Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Celebrating Progress

SRHS Swimming 12_808

Patrick celebrating as a high school swimmer

This past weekend, David and I attended our son Patrick’s college swim meet. I witnessed a familiar scene after Patrick swam the 200-meter backstroke. When he looked at the scoreboard after his swim and realized he had cut 2 seconds off his personal record, a smile exploded across his face, and he raised his fist in triumph. He lifted himself out of the pool and high-fived several of his teammates.

I love that about my son. He celebrates any amount of progress made. And progress is something he has had to fight for most of his life. Diagnosed as autistic and mentally retarded, Patrick decided he wanted to attend college someday. He worked really hard in his classes, eventually graduating high school with honors and receiving academic scholarships to college. As a junior in college, he currently carries a 3.91 gpa.

Coordination issues also presented major roadblocks for Patrick. He couldn’t tie his shoes until he was 13 years old. When he entered high school, he said he wanted to swim on the Varsity Swim Team like his sisters. But he had a problem—he couldn’t dive off the block. He told me he couldn’t get his legs to do what his brain was telling them to do.

But he didn’t give up. He would stay after practice every day for 2 years trying to dive off the block, while at swim meets he would dive off the side of the pool. Finally, at the end of his sophomore year, he did it! And he kept going, participating in extra practices, trying to get better. Every time he cut just one second off his time, he would get out of the pool and celebrate, high-fiving his teammates and coaches, even when he was in last place in the race.

Patrick became stronger and better at swimming, and by the end of his senior year in high school, he won the county and the conference swim meets in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle events. After the regional swim meet his senior year, the swim coach from Pfeiffer University contacted our family and said he would like to recruit Patrick to swim on their Varsity Swim Team. He even offered Patrick an athletic scholarship.

They told us Patrick might not ever speak, but he did. He learned to communicate with us through pictures first, and he curiously sought to understand the world of words, until one day, he spoke! Today, he is a gifted public speaker. And even more, he can sing! He has a powerful tenor voice that is so moving.

Patrick’s story reminds us to celebrate progress. Each of us is on a journey with the Lord, and that journey becomes more joyful when we intentionally choose to reflect upon and rejoice in what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in our lives.

Looking Back

We may not be where we want to be when it comes to progress in certain areas, but any amount of progress made should be celebrated. What has the Lord taught us? How has He led us? What has He done in our lives to this point? David looked back and remembered how he had been successful in fighting off lions and bears who attacked his sheep. With that in mind, he went up against the giant Goliath, saying, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37, NIV).

Patrick remembers how far the Lord has brought him in his swimming. He relies on the same Lord to see him through the new demands of college swimming.

Looking Out

We also can celebrate progress as we look out at where we are now. When the Philistines came against Israel in great numbers, the Israelites cried out to God, who empowered them to overcome and defeat their enemies. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us'” (1 Samuel 7:12, NIV). The people of Israel looked out at where they were at present and took time to celebrate their progress.

We can always choose to celebrate where God has us now, even when we cut 2 seconds off our time!

Looking Ahead

We are told, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV). Whatever difficulties or challenges we face in life, we can look ahead and know that our faithful, loving Lord has progress ahead for us to celebrate. He is doing something in the midst of our struggles. His aim is to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

We can look at each experience in life as an opportunity to grow . . . in showing the grace, love, forgiveness, compassion, faithfulness, kindness, faithfulness, and goodness of Jesus to those around us. We can choose to believe Him and to do what He says to do. We can live in partnership with Him and look ahead to a great celebration of progress when we do.

In our book, OPTIMISM FOR AUTISM, Patrick says, “Only God could take an overweight, uncoordinated autistic boy and turn him into a championship swimmer who got a college scholarship! I do not think we should ever give up if God asks us to do something, because He is the One who does it anyway! He can do anything He wants to because He’s God!”

Ultimately, to celebrate progress is to praise what God has done, is doing, and will do. When we willingly join Him in that process, we have a lot to celebrate!

Question: What progress has the Lord made in your life? Comment (and celebrate) at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

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Planting and Cultivating Seeds

seeds

Have you ever been trapped in negative thinking patterns that “nothing is ever going to change”? Discouragement, if we allow it to take root, can yield an ugly harvest of bitterness, anger, depression, and despair. BUT if we allow hope and encouragement to take root instead, then the resulting harvest is entirely different: peace, joy, and a confident expectation for the best.

The Lord allowed me and Patrick to offer seeds of hope and encouragement this past weekend, and many dear conference-goers firmly planted those seeds in their hearts. Patrick and I served as the keynote speakers at a statewide conference in Ohio for speech pathologists and audiologists who work in Ohio’s schools. We thanked them for the difference they make and shared with them our story of “Finding Patrick’s Voice.”

We made wonderful friends at the OSSPEAC (Ohio School Speech Pathology Educational Audiology Coalition) Fall Conference, in Columbus, Ohio. We recounted with them the many seeds that were planted in Patrick’s life to result in a powerful harvest:

  • Doctors said Patrick was “mentally retarded”; yet, he graduated high school with honors and earned academic scholarships to attend college.
  • Specialists said Patrick might never speak; yet, he become a powerful vocalist and gifted public speaker who brings audiences to tears.
  • Patrick could not tie his shoes until he was 13 years old; yet, he emerged as a swimming champion who received an athletic scholarship to swim in college.
  • Patrick and I wrote a bestselling book OPTIMISM FOR AUTISM that shares our story and the power and grace of God.
  • Patrick and I are now speaking publicly about the hope and encouragement found in the Lord and the abundant life found in Him in the midst of our struggles.

As part of our talk on Saturday, Patrick shared, “The Bible says, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ It says that in the book of Galatians, Chapter 6, verse 9. Think about it. When you plant a seed, it takes a while for it to grow. You water it, fertilize it, the sun works on it, and one day, the plant emerges. It’s the same with the people you help. Your influence works on them, little by little, and eventually, they start growing and changing. At the proper time, the harvest comes. Look at what happened to me!”

We learn the following truths from that verse in Galatians:

Keep doing good, and don’t give in to weariness.

God calls us to devote ourselves to doing what is good (Titus 3:8,14), to never tire of doing what is good (2 Thessalonians 3:13), and to set an example by doing what is good (Titus 2:7). He says He equips us to do good through this power and His Word (Hebrews 13:21, Acts 1:8, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

That verse in Galatians doesn’t say we won’t get weary in doing good. It just says not to give in to weariness, not to let being tired and worn out stop us from continuing to do what God has called us to do. When we get to that point of fatigue and are tempted to quit, that’s when we must call on God to help us keep going, and rely on Him to provide what we need. He is faithful, and He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The harvest takes time.

Galatians 6:9 says, “at the proper time, we will reap a harvest.” When a seed goes in the ground, we don’t see anything happen for a while. The plant doesn’t just pop up the minute we place it in the soil. The harvest takes time. God’s timing is always perfect. Results and outcomes are under His authority. He is Lord of the harvest; we are the ones working in His harvest fields (Luke 10:2). Even though we can’t see it, as we work the fields, roots are emerging and anchoring themselves in the fertile soil as water and nutrients feed the seed. One day, a tender shoot emerges, and the sun and rain continue to help it grow. Eventually, precious fruit emerges. But it all takes time, necessary time, for the best fruit possible.

The harvest will come if we do not give up.

The harvest is inevitable. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). But if we quit and give up, there is no harvest. Unattended seeds generally die and never bear fruit. Yet, those seeds that receive love, care, and attention, bloom and flourish in the Lord’s garden. He invites us to join Him in His work so that we might celebrate the harvest together.

Several participants at the conference this past weekend said our keynote speech encouraged them to persevere in helping others. Patrick’s presence and his story helped them realize the difference they were making and could continue to make in the lives of others. They determined to continue planting and cultivating seeds.

At the end of our presentation, Patrick sang “Forevermore,” by Travis Cottrell. The song declares the majesty, power, graciousness, and lovingkindness of God. It was the perfect culmination of our message. For God is great, and greatly to be praised, and if He invites you into His fields, then “the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete” (Deuteronomy 16:15, NIV).

Question: Where are you fighting weariness in doing good? How can we pray for you? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

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We All Have A Story To Tell

Park Road book signing

Patrick and I at a recent book signing

My son Patrick and I recently spoke at a local book club meeting about our new book OPTIMISM FOR AUTISM. We were able to share our experiences of living with Patrick’s autism and writing our book. Before the meeting, we asked the Lord to use our story to offer hope and encouragement to others. That remains our constant prayer.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord brings people to these events (and across our paths in other ways) who have autism connections or other life struggles. Patrick and I find great joy in talking with and encouraging them, and they bless us in so many ways. We are being asked to speak and share our story with more and more people. What a blessing! (If you would like to meet us at an event, check our Speaking Schedule and Events pages at susanjaneking.com.)

Through all of our recent experiences, Patrick and I have learned:

We are meant to share our story.

Each of us has a story to tell. The Lord writes the details of our lives. In fact, we are told He is always at His work (John 5:17). He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are called to share what He is doing in our lives, how He is revealing Himself, and what we are learning along the way.

Jesus emphasized this point when He told the healed demoniac, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). The man had wanted to go with Jesus; instead, he obeyed and “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:20). Our personal stories carry weight and authority. They are meant to be told to others and read by them. That’s why we are informed our lives are meant to be living epistles, known and read by all (2 Corinthians 3:2).

The Lord is in our story.

I realized a long time ago that the Lord is the main character in my life story. He writes the story. He IS the story. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal [and abundant] life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Real life is found in doing life with Jesus. We find real life when we make Him the focus of our life’s journey. Paul got it when he said, “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

When Patrick and I realized the Lord authored and directed our lives, and when we decided to allow Him to write His story on our hearts and through our circumstances, that’s when the real living began! Our book chronicles that journey.

Our story should point others to Jesus.

Isaiah 43:7 tells us we were created for God’s glory. Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, [is] the hope of glory.” I was amazed when I first discovered the meaning of the word “glory” in the New Testament. It means, “to manifest, give an estimation of.” In other words, we are here to point the way to Jesus, to show who Jesus is through our own lives, through our life stories.

In our book and at our speaking engagements, Patrick and I hope that others will hear the story of a Lord—our Lord and their Lord—who is faithful, loving, powerful, compassionate, wise, gracious, abundant, and full of hope. We want others to know about and remember Him after they finish the last page or hear the last word. He is worth remembering because He always remembers us.

Peter and John announced, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV). May we all have the same attitude as we each share our stories.

Question: What story is the Lord calling you to share? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

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God Gives Us Family of the Heart

 mountain hike trail top

Emily, me, Silvana, and Sarah at the top of Lookout Trail

 

I went hiking with three of my four daughters earlier this week. Together, we trekked along Lookout Trail in Montreat, NC. At the top of the trail, we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Seven Sisters mountain range. However, the best scenery I experienced involved watching the three girls interact and treasure their time together.

When I say I have four daughters, I include Silvana Milic, who joined our family as an exchange student from Croatia in 1995. I have been blessed with three daughters of the home (Katie, Emily, and Sarah), and one daughter of the heart (Silvana). (Well, they’re all daughters of the heart . . . but you get the point!)

My three daughters and son Patrick view Silvana like another sister. They have remained close over the past 19 years. My heart warms every time I see them reunite and continue to treasure one another.

It’s the same way in the family of God. We might not all come from the same genetic pool, but as Christians, we share the same bloodline. We belong to the family of God by the blood of Jesus Christ. “Yet to all who did receive Him [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13, NIV).

When we join God’s family by receiving and identifying ourselves with Jesus, we join a forever family. We are children of God’s heart. As members of the same family, we are called to come alongside one another with:

Love

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, NIV). Love sets us apart and identifies us as members of the same family. Love is a choice. Love involves doing what is best for another member of the family of God.

“Keep fervent in your love for one another,” we are told in 1 Peter 4:8, NASB. The words “keep fervent” mean pushing to the finish, or stretching for the tape in an athletic race. In other words, we are called to stretch in our love for one another, to give all we’ve got in loving one another. That’s what Jesus did, and He wants to help us do the same.

Protection

Family members protect one another. We are warned, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT).  Experts on safaris have observed that lions always go after the animal that has separated itself from the herd. Any creature that is isolated and alone is weaker, more vulnerable, and a target for destruction.

In the same way, God’s family offers us strength, protection, and security as we face the trials and temptations of life. We are not meant to go it alone. We are encouraged to continue meeting and being together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), for we draw strength from one another when we are with one another.

Encouragement

We also receive encouragement from one another. We are urged to, “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” (Hebrews 10:13, NIV). We help one another in God’s family to keep on keeping on. The Lord knew we would need to help spur one another on toward the finish line. It’s one of the reasons He put us together as family.

Love, protection, and encouragement. These are some of the qualities we should be experiencing as members of God’s family. They are also gifts we should be giving to other believers if we know Jesus. He helps us to develop these qualities. He is quite familiar with them. Throughout His life, Jesus displayed these powerful traits to members of His family. Let’s hope others can see the “family resemblance” because we do the same.

Question: Who in God’s family has shown you the love, protection, and encouragement of Jesus? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website:  susanjaneking.com

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Jesus Runs The Race With Us

Half Ironman 2

Sarah and David during the Half Ironman

 

My husband David and daughter Sarah participated in a Half Ironman in Augusta, Georgia, this past weekend. We celebrated their accomplishment, especially in light of what happened a few weeks earlier.

David and Sarah had trained for months to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run half a marathon, 13.1 miles. Those distances are half of what they plan to do in a full Ironman on November 1. They were excited to complete the Half Ironman together . . . until the email arrived announcing the race committee’s plan for staggered starts. David was given a start time an hour and a half ahead of Sarah.

Sarah’s voice quivered as she told me, “I was really looking forward to doing this with Dad. I don’t want to have to go through this for the first time all by myself. I don’t know what I’m doing. I was counting on Dad to pace me and coach me, and I know he would have helped me get through it, just by being there alongside me.”

I expressed Sarah’s concerns to David.

“She can do it,” he said, voicing his confidence in his daughter.

He thought about it for a day and came back to me and said, “When I finish my swim, I’ll wait for her. We’ll go through the bike and the run together.”

My heart swelled with admiration for my husband. He was coming alongside his daughter, not just in the triathlon race, but in life. He has done that repeatedly for all four of our children.

It is such a picture of Jesus.

His presence keeps us going.

The Lord promises, “My presence shall do with you” (Exodus 33:14, NASB), that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and that He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He tells us to be strong and courageous, and then He reveals why and how we can be: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NASB). The presence of Jesus energizes us to run the race set before us. He runs the race with us

The presence of her daddy kept Sarah running. It should be the same for us; so, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

He shows us the way.

To date, David has completed 3 full Ironman competitions, 3 Half Ironmans, and 4 marathons. He knows how to train and participate in those races. He is wise and experienced. That’s why Sarah wanted him with her on race day. He didn’t disappoint her. He coached Sarah through all the elements of the race, and Sarah listened to him.

So, too, our Lord tells us, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8, NASB). The Lord does not expect us to know (the way), He expects us to go (with Him). In fact, that’s what the race is all about, running and completing it with Him. He says, “I am the way” (John 14:6), and “This is eternal [and abundant] life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NASB).

He empowers us to finish the race.

David and Sarah crossed the finish line, arms raised in triumph, amid applause as the announcer broadcast to the watching crowd that a father and daughter were finishing the race together. It was a moment neither one of them would ever forget.

David sacrificed to get Sarah there. He allowed an extra hour and half to be added to his final time. He slowed his pace to match his daughter’s. He coached her through. Because he loves her. He had joy running the race with her. He treasured crossing the finish line with her.

Jesus did the same. He sacrificed Himself for us: “although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, NASB). We are told Jesus looked ahead to what His death would accomplish—the ability for us to be with Him forever—and that gave Him joy (Hebrews 12:2). He knew we would be empowered through His sacrifice to finish the race.

So then, let us aim to say as Paul does, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV). Jesus is running with us toward the finish line, where we will be with Him forever.

Question:  How is Jesus seeing you through your race? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website:  susanjaneking.com

 

 

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