Monday, May 2, 2011

A Word From God

In October of 2006, chaos reached critical mass in my little family. It had been a year since we moved to Virginia. It had been seven months since we pulled our daughter out of public school kindergarten. In her six years of life, three significant adults in Cami’s world had asked if we’d ever had her “tested for autism.” I was sick of being asked that question.

So I decided to ask God directly. Oh, I had prayed about Cami’s quirkiness before, prayed in a blanket kind of way, which sounded a lot like “God, where are You?” and “Please help me!” and “God, what is wrong with Cami?”

I didn’t receive a direct answer to those questions until I attended a women’s prayer retreat, joining nine other women at our pastor’s house, taking a Saturday morning in silence and solitude, seeking the Lord.

The prayer retreat began with the group sitting around the dining room table, praying together. Most of us didn’t know each other very well, so our prayers were not about our individual struggles. Our group prayer basically thanked God for the time He had carved out for us and asked Him to meet with us individually as we prayed.

The next phase of the prayer retreat saw us scattering to different parts of the lovely house to find a place to be alone with God. I went armed with my Bible and my journal and a pen. I took my IPod in case I needed to create my own prayer closet. I found a guest room to which I could shut the door, and I only needed the silence to hear God.

I started by clearing my heart before God. I recounted my week day by day, leaving the angst and anxiety on the pages of my prayer journal. I recorded God’s faithfulness to me during that really tough week. My conversation went like this:

Tuesday, You woke me up on time for Bible study. I awoke feeling rested (which is rare). I’ve come to expect Tuesdays to be fruitful with Your presence.

An email from Betsy first thing: She’s praying; I’m on her mind.

Breakaway. Worship. You are so faithful.

Then Beth Moore and the Breaking Free study, talking about the equations for freedom and captivity.
My Truth + nothing = incomplete
My Truth + Satan’s lies = captivity
My Truth + God’s Truth = freedom

My truth? As I’m sharing with the smaller group, it comes out of my mouth: “My parents are visiting. I feel like I have to make up for the pain my sister caused.” I have to be perfect—not cause any more hardship—those expectations are shackles on my heart and spirit. “And that’s how I lose my balance. When my parents visit, I forget who God is making me into—and instead I act like who I used to be.”


So here I am, Lord. At the pastor’s house, shut in a downstairs bedroom, writing, writing, writing.

Once I cleared my heart of all the reverberations from the past week, I started waiting and listening.

. . . it’s becoming an issue of embracing Cami the way You made her (autistic? with Asperger’s syndrome? with learning differences?) How does she work–and not work like “normal” (like me)?

So—I’ve been negotiating this maze of doctors and phone calls, trying to get an “expert opinion.”

Let me ask You, Lord: does Cami have Asperger’s Syndrome? Why does she have so much trouble socially? How do I help her?

I’ve been trying to go where You lead as far as doctors. We went to see Dr. Susan Pratt, a developmental pediatrician—she told us everything we already knew. “She might have learning differences. Definitely a different learning style than fits in the traditional classroom.”

“Asperger’s is not off the table.”

The next lines in my journal entry give me goose bumps even now. My heart broke wide open as I saw God’s faithful hand guiding us, loving our child more fervently than we were able to, mapping out her path more effectively than we could plan for.

(And I just realized: this doctor is here,one of the 10 women at this prayer retreat at the pastor’s house??)

The developmental pediatrician who was recommended to us through our own pediatrician practices at Children’s National Hospital. She’s a highly skilled doctor with a kind and gentle bedside manner—and a member of our church. We’d never met each other before at our large church with multiple services. But God knew when He orchestrated the appointment.

He’d given me a verse to cling to as I negotiated phone calls to doctors and therapists and insurance companies: “Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4). We’d already explored many medical solutions—tubes in both ears to correct her 75% hearing loss, eye surgery on both eyes to correct her strabismus and give her depth perception. Still, Cami’s behavior was defiant and uncontrollable, and we didn’t know what else to do.

That Saturday, Almighty God, Creator of all life and love and everything that’s good, met me in the pages of my journal as I prayed and recorded what He showed me in His Word.

Oh, God—help me wait for You here. Send us to the doctors that will take all into account. Reveal to me how You have made Cami—so I can marvel at Your creation. So I can help her celebrate who You’ve made her to be—not try to change her.

In this next hour, Lord, talk to me. As I open my new Bible—would You just delight me, God? Give me Your Word for me, for this place where my heart is—for Cami, for Michael, for Sarah and Mom & Dad wounds. . .

Please talk to me, God.

My new Bible opened to the Psalms.

Psalm 138:
“For You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word. When I called, You answered me; You made me bold and stout-hearted.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life.”

Then Psalm 139. Oh, how I love this psalm!

God knows me. (The me He made me.)
“You hem me in—behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.”
“for darkness is as light to You. . .”
“You created my (and Cami’s) inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

All the days ordained for me (You have ordained ALL my days) were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 140, Psalm 141

Then. . .Psalm 142. (when David was in the cave)
“I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble.” (I just did that.)
“When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who knows my way.”

Oh! And verse 7: “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me.”

That it would be so, Lord! I know I’m in prison—thinking my shackles are Sarah/Judy/Jay-related. . .

Show me, Lord. What’s holding me captive? Satan only imprisons me where I’ve given him the keys.

But the keys are Yours. Mine. Where do I need to snatch them back?

I heard in my memory a snippet from a sermon Dave Malheiro preached in 1984 in Ft. Walton Beach: “Keys are a symbol of authority. What happened to Jesus those three days He was in the grave? He marched into Hell, right up to Satan’s desk, snatched up Death and Hell and said, ‘Give Me back those keys!’ Then He rose from the dead. He said in Revelation 1:18: ‘I am the Living One; I was dead and behold, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and Hades.’”)

My journal continues:

WOW! Psalm 143:
“Oh, Lord, hear my prayer. Listen to my cry for mercy.
The enemy pursues me. He crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
I remember the days of long ago, I meditate on all Your works and consider what Your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to You; my soul thirsts for You like a parched land.”

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.”

And then Psalm 144:
“The Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war” (I am fighting Satan on my daughter’s behalf?)
“My fingers for battle.” (Train my fingers? My writing? My piano-playing?)
(What will battle using my trained fingers look like?)
“My loving God and my Fortress,
My Stronghold and my Deliverer,
My Shield in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” (What does THAT look like?)

“Rescue me from the mighty waters (peace like a river, not a pond), from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies; whose right hands are deceitful.”

1. “(with the idea of striking with the fingers) to touch the strings or the parts of a musical instruments (that is to play upon it).” “To make music accompanied by the voice.” (the voice is the secondary—the instrument-playing is the thing. . .) “Hence, to celebrate in song and music.”

2. “(feminine) song—from ‘singer, singing woman, through the idea of strolling minstrelay.” “To be bright, cheerful, be glad, greatly joy, make mirth, rejoice.”

3. “Elohim.” (Creator—the One who made me and Cami with a perfect design)

Cassandra, here’s the promise:
“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants,
And our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.” (NIV)

(KJV:) “that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude1 of a palace2.”

1. a model; a pattern; a resemblance (like the example of what something supposed to look like?)

2. large public building, such as a palace; temple (in the sense of capacity) (Cami is so much MORE!)

And here’s the rest from the NIV (Psalm 144):
“Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
By tens of thousands in our fields;
Our oxen will draw heavy loads.”

(The delight I asked for, the reason I came on this prayer retreat is this word: )
Verse 14: “There will be NO BREACHING OF WALLS,

Blessed are the people of whom this is true;
Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.”

Somehow, God has promised Cami won’t walk in the captivity I’m trying to escape. She won’t be held hostage to my generational captivity.

Only by His Grace and work.
Arm my hands for war. Train my fingers for battle.

In that little bedroom in someone else’s house on that prayer retreat so long ago, I didn’t hear God’s audible voice saying, “Your daughter is not autistic.”

I did hear Him.

His Word from that day still reverberates 5½ years later, encouraging me and reminding me of His presence and restorative action. When I lose my focus and feel overwhelmed, my journal exchange with God that day exhorts me to fight the good fight, to keep the faith, to run with endurance the race that’s been marked out for me, looking to Jesus, the Author and Completer of my—and Cami’s— faith. When I look at my child thinking, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand you at all,” the Holy Spirit comforts and counsels me, showing me what my hands look like when they are trained for battle—not battle against my child and her hidden disabilities, but battle for her and our family to walk in wholeness.

Through Cami’s complete neuropsychological evaluation, through a diagnosis of auditory and visual processing disorders combined with mild ADD, through the discovery of further struggles with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia, through her frustration and feeling dumb combined with all the regular childhood struggles, Almighty God is healing us, restoring us, making us completely His.

To this exhausted, overwhelmed, feels-like-I’m-failing homeschooling mom, that’s a good word.

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