Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Happy Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving Day. . .

. . . . which included a feast in the ILC cafeteria (it really was delicious)

. . . . and swinging, of course ~ it was a beautiful day here in VA

. . . . and the evening in the home of Bob and Linda Allen ~ what a 
blessing it was to be in a real home on this special day.
 We are so thankful for how - although we were far away 
from our own families - we felt right at home with our mission family. 
Thank you, Allen's, for your warm hospitality!

We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  I am sure that the contents of the previous post ~ The Smiling Face Behind a Frown of Providence ~ came as a surprise to most of you (unless you got that information in an email, and then I'm sure at that point the news was quite unexpected.)  It came as a complete shock to David and I as well.  Things still seem a bit surreal.  It's hard to believe that we are here, beginning our 7th week now, at our orientation to be missionaries, and we are not going to the destination that we have been headed towards in our hearts and minds for some time now.  However, I want to boldly testify of the overwhelming, incomprehensible grace and peace of our Sovereign, Triune God, who upholds all things by the Word of His power, and Who reigns as our Prince of Peace, our Hope eternal, and Whose grace is completely sufficient to supply all of our needs in Christ Jesus our Lord (Phil. 1:9).  As David said, God is good and wise and sovereign.  We believe this with all that we are.  So, we have known throughout all of the change of our plans and throughout this time of John David's diagnosis, that God has not stepped down from His throne, nor has He taken off His crown.  He reigns, and He is working all things for our greater good and His greatest glory.  Therefore, we know that God is completely trustworthy and ever-faithful. He always has been and always will be.  

To fill you in a bit on John David's diagnosis...
Like David said, John David has been diagnosed with a mild form of autism - the specialist referred to it as "high-functioning autism".  The autism spectrum is vast, as we have come to learn; therefore, John David exhibits none of the "signs" that you naturally are told to look for in a child.  He is so fun, so sweet, and so, as the term states, "high-functioning."  His cognitive and receptive skills are great.  He makes great eye-contact, reads emotions, and - by how he responds to us - understands/comprehends everything we say. However, for John David, his autism is seen in a delay in expressive language, as well as social anxiety.  In other words, he doesn't talk as much as some other "almost 18-month-olds", and he often has a strong preference for personal space.  We have never been concerned about these things before.  I know that children develop at different rates, so I wasn't concerned that he wasn't talking as much as his sweet female cousin who is 9 months older the he. :)  His anxiety shows itself primarily around other young children, not adults or older kids ~ the unpredictability of toddlers can really freak him out.  So in regard to his anxiousness, I justified it in my mind with the fact that, for his whole 17 months of life, his interaction with toddlers has been so minimal. Nevertheless, after several meetings with pediatricians, a neurologist, and an autism specialist, we agree with his diagnosis.  We were told that, with proper intervention, he may fall off the "spectrum" and not meet criteria for autism by the time he is 4 years old. This may not happen for John David - we don't know what God has in store for him - but it sure was an encouraging thing for us to hear the doctors say.  Actually, two of the doctors didn't think that there was any reason to be concerned about John David.  Furthermore, the autism specialist said that, had she not observed him in his preschool classroom, and had she just seen him the way he is with us, she would not have been concerned about him at all.  She said that our goal is to get John David to act around other kids the way he acts at home.  We have received great encouragement from our many conversations with doctors and specialists, and by God's grace, have embraced all of this.  

Praise the Lord, John David is attempting new words every day, especially this week, and his teacher here at ILC said that he has made 100% improvement with his social interactions since getting here 6 weeks ago.  Now, he gives high-fives to other kids (when prompted) and doesn't cry (usually) when they come running at him. He loves to watch other kids play, and even laughs and smiles at them now; you can tell that he wants to join in the fun. But if and when they get "too close", it still often overwhelms him.  And I'm sure his lack of speech, at this point, doesn't make him any more confident.  So, we will be leaving our orientation early - Monday, December 1st - and will be heading back to Alabama.  We will begin looking for good resources for speech/language therapy, as well as behavioral therapy (to help John David better learn to handle those social situations that make him uncomfortable) and possibly some occupational/physical therapy (John David has hypotonia (low muscle tone) just in his arms, that we can tell, which - oddly enough - is common in children with some of these developmental delays and/or autism.)  We will be posting more information on where we will be settling down as all these things - and more - are confirmed. 

Had we not come to Virginia for this orientation with the IMB, we would have not discovered all of this. . . at least, not at this time.  For, I'm sure, John David would have continued being at home with me, living life as normal, with minimal interaction with other toddlers and hardly any uncomfortable situations.  On this Thanksgiving, we especially thankful for John David's dear teacher who loved and cared for him enough to express her concern when she needed to most.  We have been told that it is crucial to intervene as early as possible; the most intervention that can take place before 5 and 6 years old is a huge blessing.  One of our fellow "quad" mates said that she has a friend who's son is autistic, and it took their family years to get the help for him that we have gotten in the span of 2 weeks time.  Therefore, we cannot praise the Lord enough for His provision, through the resources of the IMB, and for His providence in bringing us here to Virginia, for such a time as this.  We do not see any moment of these 6 weeks, nor any moment leading up to our getting here, as being for naught.  We are so thankful that we serve the One in Whose book were written all "the days fashioned for [each of us], when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16).  I am so grateful to the Lord God Almighty who has "fearfully and wonderfully made" our precious child; Who formed John David's inward parts and knows his thoughts, before a word is on his tongue (Psalm 139:4, 13&14) - even when those words may come later for him than for most.  

Oh, it has been hard to know where and how to bring to a close all that I have wanted to share in this post.  However, I did want you to know that we are doing so well - by the sufficient grace of God - and that we desire to inform you so that you may glorify the Lord with us, for all that He has done thus far.  David and I see it as a most glorious privilege to be John David's mommy and daddy.  We love him so, and are so thankful for all that the Lord has made him and is making him to be.  As stewards of our son, we simply desire to aid in the molding and shaping and forming of John David's heart and life in a way that is most pleasing and honoring to the Lord.  Please pray that God will grant us grace and mercy and wisdom and discernment to be the parents that we need to be for our most precious little gift.  If you haven't read it yet, the poem Thankful (a few posts below) expresses a little more clearly - although words cannot articulate - our love and prayers for our son.  We will be keeping you posted, and I would hope to guarantee that no future post will ever be this long!          

Just for fun, I had to include this picture...

John David getting pumped up for THE BIG GAME today . . .  
Roll Tide Roll!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Smiling Face behind the Frown of Providence

Here is an update we sent out to our prayer partners a few days ago. It explains our situation pretty well. We rejoice in our everlasting God who blankets us daily with His never ending care.

"Our God is definitely the God of all circumstances. There are times in our lives when we really just do not know what He is up to. In those times it is important to cling to the tri-fold truth that God is good, God is sovereign, and God is wise. Indeed His goodness, power , and wisdom are our sure anchors in all the storms of life.

I (David) write this in a prayer update because Katie and I feel as if we have just encountered one of those confounding times in which we were totally surprised.  The bottom line is that we will not be going to the field at this time. What!?!!?

I know, I know. We know, we know.  All of the inertia of the last year has led us to the point of serving with the International Mission Board as missionaries to Zambia. Indeed that is why you are receiving this email. You are our prayer partners for this mission endeavor. Many of you have given to us, prayed over us, and committed to partner with us in the work. The last time most of you heard from us it was at the beginning of our 8 week orientation in Rockville, VA. Now we are a few weeks from finishing that orientation and you are reading that we are NOT going to the field. Why?!!

Without taking up too much room in your inbox I will try to explain.  Ever since we have been at this orientation we have had to leave John David in day care every day.  This was very hard but we simply chalked the difficulty up to first time parents leaving a child for the first time in a pre-school environment.  After a few weeks had passed and John David was still not warming up to his peers at day-care his teachers raised concern. This concern sent us on a two week process of meeting with various medical professionals as we attempted to find out what this issue was.  

It has been determined that John David has a mild form of autism. At first we balked at such an assessment.  That was before we rightly understood how wide a spectrum the autism spectrum was. After talking with a few specialist, however, we concluded that this diagnosis is legitimate. 

What this means is that John David is going to need certain services that were not going to be available in our place of service in Zambia. That initial news flash was a blow to the gut. To hear, “you are probably not going to be able to go to Mporokoso” really knocked the wind out of us. The folks here at the IMB have been so gracious and accommodating to us. They tried to find other options for us but in the end it  was jointly determined that the best decision for us at this time, at least, would be to not go to the field right now.  It just did not seem wise, or kingdom profitable, to try and learn a new culture with little support structures as we try to simultaneously learn the “culture” of autism.

After much counsel and many tears the Lord has truly drawn near to us in this time. He has given us a peace about our decision and a grace to not only be okay with our situation but even be excited about what he has for our family. We think about those in the word who were faced with trying circumstances for reasons they could not understand. Paul told Philemon that “perhaps” his servant had left him so that their reunion would be sweeter. Mordecai told Esther that “who knows whether you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this.” Behind these and many other Scriptural statements is the firm belief that our God engineers all events that ever come about for His glory and our good!  It might be difficult to always see exactly how that works itself out, but it always does.

Sorry for the length of this. We just feel like you all, as our covenant prayer partners should know the scoop. We still covet your prayers as we seek what the Lord has for us in our next chapter. Nothing has changed in our hearts. Our prayer is still the same: “God, take the wet wood that we call the sacrifice of our lives, light it on fire with a passion to know You, and let all who are around us simply watch us burn for Your GLORY!!” All that has changed is geography. We love you all and look forward to keeping you posted. Thanks to all of those who have already responded in prayer to God and encouragement to us.


Knees to the earth,


David , Katie, and John David

Trust not the Lord with feeble sense

But trust Him for His grace.

Behind a frowning providence

There hides a smiling face."


Thursday, November 27, 2008


John David, 
You were a surprise to us, no doubt;
but I can't even try to figure out
what life would be like without you here.
I'd rather not. I'll spare the tears
and ponder instead, this Thanksgiving Day,
all the joy that you've brought our way.
There are tears as I think on this -
but hardly those of any sadness -
but rather these tears are tears of joy
that God gave us YOU as our little boy.
I would not trade you for all others in the world - 
I would not even trade you for a little girl!
I cannot even begin to describe
all of the joy that I feel inside
when you wake each morning and I come to you
and look into your eyes of blue 
and see the joy on your own face
as I pick you up to embrace
and kiss your warm, soft, precious cheek
and imagine how our day will be 
filled with new memories and fun. . . 
Oh, I count my blessings one by one!
And this I do on Thanksgiving Day,
though we are very far away 
from family and loved ones dear,
I give thanks that you and your daddy are near.
And as long as God wills us on this earth to be
I'll make it may aim to try to see
His hand of providence and grace 
as I intently seek His smiling face
in whatever circumstances come our way, 
I'll pray for grace to trust each day.
And in those that we now face,
God is pouring out his grace 
and is holding us in a place of rest
as we lean upon His providence.
John David, your Daddy and I want to be
good stewards of our little boy, you see,
for one day you will grow up tall 
and we desire for you to be all 
that God made you to be from the start.
We pray that He will capture your heart
and grow you into a godly man,
to fear His name and trust His hand.
So, as your parents, we are thankful
for all you are and all you'll be for
we know God has great plans in store.
We pray for grace to see each door
that His hand closes and those He opens wide; 
we pray that in His presence we will abide
and walk intimately with Him.
In His hands we place you once again
and ask Him to have His will
as we watch and wait and are still,
knowing that He is sovereign God
and wherever He wills, our feet will trod.  
We want to do what's best for you 
and trust God's hand to see us through
whatever our next steps may be,
we will watch expectantly,
knowing that God is in control - 
may we rejoice and His name extol. 
So on this Thanksgiving Day
we will thank God for His sufficient grace
and for giving us the gift of YOU
and the assurance that He will see you through
and make you into who He wants you to be
as He quiets our hearts, as He whispers "Trust Me." 

I'm so privileged to be YOUR mother.  I love you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Precious Moments in Quad #4

We are so very thankful for those whom we have been privileged to share our lives with these past 6 weeks.  What a joy it has been to truly feel like we have become a family.  Our lives converged so quickly, and just as quickly, so have our hearts.  Here are a few more pictures from the past week of fun in the quad.  

John David giving Uncle Truitt a "head butt" - his preferred way of showing male affection.                                         

John David and Evie - they love to play together. 

John David's friend Tyler (Evie's brother) - Tyler always knows how to make John David laugh. They definitely have a special bond! 

John David has discovered the little pleasure of a tri-sectioned can of holiday popcorn (Thank you, Uncle Truitt and Aunt Cindy!)  which he fondly refers to as "pop"! 

My boys in their matching shirts, having a great time together as usual!  Hearing them laugh and play is one of my favorite things in the world!

     John David: so precious. . . so grown-up.

Monday, November 10, 2008

For the sake of the grandparents :)

More pictures from the past weeks...

The other day I had my back turned, and John David 
grabbed this plum off of the table.  I had no idea that he
could reach it.  Before I knew it, he had taken a huge bite.  
I had to get a picture...more evidence of our ever-growing boy.  
He is getting so tall and is reaching new heights!

John David in the kitchen of our quad

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Our New Family

For the record, let me start by saying that David, John David and I feel that our families are completely irreplaceable! However, one of the joys of being a missionary with the IMB is that “aunt” and “uncle” are the titles you inherit when you are approved for service.  Our fellow missionaries are not replacements for our families,  just extensions.  For example, we have been so thankful for those with whom we have been sharing our quad.  The quads are set up with a large living room in the middle and four aparments attached to it, one off of each corner of the living room.   John David has fallen in love with our quad family.  Aunt Amy and Aunt Kelli are first-time aunts, and Uncle Truitt and Aunt Cindy…well, they do not have grandchildren yet; it as if they are first-time grandparents.  Within our quad, John David has inherited 2 new cousins, Tyler (age 10) and Evie (7), whom he adores!  Praise the Lord for this familial extention!

“So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brohers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecustions – and in the age to come, eternal life.’”  Mark 10:29-30

Uncle Truitt, John David and Aunt Cindy 

Enjoying God's Gift of a Beautiful Day

Sunshine and Dandelions

We have been enjoying some beautiful weather the past few days.   The cold temporarily left us and we are enjoying delightful weather with refreshing breezes, sunshine, and even short sleeves.  We were taking our time walking back to our “quad” yesterday, when an elderly man asked, “Where is your camera?”  He was right ~ a wonderful opportunity for some pictures!  I hurried to get the camera and met back up with the boys.  John David still loves the outdoors, and has recently discovered the joy of playing in the rocks, as well as picking dandelions.  We have a bed of rocks beside our quad, as well as rocks and dandelions along the sidewalks.  He stops as often as possible to pick up either of these new found favorites and often brings them to me.  He brought me a rock the other day, and I was reminded of my younger brother, Kameron.  My mother still has a container filled with rocks that Kameron brought to her as a young boy…rocks instead of flowers.  My heart melted at the first rock that I received.  However, it wasn’t long until John David did start bringing me dandelions.  He brought me a bouquet of them last night.  Greatly denying my sentimental desires, I knew that keeping this most thoughtful bouquet would not aid in the decluttering of our lives.  Therefore, I decided to take a picture so that I would never forget this precious gesture of my little boy.  Thank you, John David.

The Importance of Your Prayers

Things are going well for us at our orientation in Virginia.  Thank you all for your prayers on our behalf.   We are so grateful for faithful intercessors and can clearly see God’s ever faithful, kind, sovereign hand at work in our family.  Please do not cease praying for us.  The Lord is doing a number of things in our hearts and lives to prepare us for what He has in store for our family overseas.  I am learning more and more about the importance of daily, intense and specific intercession on behalf of others, especially those who are taking the Gospel to people who have never heard, where our enemy does not want The Truth to go.  We know that we face great opposition, but our God is infinitely Greater.  Of course our family is not “taking God” to the Bemba people; God is already at work there, as He is all over the world.  The nations belong to Him.  We just pray the He will allow our hearts to burn with the same passion as His…to see all nations worship before Him.  We are so grateful to be able to be a small part of what God is already doing in Zambia.  We are also so thankful to have you play such a special role in what He is doing in our lives and in the lives of the those whom we will be serving.