Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Intentionally Remembering

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My mother visited me the past two weeks, and we spent hours looking through old photos in order to choose pictures for my book (see prior blogs). I smiled as those images brought back many fond memories. Like the process of writing my book, looking at the pictures reminded me of the Lord’s faithful and loving activity in our lives over the years.

Taking time to remember serves some important purposes in our lives:

We remember to thank God.

We can easily become distracted by this hectic world. Taking time to stop and intentionally remember who the Lord is and what He has done in our lives helps us remember to thank Him. He blesses and gives gifts out of His love for us. As we reflect on those things, we naturally respond with thanks. Gratitude changes our attitude, and we trust Him more.

The Israelites in the Bible remembered the Lord gave them the produce of the land as a gift, and they intentionally remembered His grace year after year, by offering Him the “firstfruits” of their harvests. Their songs recounted the Lord’s victories in their battles, and their prayers offered continual praise and thanks to God.

We remember to persevere.

When the Lord won a battle against the Philistines, who were Israel’s enemies, “Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer [the stone of help], saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12, NASB). That rock served as a constant reminder to the Israelites that the Lord had helped them in the past and would help them in the future.

Several years ago, a friend of mine underwent major surgery. Afterwards, she erected a pile of stones by her back door. She called it her Ebenezer, and it reminded her of the Lord’s ever-present help in her crisis. Recently, when she faced yet another excruciating surgery, her Ebenezer continually spoke of the Lord’s faithfulness as she faced this new challenge.

Remembering on purpose helps us to persevere. Vital memories from the past urge us on as we face new trials. We can keep going with the One who has always been with us.

We remember to tell others.

The Lord cut off the waters of the River Jordan so that the children of Israel could enter the promised land. He wanted them to intentionally remember what He had done:

“Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, “Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, ‘Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, “What do these stones mean to you?”  then you shall say to them, “Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.” So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever’” (Joshua 4:1-7, NASB).

The Lord wanted His people to tell future generations about His activity, power, character, and promises. The stones from the Jordan River created many teachable moments as members of the community shared what God had done.

We must remember who God is and what He has done in our lives so we can tell others, especially the young people coming behind us.

Question: What would the Lord want you to remember about Him from your life experiences? How can you be intentional about remembering those things? Comment at the link below.

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Embracing the Glitches in Life

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I was preparing to send a PDF of my manuscript to last week’s contest winner (see last week’s blog), when I realized something was wrong—all the formatting was gone. By formatting, I mean the italics, the superscript numbers, the larger type sizes . . . it all had disappeared from my entire book manuscript.

I called my sister-in-law Tonda, who teaches computer classes at a local college and is a wiz at all things involving technology. After an hour of trying to help me, she referred me to Microsoft. They spent 2 hours on the phone with me, even taking control of my computer for awhile. The result: “I’m sorry. It seems we can’t fix whatever happened,” the technician said.

Now, at the point where I am supposed to turn in my manuscript, I have to go back through it, page by page (all 244 of them), and format it all over again. Fortunately, I have a printed copy that I can use to compare to the copy on my computer while I complete this difficult task. After several days of this painstaking work, I hope to submit a digital copy of my manuscript so it can be published on time (April 2, 2014).

Glitches. They hit us from out of nowhere and send our best-laid plans into oblivion. On the surface, they make no sense. When these unwelcome guests arrive, we want to slam the door in their face and tell them to take their bags and go away.

How do we handle these unwelcome intruders (besides screaming and pulling out our hair)? By remembering some fundamental truths:

God is in control.

Nothing catches God by surprise. If He is sovereign (and yes, He is), then He has authority over everything that happens to us . . . even the glitches. He permits things to happen for His reasons, and He watches over and controls every element in the universe. He runs things, so we don’t have to try to direct the world. Sometimes things don’t make sense to us, but they make perfect sense to Him.

God has a plan.

Why does God allow glitches in our plans and activities? Sometimes, He allows us to know why, and other times, He does His work behind the scenes. Either way, we can know that He is always at His work (John 5:17), and His work and His will are always good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2, NIV). His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). He always has the best plan.

God is good, and He loves us.

When life troubles, frustrates, and inconveniences us, the Lord remains the same. He is good, strong, and loving (Psalms 34:8 and 144:2). He cares about us (1 Peter 5:7). Who He is overarches every one of our experiences.

We can trust the Lord.

Because the Lord is good, loving, sovereign, and purposeful, we can trust Him in the glitches of life. In fact, we can embrace those glitches as coming from our Father, who cares deeply for us. We can choose to thank Him for the glitches, knowing He is doing something in and through them. We can decide to praise Him in the glitches, because He is still Lord of all and therefore deserves our praise. We can rely on His presence to guide us through the glitches and into all He has planned for us and those we love.

So, I am going to embrace this extra time in my manuscript. The Lord is doing something in this glitch, and I don’t want to miss anything that He is doing! I’m telling this glitch, “Come on in, and bring your bags with you.”

Question: How about you? Where have you faced glitches? What did you gain from them? Comment at the link below.

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And the Winner Is . . . (Plus Sample Chapter)

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Thank you to everyone who viewed and voted on the cover options for my soon-to-be-released book, “Optimism for Autism.” (Release date April 2, 2014.) Option #3 received the most votes (54), followed by #1 (29), and then #2 (13). Your comments about the covers were very helpful, and many of your suggestions will be incorporated into the final book cover design. Thank you for the time and thought you put into making our book cover the best it can be!

Congratulations to Beth Hill! Your name was drawn randomly from the names of those who voted on the book covers to receive a free PDF of the book. Please send your email address to optimismforautism@yahoo.com, and I will email you the PDF file.

I am including a sample chapter from my upcoming book with this week’s blog. Since the chapter has a reference to Valentine’s Day, I chose it for inclusion in my blog this week. Blessings to all of you as you “learn to see”!

 

Chapter 8: Learning to Truly See Others

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

—Philippians 2:3-4, NASB

 

I recently watched the movie “Avatar,” snuggled up with David on our couch. A futuristic movie set on an alien world with exotic life forms, Avatar features a marine who enters a community of indigenous people and tries to earn their trust and respect. A recurring phrase throughout the movie is, “I see you.” The native people speak the phrase to the natural life forms around them. They share the words with one another. Eventually, the marine and a local young woman exchange the words after they have had a serious argument. (Worthington, S., & Saldana, Z. [Actors]. [2009]. Avatar [Online video]. United States: 20th Century Fox.)

“I see you.” In the movie and in life, the words convey empathy and understanding, the ability to peer deeply into someone else’s heart and see the treasure inside.

I encountered my own “I see you” experience on a Wednesday night at church. We were having a Living Christmas Tree, and I took a big step in joining the choir.  That meant I had to put Patrick in the nursery while I went to practice every Wednesday night for about 12 weeks.  To be honest, it was just a desperate attempt to do something normal.

The experiment didn’t work.

About three weeks into our practices, I was walking down the hallway to pick up Patrick from the nursery, and I was intercepted by three small children running at full speed and broadcasting to anyone in earshot that “Patrick bit Amy!”

My stomach clenched.  Occasionally, Patrick would hit, spit, or bite if people came into his space when he was in one of his zoned-out moments.  The sudden sensory invasion would frighten him, and he would react strongly, trying to protect himself.

I had an immediate flashback to his three-year-old Sunday School class.  I had walked Patrick into his room, smiling and greeting his two teachers.  We were new to the church, and I was hoping to make friends fast, especially with those who would be working with my son.  The older woman in the room greeted me coldly and said, “Do you see that little boy over there?” pointing to a cute, blue-eyed, brown-haired cherub, who was pushing a toy truck across the floor.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, your son has bitten him twice.  And if he does it again, he will no longer be welcome in this classroom!” she said harshly.

I froze.  I had not heard about the biting at all.

“Okay,” I said.

I turned Patrick over to the younger, more pleasant woman in the room, who had a look of horror mixed with sympathy on her face, and I left, walking stoically to my own Sunday School classroom.

David appeared a few minutes later, after dropping off our daughters in their classrooms.

My mind had already travelled a long distance down the road of despair.

Why is Patrick having all of these problems?  What am I doing wrong as a mother? Why can’t I help him? Will other people ever accept him and love him for who he is? Will he be kicked out of Sunday School? Does everyone think I’m a bad parent?  I think I’m a bad parent.  God help me . . .

“How did it go?” David asked.

That’s all it took.  A flood of tears erupted, and I fled from our Sunday School classroom, not wanting anyone to see me.  I made it about halfway down the hall before running into John, a friend of David’s from the choir.

“Susan?  What’s wrong?” he said.

By then, I was sobbing.  The kind of uncontrollable sobs that put your whole body into convulsions.  I couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t talk.  All the frustrations and pain were finding release through my tears, and I just let them pour out.

I heard footsteps.

“It’s okay, John,” David said.  I felt his arms around me, and I just melted into him. He ushered me off into a side room, and I told him the whole story.

“I don’t know what to do!” I said.  “I don’t know how to help Patrick. And it hurts so badly.”

“Shh, shh.  It will be okay,” said David, willing it to be so.

“Will it?” I said.  “Will it ever?”

 

“Patrick bit Amy!”  The words cut their way into my consciousness, interrupting that dark memory.

“Patrick bit Amy!”

I steeled myself for what might greet me when I entered the nursery.

There was Amy, crying and rubbing her arm, the teeth marks still visible and red.

Patrick was in the corner, oblivious.  He had a red plastic cup perched on top of a spoon.  He was rocking the cup with the spoon and tracking its movements with his eyes.

I knelt down beside Amy.  Her mother Elaine had her arms wrapped around her petite, curly-haired daughter.

“Amy, I am so sorry that Patrick hurt you,” I said. “What he did was wrong, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive him.”

Amy stopped crying, looked at me, and haltingly nodded her head yes.

Her mother sat there calmly.

“Elaine, I am so sorry,” I said painfully.

“It’s okay,” she said softly.

No, it’s not, I thought.  It’s not okay at all!  Nothing is okay.

“Amy, we love you, and we think you are a wonderful little girl,” I said with a deep sadness.

I went over and stood near Patrick until he perceived I was there.  I showed him the pictures of our van and our home lined up on his Velcro planner so he knew it was time to leave.

Sadness enveloped me as we walked to the car. My shoulders drooped.  I wore defeat like a heavy, wet blanket. I believed the lie.

I AM a bad parent.  I can’t help my son.

Three days later, a card came in the mail.  It had Elaine’s name in the return address section.  My fingers trembled as I tore it open.

I just can’t take any more criticism or harsh judgment, I thought.  I really feel like I am at the breaking point!

“Dear Susan, I want to thank you for the way you comforted my daughter the other night at church. It especially means a lot to me because I know how much you have been hurting about your son.  I just want to tell you that I think you are a wonderful mother, and I think you are doing a great job with Patrick.  Love, Elaine.”

Tears had been my constant companion, and they were flowing again.  But this time, they came for a different reason. Elaine’s kindness and compassion were allowing waters of hope and streams of healing to flow through my soul. Her encouragement was strengthening me to continue on this unknown road with my son, with my family.

I expected criticism, and I received love and encouragement.  I expected resentment, and I found worth.  It was God’s grace in its purest form because it required sacrifice. Elaine had put her feelings and needs aside and had embraced my world and my experiences.  I have never forgotten her kindness, and I have kept her letter all these years.  It was a love letter from the Lord sent by one of His faithful servants.  It changed my life and gave me hope to keep going.  Every time I think of that letter, I ask the Lord, Please help me to see past myself and to truly see others and what they are experiencing when I am hurt or offended. Help me to be Your voice of love and hope to those who need it.

In Philippians 2:3-4, NASB, it says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

That’s what Elaine did.  She put herself aside and thought about someone else. She looked at me and said, “I see you.”  The Lord used that moment to teach me a wonderful secret about life.  Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NASB).  He would know all about that.  He gave everything—His very life—for us, and He had joy in the midst of it because He was thinking of us and what it would accomplish for us (Hebrews 12:2, NASB).

The places of pain in my life have presented the greatest opportunities to learn and to become more like Jesus.  I remember the lessons experienced in those places because of the pain involved.  Those are the places where I must decide if I am going to trust Jesus and what He says.  If I do, He blesses me in amazing ways.  That has been my experience. I ask Him to give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart tendered to His voice, because He is the One who sees and hears and loves completely and deeply. He is always saying, “I see you,” and we are most like Him when we do the same.

I have had the opportunity to share this truth with my children.  When my oldest daughter Katie was a sophomore in high school, Valentine’s Day presented a real challenge for her.  Ever since she was a little girl, she dreamed of falling in love, getting married, and having a family someday.  But Prince Charming hadn’t shown up yet; in fact, she didn’t even have a boyfriend.  At age 16, she didn’t want to hear about waiting for the right guy when she was already missing out on being in love.  I mean, time was obviously flying by, and old age was just around the corner!  Besides, “all the other girls” at school were chatting excitedly about what they were going to do for Valentine’s Day with their boyfriends and probably would be getting candy and flowers while Katie had to watch helplessly on the sidelines.  That’s how she saw it.

“I hate Valentine’s Day!” she shouted, arriving home from school that day.

I knew why she was upset.  She had already told me all about it.

“Katie.  I’m going to give you an assignment,” I said. “I want you to come up with a plan to do something nice for someone else this Valentine’s Day.  You aren’t the only one who is probably having a hard time with this holiday.  Look around, and see what you can come up with.”

Katie was dumbfounded.

“But, Mom . .  .”

“You have until Friday to come up with a plan,” I said.  “I am going to ask you then what you have decided to do.”

I walked out of the room so she couldn’t argue with me.

Friday came, and I didn’t even have to ask Katie about it.

“Hey, Mom, do you remember the Bogles?  You know, that nice young couple at church who had their first baby a few months ago?” Katie asked.

“Yes, I know them,” I said.  They were a dear couple who had jumped into helping with the youth at our church even though they were quite busy with careers and a young family.  I always appreciated them for that.

“Well, I bet they haven’t been out on a date since their baby was born,” Katie said.  “I think it would be great if I and some of my girlfriends offered to cook them dinner and watch the baby while they went out to the movies on Valentine’s Day.”

“That is a fantastic idea!” I said.

Putting her usual passion into words, Katie said, “And I thought we could all wear white collared shirts and black pants and even serve them dinner after cooking it.  I found some romantic music we could play, and I thought we could put some pretty flowers on the table too.”

Katie enlisted two girlfriends to help her. It turned out that “all the other girls” did not have dates after all.  When she came back home after her night’s adventure, she couldn’t stop talking.

“This was the best Valentine’s Day ever!” she said.  “We had so much fun.  The Bogles were very grateful and kept thanking us over and over for giving them a date night.  And that baby was adorable!”

“You’ve learned a very important lesson,” I told Katie.  “God knows what He is talking about.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Remember that the next time you are upset about something. See if there is some way you can give to others in that situation.”

Katie paused reflectively.  “Okay.  I will.”

I have found that I am most unhappy when I am dwelling on me—my hurts, my needs, what I deserve.  I am happiest and find great joy when I can do something to help someone else, when I can think about them and find a way to bless them.  The Lord shows me things I can do, and I get to do them with Him.  Sometimes, He lets me see the results, and we have a big celebration together.  Other times, I find my happiness and joy trusting the results to Him.

Patrick’s Perspective: The members of my church have encouraged me so much. And I know they have been praying for me over the years. They have encouraged my family, too. I am grateful for the lady who sent my mom that note. Mom still has that letter, and that was 16 years ago. I am thankful that the people at church have been a family to my family . . . because I was not the only one who needed encouragement. The people in my mom’s Sunday School class, especially, have been extremely kind. They talk to me and encourage me and pray for me, too. That means a lot.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:

Are you sad, discouraged? Why not ask the Lord to show you someone you can bless in His name?

Whom might the Lord be asking you to “see” right now?

 

 

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Help Me to Choose My Book Cover!

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OPTION 1

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OPTION 2

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OPTION 3

I have some exciting news! My book is going to be released on Wednesday, April 2, which is World Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day!

Right now, we are in the process of developing the cover for the book. That’s where I would like to have your help. Would you vote for your favorite cover (Option 1, 2, or 3 above), and tell me WHY you like that version best? You can vote and give your reasons why using the Comment link below. We plan to review and incorporate your comments in order to produce the best book cover ever!  Thank you Kimberly Rae, Brian Thigpen, and Narrow Way Books for these wonderful designs!

For those of you who vote and comment on the cover designs before midnight next Monday, February 10, I will enter your name into a drawing to receive a free PDF version of the book. I will announce the winner next Wednesday and send the PDF to you soon after.  I hope you will check back next week to see which design emerged as a favorite. I also will give you a “sneak peak” of one of the chapters next week!

Here is a draft of the back cover copy for my book:

How does a boy the doctors say is “mentally retarded” graduate high school with honors and earn academic scholarships to attend college?

 How does a boy who doctors say may never speak become a powerful vocalist and gifted public speaker who brings audiences to tears?

 How does a boy who cannot tie his shoes until he is 13 years old emerge as a swimming champion who receives an athletic scholarship to swim in college?

Only by the grace and power of God.

In OPTIMISM FOR AUTISM, a mother and her autistic son share how they found joy and purpose in the midst of living with autism.  Learn from this inspirational story how you, too, can:

  • Not just survive but actually thrive in the midst of life’s ongoing challenges
  • Break the cycle of discouragement and depression and learn how to find peace and strength in your struggles
  • Stop agonizing over what could have been and embrace God’s plan for you and those you love
  • Replace the fear of failure with the truth that you can live in victory in the midst of adversity

I am looking forward to reading your comments about the book covers. Happy voting!

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