Joy no matter what. A blog by Deanne Nelson.

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The Real Gifts December 22, 2014

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It is a chilly winter’s night here in Indian Trail, NC. There is a feeling in the air of Christmas, as it is December 22. My three children squabble daily over who is going to update the ‘days until Christmas’ bear we have in our kitchen. That bear holds two wooden blocks that display the countdown to the big day. We are down to three days, and the excitement in their eyes is magical. What can be better than the awe and wonder in a child’s eyes at Christmas?

Somehow the adult in me had gotten too wrapped up in the whole ‘gift’ part of this celebration…no pun intended! I began to feel heavyhearted that we were unable to give our children as many gifts as they were used to getting, or as ‘good’ of gifts as previous years. As I type that I am humbled and saddened to have fallen prey to the good ole’ American standard of what Christmas has become. After all, we have pretty much lost Thanksgiving, as the mad rush to get to the stores to knock off those Christmas wish lists has taken a higher priority.

But these two beautiful celebrations do go hand in hand. What more is there to be thankful for than the living God coming to our Earth in the form of His precious Son? In fact, a spirit of thanksgiving should never leave our hearts. We should cling tightly to gratitude at all times, no matter what. In the face of darkness and hardship is when we need it most. And every day is a celebration of Jesus’ birth, for without His life, there would be no hope at all in this mess of a world. To look at Jesus is to see the light of life eternal.

It would be this very night that God would gently remind me to consider the most precious and critical gift that the Nelson family had recently received….

It was two weeks ago when my husband Grant would be heading home on a two-lane highway in his patrol car, in the ‘middle of nowhere’ as he called it. He had taken a class for work and had just completed the final test. He called to tell us that he was on his way home and that we would see him in about two hours. Even now I cannot recall the name of the town, despite the fact that he told me more than once. My selective hearing kicks in from time to time and I distinctly recall that day just wanting him home. The class took almost three weeks and it had been an exhausting process for him.

I was surprised when he called back about ten minutes later. His voice was clearly different, as if he was shaking and I could feel it through the phone. He went on to share that he had been traveling along with his cruise control set to 65-70mph. There was no one on the road as far as he could tell. He suddenly noticed a house off in the huge open field to his left. There was nothing else out there, besides trees and land. Something inside of him felt a sudden urge to check out that house. He said it reminded him of a house he knew as a young boy. Before he knew it, he was slowing down to see where there might be a road or path to lead to it.

Now Grant is an on time and scheduled kind of guy, so even as he was telling this unlikely story, I knew that God had directed his thoughts and actions. My heart was racing with every word he spoke.

He distinctly recalled looking at his speedometer and being at about 30mph when he saw a windy road, but as he approached it, he could see that it very strangely veered off in another direction and did not actually lead to the house. He decided not to turn off the highway after all. With that, he began to speed up again to continue on home when he found himself looking ahead at an eighteen wheel semi-truck barreling over a blind hill directly in his oncoming lane of traffic. This truck was passing another truck coming the opposite direction as Grant, and chose to make this unsafe maneuver coming over a blind hill at a high rate of speed. Grant had to swerve out of the way even at his slower speed to avoid getting hit head-on by this semi. It was in the same instant that Grant said that he realized that if he had been traveling that road as he had been at 65-70mps, then he would have met that truck right at the top of that blind hill and his police car would have been demolished in an instant. There is no way he would have survived that accident. He saw God’s hand of providence save him that day when he was led to slow down in curiosity over that house. There is no other answer for it. What a gift.

What could have been the most devastating and horrible day for our family, turned into one of the greatest and most valuable gifts we could have ever received. Grant was saved and lived to share more days with us. We held on to him tighter than ever when he got home. Sometimes the greatest blessing is to be reminded of the blessings that you already have.

And so as my children and I sat tonight watching a Christmas movie on TV, I had finally surrendered that feeling of ‘not enough’ in regards to Christmas gifts for our children to the Lord. My mother had blessed us financially so that we were able to get each child a nice gift, and that was more than enough. There are so many children who have little to nothing. After all, my children had their dad and I had my husband. Perspective is a powerful thing.

So when our doorbell rang close to 8pm tonight, I wondered who it could be. As I opened the door there was a man standing there whom I had never met. He came bearing gifts wrapped in beautiful Christmas paper and bows. He asked if ours was the Nelson home, and went on to deliver gifts to each and every one of us. I tried to ask his name, or from whom the gifts were given. He would have none of that. He wished our family a Merry Christmas and got in his car and drove away, leaving me speechless and full of tears in his wake. My children were full of awe and wonder at the whole mystery of it all. They danced around our Christmas tree and marveled at the unexpected boxes which now sparkled brightly with their names. It was an event that we will always remember, and it touched us deeply. Nathan exclaimed, “This is the best Christmas ever!”…and Caleb followed with, “God chose us Mom.” Yep…God chose us.

Real gifts come in all sorts of forms. Some cannot be placed under a tree, and some can. In the end, the best gifts of all come from the heart of God. I want to thank the person or persons responsible for the hope and love you poured on me and my family tonight. Thank you for your selfless and giving actions, and thank you for being willing to be used by God to bless another. May the blessings be returned to you in greater measure. We will always be grateful.

And thank you Lord God for the gift of family. Hold the ones you love close tonight, and always.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Birthday Jesus.

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YES, I love a Police Officer. November 25, 2014

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My husband Grant is a police officer to the core. By this I mean that he is never off duty, never on break, and never with his guard down. When he took the oath to protect and serve his community, he meant it with every ounce of his being. To him, wearing the badge is an astounding honor and privilege. It goes without question then that he holds the law, and the keeping of it, in the highest regard. While there are indeed some officers that bring shame to the badge, I believe the far greater majority wear it with the diligence and duty it deserves.

Officers put their lives on the line repeatedly so that the citizens of this nation can live in a reasonable amount of safety and harmony. For the outstanding officers in our midst, it is a critical time for us to lift them up in prayer and speak of them in high regard. The tide in our nation is taking a dangerous turn against law and order, and now is not the time to be silent. Our officers need to know that what they do matters, and they need to feel confident that they can fulfill their sworn duties without hesitation or fear of backlash from the communities they serve, as well as this nation.

The events that have taken place in Ferguson, MO have left many lives shattered, and a once typical American city in dismay. The ripple effect has impacted us all on some level. There are many heartbreaking pieces: a young man’s life ended, a police officer’s life and career forever changed, a city and neighboring communities fractured and torn, anger and hatred toward law enforcement escalated to dangerous levels, a rising tension amongst Americans of varying race and color, and the list truly goes on. This all came to be as a result of one fateful night, when law and order was put to the test.

I have observed firsthand the demands and challenges of police work. My husband has been put through hundreds of hours of training in his many years of duty. He has re-enacted scenario after scenario in a controlled setting to prepare him for the very type of confrontation that Officer Wilson encountered with Michael Brown. There are countless variables to consider, and this must be done in split seconds. An officer does not have the gift of hindsight and reflection as we all have now. For example, how easy for one to be appalled at the notion that Brown’s life was taken over a stolen pack of cigars, and yet so much more was at stake in those mere seconds.  An officer has no way of knowing if a suspect is armed. If someone has the boldness to throw punches at and challenge an officer physically and verbally, then that officer’s life is in grave danger. There is no such scenario as an ‘unarmed’ suspect, as an officer is carrying a loaded weapon in the very holster lying around his or her waist. In seconds that gun can be confiscated by a suspect and used to kill that officer. We have seen this happen all too many times. Those officers do not have heads of state show up to their funerals, and the streets they once served remain silent with lack of protests. It is business as usual the next day.

I pray for my husband every time he hits the streets to guard our town. I can say that if he had been put in the very same situation as Officer Wilson was, he too would have pursued Brown in an effort to uphold the law. I have heard commentary that Wilson should have just let Brown run away and be done with it. It is a terrifying message we are sending if we buy into such logic. A store is robbed and an officer is assaulted, and yet the ‘right’ thing to do would be to excuse this and let the assailant go free?? We have become afraid of consequences, and aloof to the fact that innocent people are being violated. Are our officers truly free to perform their critical civic duties, or do they need to shrink back to avoid confrontation or trouble? I ache as I consider my own husband now hesitating to act in ways to protect himself if needed.

What I know is this….Grant will approach anyone who breaks the law, totally irregardless of race, color, age, gender, religion, social status, monetary status, etc. You break the law, Grant will be calling you out on it. If anyone came at him with physical aggression, then I would expect and demand of him to protect himself at all costs. There is no room for second guessing. I would hope that those under his sphere of influence would support this as well. All law abiding police officers need this support.

I once went on a ride-a-long with Grant. I kept questioning why he would pull a certain car over, or why he would remind someone not to park in a certain spot. It all seemed ‘innocent’ enough to me. Finally he looked me right in the eyes and declared, “What good is the law if it is not going to be upheld?” Indeed he was right. We do this with God’s laws as well, if anyone is willing to grasp the bigger picture with that. We pick and choose what laws we are comfortable with, and become angry and sometimes enraged if we are hit with the consequences of breaking them. Truth be told, it is a lawbreaker who has a problem with the law.

What happened in Ferguson is heartbreaking. I cannot fathom what Michael Brown’s family is going through, as I have never lost a child. It is a pain that can never be fully comforted. May they grow in love for each other to help them cope, and may they turn to the Lord for refreshing. Only He can give them hope.

The horrifying events now taking place with the looting and rioting in Ferguson are agonizing to watch and consider. More innocent citizens are being victimized and suffering great losses. It is a picture of what humans are capable of without law and order, and it is frightening.

My prayer is that something positive and good will be on the other side of all of this pain and despair. We as a nation are better than this, but only with God’s help. May we pray for real repentance, the kind that turns our hearts back to God’s laws. May every heart be humbled in this regard, and then we could experience true and lasting peace.

2 Chronicles 7:14…..If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAThis is one of the good guys!

 

A Week Can Change A Life October 6, 2014

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It was not long after our move to NC in the summer of 2007 when I was introduced to the beauty of a mountain retreat known as Camp Lurecrest. This unique camp has been going strong since the 1940’s, with a clear and simple agenda- to touch the lives of each and every camper with the life changing love and message of Jesus Christ. Their motto further exemplifies this mission…’A week can change a life.’…

My family and I have come to know full well that his motto is true to the core. I first attended Lurecrest for a women’s retreat put on by Garr Memorial Church in 2008, and the seeds planted in my heart for this special place of the Lord have continued to thrive. I would even be blessed with the colossal and profound privilege to be the speaker for two women’s retreats in succeeding years…a gift that I shall always cherish.

In the summer of 2011, my then ten year old daughter Grace would be blessed with an awesome miracle of having her camp tuition completely paid for, in which she could attend her first week at Lurecrest. We did not have the financial means to do it, but God’s provision flowed. We found out moments before the buses were leaving, so we frantically packed amidst giggles of awe and delight, and her journey with Camp Lurecrest began. In the following three summers God would put Grace on the heart of a selfless and generous couple who would extend their love and financial support to her, and she would thus continue her annual week at one of the best places on earth. She indeed was changed with each session, with a growing love and longing for her Lord. She now vows to be a counselor at this camp one day, Lord willing. It fills this mom’s heart with pure joy.

But truth be told, from the first time I felt the presence of the Lord on this majestic mountain venue, I longed for my autistic son Nathan to somehow experience it as well. It certainly seemed impossible on many levels, as there are so many quirks, twists, and turns that can prevent a child with special needs from attending such a camp.

Camp Lurecrest, while being a place of love and acceptance, is also a great place of outdoor fun and adventure. Cabins consist of two college age counselors leading a group of ten or so kiddos for five nights and six days. There are about 180 campers per session. Now there are loads of super cool lake and mountain activities mixed in, with talented speakers to give a life changing message at chapel time, and plenty of worship songs with hand motions and catchy jingles too. Did I mention that every camper starts to be a bit odoriferous by day two! Those campers are having some serious fun and who has time to shower??!!

Each time the longing for Nathan to be a part arose in my heart, I would dismiss it. There was no way he could ever handle this ‘typical’ camp.  I convinced myself of this, as Nathan has some social and practical struggles that would make it very difficult for him to succeed in such a setting. But, my heart continued to hope for the chance, but that hope was fleeting, as I would immediately dismiss the thought again. This cycle went on for about three years. There were special needs camps that would fit the bill for him, but Camp Lurecrest was the dream. Was it an impossible dream?

This past summer of 2014, the senior staff at Camp Lurecrest prayed over the possibility of having Nathan attend, and agreed to give it a try. I myself would be there that week, serving as the camp RN, but the greatest concern was that Nathan would find himself at the infirmary doorstep repeatedly needing my help and reassurances. My role and first duty that week was to serve as RN to all campers and staff. I could not be preoccupied with a struggling boy who was miserable to be there. I have to admit that I was not myself convinced that Nathan was going to be able to tolerate camp, but I was ecstatic at the chance to try. The agreement was that my husband would be ‘on call’ to come get him if need be. Nathan was eleven years old now, and he had matured in so many ways. And yet, the challenges of autism remained, and the social struggles can be debilitating in such a setting. My loner of a boy can easily feel overwhelmed and lost at a place like camp, and I did not want him to suffer with endless anxiety. The prayers were being lifted up months before camp would begin.

What I never doubted was that God could speak to Nathan on this mountain. I believed that the same peace and presence of the Lord that Grace and I experienced at Camp Lurecrest, could also be Nathan’s to grasp.  His younger brother Caleb, his only friend, would be coming to camp as well as God once again provided a way.

Our time for camp seemed to come quickly. I had prepared him as best I could, and he indeed asked many of the same questions over, and over, and over. “Will I take a shower next to other boys?”…”Who is going to cook the food?”…”When will I eat?”…”Will there be a night light?”…”What if I get sick?”…”What if I get stung by a bee?”….on and on. We would go through a list of questions just about every day for many weeks. I do recall telling him that I only wanted to see him in the nurses’ station if there was a serious injury with blood involved! I had to take that one back as it caused much concern.

Campers arrived on a Sunday evening, and night one seemed to go without incident, although I was so busy getting medications checked in and such that I did not truly know how he was doing. All I knew was that he did not end up on the infirmary porch in tears, so that was a good thing. But over the next day I sensed trouble brewing. The glimpses I caught of him left my heart aching. He was pacing, a lot, and moved about in an aimless and nervous fashion. I know this ‘walk’ well. He was not participating with the camp activities and was starting to isolate himself from others. His brother Caleb had settled in beautifully and was off and running being a camper. I pulled Caleb aside and asked him to please be sure to grab hold of his brother and include him, but he told me that Nathan would not participate with him or his new friends, despite many invitations to do so. I needed to let Caleb have his time as well. By the following day, Nathan’s pacing had intensified and he was covering his ears continuously to block out the sounds of what should be fun and adventure for a boy his age. He was starting to look miserable, and it was agonizing to watch. He never did end up coming to me, but I tried to speak to him that Tuesday afternoon and he would not even stop pacing to talk with me. He was holding it together as best he could, and if he had tried to relate to me with words how he was feeling, he would have burst. I was so proud of him for doing all he could to not have an outburst, but I knew that the anxiety and fear were taking center stage. He was not experiencing the beauty or joy that the Lord had for him at Lurecrest. He was there in the flesh, but his sweet spirit was in bondage.

I knew that it was not good for Nathan to be under such pressure, and through broken tears I prayed to God for an answer. As I was considering calling my husband to come get him that Tuesday afternoon, I suddenly felt a sure and certain calling from the Lord. The message revealed to my spirit was to pray for one friend. Yes, that was the message. He would only need one friend to make his way through this darkness. He did not need a cabin full of friends, or 180 campers on his side. What he needed was one friend so that he could feel included in the ‘tribe’ of Jesus. TRIBE was the camp theme for the week, with the message being that we all can belong to the tribe of Jesus. Now even one friend for Nathan is quite a challenge, and he had already alienated himself from his brother, who I had assumed would be his lifeline to success for the week. Who in the world would Nathan open up to amidst such anxiety? And who would be patient enough to appreciate and accept Nathan’s quirks? It would take one special kid to be sure, but the excitement and hope for it welled up inside of me. I called on my fellow RN for the week Becky to pray too, as well as some volunteers from the kitchen staff. A dear friend Elizabeth was serving that week as well, and became a prayer warrior over this. We locked arms and prayed that God would reveal this friend for Nathan and that his week would take a complete turn around. I called Grant to pray. I called family in Arizona to pray. One friend was all it would take, and the prayers for it were in full force.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’…Psalm 30:5.

I knew that Wednesday would be the day of decision. Would Nathan make it through, or would he be headed home? It was painful to consider that he might not embrace Camp Lurecrest. There had been so much hope and anticipation for our family over this week. What would this day bring?

I was in my usual RN station when Nurse Becky came bursting through the doors that Wednesday mid-morning. She was out keeping an eye on the campers when she came upon a sight to behold. She was breathless and her eyes were tearing up as her exuberant words came spilling out…”God sent Nathan a friend!!!!!!!.” She pulled out her phone to show me some pictures and a short video she had captured. My knees became weak as the images poured out. It was indeed my Nathan, with a beautiful young boy, and their faces were painted in tribal garb. The video revealed the two of them chanting and dancing in true tribal spirit. Tears of fabulous joy filled our eyes. My heart was full to overflowing. Becky and I danced around our little RN room like giddy school girls. God had heard and answered, which is never a shock, but it is always a source or pure and total joy.

I recognized the boy from the picture as one of Nathan’s cabin mates, but up until then, he had not made a connection with any of the boys in his cabin. That all changed that very day. The prayers of many were heard and answered, and God chose a precious young boy by the name of Tristan to answer the call. I ran out to find Tristan myself. I just wanted to hug that young man who God chose to be a light. Every camper there of course was special, but this was the one who God hand picked to touch Nathan’s life. What a gift of a child Tristan is! When I found him, he was indeed hanging out with my Nathan. He was a bit shocked to see the puffy, red-eyed camp nurse barreling straight for him, but he accepted my hug and tears with a sweet smile and a giggle. Nathan as well had the most tender smile, as he would simply follow Tristan’s gentle lead. I excused myself so not to embarrass Nathan any further. When I got back to my sleeping quarters, I hit my knees. The words would not even come, but the tears of elation to such a good and mighty God showered the floor beneath me. He sees it all, and cares so deeply.

Over the next few days Nathan became a full fledged Camp Lurecrest camper! With Tristan by his side, he was able to conquer the anxiety and fear. No more pacing, no more hand wringing and fidgeting, no more hands covering the ears, no more isolation. He even got on the boat and rode a tube on Lake Lure! At chapel time, I started seeing his hands following along with the motions during worship. Caleb too had a blast with Tristan, and before long, the three had actually become like musketeers. The victory had been won.

I had come to utterly adore Tristan. I longed to reach out to his family, but did not want to overstep any confidentiality issues. I asked him where he lived, and he told me Charlotte. Charlotte is pretty huge indeed. I prayed fervently for him and his family. I prayed the blessings of God over them, and was continuously thankful for them. Campers come from all over NC to attend, and some from out of state too. Camp Lurecrest is truly a legend! It was more than enough to have crossed paths with such an awesome boy, and I knew we would all never forget him. The prayers for Tristan and his family would certainly continue on.

But God was not done…Not even close.

It would be about a month later when the boys would come racing up to me after church… We attend Joy Christian Fellowship in Matthews. It is a fabulous church with approximately 300 or so attendees on any given Sunday. We love it there. But it is one of many hundreds of churches in the Charlotte and surrounding area. I used to joke that in AZ there was a gas station on every corner, but in NC there is a church…It was clear that the boys had some serious excitement over something. “Guess who was at church mom??!! Guess!! Guess!! Guess!!” Before I could even muster a response, they bellowed out in unison….“TRISTAN from Camp Lurecrest!!!!” I was speechless. It did not even seem like it could be possible. My heart felt like it would explode. We went racing back to the children’s area, but he had already gone. Was it really him??? Could it really be him?? In all the countless churches in NC, could he really be here??

Indeed it was him. Tristan and his family had started to attend our church! In the weeks to come, the boys would get to spend more time with their summer-time miracle of a friend. What an absolute thrill it has been. Each time I see Tristan, I am reminded of the utter goodness of the Lord. God always knew that Tristan would continue to be in our lives. He is the master planner and architect of it all. I finally had the chance to meet his beautiful mother two weeks ago. May she read this and take it all into her heart, as well as all of his family. God certainly has a wonderful plan and calling on Tristan’s life, and we will be forever grateful for him.

Just yesterday sweet Tristan was baptized at our church. The week before he exuberantly raised his hand to accept the Lord Jesus into his heart. Our Pastor, McLean Faw, mentioned that he had never seen a more excited and joyful smile for the Lord on such a young face. Tristan wore his Tribe church from camp yesterday as he stood before our congregation before his baptism. As I sat in my chair taking it all in, it was all like an astonishing dream. I marveled inside as I pictured him with my boys just a few weeks earlier in that very same shirt up on God’s majestic mountain. Once again, the tears of gratitude and joy washed over me. To be present at his baptism was a pure gift.

Only the one true God who created all things could create such a course of events. To God alone be the glory, great things He has done!!!!

And YES, a week can indeed change a life.

 

Here are some fabulous pics of the boys’ time at camp. Tristan is in the red shirt with Nathan. And one includes the boys in cabin 1A. Precious memories. We love you Tristan!!!

 

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At Just the Right Moment September 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 10:23 pm
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Have you ever felt completely blown away by the unexpected? Every now and again I too get the thrill of an unforeseen marvel that seems to drop from the heavens above. Now some might not see the extraordinary nature of this recent testimony, but I beg to differ…..this one has left me grinning at some of the oddest times lately. I will bring it to memory and feel the joy of the moment all over again.  The awesome moments remind us of how far we have come, and to press forward and continue to believe for more.

This past summer both of my sons attended a vacation bible school that my church put on. I as well volunteered to help out and be one of the group leaders. The sessions met once a week for about five weeks, and the theme was ‘weird animals.’ That kind of theme is right up our alley. One of the rewards given to help motivate the kids and reinforce the Bible lessons was cool character ‘dog tags’ that included the weird animal of the week on one side with a scripture verse laminated on the back. There were not enough tags for each child, so each week, one child was picked from each group to receive the coveted tag. There were about twelve or so groups averaging 6-8 kids in a group. Clearly, not everyone would be receiving a tag, let alone more than one.

I quickly learned that Nathan really wanted those dog tags. He would talk about them at length,….what they looked like, which animal would be on it for that given week, and he would ask me over and over what he needed to do to get the tags. Yes, I heard a lot about those dog tags in those summer weeks. The major hurdle was that a child somewhat needed to be an active participant in his or her group to be picked for this prize. For Nathan, participation in such a setting is almost painful. My sweet boy with autism shuts down in social settings and is too overwhelmed to engage in conversation or dialogue. This makes it tough for him to have the courage and resolve to actively participate with the other kids.  Many times he knows the answer or could give input, but he just does not respond or open his mouth. Anxiety will get the best of him, but we continue to pray for breakthroughs with that. Now I also knew that the leaders were trying to be sure that as many kids got to have a tag as possible, so the possibility of getting more than one was slim to none as well. As he asked over and over every week how he could get the newest tag, my heart stammered to find the right words to  both encourage him, but also make him realize that other kids too would receive a tag, even when he tried his best and was brave enough to answer a question or two. My explanations seemed to only confuse him, and each Wednesday night I would watch as his eyes eagerly anticipated that his name might be called at the end of the night. I was so proud when he kept his cool when it wasn’t, and I clapped for joy when I saw a tag finally handed to him by his group leader. His grin stayed with him that whole night, even as he was sleeping. Yes, I checked!

I had hoped that having that one tag would satisfy him, but he indeed kept inquiring about more in the weeks ahead. Each week had a different animal tag, and he of course wanted them all. I even considered going to the website and buying the set of tags myself, but something about that did not seem right at the time. He was learning some valuable lessons about patience, and the art of being a good sport and an honorable ‘loser’. I was proud of how he repeatedly handled the upset of not getting what he expected. There was a time when he would have fallen apart at such a thing. My boy is certainly growing up and maturing.

When the final and closing night of VBS came, Nathan was once again discussing the particular animal of the week. Now these were not common or domestic animals that we all know, but truly ‘weird’ and unique ones. The animated characters to portray these animals on- screen each had a name as well, and Nathan had those perfected in his mind. He even knew which animal went with which week, and what each of their names were. I cannot get him to recall some simple math rules, but these animals were stored well in his brain! And yet no one at church would even know it. He would clam up about it as soon as the crowds were in sight.

As the night ended it was time for the final tags to be given out.  The last week was an animal that looked like a bearded dragon and his name was Iggy. I only know this through Nathan. He had it in his mind that Iggy would be his. I had informed him on the way that he needed to be happy with the one tag he had already been given, but he had his sights set on Iggy. As I watched his reaction when Iggy went to another in his group, I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I was all ready to give the momma pep talk about rejoicing with others when they receive a good thing and having a good attitude, when suddenly there was an unforeseen twist…..

The children’s leader Dawn announced that if anyone could recall the names of all five of the animals that they could have ALL FIVE! Yes, she dangled all five dog tags for the crowd of eager kiddos to see. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and many kids frantically asking each other what the names were again, as the previous five weeks left much time to forget one or two. I immediately looked over at Nathan, as I was certain that he knew each one, and in order. But would he have the courage to raise his hand and offer what he knew?? He looked nervous and I could see him wringing his hands repetitively. I began to pray in that moment…’please God, give him courage to do this. This is his moment.’  And in the midst of the noise and commotion, my boy not only raised his hand, but he stood up. He approached Dawn at the front of the room and the words came toppling out of his mouth…

“AXL, FERN, MILTON, SHRED, and IGGY.”

And with that, the room exploded into an eruption of applause. Way to go Nathan!!! It was his moment, one that was so rare and precious to see. His smile took up his entire face. As she handed him those tags, he could not keep his feet still. He kept walking in a fast pace around that room as he could hardly contain his excitement. He finally found his brother Caleb and held up his prize for him to see. When his eyes met mine, he must have wondered why his silly mom was crying a river. Many kids gave him a high five, which sent him soaring.

I never dreamed the night would turn out like that, but none of us know when some of the most beautiful moments just might happen. We must keep our eyes and hearts open to the possibilities.

Caleb too was a winner, as Nathan told him in the car afterwards that he would share all of them with him. What a fine young man that Nathan Nelson has become. Hard to believe that I once had such little hope for his future. That was before the Lord got a good hold of me. Now, nothing is impossible!

Here are Nathan and Caleb celebrating this victory with those tags. It may seem small, but God does mighty things amidst the small things, at just the right moment.

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The Beautiful Side of Suicide? August 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 12:09 am
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If  you are reading this, then I must have had the courage to finally release and post these words that have been circulating in my head and my heart for some time now. Even as I type, I am questioning if the strength will come to hit the ole’ publish button. We shall see.

Let me preface by making it abundantly clear that I do not condone or promote the act of suicide in any way shape or form. I serve the God who created life, and each human life is valuable beyond measure. The act of suicide is never God’s will or plan. It is a tragedy.

The news of Robin Williams’ death hit us all on various levels, and it has sparked much conversation on the matter. I have noted lengthy debate and dialogue concerning how one views the act of suicide, and the debilitating depression that accompanies such a choice. Yes, I did call it a choice. I have seen much struggling with that term as well. There is a great deal of passion and emotion that is evoked with this topic, and even those with an honest and good intent are hard pressed to proceed without causing offense to someone. With that, I pray that my words might bring some joy and peace to anyone suffering from the intense pain that suicide leaves behind. And to anyone contemplating suicide, please know that you are worthy, valuable, and loved. God makes no mistakes, and He made you. I pray that peace will be yours at this very moment, and that that peace will give you the strength to keep on. There is great purpose in your life.

But what of those who have lost loved ones to suicide? Can beauty be found in the midst of such tragedy?…. And is it ok to embrace and cherish any such beauty?… The answer can be found in the pages of the Bible, in the gospel of Luke,  “Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”….Luke 18:27. 

I do not offer those words flippantly. I offer them with a heart that has wept bitterly over the sting of suicide. God has proven His word to be true once again. He indeed can offer light and hope in the midst of the greatest storms of this life…

On October 16th, 2007, my husband came home from work early. I knew something was horribly wrong from his demeanor. I still cannot imagine what it was like for him to have to be the one to tell me that my father had died. The news did not seem real, as I had just talked with my father on the phone two nights previous. He lived in AZ, and we had been in NC for a little over a year. Dad and mom had planned to come for a visit that October, but the trip was postponed as my father had fallen into a severe bout of depression. He had battled depression before, but we were hopeful that a new season of light was around the corner for him. But the news Grant had for me felt like it knocked the wind out of my lungs. My father had committed suicide.

I do not have words to do justice to the ache and torment one goes through to process the loss of a loved one to suicide. The question of ‘why’ is like a dark and endless tunnel that winds ceaselessly through countless life memories and mental images of that person. In my mind’s eye, I played back reel after reel of my father’s life, and I ached to somehow find the rewind button to undo this devastating and final act. But there is no going back. The only choice is to move on….but how?

The realization of it all was to intense to bear, and I found myself pleading with the Lord God. I needed to know if His promises in scripture were true, even in the case of a horrible circumstance like suicide. Christians often quote a particular verse in times of pain, 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.…Romans 8:28. Is suicide the one instance where this particular promise is null and void?? If one reads the verses leading up to this one, the apostle Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit to further share that there are times when we will not even know the words to pray, and that all we can muster up is a deep groan. God indeed hears those sobs, and the Holy Spirit interprets the deepest pains of our hearts in ways that we cannot. Our afflictions touch the heart of God deeply, and He indeed intervenes to bring rays of light and hope in the darkest tempest. While God would never cause or bring forth a suicide, He alone can lift the colossal burden of anguish that is left in the wake. His promises are true, no matter what.

The sum of a person’s life is most certainly not measured by the details of their death. Some of the greatest artistic and literary masterpieces are wrought with a tragic ending. That in no way detracts from the brilliance of the story. This is something God began whispering to my spirit early on in the grieving process. I began to take my mind off the specifics of my father’s last day on earth, and I began to appreciate the journey that was his life. My father was married to my mother for 40+ years, and they brought three children into this world, who in turn brought in five grandchildren. It is a legacy that will continue to live on. He worked tirelessly to put my brothers and me through college and he ‘took care of business,’ as he would say. Dad was not a man of great outward affection, but I will always recall the last time I saw him. Nathan and I had come to visit that very August, and dad and I sat out on the back porch for a chat. That was a special treat, as father-daughter talks were rare during our years. As Nathan and I were leaving to head to the airport, my father grabbed hold of me and gave me a true and meaningful hug. Typically he would lean in and do the quick pats on the back and step away first. This time was different. He held on tight and did not let go. Tears rolled down my cheeks as it felt so good to be embraced by my father.  We left with a vow to see each other that October. I had no idea it was the last hug we would share. That memory makes me smile to this day, and I am grateful for it…. Gladness for mourning.

More moments of wonder and light would seep in despite the devastation. My mother would shortly thereafter fly out to NC to be with my family. She was hurting deeply and was desperately trying to make sense of it all. The question of ‘why’  truly never lets go. The pastor of our church reached out during that time to see if I might be willing to minister to a young woman in a hospital that had tried to commit suicide.  This would be a difficult and painful visit, but I knew God wanted me to show his love to this woman. There was no doubt. I was not sure if my mother would be ready or up for such a call. It had only been about two months since dad’s death.  She did agree to go with me, so one beautiful afternoon my mother and I  found ourselves driving to uptown Charlotte to minster to a young suicidal woman. We would never have cause to cross paths with her in this life otherwise. We had no idea who she was, and she certainly had no anticipation of the two women about to enter her hospital room that afternoon. It was a divine appointment.  She was in the ICU as she had caused enough harm in her attempt as to warrant critical monitoring. When we entered her room it was very dark and quiet. Her eyes were open, but her affect was very withdrawn. She looked up at us with a clear confusion as to who we were. I quickly introduced ourselves but that did not clear things up for her. My mom was barely inside the doorway at that point. I sensed a sadness and fear in both of them. I brought her a Bible and asked if I could share some scripture with her. She was willing and slowly began to open some of her heart to us and share what happened. She was such a beautiful girl, in her early twenties, with so much life ahead of her. She was desperate and sad. Tears poured down her cheeks as she shared of her pain. I could see my mother slowly approaching her in the periphery… cautiously, slowly, but getting closer. This woman’s words of agony were calling my mother forth, and before long my mother was embracing her in her arms. She held her face in her hands and begged her to fight for her life. Her pleas were so heartfelt and passionate that I knew she was partially seeing her lifelong mate in this young girl’s eyes. She refuted every lie this woman was expressing about her life not being worth living, about how people in her life would be better off without her, about there being ‘peace’ in this kind of death. My mother was able to negate all of that with her tears and the simple words of one living on the other side of suicide. My mother knew firsthand that life is worth living, that life is not better without a loved one, and that suicide is never the answer. She knew this because her personal pain and anguish over suicide proved it to be true. When she shared with this young woman of what her beloved husband had done, they both melted into each others’ arms in cleansing sobs.  No more words were needed. These two strangers shared in a deeply personal moment that forever changed both of them. I believe it was the first spark of light my mother could cling to back then, and for this young woman, it seared a hole in her heart with the knowledge of how precious and valuable her life was. They came to this place of unity because of their pain. How could my mother have ministered to her if she had not herself known the pain of suicide?? God does not cause such a hurtful act as suicide, but it is His miracle to bring hope in the wreckage of it. ….Peace for despair.

It would be about two years later that God again would prove His promises true, even with the backdrop of suicide. I am an ER RN, and one particular night a woman in mental anguish came in to the hospital. It was the end of my shift, but I heard the voice of the Lord in my spirit telling me to reach out to her. My flesh of course wanted to badge out and go home, but I am so grateful that I chose obedience over my flesh that night. She appeared angry when I entered her room, and she initially refused to look at me, let alone talk to me. Her husband was at her side and he was hopelessly trying to reason with her. He had brought her in for fear that she would try and harm herself, and she was livid about this. She put up high emotional walls that seemed impossible to scale. My heart started racing as I was trying to piece together the right words to say, but then I felt a sure knowledge to just be still and silent next to her. The silence clearly started to agitate her all the more, and she finally lashed out in a screaming rant directed at me. We were finally talking! She forcefully demanded that her life was useless and that everyone would be better off without her. My tongue let loose then to speak, and I proceeded to tell her how beautiful and precious she was, and that her life mattered so very much. As I continued to speak she only glared at me with contempt, but when I told her that my father had taken his own life, her demeanor completely changed. I told her of how I missed him every day, and how I would give anything to have him back. As I spoke, our eyes were locked into one another, and her high walls of distrust came crashing down right before me. Her cold eyes became soft and a river of tears began to flow from them. She could not believe a single word I was saying until she knew that they came from a place so personally touched by the pain that is suicide.  We embraced for a long time, and it was like I could feel my own father’s arms around me for a moment. God’s healing never ceases.

When I went home that night, I prayed scriptures over her that God revealed from the Psalms. I wept over her, over my father, and over all of the lies that suicide so deceitfully promises. When I returned to work that next evening she was still there, but was actually being released after a mental health evaluation thought it appropriate to release her with family for outpatient counseling. She had been there many hours and had become quite angry over the process and was demanding to leave. Just before she was being discharged, I made it into her room. She was pacing angrily when she looked up and saw me. She immediately told me she was leaving ‘now!’ Her walking papers were indeed on the way, but I asked her if she would allow me to read a few passages of the Bible to her. She sighed heavily and hesitantly agreed. I motioned her to sit next to me and I read the same parts of the Psalms to her that the Lord had given me the night before. My words of course do not have the power to change a heart, but God’s words can do just that. My words offer no lasting hope at all, but God’s words change everything. In that moment she heard the precious and life changing word of God. God always has a plan when his word is spoken…So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it...Isaiah 55:11. She gave me a hug and thanked me, and she and her husband left.

It would be about two hours later when an overhead page announced that I had a telephone call. When I answered, I could barely make out the words that were being spoken. It was the voice of a distraught and broken woman….it was her. She had asked for me by name, and was admitting to me through tears that she had definitely decided earlier in the day that if she were released, that she would use a gun that she had access to and kill herself that very day. She went on to reveal that she was ready  to do just that, but that when she tried to pull the trigger, she just kept hearing those Psalms over and over in her head. She finally had to put the gun down because God’s words would not allow her to proceed with her plan. God’s word became a strong shield of protection in her darkest hour. She agreed to  return and receive full treatment, and to be truthful to the degree of pain and depression she was experiencing. She was taken to a treatment facility the next day, and her very life was spared. I hit my knees that  night in pure gratitude to God for using a broken and weak woman like me to help shine the light of his love in the darkness that is suicide…  Beauty for ashes.

There are times in life where we just will not understand why things happen, and we may never find the answers that we seek. But if we trust in the Lord, then He will call forth beauty and hope in places we never thought possible. Put your trust in Him today. And yes, beauty can be found where you would least expect it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
…Proverbs 3:5

I love you dad.

Deanne and dadA beautiful memory. My father and I on my wedding day back in 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget the Label July 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 4:31 pm
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Sometimes I can close my eyes and envision my two sons running free down a beautiful and majestic mountain pathway. I can almost smell the cool crisp air and hear their carefree laughter as they experience a place of total tranquility. There are no demands at this place…no progress reports, no test evaluations, no IEP meetings, no forms to fill out, no achievement tests to determine readiness or worthiness….no repeated labels of ‘learning delayed,’ ‘moderate deficit,’ or ‘well below average.’ Autism, PDD-NOS, and ADHD have no power to confine in this scene.

There are filing cabinets full to the brim of such reports and summaries at the Nelson home. There is a cabinet for Nathan, and one for Caleb as well. I used to keep the ever increasing documents that filled these spaces in chronological order. I would neatly organize the folders according to areas of ‘need.’ One folder for speech deficits, another for reading comprehension concerns, a different one for fine and gross motor goals, and so on, and so on. Then there were the folders for the countless hours of medical testing and screenings done in the name of yet again giving my sons a ‘label.’ I used to even color coat the file drawers in an attempt to gain some semblance of order, but I soon ran out of colors.

I used to pull out some of those reports every now and again through the years, just to get a glimpse of where we have been, and possibly how far we have come. And yet, those reports never give such an insight. They always say the same thing, year after year, time after time, and there is one word that plays itself in repeated fashion over and over ad nauseam… DEFICIT.

Today I had both of my boys tested per homeschool annual requirements. This would be an equivalent to an End of Grade type of testing in the public schools. I suppose it was pretty silly and presumptuous of me to believe their scores would somehow have sky rocketed in only three months of a homeschool setting, but a mom should never stop hoping or believing. As I sat going over their scores afterward with the proctor, the usual terms and summaries came to the surface again. Both tested below expectation for what a child of their age should be capable of, while some areas were greatly below average. I am ashamed to admit that such reports still bring the sting of bitter tears to my eyes. I am not sure why.

As we drove home from testing today, I looked in my rear view mirror at my two beautiful sons. They were smiling and laughing at each other while discussing critical details of The Lego Movie, which they have now seen four times. When I asked them how they thought they did with the testing, Nathan blurted out..”We did GREAT mom!” And his smile was so radiant that I knew he truly believed it. It was then that the Lord God put a fresh and new perspective in my heart and mind. It was ok to lay the labels aside, and embrace a new vision and word for my boys. What the world calls a deficit, God calls dynamic. What the world calls lacking and below standard, the Lord God calls ‘more than enough!’ He sees through different eyes, and He gave me a glimpse of His vision, and it was utterly breathtaking.

Yep, I can see Nathan and Caleb running free and totally unencumbered down newly blazed trails in this life. They will not fit the norm, but who really cares. May they never sit still and stagnant long enough for any labels to stick to them.

When we got home I put those results somewhere in the ole’ file folder, in no particular order or placement of color. They are just words on a paper. God’s purpose and plans for my boys cannot fit in any such folder.

Thank God that He makes us all to be unique and special, and that His label for us is LOVE.

AMEN.IMG_20140516_111842020_HDR (2)Here are Nathan and Caleb after stamping their names in hieroglyphics.

 

IT IS!!!!! May 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — gdnelson5 @ 10:40 pm
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We began the homeschool journey at our home a little over a month and a half ago, and I can say that I have felt unqualified and inadequate to teach my incredible boys for approximately…. a little over a month and a half! I find myself daily questioning every decision I make as their ‘teacher.’  They might not be learning as they should, but I have learned at an expert level how to beat myself up. Yes, I am definitely my harshest critic.

The Lord God knew the state of my fearful heart, and He certainly knows how to quiet such fears and bring peace. I was in need of a touch from the Lord as I was struggling with this new role,  and He sent that touch from the mouth of my beautiful son Nathan.

It is a challenge to determine how much knowledge and information Nathan truly takes in and understands. There are some topics that he will speak of in unlimited amounts, such as Disney Infiniti for XBox 360. But there is also a vast amount of information that seems to go to some secret place in his beautiful mind where it is securely locked and sealed. The more I try to get him to divulge and share in conversation on such things, the tighter that lock seems to become. Communication and conversation deficits are steady struggles in the world of autism. This can be discouraging at times, and I sometimes wonder if what I am sharing with and teaching him isn’t lost in space somewhere. For example,….

It was easily over a year ago when I tried to engage Nathan in a conversation about prayer. He has for many years now given the same type of rote and repetitive prayers. I recall trying to explain to him what an honor and incredible gift it was to have an audience with the Lord God who created the entire universe, and that if he searched his heart, he might find many new and beautiful words to speak to God. Now true and heartfelt prayer is a deep and abstract concept, so I had no way of knowing if Nathan truly grasped what I was trying to teach him. His prayers did not change, so I presumed it was a lesson lost. But I also shared with him to end a prayer with a sure and mighty AMEN, as the word amen literally meant ‘it is.’ I assured him that God heard his prayers, and that if any of us pray according to God’s word and His will, then the Amen at the end was the final and absolute confirmation…yes, IT IS. I get all excited over such things, but I still smile as I picture Nathan just looking at me with those uncertain and doubtful eyes, followed by silence. And with that the conversation was done. When Nathan is done talking, he is done talking. But boy do those wheels in his fabulous head keep turning. It would be over a year when confirmation would come that he indeed laid hold of some of that momma/son chat.

I had decided the other week that I would go over some topics in grammar with both boys together to get a gauge for where they were at. One lesson I chose was about contractions. As I was going over it, I began to write some words on our white board that could be united to form a contraction. My list included: have not, we will, you are, and it is. I left the column next to these phrases blank so that the boys could fill in what the new word would be. And so down the list we went…haven’t, we’ll, you’re,…and then we came to ‘it is’. Before Caleb could muster a response, Nathan shouted out an exuberant…”AMEN, ‘it is’ means Amen!”

I could hardly catch my breath when I heard him speak this. His face was lit up with pride, as he knew he had nailed it. IT IS…yes, that means Amen, or didn’t you know that???!! Thank you for the reminder Nathan, and thank you for never ceasing to amaze me.

And thank you Lord God for the assurance that with your guidance and love, I can indeed teach my sons.  We can all teach one another, as our words certainly do leave a lasting impact, whether we realize it or not. Each day is an opportunity for a new ‘lesson.’ Make it a worthy one.

 

2 Corinthians 1:20

20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Here is a very recent picture of my sweet boy.  He teaches me more than I could ever teach him.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 
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