked to the opposite side of the tree, the side that faced the road, and I marveled at how untouched it was. Totally normal on the front, singed and broken on the back. “You look like me.” That was the thought I had for the old tree. You look good where the people see, but where but a few can see, there is a fresh and open wound. I circled back around and began picking up the pieces of bark, by now Mama was a hundred yards away and she held a piece up. What tremendous natural force had thrust that projectile such a far distance. I picked up and moved diagonally and as I looked up, the bark led straight to Lou!

I screamed, “I found her!!! I found Lou!” I sent Mags to the car to get my flowers. Elated I could give her the gift and astonished that Jesus had heard and cared enough to answer my prayer in a most literal and tangible way! I took several pictures so that I can not, even if I try, forget that He cares and He hears and that He uses all that hurt and trauma for good even if it just doesn’t seem possible. We left soon after, filled with stories and pictures of other things and headed for our next adventure that had to do with the cedars of Lebanon. Those are other stories for another day but they too served as tangible reminders of the King and how He rolls.