Joy no matter what. A blog by Deanne Nelson.

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A Reflection of the Father January 23, 2018

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No matter what your history or story entails, you are valuable beyond measure. Perhaps an analogy is in order…

Seven card stud…isn’t that the name of the game? The one where the player gets to choose the five best. What a notion. The cards dealt are seven, but two get discarded. The two that the player determines are not worthy of the final hand are set aside. Choices. We have the power and ability to make choices. What do we keep, and what do we let go of?  It’s kind of like a box of chocolates really…why would anyone ever choose some coconut cream filled thing when the pure chocolate/almond/caramel delight is sitting in the very next spot!

In life, it seems that we have no problem releasing the inanimate objects that do not serve us well, or that we choose to simply let go of. Rejecting two weaker cards is a split second and easy decision in most cases,  but what about the ‘cards’ we are dealt in life? We often hear people use the analogy that ‘this is just the hand I was dealt,’ in speaking of genetic family traits and tendencies. “It is what it is” sort of mentality. And we even go so far as to embrace the negative traits tightly in our psyche, while being hesitant or reserved in claiming the strong and good ones. We essentially discard the strongest cards to the detriment of our entire hand! Am I making sense?

I will make this very personal. My father was a complex man. He is a part of me and my blood surely would reveal that. I honor his memory and loved him very much. When I consider his life, this is the kind of hand that immediately comes to mind:

  1. A hard-working and steadfast provider
  2. A creative and imaginative thinker
  3. A stirring and eloquent writer
  4. A gifted and talented musician
  5. A get-down-to-business man of his word
  6. A burdened and depressed mind
  7. A resentful heart towards authority

There are many more of course, but these came to mind for me. Your initial list might look similar or different when considering your father/mother or person of authority in your life. But let’s say these seven are my hand. There is no doubt for a moment which two would not make my final cut. I would simply lay down 6 and 7, and play the rest. I would take hold of the gifts of his life and lay down the troubled portions that in no way define me or my seed…my children. Could it really be that easy??!! Surely life and family bloodlines are intricately more difficult and complicated than that, and what of traits that do not seem to apply at all?! And what about throwing out the whole hand altogether?! We would not want to do that, but it is the reasoning here that I am getting at. Are we really only a reflection of our genetics? Is there anything that we uniquely bring to the table?  Are we just sort of stuck with things that we would really rather do without? Are we a reflection of our father/mother?

It is honest and fair to ask such questions.  I have asked them, and the answers have come in the most tender and precious of ways…“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”…2 Corinthians 5:7.  That is an amazing truth. Jesus Christ sets the whole record straight and gives those who call on His name a completely restored and healed hand to play. He is the ultimate wild card! I remember times playing cards that I would feel a sense of unfairness at the notion of the wild card. For example, if deuces are wild and if one is lucky enough to land one, it could be used as ANY other card at all. What??!! And so my useless hand of 7,8,2,10, Jack could suddenly become a strong straight as that 2 would be transformed into a 9??  The one with the good fortune of securing the wild card would be thrilled, while someone who didn’t might just become thoroughly annoyed! That annoyance is a picture of the flesh really.  But that wild card opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities and new potential. The whole notion of being stuck with the hand your given goes completely out the window when the ole’ wild card comes into play! Will we embrace and hope for it? Or cling to what seems ‘fair’ in our book, and stay with the original hand no matter what? So funny, because I love to play with a wild card in the game now.

Jesus Christ puts new talents, abilities, and mindsets into us that we did not even know we had the potential for. He refines and purifies any inherited traits in us to reveal His glory and faithfulness through us. He transforms the weak and broken things we carry into works of humble beauty in his honor. He is the miracle savior. Nothing is impossible to those who believe…”that is God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.Romans 4:17.

Remember the discard pile? Those cards we chose to throw out because they were the weakest ones in the hand? It turns out that those are the very cards the Lord Jesus uses to cause faith, endurance, and perseverance to rise up in our lives. He is gracious to allow us to set those cards aside TO HIM. We don’t need to carry them in their broken state anymore. If we trust in the Lord alone with the hardest and most difficult weaknesses and insecurities we struggle with, he will transform and change that discard pile of nothing good into something amazing. He will use it for good and it will bring him glory. There is no greater purpose for anything in our lives than that. Will we trust him with the discard pile? It is from there where our most powerful and beautiful testimonies of the Lord’s goodness will flow from. Someone needs to hear that testimony. Someone in your sphere of influence needs to hear your testimony. Our temporary pain is never wasted. Behind it all stands a testimony of the wonder-working power of the Lord, who bestows on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair..(Isaiah 61:3) Now that is the kind of testimony that can save a lost soul.

And so, back to one of the original questions…AM I MY FATHER’S SON/DAUGHTER?

Yes, you are!! You ARE your Heavenly Father’s son/daughter. You are who HE says you are. You have a beautiful and creative mind and you are covered in His love and mercy. You have a hope and purpose and are designed to bear good fruit for His kingdom. May the Lord bless and keep you. May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace!

Now go out and grab all the wild cards you can get!

(This was a letter written for my big brother months ago. The Lord laid on my heart that someone needed to hear these words.)



Jesus Wept October 11, 2017

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“Jesus wept.”  John 11:35

The shortest verse in the Bible, yet packed with profound and intense meaning. To get to the heart of it is beyond full human comprehension,  yet to only embrace even a glimpse of it is to be filled with hope.

So what was the scene behind those tears? Why did Jesus cry?

The setting was a small Judean countryside. Jesus had been in public ministry for close to three years but the time for his greatest life’s purpose was fast approaching. He had walked the earth and loved deeply. That is what he did. He never ascribed to be a worldly king or political leader. His mission was certain and he never lost sight of it. He literally came to earth to die…to die for you and to die for me. It is the greatest love story ever told. He paid the death penalty for sin on our behalf. The wages of sin is eternal death. If you are reading this, you are a sinner and you need a savior. Your savior is Jesus. There is no other. He is God in the flesh and only he has the power to forgive and save you for eternity.  He has already chosen you, but you must choose him too.

Back to the story…

Jesus had some friends that he loved dearly. Their names were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were all siblings. Jesus learned that Lazarus was very ill. Messengers had sent for Jesus in the hopes that he would come quickly to heal Lazarus, as word had spread that he had miraculous powers, but Jesus waited and Lazarus died. Yes, he allowed for an incredible hardship and pain to happen. When he finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. The sisters were weeping and in deep mourning. The rebuke in their hearts poured out…’If only you had been here, our brother would not have died.’

Have you ever questioned the Lord God in such a way? “If only you had been there…If only you had stopped that accident from happening…If only you had caused that disease to never happen…If only you had intervened before that poor decision was made…If only you had stepped in and stopped that evil person from doing that evil thing…If only you had quieted the storm…If only, If only, If only…”

God has never promised a life without pain and suffering. On the contrary, we are assured that this life will be wrought with hardship…”In this world, you will have trouble…” John 16:33. When sin entered, so did pain and heartache.

So why did Jesus wait only to allow Lazarus to die? The question is compounded by the fact that Jesus knew that he, in fact, was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why didn’t he just do that sooner and avoid all of the messy heartache in the first place? Or better yet, why didn’t he come in a blaze of glory and raise this dead man immediately so that the happy celebration could commence? The answer is that God’s plans and purposes are far bigger and greater than ours. Even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, he will call forth eternal life and hope to rise from the ashes. Death and heartache were never part of his original plan, but in his mercy, he will use even the dark things of this life for eternal good. We only see a very small part, while the Lord God sees the whole entirety.

When Lazarus died, it was so the glory and revelation of God could be revealed. There could be no denying who Jesus was when he literally spoke, and Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, came walking out of a tomb with grave clothes on. All of those present were forever changed, and countless others through following generations to now have come to faith through this biblical account as well. Who could raise the dead to life, other than the author of life himself? It was time for God’s plan of redemption for all mankind to proceed, and the more Jesus showed who he really was, the more evil mankind despised him. This final earthly miracle before his crucifixion sealed his fate. Masses of people were coming to faith in him due to the enormity of this event and the religious leaders at the time decided firmly that he must die as his influence was becoming far too great. Raising the dead was the line in the sand.

We must see that God’s greatest blessing to all mankind came on the heels of deep sorrow and grief for some. Human loss and sadness were followed by indescribable goodness and hope. This takes great perseverance and trust as we walk by faith in Jesus and not by the sights of this cruel world. Can we admit that we reach our greatest moments of surrender and humility before the Lord when we are at the end of ourselves?

Jesus Christ crucified was the most heinous and agonizing reality this world has ever known, and yet, his shed blood is the only reason that there is any hope for human beings to inherit eternal salvation. Without the cross, we are hopeless and helpless.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”…John 3:16. Praise God for this good and wonderful news!

So why was Jesus crying? The scriptures report that when Jesus arrived and saw the sadness of those who loved Lazarus, he was moved to tears. Did you catch that? Jesus knew that those sorrowful people only saw the pain of that temporary earthly moment and experience. He knew that there was a far greater plan and purpose happening and that soon their deep anguish would turn to joy. He knew that he was the one and only answer to their every longing and need. He knew that he too would suffer and be put to death but for a glorious purpose. He knew all of that, and yet he also knew that their pain and earthly suffering were real and it moved him deeply. He did not weep for the death of Lazarus for he knew that death would be conquered. He wept because it pained him to see the ones he loved hurting. We weep for the circumstances we face, Jesus weeps to see us struggling through them.  He knows that a greater eternal hope awaits but also knows that we struggle to lay hold of that hope sometimes. He is not some far off savior who is waiting for us to strengthen and firm up our faith muscle in the midst of trials. He is a savior who suffered himself and weeps right alongside us. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”…Psalm 34:18. He loves you so very much. Every tear you have cried matters to him. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”…Psalm 56:8.

In the book of Revelation, a river of life is mentioned that flows from the very throne of God. This depiction is in the eternal life to come. The water flows crystal clear in this majestic place. I like to think that all of our collected tears will be poured out into this heavenly river. Even Jesus’ tears will be mixed in. Those tears will literally be transformed into living water that brings life, and then there will be no more tears of pain and sorrow. It is a glorious and blessed hope.

Yes, in this world you will have trouble, but I left the best part of the verse out…”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”…John 16:33. That is the savior of the world talking right there. Whatever burden you face, he has overcome it. Press on and never give up hope. And it is ok to cry. He is crying right there with you.






Let There Be Light July 8, 2016

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I cannot sleep. I find myself pleading with the Lord God to calm my heart’s greatest fears. My faith is so little right now. And yet I know that my Savior lives, despite the chaos that ensues in our world.

There is an enemy to us all. His name is Satan. He is the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Our war is truly not against one another, but with the dark powers of Satan. He takes great delight in bringing division among and through people. He is throwing our nation into utter confusion and chaos. The current events in Dallas, TX are a result of his handiwork to bring hatred into the hearts of people. He is nowhere near being done with his evil schemes to bring division and death.

Yet in utter darkness, there is always hope. No matter how great the darkness becomes, it can be extinguished with light. Consider a pitch black room, where nothing can be seen. It is impossible to navigate through such a room. One can only hope to grope through, grasping for something to hold on to. But once a single light illuminates that room, the darkness that was once there proves to be powerless and eradicated. The light fills in every nook and cranny of darkness, so that none remains. I see our nation blindly grasping on to anything in order to survive. Where is the light switch?…

Jesus Christ is the one and only hope of the world. He has already conquered the powers of hell and darkness, and no amount of evil on this earth can undo the victory he obtained on the cross. We are all heirs to eternal life, if we trust in His death. Yes, He had to die, so that we could truly live beyond this temporarily life. May Jesus Christ be the light switch that humanity clings to, as only He can shed light on the darkness that seeks to destroy us all.

My husband is sound asleep right now. I am grateful for his peaceful sleep. He is not yet aware that eleven of his fellow police officers have been shot upon, as they showed up to perform the duties of their sworn position. He does not know that five of those have been killed in the line of duty. He will waken soon, probably around 4:30am. He will begin to get ready to start his twelve hour shift as a sergeant for the police department in our town. I would like it if he would just stay asleep longer, in a peaceful place of comfort and safety in our bedroom. Perhaps he will feel ill when he gets up, but then I remember that he shows up for work even when he is weakened physically. Perhaps he will hear of the tragic events of the night and start to consider that maybe police work is no longer what he needs to be doing. But then I remember that he is passionate about serving and protecting his community, and that such news will only serve to make his resolve to being a honorable police officer even stronger. Perhaps if I cry and plead that he take a desk job, that he might consider it. But then he just might ask me why my children and I pray for him as we do, if those prayers for safety and protection are not believed in. He would then remind me that he loves being a police officer, even though many hate him when he puts his uniform on. He will not let fear, violence, or hate control his life, and neither will I.

And so I will stop playing out in my head the ways in which the love of my life should live the rest of his life. He has sworn to protect and serve, and nothing will deter him from doing that. I will simply wait for him to arise any minute, and I will tell him of the tragic events in Dallas. I will kiss him and hold him tightly, say a prayer over him, and send him out in his patrol car for the start of a new day. And as he pulls away, I will know that the light of Jesus Christ goes with him everywhere, and even death has no power over him.

Yes, may the light switch in his patrol car remain bright, no matter what.


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.


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!!!










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.



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