On being forged into a warrior mom

If I could summarize our journey from Hell to HOPEISM, it would be in my faith, which I call HOPEISM. It has been my weapon of choice to get me through each battle I have had to fight in my mission to win our war called life with autism and seizures. Vaccine injury to be more specific. It would also be in committing to heart, soul, & mind the words and motto's from Forged, NDCQ, the Lone Survivor, and Levi Lusko in his book, "Through the Eyes of a Lion." I will be forever grateful to the inspiration, encouragement, and mental fortitude found through all of them collectively. Because of that, I am not allowing this tragedy of vaccine injury that has come into our lives to be an obstacle to being used by God. I am instead turning it into an opportunity to be used like never before!

This blog is dedicated to Brandon. His life has been forged by difficulty, obstacles, & all too often because of seizures - pain, blood, broken teeth, & broken bones. Yet through all that he has shown such fortitude. The bravery, strength, & resilience of a true warrior. He taught me that having strength through adversity means that even if you lose every battle, like the Lone Survivor, you never quit fighting until you win the war. That in the words of "NDCQ," you keep "dreaming," keep "daring," & keep "doing." As Team Guppy has yet to be able to escape vaccine injury, we have no choice but to as Levi Lusko writes, "Run toward the Roar." God has indeed given us such incredible power in enduring such impossible pain.

Some days the HOPEISM in that simply takes my breath away.

February 8, 2010

Joshua Hooker, this Superbowl Victory is for you.....

Diary of an Astrodome Volunteer


This was published in September 2005....

I dedicate it now to Joshua Hooker in honor of the New Orleans Saints winning the Superbowl.

Joshua's mom never called me when she arrived at wherever her final destination was, but nevertheless, I have prayed almost daily for her and Joshua. I can only hope with tears in my eyes that both of you have since had a superbowl-sized victory in your own lives as well...

I hope that, and will continue to pray that as long as I live.


It was Sunday.

I went there with one mission that was two-fold; to pass out Bibles that another volunteer said were needed, and to find children with disabilities. I knew how I could help families of children who have disabilities, because I had a child with autism and could only imagine how much harder it would be trying to care for such a child in a shelter; especially families of children with autism spectrum disorders and the significant sensory issues that go with that. I wanted to find those families, and help them. I needed to know that if my son and I were in a shelter so far from home, that someone would come looking for us….

The 10 minute orientation for the volunteers did little to prepare us for what would be experienced over the next 8 hours.

When I made the trek from the volunteer center to the “community”, I didn’t quite know what to expect. From what I’d seen on the news about the Superdome, I prepared myself for panic and chaos. I pictured people scurrying around in fear. But what I saw was calmness. Jesus on the boat holding up his arms to calm the waves and quiet the worried disciples.

There were post-it notes of sisters separated from brothers, husbands looking for their wives. People walking by scanning through the names on the board – hoping to see one they knew. With hardly any communication, actually no communication, all one could simply do was watch the signs as hopeful people paced the rows of cots advertising who they were looking for. Instead of being ungrateful that more was not being done, they were simply thankful. Thankful to be out of the sweltering hell they called the Superdome, with the stench so great they would rather take their chances sleeping outside on cement, than inside on a cot. Seeing all those lists of missing friends, family members, relatives; made me think of those who I loved and whether their name would be on the list of eternal life that God would one day search through. I vowed to be a better Christian witness to them.

It wasn’t so much a question of where to volunteer, as much as it was a question of where not to volunteer. The needs were so great. The volunteers and help they could provide were so few in comparison. I wanted to go where I would truly make the most difference and feel worthy. Much to my surprise, that turned out to be picking up garbage in the hallways, bathroom, and eating area. In the bathroom I saw weary mothers giving their babies baths in the filthy sink with no soap. I closed my eyes and saw Jesus washing his disciples dirty feet; and knew that the job I was doing was worthy indeed.

The only thing identifying me as a volunteer and not a “guest”, was the peach wristband given to me at training. We were also told that as volunteers we could eat upstairs away from everything – and everyone. But no one I saw did that. There was no need for barriers. There were no walls of division, race, rank, or status. It was simply people among people. The VIP’s carrying boxes of supplies, the janitorial crew being served by community leaders. God’s children among God’s children. Very much living, I saw how heaven would be.

I took a break and sat at a table where one woman was sharing her experiences of waiting out the hurricane in the Superdome as the roof was ripped off and the rain came pounding in. She’d witnessed the craze of those taking advantage of others. She stood in lines where the military had rifles pointed ready to shoot anyone who got unruly. When she asked what would happen to them, they simply stared forward and said nothing. “How could our own people turn against us?” she said in anguish. “We were treated like we were less than human,” she recalled as those in charge would completely stop the food distribution for everyone, when a handful of people got out of control. “Just not knowing” was the hardest. There was no communication. No T.V. She knew buses would be coming. But she didn’t know when. Nor really where to go. So every morning her family would wake up at 4am and stand in a line, and wait. 6pm came, and after she had watched dozens pass out from heat and exhaustion, her family finally gave up, only to do it all over again the next day. Finally they were transported and she knows she was one of the lucky ones because she ended up in Houston, only missing one sister out of 4. There was more she wanted to share, but she just couldn’t. All she could say was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, – thank you for making us feel human again.” Thank you for showing us love. I asked if I could hug her and give her a Bible, and while doing so pictured the Biblical scenes where Jesus embraced those whom no one else would.

After listening to that woman sharing her story, I was more determined than ever to find who I had set out to look for and help.

But it was time for the clothes and supply distribution lines to open. And I was asked to help. My job – to get people what they needed. It was here that I learned the true meaning of what a “Food and Clothing Drive” should be. Often when I would participate in those efforts – I gave what I didn’t need, or didn’t want – and thought I would be doing someone a great service. Here, today, I experienced being a recipient of my past generosity. And what a realization that was. Digging through piles and piles of people’s old and discarded outdated clothes showed me how truly selfish I had been. How could these people who have no homes, no money, and no clothes, ever hope to go out and rebuild their lives wearing mismatched outfits, purple sequined stained shirts, and no socks or underwear? I know some would say they should be thankful for what they have. And trust me, they were. They would have gladly taken used underwear – if there were any. From now on I will give – only what I would want to wear. I will give gifts worthy of a carpenter turned King.

Finally having a chance to go in the main shelter where all the people were gathered, I was anxious to look for families of children with disabilities. Keenly aware that I was invading the privacy that no one really had - I walked up and down the neatly lined rows of cots and mingled with the men and women sitting there. Those who I shared a brief “hello” with – I gave a Bible. They were thankful to have something to read to pass the time waiting….for what though, they didn’t know. They now had no homes, no jobs, and many, no hope.

One elderly woman lying all alone seemed like she needed a friend.
“Do you mind if I stay and talk with you?” I asked as I handed her a Bible.
“Sure, -- if you like.” She was fine. But with the wisdom of her years, she knew I was saying that more for me than for her. We both knew I couldn’t offer her anything she really wanted, which was to be in her own home and in her own bed. I pictured the little drummer boy who had nothing to offer the king – except himself. And that is what I gave her for the next 10 minutes.

On to the next row where a woman was sitting on her cot. “What can I get you?” I cheerily asked. This was one of the many times I wished I had a delete button to hit before the words actually came out of my mouth. But too late. The look in her eyes in response was about as empty as the box of possessions beside her. I don’t know how else I could have asked that, but hearing myself seemed so lame in light of what brought her here. Here was a woman who deserved the most expensive bottle of perfume poured on her feet. Instead, I gave her socks, quietly left a Bible beside her cot, and moved on.

Out in the hallway where the children played was where I got the first sense of normalcy. Five or six little boys had found a football and were on either end of the hallway – playing catch and trying to see if they could hit the ceiling light fixture. Typical. At least for some, life seemed unchanged.

Back in the food area though – life was changing. I stopped and listened as a mother has her middle school age children sitting around the table – lecturing them on how to make the right choices by staying in school and getting good grades, and not getting pregnant until married, and going to college to earn a degree to get a career – so they would never have to find themselves in the position she was in. No husband, no education, no job, and no home. A mother facing the reality of the importance of training up her children in the way they should go. And her children seeing the results of what could happen if they don’t listen.

There were many young mothers holding babies and toddlers all day long because they could not bring their strollers or didn’t have time to get them. I asked mom after mom if they would like me to hold their baby while they ate. None would allow me. For them I think, their babies were the only things they had left in this world, their only true possession, and they would not part with them for anything. I felt instantly warmed by God’s arms wrapped tightly, possessively, around me. Not ever wanting to let me go either.

The bright spot to me were the pregnant mothers. I met a mom who was very, very, pregnant, and wondered how many baby girl Katrina’s there would be….reminders of how even in the midst of destruction and despair, God brings new life, new hope, new rainbows….

My Bibles were gone, but I went back in the main area where the cots were one more time. I still had not found who I was looking for. It was getting late in the day and my main mission was not yet accomplished. With my own son’s picture in my mind, I didn’t want to go home without finding who I came to look for. I didn’t know his name, but I knew I would know him when I found him.

And there he was. Rocking back and forth, with his mom holding his hands. I went up to her and asked just to confirm what I knew was true. “Yes, he does have autism,” she says.
“Do you need anything? Anything at all?”
“No,” she responds.
“Do you have a place to go?”
“Yes, - we will be leaving shortly”.
We exchanged names and I gave her my number so that if it doesn’t work out – she can call me. I stayed for a while and talked. I could not make myself leave. Joshua was his name. And he was doing fine as long as his mom was there holding him. I guess that would be one benefit of being in your own world and not understanding what is going on around you. As I finally got up to leave, I asked, “Will you call me when you get to where you are going?” I wanted to make sure they were ok. She smiled, nodded, and said, “I will.”

I sighed in relief, grateful that there is a shepherd who won’t rest until every lost sheep is found and brought safely home.

Home. That sounded good. With Bible’s gone, the lost boy found, I was ready for home. But it was dinner time and I went by the food area and asked if they needed volunteers to serve in the food line. By this time I was mentally exhausted from trying to process all that I had taken in from the day. The toll of seeing how devastating this ordeal must be for the people, mixed with the excitement of having found Joshua and his mom. I found myself obsessed with trying to put the shredded beef neatly in the middle of the bun so as to not make a mess. I thought that a “perfect sandwich” would somehow cancel out the imperfect conditions our guests must endure until they get their lives back in order. But it is to no avail. With so many to feed, neatness is mission impossible! The line leader shouted, “I need more sandwiches!” The people didn’t care about neat sandwiches anyway. Most were thankful to just have a hot meal in an air-conditioned building with chairs to sit on. They gladly took the plates, smiled, and said “Thank You.” I made a mental note to be as thankful myself when I got back home.

Finally home, I sat down and put my feet up. They hurt, but not nearly as bad as my heart. I wondered as I fell asleep that night how much more Jesus’ feet hurt as he carried the cross that day. How much more did his heart hurt for the entire world? Would he do it again?

As bad as life seems sometimes, and as little hope as we something think there is for humanity – it is times like that day in the shelter that you see that people do care and that there is hope. Sure there were those who complained that I couldn’t find them a brown bag instead of the black one – or the tennis shoes instead of dress shoes. There were those who weren’t happy with shredded beef on a bun no matter how neatly it was made. But overall --- I saw people. Not evacuee’s, not refugee’s, and not even the victims of an event. It didn’t even matter what denomination they were or even if they believed in God or not. I just saw people in need of help from other people. I saw unselfishness and servanthood at its best. I saw what community is all about. I saw what being an American is all about. I saw people doing for other people exactly what Jesus would do for them; and to me, that is what Christianity should be all about.

I wake up the next morning sensing the answer to the last question that I went to bed with the night before.

“Yes,” Jesus answers, “I would…...”

And I make room in my schedule to volunteer as long as it is needed….


Instead of just warming a pew and hearing a sermon, – on that day,
I experienced one.

“Hope rebuilds what the world washes away”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
By Michelle M. Guppy
Written and published in September 2005

About the author:

Michelle Guppy loves to write inspirational stories, devotionals, and poems who has been published in several books and magazines related to Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is currently writing articles for Special Education Today – a magazine published by LifeWay, Inc.

Michelle is married to Todd, and together they have 2 children: Matthew, 13; and Brandon, 11. Brandon is non-verbal and has Autism.

February 2, 2010

Where dusk meets dawn.....

It's the middle of the night and I'm wide awake.

Finding myself joking about how God couldn't have given me two more opposite children if we wanted to. We're talking as far as the east is from the west.

Not two hours ago I was in the kitchen at 11pm as one came home from Firefighter cadet training listening to his stories of what he learned.

Not three hours ago I was listening to the sweet silence of the other as I tucked him in and made sure he was warm.

My boys...

One can't talk, the other can't be quiet!

Both beautiful in their own special way, both serving a different purpose in my life.

With one, my job is to further talent; with the other, to uncover potential.

If I were to have to choose which one more valuable, I couldn't.

It's hard enough just trying to balance the two.
To emotionally come to grips with how much one easily accomplishes daily, with how much the other struggles to overcome daily.

I often find myself asking God what I'm asking him right now in the middle of the night....


Where is that place of understanding from which I can draw strength from?
Wisdom from?

Where is that place where one child's endless ability to answer questions meet with the questions I seek answers for in the other child?

Where is that place where my days stress, failures, obstacles, and fears, -- fade into the stillness and perfectness of a clean unspoiled new moment that is neither past nor present?

That place where there is no more tiredness of the day before, and no tiring thoughts of the day to come.

It is here in my thoughts where God answers.

Saying to just thank him at the end of the day for the whirlwind of one son.

Saying to just not worry about how I will help the other one tomorrow.

Saying to just live right here, right now, in this moment that can be any moment of every day.

Saying to feel its peace it embraces me.

In this moment.

This midnight hour.

Where dusk meets dawn.

Where there is neither past nor present.

Where there is simply, - now.

Where God's comfort and calmness resides.

Where God's mercy awaits.

And where hope begins.


~ ~ ~

Written by Michelle M. Guppy
February 2, 2010
...as penned from my midnight prayer to God

The many shades of love...

(poem A Different Kind of Valentine is posted on this site as well)

I’m not sure why I found myself thinking about this, but I was recently pondering what holiday or celebration is the hardest for me as the mother of a child with autism.

My son does not understand the concept of “Holiday’s”. Too many unfamiliar people crowding his space and talking to him at once at Thanksgiving is hard for him to handle. Christmas time is nothing more than a multi-sensory overload…. The sights, sounds, smells, are too much for his system to bear. I chuckle at the memories of our first trip to the mall to have my son’s picture taken with Santa. I’m not sure who was more traumatized – Santa or my child! Hunting eggs at Easter has proven to be about as fruitful. Flying eggs describes it well though. Instead of picking up the Easter eggs and putting them in the basket, my son prefers to throw them. In his orderly, consistent world, Easter eggs don’t belong in the house or yard. Brandon tolerates his annual Birthday party we throw, only because it’s the only time we let him sorta cheat on his special diet, and he happens to like Mickey Mouse balloons.

So even though those traditional holidays and celebrations may seem like anything but a holiday and celebration – we are blessed. Because of our son, we have learned to truly appreciate the deeper meaning of those holidays and celebrations – and for that we are eternally grateful. At Thanksgiving, Brandon has taught us to focus on being truly thankful for our many blessings, despite the occasional hardships. At Christmas, we focus on Christ and on being together, and not the other stuff that distracts us from the true meaning. Brandon has shown us that the truly perfect gift is not going to be found at that mall.

Brandon has taught us to truly understand the powerful miracle of God’s love and healing. Brandon’s life has given us a sense of peace in knowing that God created our son to be just who he is.

But, I am human, and on that particular day when I was reflecting the difference in how our family views holidays versus other families, I came to the conclusion that Valentine’s Day was the hardest for me.

But not for the reason you would think. Sure I would love to get a handmade card or half eaten box of candy from my son, but it is much harder to think that there are people who take for granted the “love” in Valentine’s Day – that is truly the hardest. If Brandon has taught us anything in life, it is Love.

Pure, total, unconditional love. And that God is love.

I can handle not having the same “joy” in holidays and celebrations like parents of typical children do – but I don’t think I could handle not having found the “Love” I have found because of my son. The kind of love that overshadows any sadness on holidays or celebrations that my son does not understand. For me, Valentine’s Day represents an occasion to reflect on the blessings of having a child with a disability, and all the people in my life that make the journey more bearable, and all the “things” that matter in life that Brandon does “get”.

Valentine’s Day also reminds me of just how much Brandon has taught me about God and Love. I see people buying cards, buying gifts, and going out to romantic dinners to express love, and those things are fine to do; but I always wonder inside if they truly know WHAT love is. Pure, total, unconditional love. God kind of love. The kind of committed love that vows to stay together as a team to care for a child with a disability. The unwavering kind of love that a father or mother has for their child that sees them through the longest, darkest, loneliest tunnels. The kind of determined love a mom has in not accepting a doctor’s grim prognosis for their child – but to instead fight with everything she’s got to see her child through. The kind of confident love that parents rely on that God will deliver their child from illness. The faithful kind of love that parents impart to their child during the difficult and challenging times, when the child is wondering if they will survive. And finally, the enduring kind of love that only parents of children who have gone on to heaven truly know.

That is what is sad for me – that some people can go through their entire lives not understanding that kind of love. That people think of love in terms of something bought, wrapped, and presented, for a special occasion. When life gets tough, it is that kind of love that carries me through each moment of the day. It’s that kind of love that draws me closer to the One who IS Love. The kind of love depicted in Ephesians 3:17: “....and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

We were created to seek that kind of love. Some people find it. Some people don’t. For years, I didn’t. Then one day God blessed me with my son who has a disability, and I have known it ever since.


Dear Lord I thank you that each child you create is an image of your pure, total, unconditional love for us. I thank you for the child you sent our family, for him to be that mirror through which we see and know the true meaning of that love. We thank you for the different kinds of love we have known in our journey that have drawn us closer to your meaning of love, and away from the world’s meaning of love. We know there are difficult times we will face, but because of your love for us, we know we will prevail.
Thank you for sending your son, thank you for my son, and thank you for your love.


Written by Michelle M. Guppy

February 1, 2010

The Belated Valentine Blessing

On Valentine's Day, thanks to the volunteers in our church - and to Tonya, the Respite Coordinator for the Disability Ministry, -- my husband and I were able to go out to dinner on Valentine's Day!

Yes, write that down in the blank date book for us as a married couple.... probably the first time in years we've actually been able to go out like "normal" people do on Valentine's Day...

But as nice as that was, I wouldn't say it demonstrated to me what Valentine's Day is supposed to be at all...

In my "work" as a self-proclaimed "autism operator" - I get alot of e-mails from alot of people. Many hate Valentine's Day... they've lost a loved one, they are single, been hurt, etc. I read those e-mails and I can't help but think they have it so wrong....

Valentine's Day is not about a card, a rose, candy, or a gift.

It's not even about smudgy hearts painted by sweet children to their mommy, or a special dinner with your sweetie....

It's not about the love that once was, but is no more. It's not about love longing to be found.

It's about the love that IS always, and about the only kind of love that never leaves you longing....

God's unconditional love.

Before I had Brandon - and autism.... I didn't know that difference.

But now I do....

I see it in the good, the bad, and even the ugly - of autism.

It is about being able to rejoice in the good...no, about shouting Hallelujah for the great! It's about knowing that Jesus suffered worse, when everything about autism seems bad... and it's about God's unconditional love that gives hope despite all the ugliness the press, the paid-off physicians, or the pharmaceutical psycho's in the world can bring...

Valentine's Day to me is about celebrating all those things about God's unconditional love that my son brings out!

That unconditional love that wakes us up every morning and motivates us to march on!

It's that unconditional love that's somehow ingrained in us to not quit despite perhaps not seeing immediate results, let alone the fiinish line.

That unconditional love that tells us that autism never quits or gives up, so neither should we! And that somehow sustains us so we can go on and not ever, ever quit, despite how heavy the cross on that journey sometimes becomes...

That unconditional love that is from out of this world, because no worldly love could ever compete. People fail, not love. Relationships get broken, but not love. Dinner and a date-night lasts momentarily, but unconditional love lasts forever. Flowers die, but unconditional love never will.

When as a mom I can give my son more love than I could have ever imagined deserving myself, and not been heartbroken because that love is not returned by voice or deed or gift, --- that is when you know what unconditional love truly is.

When you can think for a whole day like I did - on what love really is and then always come back to that answer in a child that by worldly standards is not love because he can't communicate it or show it, - let alone comprehend what it is ---- then; - you know what love is.

That is when you know you've found God's unconditional love, and not the world's commercial love.

And how can you not rejoice in that kind of love - on a day about love?

The kind of love that is so alien to all we are taught about love.

We are taught that popularity, money, status, gifts, perfection, - is love.

But yet I've been around all those things and have never felt loved.

We're even unknowingly taught that if you don't have a Valentine, or didn't get a dozen roses; you must not be loved....

I've even recently joined Facebook and fell victim to thinking that the more 'friends' I had, the more love I had!

That lie is the only thing to feel sad about on Valentine's Day...

The belated Valentine blessing...

The only times I've ever felt true unconditional love, God's kind of unconditional love, is when I've been with my son and his friends at the disability ministry of our church. And not because I was better than them... but rather because when I'm with them, I feel accepted. I can sing with them because they don't care if I can't carry a tune. They don't care that I've worn the same jeans to church for the last year. They don't care if I've failied, been fired, or have freckles. None of those things matter to them!

Oh - what a world of love we would all live in if we all understood that simple concept that society's "least of these" shame the most intelligent of us with!

Sunday at church, the sermon was closed by the JOY Disciples class (adults with disabilities from area group homes) singing Amazing Grace.

A congregation of "normal" people anxious to get home or to Luby's for lunch - were asked to hang around longer so the JOY Disciples could come in and sing...

That - was love in the flesh if love were to have flesh as Jesus did while on earth.

The individual imperfection - collectively perfect.

So many times we "perfect" ones limit what we can do and we have no barriers to overcome to even do it... but yet we make our excuses.... and what's worse, we believe them....

But here, Sunday morning were 40 some adults with disabilities - pledging to win a million hearts for Christ. A woman with Down's Syndrome was leading them in sign language. There were those in wheelchairs, those who couldn't see, those who couldn't do many things...

But they did the one thing they can all do perfectly...


You could hear it in the passion in their voice, and you could see it in the sparkle that burst through their souls.

Unconditional love.

Truly, the only kind of love behind that amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.

It's not surprising that for me, it took my son with autism to teach me about what God's unconditional love is. How you could love someone so deeply and so purely, getting so little in return, and not ever feel burdened or tired of giving it!

We are God's autism.

He loves us do deeply and so unconditionally, and yet we don't even realize it - and many just push that love away like my son does to me sometimes, ok many times, when I come at his sweet cheek with puckered lips.

But, I guess it shouldn't be that surprising because it wouldn't be the first time God used a child, or the least of these, to show the world what love is ......

Thank you God.... for Brandon....

A Different Kind of Valentine...

A different kind of Valentine

On Valentine’s Day many will be given a card that reflects the words that are sometimes hard to say; or a gift, some unique little item, - to express that they are loved on that one special day…

But only few truly understand what love means, in the purest simplest way,
Where no words are ever needed, what no gift could ever convey…

Those are the parents, who have a child like mine, someone who has a disability, - who has shown them a different kind of valentine…

The kind that is innocent, and doesn’t know deceit. The kind that doesn’t understand betrayal, and whose purity of character can not be beat.

The kind who live in this moment, the today and not yesterday. They hold over no grudges, they never wish for more time in the day…

The kind who laugh only when happy, and not to please or because they’re shy. Who only cry when they are hurt or scared, and can not explain to you why…

The kind that gives you new depth, a perspective unlike any before. Who mold you and shape you, - inspiring within you perserverance, to do more and more…

The kind who teach that love is not in what you can do or what you can say. But rather a willing commitment that is renewed unconditionally each and every day.

The kind that teach you that the best things in life aren’t really the things – but rather the joy and the happiness, that each hard fought victory brings…

I am so very grateful, as I look at this sweet child of mine, that a more pure form of love, I never will find…than in what I have beside me, each and every day --- than in my very different Valentine… who I know loves me in his own silent way…

c. Michelle M. Guppy, MichelleMGuppy@yahoo.com:
A Valentine’s Day card for parents who have children with disabilities…

A Valentine's Day Devotional

A Valentine's Day
Devotional Message from Michelle.....

For someone who doesn't like to cook - I have found myself lately watching a cooking show that comes on Saturday night. Todd is usually at the church with his prayer group, Brandon is in bed, and Matt is usually doing a school project on his computer while tying to be the next Bill Gates of power point presentations. And me, it's just me, the dog, and Iron Chef America. Each week a top chef challenges other top chef's in the nation for the title of "Iron Chef America." He, and whoever he challenges, - has one hour to make a 5 course or more meal. And these aren't your everyday meals. On one show the chef used liquid nitrogen, a drill, edible photo copy paper with the chef's picture on it, and cooking utensils that looked like they belonged in the space shuttle and not the kitchen!

The names of the dishes they make, I can't pronounce. The food they cook - I can't recognize. One hour to do that! One hour! It takes me one hour just to fix Brandon's dinner - and longer than that to even find a way to make "Sweet and Sour Chicken" taste like Sweet & Sour Chicken - without the "sweet" or "sour" parts due to his restricted diet!

Apparantely the element of surprise on the show is that for whatever meal they have planned ahead to cook - the host of the show brings out a "secret ingredient" that has to be included in their preparations - in both the savory (filling/main course) and sweet (dessert) dishes. It makes for a ridiculously over-dramatic one-hour cook-off where the host hypes up, "What will they do with that secret ingredient?" Will it make their fondue falter? Will it cause the crepe to collapse?

Who cares!?!

To me, a real Iron Chef is a mom who can make Papa John's pizza taste like Papa John's pizza to my child with the special diet, without using gluten (wheat/flour) or casein (milk/cheese)....

(And I'd like to meet her....hire her actually...)


The secret ingredient for this week's show was chocolate - in honor of Valentine's Day.

To me, chocolate is chocolate. But apparantely to those who have the time or inclination to care about such things - and especially to those on that show - chocolate is much more technical and complicated than that.

Before the show, I only knew of two kinds of chocolate: Hershey's and Nestles. But, I was duly enlightened that night. There's bittersweet chocolate that apparantely by the look on the host's face after he took a bite - is rather bitter. There's dark chocolate and then there's white chocolate, which has no chocolate in it at all, which begs the questions, "So why call it chocolate?" and "If it's not chocolate, what's it doing as a secret ingredient that's supposed to be chocolate?" And then there's semi-sweet chocolate and the exact ratios of cream and sugar and cocoa butter that need to be in place for it to even earn the name of chocolate......

(So, if semi-sweet chocolate the kind we all know and love - then is there such a thing as sweet chocolate? Is that something so delectable that we can only get it in heaven?)

The host went on and on about chocolate and how challenging it would be to use chocolate in the main dishes - how complicated and tricky that would be. Hello? Chocolate IS a main dish! Just unwrap the candy bar and slap it on the plate - and bon appetite'!

But something the host said about chocolate really impressed on me to write this and share it with you.

He said, "Life is like eating chocolate - you have to taste the bitter in order to more fully appreciate the sweet."

Being humbled by the profound statement from a goofy guy on a cable food show - I had to really stop and think about that.

Isn't that just so appropriate in light of the many challenges we or our children who have disabilities - have to face? Some situations are just plain bitter! Yuk! Bleck! Much like the look on the host's face after biting into that piece of bittersweet chocolate.

But until we have tasted the bitter-ness of any kind of situation or defeat - we can never fully appreciate just how sweet victory is.

For us, we've had to choke down our share of one pound bittersweet chocolate bars... But in looking back, even the tiniest "chocolate chip" of victory made those challenges worthwhile. Those itty bitty chocolate chip miracles meant so much more to us in light of the bitterness of what we've gone through.

When things don't go as planned - when life throws those secret ingredients at us that are so not a part of the menu we planned -- we need to not panic! We need to turn to our Heavenly Host and fight back with our own secret weapon - God, and His word, His faithfulness, and his everlasting love for us.

When those bitter secret ingredients that we didn't expect or plan for happen, - will you let them cause your faith to falter? Will you let them pelter your prayer life because you're wondering, "What's the purpose?" Will you lose your love for the Lord because of what you're going through?

I hope not.

And I hope that on this Valentine's Day - you reflect simply on God's Love for YOU. And those chocolate chip miracles he HAS done for you and WILL do for you - out of his everlasting LOVE for you!

On Valentine's Day, it shouldn't matter if you don't have the perfect spouse, child, romantic dinner, or roses...

What should matter - is that you truly know and are saved by God's perfect and everlasting love for you.

If you do know that - celebrate that this Valentine's Day!

Whether you're eating chocolates at home this Valentine's Day - or having chocolate mousse for dessert at a restaurant, ponder Psalm 34:8, and....

"Taste... and see that the Lord is good."

And loving,

and faithful,

and savory,

and sweet.

Happy Valentines Day
Michelle M. Guppy