Wounded and Doubting: How to Respond to Your Child’s Crisis of Faith

The words that Christian parents dread hearing just passed by my teenage daughter’s lips. “I don’t  know if I even believe in God … and I’m not going to church,” she said, with a frightening (to me) confidence in her voice. My heart sunk. I feared this could happen because Katie faced emotionally painful challenges during childhood that were never fully resolved. God had not answered her prayers in the way she hoped—(curing her high-functioning autism—or at least stopping its anxieties, limitations and social consequences). This left her wounded and angry at God.

I took a deep breath and spoke calmly in spite of inner panic. “Okay, let’s talk about this”, I said, “What’s going on?”  Katie relayed her doubts in a God that allowed her to suffer.  She also said didn’t “get anything out of” church and that it was my and my husband’s faith, not hers.  She felt like she had been “brain-washed” because we had raised her in church and as a Christian her whole life.

I understood her pain, but I also knew (based on my age and experience) how many prayers for assistance had been answered positively. I wanted to tell Katie just how blessed she was to have her brain washed in God’s truth from childhood, but I bit my tongue on that issue. This was wise because my unruffled demeanor kept the door open to future conversations.  While she struggled to decide if God was real and if church was worth her time, my husband and I became Katie’s sounding boards–answering questions, buffering anger, and holding her if she cried.  After listening to her concerns, we also continually pointed out the good in her life, the prayers that God HAD answered in her favor, and how her pain could be used to help others.

Long story short—a few years later, Katie re-committed her life to God.  Praise! I take no credit for this recommitment, knowing that there are no guarantees and that I have no ultimate control over another person’s faith.  I also acknowledge that there is not one formula for helping your child in this situation.

However, for what it’s worth, here are some lessons I learned about how to respond during a child’s crisis of faith.

  1. Have courage, don’t panic, but focus on listening and giving support. God requires that our children make personal decisions regarding Christ. This can be a difficult process. You can express concern, but try not to add your intense emotions to the struggle.
  2. Believe (and tell your child) that doubt is normal—and give biblical examples. Know that questioning helps with intellectual growth and future decision-making. Doubt can even strengthen your child’s faith as positive resolution leads to stronger conviction. If the doubt has a basis in anger as a result of suffering, point your child to biblical characters who lived through pain, how they responded, and how God transformed their circumstances for good. (Job, Elisha, Moses, David, Joseph, Jesus and Paul, came quickly to my mind).
  3. Don’t take your child’s doubt personally. Unless God convicts you otherwise, a child’s doubt is not automatically a reflection upon you or the quality of your faith or parenting.
  4. Depending on your child’s functional capacity, accept that you cannot guide your teenager effectively with the same techniques you used when he/she was young. It may be time to shift your parenting style so that you become more like a consultant and less like an authority figure.  For us, shifting our style meant that Katie could relate to my husband and me as allies as she worked through her confusion.
  5. Avoid saying and doing things that could elicit strong rebellion. This takes prayer, discernment, and hinges on the child’s personality and emotional state. As much as we wanted our teenager to be in church on Sundays, we chose not to force attendance as we didn’t want to incite Katie’s strong sense of independence. When Katie was very upset, we also kept our opinions to ourselves sometimes in order to better listen and to express our empathy.
  6. Practice patience and reason. Punishing, putting pressure or guilt upon your child to make the right decision, or to make it quickly, is counterproductive. Doubt is a reasonable human process which takes time to resolve.
  7. Impart spiritual truth only after prayer. To ensure I spoke wisdom at the appropriate times and in   a helpful way, I learned to pray immediately before responding to my teens about anything spiritual, especially regarding difficult topics.
  8. Don’t worry about what church members think. Most experienced people sympathize with teens and their parents, and it really doesn’t matter what other people think. My assumption that others were judging me just isolated me from support I might have gained.
  9. Connnect your child with people who enjoy them, are strong in their faith and serving God.  Faith requires works to be fully alive, so this is a powerful combination. Your child may not be in the mood for such interactions (ours wasn’t) but it is well worth the attempt.
  10. Love and care for your child unconditionally as he doubts.  You don’t have to agree with your child’s choices, but love and welcome should be at the center of all your interactions.

Watching your child doubt is painful, and it tests parental faith.  Our first inclination might be to panic, but the best option is to pray, wait, trust, and walk alongside our children.

1 Timothy 2:4 reminds us that “God wants all to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”   Our children were God’s beloved offspring long before we even met them for the first time. He is madly in love with your child and wants the very best for him or her.

Even if your son or daughter is not currently choosing faith, remember that God, the ultimate parent, is in control.  Good can still happen—don’t doubt it!

Thanks to Professionals Who Bless Our Special Needs Life


Today I appreciate professionals who give great care, good advice, and are wise enough to consider what it’s like to be a struggling child and a parent of that child.  Here are some shout-outs to those who made our lives easier:


  • The neuropsychologist who took half of her workday to evaluate my daughter at home where she could really see and understand the challenges that others missed. Her efforts gave us the correct diagnosis so we could move forward.


  • The college student I hired who was gifted in her ability to engage my pre-schooler with autism. This was a serendipitous engagement.  The first time we spoke over the phone, she recalls thinking it might be a good job because Katie was “artistic” and this student liked art.  She lightened our days, became my friend, and helped me enjoy life again.


  • The behaviorist, the best I ever met, who taught us how to calm my daughter’s rages. It was nothing short of a miracle.


  • The psychiatrist who not only prescribed the right medicine but shared pieces of her own life which put us all at ease. She attended meetings to educate the school staff who discounted my child’s anxiety because it did “not appear” to be a problem at school.


  • The psychiatric nurse who openly shared her family’s struggle with mental illness on our first visit with our depressed and angry child. She helped us feel normal and showed us that life and laughter continue after a mental health diagnosis. I cannot thank her enough for the candid disclosure which lightened my emotional load.


  • The school autism specialist who started an excellent after-school social training program for children with autism. She wasn’t paid extra to run an after-school program but knew it was important. A family advocate at heart, she welcomed children with autism and their families into her home every Christmas and summer.


  • The itinerant teacher for autism, who spoke to parents as allies and equals. She calmly addressed behavior problems as understandable reactions to stressors, taking the “scary” out of erratic behavior. As I got to know her, she shared her own struggles as a teen and young adult. Watching this down-to-earth young professional gave my heart hope that kids often grow up and find their way.


  • The school psychologist who acknowledged how hard our lives must be sometimes—and shared her own struggle with her son. She was professional, compassionate and brainstormed solutions that worked in real life, not just on paper.

Please share a sentence about who and how professionals have blessed your life as you raise your child with special needs.





When Professionals Add Stress to Parents of Special-Needs Kids

As a special- needs parent let me be clear that my overriding feeling is gratitude toward professionals who help kids and families with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. I have a Ph.D. and my husband is an M.D. so I understand the challenges on both sides of this issue. However, I witness or hear from parents too often that professionals lack respect and sensitivity towards them.  Unfortunately, this wounds families at a time when they usually need the most support. Next time, I’ll blog on some of the fantastic things I’ve seen professionals do—but today I’m a writing as a parent advocate. On behalf of many families with more dramatic stories, I’m telling my story to lend some support and to build some awareness of the issues.

Before I begin, I need to say that I know from a professional perspective that concerned parents can be intense, emotional and may not always think clearly when it comes to the well-being of their children.  Professionals have to formulate a differential diagnosis and make a quick assessment of the child’s environment with little information on a first visit.  This is difficult. I once called my husband while he was away at a medical conference because our 1 year-old had fallen down the stairs and I was hysterical–especially because there was blood on the stair railing and I was sure our daughter had a major head injury. I stayed up much of the night doing neurological checks. She made it through the night.  When my husband came home the next day, he quietly pointed out that the blood on the railing was actually dried cough syrup. Not sure how he would have assessed me that day had I been a parent in his medical office for the first time.

That said, I’m usually a very reasonable person.

My story begins when my oldest daughter was two years old. After months of feeling concerned about her, I took her to see a doctor. Here’s what happened within the first two years of this appointment:

First Doctor’s Visit

The developmental pediatrician walked in the room to see Katie who quickly became anxious. To decrease Katie’s anxiety, I showed her toys and asked her questions I knew she could answer—like the color of the dress on the doll (pink), etc.  I didn’t know it yet, but Katie had trained me to soothe her. That happens to moms—they learn and adjust their behavior to meet their child’s needs.  Katie knew advanced colors already—it was one of her autism strengths. Colors are predictable—they don’t change—so she liked them. However, the doctor accused me of pushing advanced learning on my two-year-old and wrote in the chart that I was a Ph.D. candidate (that part was true) pushing my child toward pre-mature academic success (colors?)(not true). (Message: Mom is source of anxiety in child). She was wrong, but its ok. I could see how she might misinterpret, and high-functioning autism was not on the radar as much back then. (On the other hand, as a deeply concerned mother on one of the most stressful days of my life, I could have used an encouraging word).

First Treatment

After a follow-up visit, the doctor diagnosed Katie with anxiety and suggested play therapy for her. I took Katie to therapy for a few months with a psychologist. Later I read in the chart that I had improved my play skills after this intervention (Really? Was that a goal? )(Message: If Mom played better, child would be better).

Another day as I spoke to this psychologist in her office, I stood up and bounced my 3 month old as she started to fuss.  The psychologist yelled that I shouldn’t stand up when my daughter fussed to comfort her because I was coddling her. I should only comfort her while sitting down and then she could cry if that didn’t work.  (Weird.  Did she really want my baby to wail in her office?) (Message: Mom is not very good at her job).

Shifting Diagnosis

I still thought that something was missing in the diagnosis because Katie was losing social language previously acquired.  I asked the psychologist if Katie might have high-functioning autism. The idea was quickly dismissed. (A few months later, Katie was diagnosed with autism by a neuropsychologist who spend 4 hours observing and testing her in our home. (Which diagnosis would you trust?)

After our move to California, we visited a well-known specialist for a confirmation diagnosis required by the system. This doctor was in the middle of a family crisis (I empathize with that) but after observing Katie for 5 minutes, she refuted the autism diagnosis on the spot because Katie was “playing with her sister.” (It was a moment of parallel play). The records of the visit were strangely lost (thank you, God!) but I feared for months that we would lose all Katie’s services over that impulsive diagnosis.

Getting Services

Within the year, I had to defend that diagnosis before an IEP team who thought Katie functioned too well to have autism.  Several years later the IEP team leader admitted and felt badly that the team treated me as if I were delusional.  By then, I had founded a non-profit organization to teach social and emotional skills to kids on the spectrum.  (At least as a delusional mother I had done some good in the world).

Services in Place

Services began but the speech pathologist became upset with me because I made a suggestion to supplement Katie’s therapy.  This offended her because she “was the professional”. I apologized but told her through tears that I had to do as much as possible because I would live with the consequences if Katie didn’t make good progress, not her. (She seemed to consider this for the very first time—how much Katie’s progress meant to me).


This is a small sample of stories I could tell about professionals who hindered as much as they helped.  Moms and dads, have you had similar experiences? How did you feel?  Did you waste hours second-guessing what you knew about your child?  Were you unjustly suspected of child abuse or neglect?  And on another note, does anyone check in with you to see how you are doing?  Do you have a name at the doctor’s office–or are you called “mom” or “dad” as if you have no skills, life, or personality aside from being a parent?

It’s ok.  Really. I am not mad nor do I carry any grudges.  I tell my story because sometimes parent input is still dismissed and parents are blamed for problems they didn’t cause. There is a strong emphasis on the effects of trauma right now which brings child abuse to everybody’s mind. Overall this is good, but I’m pretty sure that some parents are overly scrutinized and less supported because of this trend. I’m also concerned that parents are not taken seriously when they have suggestions for their own child or for their communities. I spent years on the mental health advisory board in my county and saw competent parents ignored or marginalized–their hard-won wisdom wasted. It’s a shame.

I guess this blog is partly a call for system change, but mostly it’s a shout out to parents—to guard your hearts and trust your instincts.  We need M.D.s and Ph.Ds. to diagnose and give us a direction to follow, but they will come and go in your life. Listen to them, but get a second opinion when you are unsure because you know your child best.  Above all else, listen to God’s voice because He is constant and knows the child He created.

Finally, There’s no need to feel inferior because you are “just a mom or dad”. Keep your confidence.  God gave you your child for a reason. You have done one of the most difficult things in life—watched your child suffer, grieved deeply, secured appropriate therapy while trying to keep dinner on the table and a smile on your face. You and God have got this together. Bind up your wounds, carry on and seek God’s opinion above all else.








How to Peacefully Raise and Release Your Adult Child With (and Without) Special Needs

baby ducks jump out of nestI just texted these words to my 23-year old daughter who has autism. “Hi. I haven’t talked to you in a week. How are things?”  Katie lives across town in a little house by herself.  She loves it, and in many ways she has flown out of the nest.  It seems to be working for the whole family, but such a casual interaction with my child seems strange. It would be normal for a typical family, but I feel like I’m missing something. Reacting like a typical mom introduces anxiety from deep in my gut—because I’m a special-needs mom. Special-needs moms keenly know what is going on with their child or children. They always help. They relentlessly teach their kids what they need to know.  I’m not doing these things as well as I could.

Granted, I spent 20 years in a state of hyper-vigilance—teaching, guiding and monitoring progress—checking up and looking in.  (Katie calls it “nagging” now. How age-appropriate.)  This habit of intense concern doesn’t die easily.  Now that I’m not doing as much to help Katie, I wonder if I’m tired, lazy, or in a state of denial.  Or maybe I’m learning to let God truly guide my child?

I think it’s a combination of the above, but I mostly feel guilt that I am not teaching her much about finance and budgeting, planning, cooking and cleaning. These are the current tasks to be mastered. This struggle of feeling inadequate to train Katie is not new, however.  It is as old as her second birthday when autism first manifested.  Here I go again.

But then I found a white rock in my purse this morning. It was a visual reminder from a Bible class. On it, the teacher had written, “Rev. 2:17”.  The verse reminded me that at Christ’s return He will give us a new name, and it will be one that only we understand.  I love this. Christ and I alone will know what name will be on my rock because He knows what motivates me, what I have been through, what I struggle with and what I need.  He knows me (and you) intimately, even better than we know ourselves.  It’s the same for our children. God has a spiritual understanding of our children that transcends human thought.

What about me? I need to get over my delusion that I always know what my daughter needs, and quit feeling guilty for not providing every opportunity for her to get it.  Truly only God knows what she needs at each moment. I need to be content that He will fulfill the purpose of Katie’s life even if she makes mistakes because of my inadequate training.

This is not an excuse to neglect my responsibility to teach her. However, instead of worrying about my lack of intervention, I need to be in prayer that God will prompt me strongly when something critical to her life or spirit are in need of my attention.

What is a key to peacefully raising and releasing your child without shirking responsibility? It’s not worry and hyper-vigilance.  It’s not inaction and guilt. The key is prayer, listening, and then action.

As we trust God to alert us when needed, we are able to let our children complete God’s purpose for them.  Our interventions are unproductive unless God calls us to the task.  Let’s liberate ourselves and our children by listening for our call.

P.S.  A few days after I wrote this post, I felt the need to check in on Katie.  When I went to her house, it was 91 degrees inside and she did not complain or think to even call us.  The next few days the heat rose to 106 degrees outside. Obviously, we had the air conditioning fixed.  I think God called me.  What do you think?


10 Ways to Make Summer Camp Successful for Your Child with Autism or Related Challenges

summer camp“GOOD–MORNING–CAMPERS–!!!.” In iconic Robin Williams style, my husband bellows out this greeting each morning at the annual Bible camp sponsored by the church we attend. This has become a camp tradition and one of many reasons it is special to kids and staff. But if you ask me, one of best qualities of camp is that kids with special needs have been welcomed and loved here. My daughter, Katie, and her autism were one of the reasons this welcoming path was paved several years ago, and the tradition to support atypical children continues. What makes it work? Here are ten ideas for staff wanting to help children with autism succeed at a camp for typical kids. (Note these suggestions most commonly apply to children with autism who have moderate to good verbal skills, but may apply to a wider range of skill levels and other disabilities, as well).

1. Before camp, make sure key staff members talk to the child’s parents and can reach them for questions during the week. This gives a chance for parents to give information about specific sensitivities, calming techniques, potential rewards, and anything else that would help the child adjust.

2. Provide clear structure (post a visual schedule) and put the child in a cabin where the leaders generally follow the schedule and adhere to the rules (but are flexible too).

3. Pay attention to communication. Be straight- forward but kind in your dealings with the child. Make it clear what is appropriate and what is not. Find out if he understands jokes, sarcasm, etc. To be sure of understanding, ask her to repeat important communications back to you. Also be ready to “interpret” camp happenings, social interactions, inside jokes, etc.

4. Avoid the child’s major stressors, if possible, and have a plan for calming if you can’t. Make sure the child and staff know when, how, and where it is appropriate to take a break or to modify a task to increase chances of success. Identify ahead of time and provide a safe place and person (whom the child likes) where he/she can retreat to when overwhelmed.

5. Assign staff to look out for and stand up for the child, especially during unstructured time. The child with autism may not know what to do or how to act during these times and this is when other kids tend to tease, mock, or goad the child into poor behavior. This is a sad reality that needs to be kept under control as much as possible. Provide staff to supervise unstructured time!

6. Strongly encourage the other kids, especially those in his/her cabin or age-group, to be helpful and kind. With permission from the child and his/her parents, this might mean disclosing some information about the disability. One year I went to every girl’s cabin to explain autism so the girls would know how to understand and support Katie.
7. Allow for normally “unsanctioned” sensory breaks or calming activities if they help. Katie was allowed to bring her bicycle to ride around at camp during free time. This was an exception to the rule but kept her occupied and gave sensory support during unstructured and unsupervised social time. This prevented many misunderstandings, altercations and meltdowns.

8. Remember the child with autism is a child first and treat him/her that way. What does he like/dislike? What is motivating? What makes her feel successful? What are talents and skills? Give the child a chance to succeed during what is likely a challenging week. For example, at Sierra Bible Camp, we’ve seen some kids with autism blossom during their performances at evenings set aside for skits and songs.

Also consider what hurts his feelings or makes her sad? Sometimes what upsets a child with autism is not related to the disability, per se, but the fact that preferences are not met, he/she feels left out, lonely or home-sick– just like other kids.

9. Be creative and flexible, considering what the long-term goals are for the child. Do you want the child to return next year—and the year after? Then make it a positive experience the first year even if you have to break a tradition. At the very least, each child needs adequate sleep, acceptance, sensory breaks, and a friend or two. Sometimes activities with older or younger kids works well socially so she can either feel supported and nurtured by more mature kids, or like a leader and teacher to little ones. Don’t be afraid to step out of “camp as usual” in order to meet the needs of a child.

10. Most importantly—care about the child. Pray for patience, kindness and divine calm during unexpected outbursts or meltdowns. Leave your ego at home and remember you are at camp to prioritize what is best for the kids, not to do what is most convenient for staff.


I’m so thankful for the people who helped my daughter be successful at our camp from the time she was 5 until age 18. They were not autism experts—they just did their best to love and accept her. Sierra Bible Camp also gave out an “Overcomers Award” each year—awarded to the child who overcame significant obstacles to consistently attend camp and to maintain a positive attitude, even if their background or biology made “Christian behavior” foreign or difficult. This was not the award for most popular camper, best behaved camper, or for the child with the most Bible knowledge. It was for an underdog who never give up. I think Jesus must love this. My daughter received this award her last year as a camper—it was a dream fulfilled. I recall her walking forward to accept the trophy. As she reached the front of the mess hall, I stole a quick glance at our longtime friend and camp director who was to hand her the award. What I saw were tears of joy and pride welling up in his eyes. It’s that sort of love and commitment from God’s church that breeds success in our disabled or at-risk kids.

Finding Family Fun When Your Child Has Social, Emotional or Behavioral Challenges

My daughter flung the game pieces across the room as she lost her temper during a board game.  A lower tolerance for frustration accompanied Katie’s diagnosis of autism, but we were trying to work through it to enjoy a family game night.  Unfortunately, the only “togetherness” that night was my husband grabbing Katie’s hands before she swept the game board clean.


As summer nears, our family, like yours, would like to plan and spend some fun time together. Having a child or children with social, emotional or behavioral challenges makes this a challenge. However, it’s still important to build some positive memories with our kids.

Our children are young adults now, but when they were younger we tried a variety of activities to “have fun.”  We tried bike-riding, but our younger daughter disliked it. We attempted camping but the tight quarters bred discord, and my husband and I were embarrassed that our campground neighbors heard every grumble and gripe.  Our attempts at family time became tense as we anticipated emotional upset with almost every activity.

We felt defective as a family because we couldn’t enjoy the typical activities that bonded parents and children.

We persisted in trying new things, however, and eventually found activities that worked.

Here are some guiding principles that helped us in our quest for family fun time:

  1. Choose an activity that none of your children are “working on” in a therapeutic way. It’s hard for anyone to relax when a child is intensely learning and parents are coaching. In our case, losing gracefully was something Katie had not yet mastered.  We had to re-label games as “work” until she could handle them better.
  2. Keep the activity short. A visit to our neighborhood park ended most successfully when it was less than an hour and we quit while everyone was still happy.
  3. Consider outside activities or playtime with a pet. Research shows that spending time outdoors and with animals are natural anti-depressants and stress-reducers for most people.  For our family, throwing balls to the dogs (and watching dog videos) keeps everyone smiling. Feeding geese at our neighborhood park was another successful activity.
  4. Don’t keep score during normally competitive activities. We learned that games like Pictionary and Catch Phrase are just as fun without keeping score.

Finally, it is important to know that kids and parents need not be relentlessly cheerful or super adventurous to bond as a family.  And not every moment has to be filled with laughter to be a good memory.  As a matter of fact, our family laughs now at some of our difficult times because they are funny in retrospect. Struggling families can enjoy togetherness in the right environment.  Pray, stay creative and flexible, and you will find something that works.

This blog was adapted from and originally written as an article for Focus on the Family/Thriving Family Magazine  (June/July 2015).  It appeared on the Key Ministries/Not Alone website on June 3, 2016

Depression, a Dog and a Difficult Grace

View More: http://mchambard.pass.us/love-your-pet-expoWhile I was gardening recently, our dog raced by me in her typical Secretariat sort-of way.  As the blades of grass bent in her wake, I smiled that we ended up with this amazing, energetic pup. Her name is Grace and she is the result of my daughter’s search for a “big mellow dog” to comfort her as she struggled with anxiety and depression as a teenager.  Ha!  Grace is a medium-sized, super-active lab/border collie mix who does not meet criteria as an ideal “therapy dog”. However, despite her father’s skepticism, Madeline heard God’s voice correctly that a dog would help her heal–and that this chocolate colored puppy was “the one”.

The “one” is happy, athletic, and needs an active job (preferably involving balls or swimming). The first six months with Grace almost overwhelmed our family. Madeline had puppy exhaustion on top of her chronic fatigue. As we stumbled through days with a brown puppy biting our heels and leaping over our furniture, we thought perhaps we had made a mistake. However, over the last two years Grace has miraculously shaped our daughter into a responsible, loving, disciplined and thoughtful young adult.  Madeline has joined two dog clubs (dock jumping and fly ball) to fulfill Grace’s needs. No longer severely anxious or depressed, the process of loving her dog fiercely has guided our daughter into going places and doing things that seemed impossible during that season.

As Grace sped by me in the yard that day, her energy reminded me that God gave Madeline what she needed instead of what she wanted.  Madeline wanted peace and comfort.  God offered responsibility and sacrifice.  Madeline wanted a cuddly pup.  God gave her an intense, active one. Often that’s the way He works.


“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:31).


God often allows challenges in our lives because He intimately knows the benefits we reap through sacrificial love and responsibility. Out of His own fierce love, God took on the responsibility of the whole world and offered the sacrifice of His son for our benefit.  He understands our parental pain because He has been through it. Think on the reality of that for a moment.

What grace (favor) has God bestowed on you—perhaps disguised in the form of your child with difficulties? If you are struggling with a particular difficult energy or trait of your child, I challenge you to look for God’s gift hidden beneath the trial. It often comes to us against a background of struggle, so at first glance we may not recognize it–but it’s there.  God’s grace was in the challenges my children brought into my life (I have a daughter with autism, as well) but I couldn’t see it for a long time as the struggle clouded my vision.  I wanted ease and satisfaction. God’s grace offered me challenge and humility.

Now I see that this “difficult grace” taught me to engage in the essential things of life (love and service) and leave some less important (career) goals behind.  I also learned how much I need God on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis.  Most of the self-sufficiency that previously blinded my view of God’s priorities were stamped out in those doctor’s offices, IEP meetings, home-schooling adventures and in the routines of daily life.

As you think about your life and situation, consider the following:

  • What situation or person in your life requires sacrifice?
  • What difficult responsibilities are strengthening you to fully trust God’s provision?
  • Whom do you love so fiercely that you would stretch beyond your comfort zone to meet his/her needs?

Who and what are these people and situations? They are God’s covert messengers, intended to bring good into your life.  Be thankful for this amazing, difficult grace.


“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved…” (John Newton, 1779)

The Search for Staples– and Significance

In case you missed it, on January 2016 I officially began my fight against anxiety. I entitled  it the “Year of No Fear”.   How is it going?  Today I realized that I struggle with the fear of  being insignificant. I don’t even notice the struggle sometimes because it has become such a routine part of my existence.  How about you? Do you ever feel like your main role as a parent is just that not that important? Does the abundance of information and people on the web make you feel small?  Do you tend to compare yourself to people who seem to be making more of a difference?

Last summer God taught me a lesson about trusting that my presence and purpose in the world is significant no matter what He calls me to do– or not do.  He taught me not to compare myself to others who seem more important–because they are not.  And  he reminded me that I was made for good works that God created specifically for (me) to do (Ephesians 2:10).  God taught me these lessons in an unusual and completely unexpected way. Read on to get the story.

At Bible camp last summer, I was putting together the final version of a lesson I was to deliver for the kids and adults that evening.  A paperclip held my notes together but I went on a search for a stapler to keep them more securely connected. This sounds easy, but at camp you never know where you might find basic office supplies because camp packing lists are dominated with more pertinent things like a sleeping bag, flashlight, and extra socks. But I asked around– how hard could this be?

Within  20 minutes, I found a heavy-duty stapler useful for pounding things into the wood cabins. Clearly this was not ideal for my needs, but I tried it on my notes anyway.  Of course they quickly fell out of the huge staple.  After another 20 minutes, I found a smaller stapler but it had no staples. Undeterred, I went on the hunt for small staples to match.  I searched the obvious places first– the craft area, the camp office and the child care team– and I asked everyone else I ran into along the way.  No luck. Stapling my papers was not absolutely necessary, of course, but at this point it had become a quest that I was determined to complete.

As I continued the search for staples, I noted it was almost time for me to speak.  I kept looking anyway– partly because it kept my mind distracted from pre-speaking jitters. (Those jitters stemmed from an old “insignificance” script running through my head that said my presentation was sub-par and someone else could do a better job).

As a last resort, I went back to the craft area and looked again in one of the supply tubs. After looking in every corner, I found a box that held three small staples. Hurray!  I tried one staple but it was bent and it jammed inside the stapler when I tried to use it.  The second staple was rusted and jammed as well.  I looked at that third little staple (also rusted) and said a little prayer asking God to help it do it’s job.  It worked!  My notes were securely fastened together– and with just 5 minutes to spare.   I smiled with satisfaction and, more importantly, with awe,  because God spoke to me through that tiny rusted staple.  He reminded me that in my extensive search for a staple that this was the one that He provided.  No others worked. The big stapler with it’s new staples was not right.  There were no new and shiny staples of the right size to help me.  There was just the humble rusted one. It was significant because it met my needs perfectly. It did the job for which it was designed.

In that moment, I laughed aloud and almost cried.  God is so good. He reminded me not to dwell on how another person might give a presentation because I was the one sent for this job.  He prompted me to tell the campers and staff that their small actions are significant because God is the author of turning common people, events and things  into precious provisions (think loaves and fish- Matthew 14:15-20).  It doesn’t matter if you feel rusted, passed over, or thrown into the bottom of a box. Who you are and what you do is important to somebody– so do the job you can. You could be the humble provision that is perfect for your child, a co-worker, a friend or a complete stranger. In what situation or for what person are you the one?

Plans for a Hope and a Future

hope-and-future-graphicsAside from ministry, my other job is as a professor of public health.  Although I didn’t expect it to be a part of my teaching job, I realize that my graduate students and I are traveling together through a fascinating analogy of life. Right now, they are studying how to design programs to help people maintain or regain their health.  They are trying to set up interventions that lead to positive outcomes.   This requires that they have a scientific knowledge of health and of what motivates behavior.  In real life, it also requires that they stay flexible and be willing to re-design as new knowledge or circumstances come into play. This last part is frustrating for students as they would like to see a clear scientific process from the beginning to the end of their goals.  It would be nice to plan once and see everything follow as expected.  However, plans require adjustment.

As the parent of a child with special-needs, I recall being frustrated in the same way. I studied my children, their strengths, weaknesses, struggles and stumbling blocks.  I also studied pertinent research so I could put into place therapies or circumstances in which they could thrive, be healthy, learn and grow. This was good.

However, much to my dismay, 23 years of parenting  taught me that reaching desired outcomes is not a scientifically predictable, linear process.

parents in maze

In contrast, the process can be ridiculously tangential, unpredictable and unscientific (at least from my point of view).  Maybe the plan is perfectly executed according to God’s design, but at times it can seem like a cruel maze.  We might be moving toward our destination and then something takes us back to the beginning or sticks us in some blind dead-end.  But in my experience, someone or something would lead us out of that place and forward again.  The beauty was that the someone or something was often an idea I would never have imagined. I learned to be flexible and to adjust.

There are good things in my children’s life that had little to do with following a scientific or perfectly executed plan.

They are things that happened in round-about, seemingly random ways– yet they created powerful outcomes.  I learned that when my plan did not lead to the expected outcome, then God could execute His plan for my children.

Today’s lesson is this–if you find yourself stressing that you are not following the plans you made or that the plan is not working as expected, you can put that strain behind you.

God doesn’t need us to execute perfectly designed parenting blueprints for our child to reach desired outcomes. 

Do the best you can and rest in the Biblical assurance that God is walking through life with your children. He can manipulate the most unexpected and unsavory path to reach a desired destination because His blueprint is perfect. As my graduate students are learning, flexibility and a mind open to new information aids the journey to positive end-points.

We don’t know the details of God’s plans for us or our children.  That’s where faith comes in. However,  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about God’s intentions, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”



The Overcoming

A Poem Inspired by Jesus and His Disciples

on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24)


by Karen Crum

All stood still

In disbelief

Faces downcast

Beyond relief

“We had hoped…”

But hopes were dashed

Plans were ruined

Security smashed

They shuffled along

No victory claimed

All seemed lost

No hope remained

But Jesus rose

and listened then

to broken hearts

and seeking men

He did not

So much comfort shed

But told them “Look

At what was said..

by prophets

oh, so long ago

predicting loss

and suffering so.”

“Don’t look down”,

he seemed to say

Believe the truth,

Do not dismay

For I am here

You see me now

I’ve overcome

I’ll show you how

To live beyond

the moment here

past your feelings

past despair

Listen to

my book, my Word

and Spirit whisperings

quietly heard

Look to truth

keep your eyes up

I’ve surpassed

the bitter cup.”