The Woman Behind the Veil

It was a busy day, and I was in a restless mood, tired from lack of sleep and worried about everything on my plate. My son was, thankfully, healthy for this doctor’s visit, and I felt God nudging me to pray for all the other children in the waiting room who were sick, and for the mothers who I knew were just as tired as me.

Another mother, with 4 children, walked in. Her skin was dark and beautiful. She wore a completely black outfit with a head covering and a veil over her entire face, except for her eyes. Those eyes. The weight of the world seemed to shine in them. That and love for her children.

I immediately watched women all around me tense up. I watched mothers grab their babies like their lives depended on it. I watched looks cross faces as though they had just sucked a whole lemon or lime. I watched a few mothers move to the other side of the room, attempting to be discreet but not hiding their distaste at the same time. I stayed where I was, holding my little man and thinking about life and this family that just came through the doors.

Years ago, I would have been one of those women. The one with the fear. The one with the dirty scowl on my face. The one who sat on the other side of the room. But I’m not that woman anymore.

I smiled as the mother came near. She sat down not far from me, as her precious children grabbed some books and toys scattered around the room. My son wanted to get down to play as well. He had a book we were already flipping through. The 2-ish girl wanted it, so I gently took it from my son and handed it to her. I smiled again at the mother. I noticed her body relax. The worry lines around her eyes decrease. As if she had been waiting for me to say something or do something else.

“They are beautiful,” I said to her, nodding to her babies. She smiled. I couldn't see her mouth. But I could see the smile in her eyes. She nodded, and quietly played with her newborn on her lap.

I remember a time when I would have done the opposite. When my faith would have prompted me to immediately judge. When the first thought running through my mind would have been one of disdain or self-righteous consolation.

I don’t know what it is about having my son that has taught me about God’s grace in such a life-changing way. It is probably a combination of things. More than likely me realizing that so much of my previous faith-life was shallow and built on more of my own thoughts about things rather than His. I have learned a lot of lessons through the difficult times I have had with my son. How to really love others was one of them. The Holy Spirit has changed so much of my thinking. I was never really legalistic. But I was still too much of a Christian snob.

You see, like the woman at the doctor’s office, I too wore a veil. Except mine was a false identity, a person I hid behind to make others think I was good. My veil of perfection. My veil of holiness. Nothing more than a mask to cover up my own brokenness that the rest of the Christian world should never, ever see.

Why is it so hard for us Christians to exemplify both Truth and Grace? After all, this is who Christ was. The fullness of God in a man was the very perfect demonstration of Truth and Grace. This was how he treated those He came in contact with, every single time. He never looked down on anyone, always loving those who were unloved. He never shied away from the Truth, always teaching those who missed the mark.

Instead, we who are followers of Christ usually pick one or the other. We think we have to judge others in order to maintain our standards. We think we have to pretend there is no such thing as sin in order to love others. Our churches and our preachers focus on one or the other. Why can’t we be both Truth and Grace? It is possible, because Christ was both, is both.

We can hold to a standard of Truth without judging. We can love and give Grace completely without compromising. When a Christian learns to do this, he sets the world on fire.

We can look at a mother who comes from a different background and truly care for her despite what her beliefs are. We can speak to a person of a different sexual orientation without thinking in the back of our mind they are going to hell. We can live our lives based on Truth while showing others His love. We can fight against a sin-wrecked world without making others feel they are worthless because they aren't Christians.

The key in all of this is knowing Christ and allowing His sweet Spirit to fill us. Those Christians I know who are reaching others and are making the greatest impact are those who have been able to master this delicate balance. Christians who speak Love with every breath they take, and whose lifestyle models a Savior who was pure, humble, and soaked in integrity and honor. That is the kind of Christian I want to be – an image bearer of the one true God, taking off the veil of falseness and instead shining the light of Truth and Grace.


The One Thing We All Have in Common

I never have a chance to blog anymore, and it makes me sad sometimes. But then I remember why I don't, and then I'm not so sad. It usually has to do with a little someone who takes up all of my time. :) I have a really good excuse as to why I never get on here! I'd rather close the computer and hang out with him!

Anyway, lately I've been trying to avoid the internet, particularly FB, as much as I can. It just seems to leave a bad taste in my mouth most of the time. Plus I'm on an anti-drama crusade, in my own life and the lives of others. I don't know what it is, but everything I read seems to be one person justifying their beliefs, their views, their opinions, their lifestyle, their habits, their choices, against everyone else's. I know because I do it. It's like a poison...you allow a little bit of something to get under your skin, and soon you're acting like everyone else. I want to be different!

Our lens is skewed because we only see people the way they portray themselves online. Chances are, some of you who know me in real life like me a lot more in person than you do online. Chances are, some of you who have never met me in real life, wouldn't like me half as much as you do online. I try to be me, but often no matter what I say, I rub someone the wrong way without me even trying. It is frustrating.

One thing that really bothers me is how many blog posts and articles I read about one particular type of Christian knocking down other particular types of Christians. Now, I agree that not everyone who says they are a Christian really is one, but who the heck are we to judge? Especially if we've never spent one waking moment in the presence of that person...we have no idea what their day-to-day life looks like.

The other day I was thinking about this, and thinking about how the Bible says we are to be peace-makers (see the Beatitudes, book of Matthew). Not just peace-lovers or peace-likers, but peace-makers. That is hard to do most of the time, given the culture we live in. Everybody has something against everybody.

And I was thinking about what we all have in common as Christians. 

The one thing we all have in common? We need Jesus. Desperately. We are a messed-up, broken, judgemental, selfish, sinning (whether we pretend we are perfectly good or not) group of people . Every single one of us. 

The Bible says that if we claim not to sin, we are liars. No, that doesn't mean before we become Christians. It means even now. Anyone who acts better than anyone, who claims to not fall short or looks down on others, is a LIAR. Ouch.

We need Christ every single day. We need His love, His truth, His grace, His mercy, His light, to penetrate our hearts and our minds every minute, every hour. 

I'll tell you, I have met some pretty puffed-up Christians, and I used to be one of them. I was real good at making people think I loved Jesus, which was true. I did love Jesus. Then I had my son and went through a very, very difficult time. I almost decided to give up my faith. I cannot blame it on someone else, either. It was me, despite the no-good, horrible things some Christians said about me or to me. The truth was, I, me, myself was the problem. I didn't want to admit that. I wanted to throw the blame on everyone else who had "wronged" me. But my own sin, my own depression, my own anger, bitterness, cynicism, etc, were what had brought me so far from God. 

It took me realizing my own brokenness, my own lack of perfection, to really bring me to my knees and make me get real with Jesus. I was so, so sick of trying to convince the world and convince God that I was fine. 

It wasn't until I realized the weight of my own sin, my own desperate need for Christ, that I stopped trying to justify myself in front of everyone else. And that was when my heart was made whole, and my faith became more than just a nice feeling or sentiment for God.

I think that this, more than anything, is what all of us Christians need. To stop pretending. To stop faking it. To stop trying to look like the "best" Christian out there. To stop writing blogs about how great we are, while trying to proclaim how great God is and using our own "awesomeness" to show people why He's great, and why we're right and everyone else is wrong. I'm a seminary graduate, with a Masters in Christian Discipleship/Education, and I still don't have all the answers!

Every single day, we fail. We struggle. We give in to temptation that we pretend we didn't. We watch crap on t.v. we shouldn't watch. We say things we shouldn't say. And if we go around acting like we haven't done anything wrong, we're lying! 

The one thing we all have in common is that we NEED Jesus. Not just a one-time, "I got saved" type of faith. But the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives at every waking moment. That is what we need. 

I pray for each person who reads this, that you would get real with God. No more sweet-talking. No more "winning" the comment battle on FB. No more "look at me, I've got it together and you don't" stuff. Just go to Jesus. Run to Him, get on your knees, and get it out. Let Him transform you into who He wants you to be, not the person you are trying to portray to the rest of the world. The best news is, that is all He wants. He just wants your heart, and He will love you without holding back.

God bless you.


budget-friendly birthdays!

Growing up, my Mom always had awesome birthday parties for us, and she knew how to throw a great party! I always said I wanted to do the same for my kids one day, although over the years, depending on financial status not every birthday was as big or elaborate. I think the main thing she taught me, however, was that you can do something awesome for really cheap. I learned from her how to do the same, and today I thought I’d share some of those great tips with you.

1)  Set a Budget – This is the most important thing. Whatever you do, do not go over the budget amount (I made this mistake with my child’s 1st birthday – we paid for it later by eating soup and crackers for a while, haha). Make sure to include everything under the budget, from favor bags to decorations, from food to your child’s gift.

2)  Pick an Easy Theme – This takes some time and planning. I suggest picking one as far in advance as you can. Find out what your child likes, and offer many different options. If your child is very little, you can pick the theme yourself. Also, visit stores and see what is available (see #3).

3)  2 Words: Dollar Stores – Never, ever, ever pay full price for something! You can even go to the dollar store and pick your theme based off of what you find (which is what I did for my son’s 1st birthday party)! Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Michaels are my favorite places to go. Scour the dollar aisles and wait for things to go on sale. Again, do NOT pay full price for anything. One example: this year’s favor includes a shovel and pail for each child who comes. I got them for $0.50 each by waiting until they went on sale (normally they were $1.50 each!)

4)  Shop All Year – It is amazing how much you can do if you only spend $10 a month, vs. $100 at one time. I am a planner by nature, so this one comes easier for me. But even if you are not a planner, write yourself a note every month to do it. Even if you only shop 6 months in advance, you will get good deals. I also go to garage sales, consignment shops, and Goodwill. Nobody will know if you got the cake topper used – if it looks cute, great!

5)  Use What You Have – If you pick a theme based on something your child already likes, chances are you already have a lot of things at home you can use. Does your little boy like dinosaurs? If he has lots of dinosaur stuff, clean it up and use it for cake decorations and table décor! Does your daughter like princesses? Use dress up clothes for décor (like a crown for the cake topper). I did this for my son’s 2nd birthday party with all of my old high-school bedroom stuff in the attic (my bedroom back then was an ocean theme).

6)  Make It Yourself – If you are not a crafty person, enlist the help of a friend who is. If your baking skills stink, order the cake from somewhere inexpensive but make the rest of the food days ahead (most things freeze!). Keep it simple and work on it slowly when you have time, like after the kids go to sleep. J

7)  Don’t Go To an Expensive Place – If you don’t have room at your house for a party, ask someone else (friend or relative) if you can have the party at theirs. Check out parks and recreation complexes in your area; they will usually be very cheap and kid-friendly. Places like Chucky Cheese and the Bowling Alley will eat up your money (and tokens!) faster than you can sing Happy Birthday! AND, stay away from anywhere that offers to do the party for you – they will buy stuff from Dollar Tree and charge you 3 times the amount just so you don’t have to do the work!
So there ya go! It's only my little guy's 3rd birthday this year, but just in the last few years I have made many mistakes with parties. Most of all, relax and have fun! If it is too stressful, it's not worth it. YAY for birthdays!!! :)




child-like faith...

I think I am truly learning who God is through my son.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted, but I am up late and can’t stop thanking God for the miracle my child is, and for the miracle He is doing in our lives.

I feel like there is a huge battle going on right now, and I can sense it. A spiritual battle. Not just for my child, but for all the kids out there. A war is waging on their souls...but I believe God wins.
Satan has been throwing every arrow he possibly can at our family, it seems…but I know God is fighting, and I will fight.

I believe God is going to use Stephen for His Kingdom. I felt it when I was pregnant with him, and now I am feeling it again. His special needs and all of that are not going to stop him…stop God and what He is doing.
Tonight Stephen wanted to pray. We usually pray together every day, sometimes more than once a day, but almost always at night before he goes to sleep, while he is lying in my arms or his Daddy’s. But tonight he seemed to really want to pray. He was so precious I have tears just thinking about it.

I asked him what he wanted to pray to Jesus about.
He said, without hesitating, “everyone.”

Now I have to clarify…we have never taught him to say that.

Here’s a kid, almost 3 years old, who is autistic. He daily injures himself. He often throws major fits and has meltdowns just from going from one place to another. He cannot go down a slide by himself still. I can’t get him to take more than a bite or 2 of something most days, even if he has gone 5-6 hours without eating a thing (before being tube-fed).
And something like that comes out of his mouth, out of the blue.

I have chills writing this, ya’ll.
I cannot even begin to imagine what the Lord has in store for him. It is something big, powerful, and the Presence of God is just all over this thing.
It’s not rare for us to have God moments in our house, although some days are especially difficult and I am tired and I only have the strength to pray because God gives it to me and I am desperate for His peace.

But as crazy as it sounds, I feel like my faith was a lot shallower before I had Stephen…before we went through all of this hard stuff. Maybe from the outside, it wasn’t. But oh, on the inside, I was more of a Christian snob than a real follower of Christ. I really thought I knew God. Even through seminary. Even through mission trips. It’s like, there wasn’t the depth that exists now. I have a long way to go.
I cannot brag, so I hope I don’t sound braggy. I often feel like a mess, like a failure, like a disaster…can I be honest? Like I’m the reason Stephen struggles with so many things…

But somehow, through it all, I am seeing incredible glimpses of God’s beauty, and I am one thousand times more aware of His Grace, His love, His strength, His joy, His Truth…all of it.
It’s kind of where the rubber has met the road. Where during the midst of the heartache and the absolute exhaustion and the feelings of hopelessness, I have had to CHOOSE on purpose to trust God and seek Him and follow Him no matter where it takes me.

It is hard. I don’t always know what I am doing as Stephen’s Mom. I just beg God to show me what to do. I beg Him to help me find ways to help him, to bring some sort of healing to his little body. And God is speaking. I hear His voice more clearly now, I think, than I ever did.
It is funny how children will do that to you, no matter whether your child is “typical” or not. The Bible says that “From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). Did you know that the word for “praise” in that verse also means the same as “strength?” Maybe that is why Jesus puts such an emphasis on child-like faith.

All I can do is follow. Follow my beautiful little boy’s example. Follow Jesus down a road that is sometimes dry and rocky and downright terrifying.

I am humbled. Thankful. Blessed.




DH and I been kind of quiet about this and have waited to post, as we are still trying to process/accept the information we’ve been given. But we are ready now to share with others.

Last week we found out the results from all of Stephen’s testing and evaluations, starting 6 months ago when we had our first screening at the Pediatrician’s office, up until now with the team at LSUS. They have confirmed that he has Autism Spectrum Disorder – High-Functioning (also known as Aspergers). He is on the highest end of the spectrum because of his intelligence level (he is brilliant!) and his ability to talk in phrases/short sentences. The fact that he is so high-functioning is really good news to us, as we will be able to help him overcome a lot of the issues he is having. He will start special school this fall and be in a classroom designed for kids just like him!

This diagnosis explains almost everything we have been dealing with for the past 1 ½ - 2 years or so, including some of the feeding problems, with Stephen. We still have to go to the Neurologist in Dallas, as well as have genetic testing done. We do know that there is some genetic pre-disposition for ASD in our family.

I know so many people are wondering what this really means for us and would like to understand, so below I have taken the time to type/copy what our information packet told us about it! PLEASE read it and share if you would like to. :)

*What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD is a complex neurological, developmental disorder that is made up of several symptoms clustered together. It is called a Spectrum disorder because there are varying degrees of ASD which fall on a line, going from the most severe cases to the most high-functioning cases. In the most severe cases, children with Autism will have a much harder time learning, developing, and living a “normal” life.

There is no one specific cause of an ASD, although there are currently many theories. There are 5 main disorders, sometimes called pervasive developmental disorders, which fall under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorders: 1) Autistic disorder (classic autism), 2) Asperger’s syndrome, 3) Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified, 4) Rett’s syndrome, and 5) Childhood disintegrative disorder.

From one autistic child to the next, there will be more differences than things in common. However, when diagnosing an ASD, there are 3 major points (think of a triangle) that specialists and doctors look at:

1) Impaired Language and Communication Skills

2) Social Interaction and Relational Difficulties

3) Repetitive and Unusual Behaviors

For each child with ASD, one of these 3 aspects can be greater than another and the types of problems or difficulties under each category can be different. There is a saying that goes “If you have met a child with Autism, you have met *one* child with Autism.” Yet all 3 points of the triangle must exist for the child to have a true ASD.

There are many children with more moderate to severe ASD who are non-verbal and have a very difficult time speaking or learning to speak. Most people think that all children with ASD are non-verbal. However, a child with a higher-functioning ASD may have a good vocabulary, but poor expressive communication and difficulty in reading body language or facial expressions.

It is believed that children with ASD are violent, unloving or unable to feel. This is untrue; children with ASD may want to be around other people and enjoy their company, but not always know the proper way of interacting or relating to them. There are children with more severe ASD who are withdrawn and do like to keep to themselves, but this stems from having a hard time relating or knowing what to do/say, not from selfishness or meanness. ASD does not disable a child from being able to feel emotions or give emotion – it just may look different because it is harder to process. It can also affect how they feel pain or bodily functions. For example, an ASD child may not be able to understand the feeling of using the bathroom on their self.

Children with ASD exhibit unusual, rigid, or repetitive behaviors. While all children have their own normal behaviors, children with ASD have behaviors that are abnormal in nature. Some of these behaviors can stem from frustration, anxiety, and inability to express a desire. Some of these behaviors can be similar to OCD tendencies, such as slowly lining up toys in a row rather than playing with them. Other behaviors can be somewhat destructive, and a lot of times these children are more harmful to themselves than to others (like self-injury).

There are other defining qualities and medical issues besides the 3 points above that the majority of children with ASD have. A child with ASD may have all of these, or only a few. Some of these include Sensory Integration/Processing problems/disorder, restlessness and trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal disorders, seizures (epileptic or absence/silent), learning difficulties, lack of self-awareness, difficulties with gross motor and fine motor skills, late onset or lack of developmental milestones, and difficulty completing everyday tasks (such as dressing, feeding, etc…)

Children with ASD do extremely well with intense therapy, appropriate help and guidance, structure and routine, and many other types of intervention. While there is no known cure for Autism, children can overcome some of the difficulties over time, and there is research on various elements for treating it. Early intervention is highly beneficial for kids with ASD.

*What Autism is NOT

There are a lot of misconceptions about ASD. Autism is not a form of mental retardation, a result of bad parenting, a lack of intellect (stupidity) in the parents’ genes, or the child being “weird” or “evil.”

Some more myths about Autism are:
1) “Autism is not real and is just a trendy diagnosis for kids who are not disciplined.”

2) “People with autism should be institutionalized and cannot function in society.”

3) “Kids with autism are not happy.”

4) “Kids with autism should not be around other kids.”

5) “Kids with autism grow up to be mass murderers and maniacs.”

6) “The main sign of autism is lack of eye contact.”

7) “That child can’t have autism because he/she is too smart.”

8) “People with autism are anti-social and don’t want friends.”

9) “Children with autism will just grow out of it.”

There is much information out there about Autism, and not all of it is true. Don’t believe everything you read or hear; talk to a parent of a child with ASD, and don’t isolate them because you think their child is too different. Invite them to do things with your family even if you are unsure how their child will handle it. ASD children need to be loved and accepted; families of children with ASD also need support and acceptance.

More for friends and family:


*All factual information compiled from the American Academy of Pediatrics, AutismSpeaks.org, The Autism Research Institute, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


30 things about me...

My sweet friend Kathryn at Singing Through the Rain did an awesome post for her 26th birthday not long ago, and I loved it! She shared 26 random facts about herself. So I decided to do one for my birthday too. It's my second 29th birthday so it is super special, haha. ;)
Anyway, here are my t.h.i.r.t.y. (*cough cough, that hurts) random facts about me! Many of you already know a lot of these, but for those of you who don't, enjoy! :)

1) I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan (believe it or not, it is a real place)!
2) I love anything to do with Ireland, Scotland, and Celtic stuff, esp. Celtic music!
3) I am kind of obsessed with coral reefs, the ocean, and scuba diving (though I’ve only been a few times)! My little boy has taken after me with the "feesh" thing. :)
4) I am a former All-Star dancer. I won tons of awards, and my best performances were in hip hop and break-dance style (for real yo!).
5) I love to go fishing!
6) I am a recovering Grammar-Nazi.
7) I LOVE fried oysters!
8) I do not like flying on airplanes (it’s gotten better over the years though).
9) My hair used to be stick straight, super thin, and very blonde. It is now curly, frizzy, and dark blonde-brownish, thanks to pregnancy hormones!
10) Frogs are my favorite animal. I was nuts about them as a kid (still am).
11) I speak Spanish…though I’m not as fluent as I used to be!
12) I really love to watch movies. My favorite movie of all time is Ever After…my wedding dress was even designed from and inspired by it!
13) The whole vampire/zombie thing drives me absolutely bonkers.
14) I have read every single C.S. Lewis book. Most of them, more than once.
15) I have a phobia of dirt. I can’t stand it, esp. if it’s on my floors.
16) I am extremely pro-life. I don't always talk about it, but I hate abortion with a passion.
17) I do not like my teeth.
18) I have high hopes of becoming a really great seamstress. But put me in front of a sewing machine and I can’t remember anything.
19) I was awesome at organization while I was a teacher. At home, not so much.
20) I switched high schools in the middle of my junior year, by my own choice. I do not regret it!
21) My “signature” perfume is Jennifer Aniston. It smells heavenly!
22) My favorite Disney character is Dopey, one of the seven dwarves from Snow White.
23) I really miss my little boy being a baby.
24) My wedding rings belonged to my great-grandmother. They also happen to come from the royal family in England (not kidding…ask me to tell you the story sometime).
25) I love children’s consignment stores!
26) Sometimes I wish I was an Amish person.
27) I love Veggie Tales just as much as my little boy does! My favorite one is Lord of the Beans. Hilarious!
28) I do not like scary movies or horror movies.
29) One of my uncles was a defense coach for the Miami Dolphins!
30) My least favorite chore is doing the dishes (but I like it better than I used to)!



I wrote this poem very late last night and thought I would share. I used to write poetry all the time, mostly in college and in seminary. Now when I get the urge or am inspired I occasionally write. Hope you like!

by Sara F.
(Dedicated to my son)

How can it be that God seems so new?
Like the very first sunbeams
After He created the Light
And the oceans found their tide.

Rays of golden warmth invade
At the smallest touch of a hand
Nothing, no nothing, can be said
When your own flesh changes you.

He smiles and my heart skips a beat
Fluttering and pounding and wondering
Pride fills up the whole space
And creates an irregular rhythm.

Looking into those eyes so blue
And I see the face of God
How can I question anything at all?
When all I need is in front of me.

Laughter fills up these rooms
And I think, almost out loud
Here is a picture of perfect Love
Drowning out fears of the unknown.