Saturday, 28 June 2014

Faithful follower?

Dear God,

I think we have a problem. You, I know, are faithful. You love me. You promised to take care of me. You I know.

It's these people who claim to represent you..

I don't like church. I haven't liked going for a very long time, and it's mostly out of habit, and a desire for my children to be around safe people and other children that I go. Though I'm beginning to wonder about that "safe people" thing, given the stories lately. But this thing called church, this so-called community of believers, God.. isn't very much like you.

I have seen more love, more mercy, more acceptance from those who wouldn't have known an altar from a table, who know more rap music than hymns, who sleep in Sunday mornings.. than those who fill the auditorium every week without fail. I have been given more support from outside the church than in it -- far more.

I don't like church, God. It seems so fake, so phony. It's a concert put on to show off, than worship to invite You to show up. It seems designed to pat the good little boys and girls, who never step wrong, on the back, and to burden the rest of us with more rules and platitudes than the old rabbis ever imagined. Grace and mercy seem to be reserved for the spectacular few, while curses and condemnation spread thick over the people already struggling.

I can read just fine. And when I read what You inspired, I am awed and humbled. The overwhelming display of love that is written for the world to see makes me catch my breath every time I read it. But I don't think I read the same version that those in church do, God. Because when they tell me about You, I can't find You in Your book. The god they describe is capricious and mean, demanding and angry. The God I find in the pages filled with Your words is unchangingly merciful, full of care and kindness, patient to the point of death and beyond. How can I explain the difference?

It seems there are only two kinds of so-called Christians, God, and I don't fit in with either. Those who talk about Your holiness and law condemn me and burden me with stipulations and details, from what I wear, to where I go, to the holidays I celebrate and even the food I eat. They blame me and You for every negative circumstance, claiming that I deserved the injustices and the abuses, and that You are causing them so you can be humbling me and molding me through it. Except that when I read Your description of Yourself, I read,

"There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus."
"Come to me, you weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
"Take my yoke, for it is easy and light."
"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever... they are new every morning."
"Your love endures forever."
"Nothing... can separate us from the love of God."
"God does not tempt man with evil."
"Your faithfulness reaches to the mountains."
"Come let us reason together.. though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow."

This is not a God who is harsh and unforgiving. But the condemning church has no room for Your mercy.

Those who proclaim Your grace and mercy also condemn me, for not instantly trusting other so-called Christians who have hurt me, equating trust with forgiveness; for expecting actions to follow the words of repentance, claiming that I am not trusting God; for asking them to hold someone accountable, to confront sin, because to them, there is no more sin. It's all "under the blood." According to them, pointing out sin is not love.  But when I read Your instructions, I see,

"If a brother has offended you, go to him and point out his offense. If he does not repent, take a witness. And if he still does not repent, bring the elders. After that, put him out of the church."
"Have nothing to do with idolators, sexual immoral people, liars, malicious gossips."
"Separate yourselves and be holy, as your Father in heaven is holy."
"Submit yourselves one to another."
"If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

The call to holiness and accountability seems clear enough to me. But somehow, the condemning church has no room for Your righteousness.

What is a wannabe follower to do?

I'm not a perfect person, God. I fully recognize how far short I come of Your standard. Yet I also recognize that You fulfilled that standard for me, and in You, I am perfect. And becoming more perfect every day. But where can I go to find You.. with arms and feet and words of comfort and instruction? Where do I find Your love in physical form? Where is Your Church?

All I can find is the counterfeit.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Autism Awareness

Autism is one of those words that seems to strike fear into a parent's heart. It's like "cancer". An incurable disorder, that means a less-than normal life.. something every parent dreads.

It was first brought up at that first fateful meeting with a speech-language pathologist, two years earlier. Now going on 4, my daughter was making leaps and strides ahead in her development, but there were still niggling oddities in her behaviour.

Our appointment was set for May. It was in a city that was an hour's drive, so her father and I loaded up our baby and our daughter, and left our other two with his brother and sister-in-law. It was a gorgeous day, but I could hardly enjoy it. Honestly, I wasn't sure what would be worse -- to find out my daughter was autistic or to find out she wasn't.

I know that seems odd, but you have to understand. Finding out she was, in fact, autistic, while devastating, would at least give a reason, an answer to the questions of what was wrong, and why was she like this and why did she do this. It would allow us to move on to the coping and healing and fixing stage. Finding out she wasn't actually autistic, while relieving, would also leave me despairing of ever finding out "why" and then.. how do we fix this? How can you fix something or treat something when you don't know what the cause is?

It was time for the appointment. I took my babies into the building and met with the clinician. I was told that first they wanted to observe her for about half an hour, before coming in and doing more formal testing. So we were led to a well-appointed play room, and left alone.

30 minutes isn't really a long time, but when you're anxious, it seems to go on forever. My daughter puttered around, chattering to me about this and that, while I nursed my infant daughter, and when she was done, I got down and played with my older child. When the clinician finally came into the room, she played with Z, asking her a few questions, talking for some time with me and then left again to consult with the doctor.

In total, it was about 2 hours that we were there. At the end, the doctor and clinician returned. They sat down and their report was.. No. It seemed unlikely that my daughter was autistic. They explained that while she actually did, indeed, have many characteristics that were typical of autistic children, autism was considered primarily a social-behavioural disorder, and my child's social skills were simply too advanced to say that she was autistic. I was both relieved and alarmed by their report.

I was relieved to know that my daughter's problems were not autism-related. However.. the fact that she had many autistic tendencies was scary. I was also left feeling lost. Where do I look now for the answers I wanted.. that I needed?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Learning more

We had moved into a new house, one with a large yard, because 4 children do not fit well into a 2-bedroom apartment. In moving, we had crossed county lines, so I gathered up all my documentation, and started making phone calls.

The first place I called, I found in the phone book. It seemed that this county had a self-referral speech therapy program called SmallTalk. I called the number and spoke with the SLP, explaining what was going on with my daughter. I also explained that transportation was difficult now (as I had moved out of the city and did not drive), so what I was looking for was self-education. Teach me to teach her.

I met with the SLP and watched as she did some assessment and therapy with my daughter. At the end of the half-hour session, she explained what she had been doing, and gave me some things to do to work on specific issues with my daughter. This turned into a regular pattern. We met with the therapist once every 3-4 months, for a mini-assessment and to get new instructions. I adapted them at home, and since I was already homeschooling one child, I simply created my own program for this child.

I began seeing advancements right away. Within 3 months I had been able to help her gain basic communication skills. She was able to tell me her needs and wants, and finally, finally the screaming sessions slowed, and eventually stopped.  I was able to help her learn to self-regulate, and her social skills began to improve.. and a little social butterfly emerged. She began to attend Sunday School at our church -- and it was a wonderful experience that she really enjoyed! I was able to get babysitting for her, finally, and take a much needed break.

From SmallTalk, I was given a number for a self-referral occupational therapist. I called and found out to my delight that the therapist was willing to come to my home! We set up an appointment and again I asked to be taught so I could teach my daughter. The therapist worked with me and my daughter, even giving me books and games to use in helping her develop her skills. She came about once a month to check on us and give instructions. I added in her therapy to our already existing program, and again, saw immediate results.

Within weeks, I saw this child begin to dress herself, and gain independence. She started loving to color and draw, and it was amazing to see her personality come out. I learned to take advantage of her love of color and "pretty" things to help with basic hygiene tasks, like washing her hair or clipping her toenails. What had been a two-hour screaming torture to clip nails, turned into 15 minutes with the promise of sparkly nail polish. What used to leave both of us in tears to brush her hair, became a morning ritual that required me to not only comb her hair but now put it up in pony tails with barrettes or some of the dollar-store crowns, so she could be a "princess". The promise of new earrings made washing her face a breeze.

From the OT, I learned of Family Services. This innocuous sounding name hid a gem of a service. I received a dedicated case worker who helped me apply for some financial support through a disability certificate, and access to some other services. I needed a new pediatrician, and she was able to recommend and even refer us. She was also able to help us learn about and get into a specialized screening for Autism.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Day care Drama

The next spring, I met with another social worker, in my home. They were trying to connect us to therapeutic services for my daughter, and it seemed the fastest way was to put her into a daycare, where a speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist would be able to see her twice a week. Even though I was a stay at home parent, with a toddler and newly pregnant, I reluctantly agreed.

We chose a preschool/daycare that provided an educational-based play that was a 20 minute bus ride from my home. I interviewed the daycare, and took a tour, and explained my situation. She wasn't going because I needed child care, she was going because she needed services and this seemed to be the only way I could get those services for her. I didn't want her there longer than I had to put her there, and she was only going twice a week.

It was a disaster from start to finish. When she was there, she refused to cooperate with either the teachers or the therapists. She would wander the room, circling, never stopping, for hours. She wouldn't eat there -- they were supposed to give her snack. She wouldn't let them change her without screaming, and she definitely didn't want to use the toilet like they were trying to show her. I would pick her up and she would be starving, usually distraught and exhausted. She would sleep all the way back home, and then would cling to me the rest of the day. And at night, it was worse! She would wake up 4-5 times a night literally shrieking with night terrors.

I lasted all of 6 weeks. I wanted to pull her out sooner, but they convinced me to try "just a little bit longer" and see if she would settle into the routine. All I could see happening was her delays worsening. She was actually regressing. The few words she had learned were disappearing. Her screaming was getting worse. Her sleep (and mine!) were interrupted more frequently. Her appetite was disappearing, and thin already, she was in danger of losing weight. She stopped interacting with others, and I would occasionally find her in a corner curled up in a ball, just lost in her own world, rocking, stroking her teddy. I was growing downright scared.

I pulled my daughter out and spent the next few months just cuddling and trying to reassure her that she wouldn't have to leave me again. We moved shortly after that, and once we settled into our new place with lots of outdoor time, she began to blossom again.

It was time for me to stop relying on the "experts" and start taking care of things myself.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Not raising children..

I have spent time recently pondering what exactly I am doing here. I'm a parent, a mother of many, I'm a homeschooler, I'm a housekeeper and homeowner, I am a business builder and team member, I am a child of God. I wear many hats and have many roles.

In my business, we focus on goal setting and planning. In homeschooling and housekeeping, I won't get much done without a plan and a schedule. My life has a purpose and a plan, says God's word. And in parenting.. there is a goal as well.

Parenting is defined as the raising of children. Except.. I don't know that "children" is my end goal. I'm not raising children.. at least, that's not what I want to end up with when I'm done this work of parenting. I want to raise adults. Grown women who are certain of their purpose, secure in their identity and sure in their understanding of God's plan for them.. that is my goal.

This may be purely a matter of semantics. But I recently did a study on the power of words, and really, words are more powerful than we tend to remember. Words brought the world into existence, and the Word says that the tongue has the power of life and death. So when I say I'm raising children.. I may be doing damage to my goals here.

I'm not raising children. At least, that shouldn't be where the period is in my sentence. I'm raising my children to be.. lovers of God not of man, responsible, educated adults able to make decisions and be independent and think for themselves, women of prayer and faith and grace who value choice and are strong enough to admit when they need help.

I'm not raising children. I'm raising the next generation of citizens, whose choices will shape not only the communities around them but extend the kingdom of God further, whose talents and gifts will show God's love and mercy and grace to the world, whose skills and hearts and hands will demonstrate the power of God to change the world.

God has a plan for me, and part of that plan includes these children. They may be children now, but they will not stay children. They will grow physically and mature into biologically adult members of society. It is my job to make sure that as their bodies grow, their minds and hearts also grow into maturity, that they will act the adults they will appear to be.

God has a plan for each of these children.. but it does not include them staying children. Part of my job is to train them to follow His plan for their lives, into growth and maturity, not just as physical adults but in their Christian faith as well.

I'm not raising children. I'm raising up a banner for Jesus, I'm raising world-changers, I'm raising kingdom-builders.

They may be children now, but they won't stay this way. Because I'm not raising merely children, I'm raising women warrior for God.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Assessing the score

I was able to get a pediatrician fairly quickly, though it was some distance away. On the day of our appointment, I lugged my 3 children, and all the documentation I had accumulated, and presented my daughter to the doctor. She read over the reports I had so far, and asked questions, while watching my daughter play in the examination room.

I say play rather loosely. What she did in fact was not really "play". She was 2, almost 3 at the time, and she has this small, orange teddy which she immediately attached to the minute she saw it and promptly christened it "Orange Teddy". She had it with her this day, and it was the object of her "play". She laid it down on the examination table, and ran to the chair. She climbed up on the chair, sat there for a few minutes and then ran back to the table and her teddy. Then she grabbed the teddy and ran to the door, back to the table and put the teddy down. Rinse repeat. She completed this cycle probably about 10 times in the 20 minutes the doctor and I were chatting, until the doctor looked at me, and asked very pointedly, "Does she do this frequently?"

Yes.  Yes she does. Yes, she gets "stuck" in her stories, in her playing, in her routines. She repeats the same things over and over and over again, ad nauseum. Until we're all sick of hearing her sing the same song, say the same sentence, play the same game.. Yes. Repetition is the mark of my daughter's play.

I replied quite casually that yes, this is very frequent.. It was, in fact, so typical of her, that I hadn't noticed there was something wrong with it. Children aren't really supposed to get "stuck" in a cycle like that.

That seemed to alarm the doctor, and actually gave my reports credibility. I wasn't an overly-concerned mother being hypersensitive. There was something different about this little girl's development, and she had seen some evidence for herself.

The first thing she did was refer us to an audiologist for testing. Then she was going to refer us to a developmental pediatrician, someone who specialized in the early development of young children. She was pleased we were already referred to the social services agency, and told me to keep her informed.

A few weeks later, we got an appointment with the audiologist. After hooking my daughter up to all sorts of machines and testing her hearing, and watching the child dance around the room like nothing was wrong at all, the audiologist gave me her report. She looked at me, and said, "Well, as far as I can tell there's nothing wrong with her hearing. However, what I can't test is whether or not her brain is listening correctly to what her ears are telling her." She gave me a book title to look up -- What to Do when the Brain Can't Hear.

I waited months for the referral to the Occupational Therapist. And heard nothing about speech therapy or any other services. But finally we were to see the OT. She did a bunch of play-testing with my daughter, and I watched curiously as she tested not only her ability to actually do things but also her ability to understand what she was doing. When it was all said and done, I asked for a copy of her final report and her notes.

The report noted deficiencies in her fine motor skills but advanced gross motor skills. It also noted difficulty in age-appropriate concepts, like drawing people, simple shapes, or stacking blocks. At 3 years of age, my daughter had the development of a 2 year old. And in some areas, a 1 yr old. It was a shocking declaration that there was something wrong with my child.

The final assessment we did that year was with the developmental pediatrician. This was a most frustrating experience. We were the last appointment of the day, except.. neither the centre nor the doctor had any record of our appointment. But he graciously saw us anyway, even though he had no referral paperwork, read none of her case file, knew nothing about us. I had learned by now to come prepared, so I gave him my copies to read over. Then he did similar activities with my daughter that the OT had done, and noted the same difficulties. He told me it looked like she had a 9-12 month gap in her abilities, possibly a bit more. And that I was doing the right thing in getting her assistance now. That in 5 -10 year from now, a 9 month gap wouldn't be noticed.

In one sense, it was immensely relieving to know that her developmental delays were not considered serious. In another sense, it was intensely frustrating to feel that after all this concern and worry and work, her delays were not serious. I almost felt that my concerns were dismissed. But.. there was still work to do, and I knew I was the best advocate for my child.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Meetings and munchkins

I was already starting to educate myself on the terms and definitions used by developmental therapists and social workers, by the time I met with the social worker at the regional agency. Terms like receptive language and audiology and sensory processing disorder. I read books like "The Mislabeled Child" and "ADHD and your child." I already was somewhat familiar with ADHD -- my oldest daughter had been diagnosed the same summer I was beginning the journey of investigation with my second child. But this didn't seem the same.

While I was waiting for the paperwork to be processed and referrals put in place, things were going from bad to worse at home. My daughter seemed to have abnormal pain issues. She could run full tilt into a wall, like 2 yr olds do, but it wouldn't phase her. Yet cutting her toenails required 3 people to do, as it seemed to cause agonizing pain! Falling down and cutting herself didn't seem to slow her one bit, but a minor graze on the arm in passing was the end of the world. She also seemed to have no self-soothing regulators. She would get herself so worked up, she would melt down into a screaming fit, that would last for hours. I remember just rocking this rigid, screaming child, holding her arms down so she couldn't scratch her face or bang her head, for hours on end, crying myself, hearing the cries of my infant daughter or my older daughter and knowing that I couldn't help them at that moment, because if I left this child, she would seriously hurt herself.

Getting her dressed was a battle, feeding her was a nightmare, and bathing was something done only as necessary and as quickly as possible. Our days were structured to minimize the meltdowns as much as possible. Loud noises were dealt with as quickly as I could, because she startled so easily. Unfortunately, the apartment building I lived in did monthly fire alarm tests. After the first couple of tests, I asked for a schedule, so I could make sure we were elsewhere for the day, because the fire alarm going off created havoc for my daughter.

I met with the social worker a couple of weeks after I had seen the clinician at the Early Years Centre. He was a nice gentleman, who listened carefully to my growing list of concerns regarding my daughter. He photocopied my report from the SLP. He promised to contact the public health unit from our previous county of residence, and took the time to explain to me about the resources available to me, as her parent. It was a couple of hours while we covered all the forms and consents necessary to access the services she possibly needed.

One of the things he suggested that I didn't like, was the idea of putting my daughter into daycare. I knew, without knowing how I knew, that she would *not* do well away from me. I resisted, but agreed that if after she was assessed further, I would consider it.

He also helped me get the names of some pediatricians in the area. My best option, according to him, was to pursue a medical diagnosis, while getting her therapeutic services.

Armed with this information, I left to make my own phone calls, and to wait for the assessment time, to find out more about what was wrong with my child.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Transitions and delays

Life has a way of taking interesting twists and turns. Right around the time that I was growing more concerned about my daughter's development, my marriage was disintegrating. So by the time we saw the SLP, I was already separated, and making plans to move my little family back to where we had come from. Due to the move, I did something I was very thankful for, and did with every other specialist we dealt with after that. I asked for a copy of her report and assessment. 

Every early childhood development specialist writes a report. It goes in the child's medical file. It usually gets sent to public health as well, or at least to your child's doctor. But it's rare, and odd that the parent would see this report or that file, unless they request it. I cannot stress enough how highly I recommend every parent with a special needs child ask for copies of these reports! It is essential to getting your child the best care possible. You are your child's best advocate. 

My daughter's SLP report was supposed to be transferred to the public health department in our new county. It never was. From my inquiries, it appears that the report and case file was "lost in transit". But I had a copy. Armed with this report, I went to an Early Childhood Education Centre, where you could meet with various early childhood specialists, including a speech-language clinician. This person is slightly different than an SLP, in that they don't diagnose, but they are equipped to make referrals for further evaluation. 

I walked into the clinician's room, and I introduced myself and my daughter. Before she even began to ask about my concerns, I handed her the copy of the SLP's evaluation that I had, and asked her to read it, and tell me what I should do next. I waited patiently, while she paged through the assessment and report, watching as her eyes widened at some areas, and narrowed at others. When she finished a few minutes later, she looked straight at me and told me she didn't even need to work with my daughter. She was going to refer us right away to a local agency that would help us further. She handed me a social worker's card and took down my information, telling me to expect a call with an appointment in the next day or two. 

She was as good as her word. We got a referral to a new SLP, as well as an occupational therapist, and an appointment with a social worker to talk about further steps.  Finally, I felt like we were getting somewhere, and I hoped that soon my daughter would be "fixed". 

I hoped too much, as I later found out. 

To be continued.. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Car troubles

I bought a new-to-me van a few weeks ago. Looks great, and is in pretty decent shape. There were, of course, a few things I needed to fix. I expected that. Tried to budget for it too.

I have never owned a vehicle before, but as they say, there's a first time for everything. It was absolutely necessary I have access to a vehicle, and given my recent history, being independent is a major plus here. I really liked the *idea* of owning a vehicle, but I have no idea what I'm doing in reality.  There are a lot of pluses about owning my own van. My call on when I get to use it, no having to work around someone else's schedule, no worries about hurting someone else's insurance if I break it some how.. But there are a lot of cons too. Like, it's my insurance. It's my responsibility to fix it. It's my gas!

I never realized just how much a car can actually cost. There's not just the purchase price, there's sales tax on that purchase price, license plates, not to mention the license itself, and registration. There's insurance and gas and oil and washer fluid and parts. There's mechanics to pay and tests.

With this van, I've had to have the wheel bearings changed in the front. Thank you stbx for doing the work. Then I called a garage to do the back brakes.. and that's when I was told to check for recalls. What?!? Yes, I was told, call the manufacturer and check and see if this model ever had a recall done. So I did that, and sure enough, there was a recall on it. I ended up having to take that in and get some repairs done. Thankfully they didn't cost too much. Finally I was able to take it in to get the brakes replaced, but oops.. I forgot a certain part in my parts order.

So now I'm stuck. The company I ordered all the parts from originally is out of stock on the one part I do need. The temporary license is about to expire, and there's still one more test to be done. The garage doesn't work weekends, which meant all weekend wasted.. How do I get the part (where do I get it from??), get everything fixed, get the test done, and get the license sticker before the temporary expires?? I have no idea. Nor do I know if I can even afford to do all this.


I know it will all happen in time. I know everything will work out. I know it may be a bit uncomfortable for me for a while. But it is what it is. There really isn't much I can do right now about it all. Just one of those things..

Makes me kinda wish I did an auto repair class instead of music lessons as a kid though. More useful!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Scary sounding words..

I remember being in what looked like a playroom, strewn with all sorts of brightly colored toys, with my 2 yr old daughter. It was actually my birthday, and she had just turned 2 five days before, but we were here for a very serious reason.

My daughter was being evaluated by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). For the uninformed, this is a person trained in all things communication-related, from problems physically forming words with lips and tongue, to the more abstract understanding of language and communication of wants and needs.

I learned that there is differences in the disorders of communication. One may have no issues understanding what is spoken, or in determining what to say, but in the actual speaking of words. This is where children (or adults, for that matter) have issues with certain sounds, or stuttering, for example. One may have issues saying anything at all, while understanding perfectly. This is the mute child, or near-mute child, that requires help in "expressive" language skills. Then there is the child who can say what they want, but has trouble understanding what is spoken to them -- difficulty with "receptive" language.

Then there was my child. My child who had no discernible physical difficulty with words -- she could say all the sounds, and in fact could make several sounds well beyond her developmental peers -- yet she did not speak "real" words. She had no communication, whatsoever. And beyond that, she seemed to have no understanding either. The SLP was very concerned.

Two year old children should have at least 20 real words in their vocabulary. My child had perhaps 5 words that one could make out, but she did not use them with meaning. Two year old children should understand simple one-step directions or requests. My child did not recognize her own name, let alone any request. Two year old children should engage in "conversation" type interactions, with give and take pauses. My child did not recognize anyone speaking to her, and if someone got her attention, she would respond with a blank stare, and return back to whatever it was that had occupied her before the interruption. Two year old children generally will express their needs with words, gestures, or sounds. They generally have moved beyond the "crying/screaming" phase of infancy. My child.. well my child had several screaming fits every day.

It was at this office that the word "autism" was first suggested. The SLP pointed out not only my daughter's issues with communication, but also several behavioural issues that seemed to her to fit the profile of autism spectrum disorder. She recommended evaluation by an occupational therapist, as well as a pediatrician.

My heart sank, and my mind went blank. Autism conjured up images of children who were uncommunicative, rigid, acted out and showed odd twitches and habits. I prayed desperately, "No, God.. not that!" even as the SLP began to point out to me what she was seeing. Things like running on her toes (an apparently characteristic behaviour of autistic children), the inability to focus on just one item, the lack of "pretend play", the lack of "meeting eyes" or social interaction, and some "obsessive" behavioural patterns.

I could hardly take in what I was hearing. It was a shocking suggestion. I had come to terms with the fact that my daughter wasn't "normal", but I hadn't thought that there wasn't a "fix" for it. I had thought that with a little intervention, maybe some therapy, she'd be "normal" again and we'd go on with life, the way any family would.

This was my introduction to the idea that life.. life with this child might never be "normal"...

To be continued..

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Bad days and Good days..

I have a cold. A middlin one.. not a bad one. I'm only slightly congested, I sneeze a little bit, not frequently, and about the worst symptom for me is the headaches I seem to get more often. Probably due to my sinuses..  It isn't enough to stop me, but just enough to slow me down a bit.

Life as a single parent doesn't allow time to get sick. There's no one else to cover for you, so you can spend a day in bed. Bad day, good day.. it doesn't really matter, when there's kids to be fed and changed and cleaned up after and put to bed and cuddled, and you're the only grown up around.

It's a whole lot easier when you're having a good day. On the days that you feel energetic and productive, and you get three loads of laundry done, and read stories to the kids for an hour, and made a three course meal to boot -- it's a whole lot more enjoyable being the only adult around.

On the bad days, you may end up on the couch, with a bowl of popcorn (that your kids eat 3/4's of), and the kids may not actually get dressed, and supper consists of cereal and juice.. and you let them watch movies or play computer games all day, and you surf Facebook on your phone, and ignore the fact that your toddler just spilled the cat's water -- again.

Most days aren't either. Most days aren't horribly bad.. nor are they the amazing "where's-my-super-mom-cape" days either. Most days, I wake up and hit the ground running. The kids are dressed and fed, the cat's water is cleaned up and refilled, and the laundry may actually make it into the dryer, at least. I can usually read at least one story too, most days. And if supper is chicken nuggets and fries, a few cut up veggies will usually show up too, as a token towards actual nutrition, and I comfort myself knowing I remembered their vitamins that morning.

Every once in a while, my day is memorable. But most days, it's such a blur, that between untangling the baby, chasing the toddler, refereeing the preschooler and kindergardener, and dealing, yet again, with my preteen's attitude.. I don't remember much.

They say to treasure each moment. I simply try to make it through the moments. I think if I were to stop and think about what I'm doing every day, I'd panic and be overwhelmed. But who has time to stop and think?

On with the show!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A challenging child..

It is every parent's nightmare: that moment when you realize that something is not quite right with your child's development. For some it may take a while. It's a matter of pride. As they say, denial is more than a river in Egypt. But you can only excuse something for so long. “Maybe she'll outgrow it.” “Maybe he's just a late bloomer.” “It took me a while to figure out how to xyz too.”

For me, it wasn't that long a journey to admit that, yes, there was something wrong with my daughter. It was kind of obvious – no 18 mo old should still be speaking mostly in baby babble, and still wanting to crawl more than walk. Her delayed development at first was a curious thing, then slightly alarming, until I realized that I needed to get help.

The first stop was our family doctor. Since she was due for her 18 mo old well-baby checkup, that's when I expressed my concerns. I came prepared, with a list, matched up to the baby-development checklists ( She wasn't matching up everything on the 9 month old list, let alone the 12 months or 18 months list. At first my doctor was surprised, but then she looked at my daughter, and I mean, really looked at her.

Z was standing, walking, but she didn't respond to her name. She didn't call me mama. She seemed lost in her own world, babbling away. She flitted around the room, in a circle. First, she put her bear on the bed. Then she ran to the door. Then she would run back, get her bear, and go to the chair. She would sit for a few minutes. Then back to the bed. Rinse, repeat. She did this same cycle for 20 minutes, while the doctor and I chatted.

My doctor looked at me seriously, and I will never forget her face, as she asked, “Does she do that often?” I felt a sudden shiver of fear run down my spine, as I nodded. It was true, though I had never really thought about it, before. But yes, this child would repeat the same activities over and over again, constantly. Obsessively.

There was something wrong with my child. The journey of discovery, heartbreakingly, agonizingly desperately searching for answers, would take approximately the next 4 years, before we got a confirmed answer as to why my daughter was like this. The knowledge of what to do with that answer is something I'm still learning.

To be continued.  

Monday, 3 March 2014

Dying dreams..

The biggest question, when you're a child, that every adult asks you, is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It invites imagining, invokes exciting visions of "being" a firefighter, ballerina or superhero. Adults encourage children to dream big. We tell our kids, "Anything's possible!"

But as we grow, somewhere along the line, the tune changes. A 4 year old's dream of being an astronaut may be tolerantly encouraged. Mom and Dad buy Junior a "space helmet" or a model of a space shuttle. They indulge him with stories of aliens and space exploration. But as he grows, he is told to leave such childishness alone. Be realistic. Only certain "special" people get to be astronauts -- those with high math and science aptitude, those with money for top universities.. and Junior's parents work long hours just to keep the lights on and food on the table.

Somewhere childhood dreams get laid aside for the "reality" of growing up. But why do we trash our childhood dreams so much? Little kids have no expectations laid on them, but by the time they hit middle school, mom may be pushing her daughter towards law school, and away from drama class, even though all the little girl ever wanted was to be a movie star. All too often, parents try to live vicariously through their children.

Even if there is no parental expectations of certain career paths, life has a way of discouraging us from really following our dreams. Our peers reject and pressure us to conform to the "typical", to not take the risk or try harder.. schools discourage creativity and individuality, since that's hard to quantify and can be disruptive.. and older generations look down on innovation -- "what's good enough for me, should be good enough for you" is often the motto.

The fear of rejection, jealousy from others pushing negativity, the pressure to conform -- all discourage dreaming big. The childhood answers to the big questions "What do you want to be" now become "what will you do to make a living" in young adulthood. We trade our big dreams for small goals. And move back in with mom and dad, because fear pushes us back to the safe familiarity of home.

I've been dreaming lately. I've had to give up so much -- some of it willingly, I admit, and some from my own poor choices -- but a lot because of the circumstances of my life, and the choices of someone else. And I find myself wondering if some of those dreams should be recovered, taken back on, reached for.

What if?  It's a theme of my musings, in the darkness of the night, as I sit and nurse my infant daughter. What if I .. I pray for direction, and my imaginings keep turning back to the "what if"?

There's a book in Christian circles, "What happens when a woman says yes to God." I've never read it, but the title always caught my attention. What if I did say yes.. took the chance, followed the dream that had been dying in the darkened corner of my heart?

Just maybe.. just maybe dreams don't have to die, because of growing up. What if...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Spidey senses.. spring!

I hate the creepy crawly things, big and black and ugly. They hang from my ceilings and hide in the corners, weaving their dust traps and draping strings of the evidence of my lack of housekeeping everywhere. I never ever thought that, when I saw a huge one, long legged and shudderingly alive, in my bathtub, I'd be thankful.

You know why I'm thankful? Because it's a sure sign of spring. When the spiders start coming out, and the cobwebs become a nuisance, you know spring is around the corner. And for that, I'm thankful. It has been a long, long, hard winter. I am sooo ready for spring.

I look outside my window right now, and it is snowing, blowing, and freezing cold. Here in Ontario, Canada, I don't think we've gone more than 2 or 3 days without snow falling this winter. I can't remember the last time I saw snowbanks this high! Driving the kids to their church group last night, we went past banks that were higher than my van.

Winter, spiders, housework .. they all seem to produce a sense of dread in me. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Maybe it's the amount of work they represent.. or maybe it's just another reminder that I'm on my own, doing this thing called parenthood. As a solo parent, there's no one but me that takes out the garbage, shovels the driveway, and chases away the spiders above my daughters' bunkbed. And the worries about driving in a blizzard, paying the heating bill and buying the bug spray all fall on me.

Spring is just full of life, and growth.. and relief. We made it through another winter. The kids survived, and so did I. Life just gets easier in the spring and summer. No more snowsuits! No more taking longer to dress the kids than we actually spend outside. No more cabin-fevered, stir-crazy children to strew their toys from one end to the next while they desperately try to wring every last ounce of fun from their day.. stuck inside, again. Driving is easier, the kids are easier to entertain, and cleaning is easier... except for the spiders.

I think I have spring fever. I'm dreaming of cleaning my house, making a list of the major projects I want to take care of once the weather warms up, and welcoming spiders, of all things!  

It's all in your head

I have a rich imagination. My daughters have inherited that -- you should watch their play. From princesses to flying, from talking magnet letters to "kiss-y" flowers.. those girls pretend anything and everything, and anything can be a basis for play. They incorporate story characters from story time, movie plots from some of the kids videos, and every once in a while, they'll break out into song. It's like having live musical theatre on most of the day.

As I was saying, they inherited it from me. I remember diving into storybooks, and literally seeing the story take place in my mind. Like I was tagging along on the journey, I would go with the characters in my book and feel what they felt, see what they saw and be right there as they did what they did to win.

I don't read as much these days as I did when I was a child. It's just not possible, with everything else I have to do. But, I still imagine. Only these days, that rich imagination can be more curse than blessing. Try worrying about the consequences of a choice, and seeing the consequences play out in your mind's eye. Or letting a stray thought take my imagination on a scary journey down dark paths. These kinds of imaginings can make me lose sleep at night, if I'm not careful.

But there's a couple of things I do, in obedience to Scripture. First, God tells me to "take captive every thought". That means not letting those stray thoughts lead me on these imaginary scary journeys. Then God tells me to "think on these things" -- whatever is pure and lovely and truthful and noble. That means training my imagination to not dwell on fear and worry, but instead on delighting in the moment, remembering the victories of the past and thinking only of God's provision and glory in my future. Anticipating rather than worrying anxiously. Then God tells me to "cast all my cares upon Him". That means that all those worries and fears, once I've taken them captive (step number 1), I turn them over to Him. Resting in His love for me. Finally, God tells me to "renew my mind" and be transformed. This means replacing those negative thoughts, those worries and fears and doubts, with truth and hope and plans.

Taking captive one's thoughts is hard. It's a constant process. After all, we're only human, and it is our natural tendency to think the worst, to see the glass half-empty. In this fallen world, how can you not? But God wouldn't command something that's impossible, so it must be possible to do. Like so much in the Christian walk, it requires discipline. Taking captive a thought is an act of will, and does not come naturally. It means when that negative thought comes up -- when that picture of my child being hurt comes up in my mind -- I grab it. I don't pay attention to it. I immediately shut it off. I turn my attention to something else -- almost anything else. I think about the weather, my grocery list, or a song. I don't dwell on the negative thought and let that train take my imagination some place I don't want it to go.

Thinking on the things that God tells us to is also an act of a disciplined will. It's not enough to just capture the thoughts you don't want and get rid of them. Jesus told the story of a cleaned out house -- that soon filled with more evil than it was cleaned out of. Science says nature abhors a vacuum. And it's true of our thoughts. You can't have an empty mind. We weren't designed to be empty-headed. We were designed to think, to reason, to problem solve, to imagine. Imagination isn't evil, it's what you do with it that's good or bad. Imagination is just a tool, something that separates humanity from the animal world.

So what do we think about? Scripture lists "things that are noble, pure, lovely, honest, worthy of praise or respect." There are several things you can do here. It's easier to think on the pure and noble, when your mind is filled with lovely, honest things. So maybe this means changing the type of music you listen to, or the books you read, or the blogs you look over. It means filling your mind with good things.. not negative things. For me, this meant that as much as I liked it, I needed to turn off the radio. I used to love to listen to talk radio for hours every day. The questions challenged me, and the debates invigorated me. But the constant negativity trained my mind to think negatively. Now, if I want to listen to someone speaking, I'll listen to Christian teaching.

So once I've captured the negative thoughts, and filled my mind up with better things.. then what? There's an old song, sung at camp meetings and sunday schools, that goes,

"Cast your cares upon Him. 
Lay all of your burdens, down at His feet. 
And anytime, 
you don't know, 
whaaaa-aaat to do, 
Cast all of your cares upon Him."

It's a slow song, with a simple melody, but the message is good. That's exactly what we're supposed to do. When you don't know what to do, cast your care upon Him. Jesus told us, "All you who are weary and heavy laden, come to me, and I will give you rest." and "Take my yoke upon you, it is easy, and the burden is light." Jesus is willing to take our cares and griefs and worries and doubts.. those things that weigh us down and drag our feet.. and give us rest and an easier task. Carrying a lot of worry and fear is tiring. It's stressful. But obedience here creates rest and freedom. 

Ultimately, though, all of these things seem unnatural to our human brains. After all, this fallen world drags you down. It's hard to be cheerful and uplifting and hopeful when all you see around you is difficulties and obstacles and pain and suffering. It's hard to think about the good things in life, when your past may be very painful. It's difficult to count your blessings when you are stressed about the bills. 

Precisely because it's unnatural to our fallen minds is why God calls us to renewal and transformation. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your minds." How do we renew our minds? Taking captive the old thoughts, replacing them with the new ones, and turning the prisoners over to God. Renewing the mind is a lifelong process, that requires constant course correction and fine-tuning. It is an act of discipline and will to continue in this way, but at the same time, it brings incredible freedom. 

And isn't that the paradox of God's kingdom? What seems, at first, difficult and constricting and unnatural, will become, while never quite natural, freeing and easier as time goes on. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Transportation troubles

It hasn't been till this separation started that I realized just how dreadfully isolated I was out here. And how important access to transportation is, when you have children. It was almost scary!

So, my plan began. First, I needed to get a driver's license. I know, 30 years old, never managed to actually get a full driver's license. There are reasons. For one, I never saw the importance until now, and for two, I really don't enjoy driving, among other reasons. But now, with 5 little girls depending on me to keep them fed, healthy and to take them to church.. I needed to be able to drive.

At first, I thought I would be able to use my stbx's vehicle -- it was for the kids, after all. And generally, he was willing. It depended on the mood, of course, and I really didn't like being dependent on him for access to transportation, but hey, it worked. Until December.

In December, his vehicle broke down. Seriously broken.. as in.. cost-of-repair-greater-than-replace broken. It was not a good thing. He ended up selling his vehicle for scrap, and now the problems began.

We were fortunate in that a couple from his (formally our) church stepped up and loaned us a vehicle for the time being. I always knew it was a temporary thing, and started saving right away. For some reason, my ex did not. However, as soon as he found out (I did try not to tell him!!) that I was saving for a vehicle, he figured if he behaved himself, he might be able to use mine.

If anything, I'm getting decent behaviour out of it from him. That's a plus. Even if I feel somewhat taken advantage of..

An offer was made earlier in the fall, before the vehicle we were using broke, from my stbx's brother and sister-in-law, that I would be able to buy their old van for a very good price. Of course, that offer was rescinded after a blow out of any hope of good relationships between us around Christmas. So I was on the hunt.

I was in the market for a minivan. I couldn't get a smaller vehicle -- with 5 children, no matter how you try, you can't fit that many in a car. It just doesn't work. So I talked to a few people. I emailed and called ads. Finally.. finally I got a yes. A vehicle that seemed to be in decent shape at my price.

Now to scramble to get insurance. Uh oh -- obstacle number 1. Due to my checkered licensing history (not driving record!) the insurance companies wanted to list me as a novice driver. Thankfully, my stbx had actually put me on his insurance at one point, so I did have an insurance record. That meant that my rating would go way up .. and my insurance rates way down. It was amazing how quickly that turned around.

Obstacle number 2: the timing. I couldn't get the insurance done in time, and I couldn't find a ride to the vehicle at the right time that the seller wanted to meet. It was so frustrating. Thankfully the seller was able to accommodate me, and I paid her via email, and I was able to get the insurance done (mostly) via email.

The seller agreed to drop the van off at a garage, where I had arranged for a safety check to be done. This check was required before I could get license plates and registration done. Obstacle number 3 was when the garage called me and told me significant repairs needed to be done before they could certify it. Uh oh.

The garage wanted to charge me more than I could afford. Now what? I didn't know what to do. I sent off a panicky email to the seller, and prayed hard. Amazingly, the seller proved faithful. She told me I could get a temporary license sticker, and I didn't have to get the repairs done right away -- or at that garage. She also told me that she was willing to prove that she had done her job in making sure it was in working order, to the point where she was willing to take it back to her mechanic, who had gone over it before she sold it to me.

Now I needed a ride. My oldest daughter became my opportunity here. She has weekend visitation with her father (not my stbx husband -- long story), and it just happened that one of her visits with him fell on her sister's birthday. She begged me to get him to change it, so she could be here for her little sister's birthday party. Her dad and I get along great, so it was no problem for me to text him and make some arrangements. It worked out that he would split his overnights with her over two weekends, so she could be here the night of the party. Then, on impulse, I asked him if he'd be willing to drive me to the garage where my van was, when he picked up our daughter. And.. he agreed.

I had a ride, I had a plan of action, and I had a vehicle. And this is where it stands right now.

Stay tuned for the developing story..

Saturday, 15 February 2014

May you live in interesting times...

The old joke is that the Chinese "blessing" quoted in my title is really more of a "curse". Interesting times definitely aren't boring, but I think interesting may be overrated. At least boring would involve a certain amount of peace..

I can't say we're settling in, as there's always a new change in the works, when you're living in a time of transition. I long for the day when I can say that finally, finally, we aren't in transition anymore. But that may be a bit yet.  There does seem to be a routine shaping our days, however. I have learned the secret to minimizing my stress is to be extremely flexible. Flexibility is a must when you have young children!

My day starts with a good morning chirp from my 10 month old. (She turned 10 months yesterday!! How cool is that!?) She usually wants to nurse a bit, then play on my bed next to me while I alternately doze and check emails/blogs on my phone to wake up. I'm a slow waker, especially when I've been up 2 or 3 times to nurse her through the night. By the time I'm awake, my middle three have woken, and are busy playing/yelling at each other in their room. My oldest sometimes is woken by their shrieks, and sometimes she sleeps through it and wakes up later. 

It usually takes us an hour or so to get everyone dressed, beds made and room tidied before we come downstairs. Then I'm busy getting breakfast. It's usually a choice of 3 things: cold cereal, toast (the girls call it "munch") or oatmeal. They really like it when I make them oatmeal, though I don't do it frequently. We also have vitamins and "Peach Mango Tango", an Omega-3 syrup for brain-boosting that I give them every morning. Call it the modern-day version of cod-liver oil, only better tasting! 

While the girls are eating, I usually get some dishes done, and sometimes even a load of laundry. I typically try to get one other major chore done during this time. When do I eat? Not first thing in the morning! I often make a protein shake and take it with me as I'm doing chores, and that's my breakfast. After breakfast, I'm training my little girls (now 2, almost 4, and 5) to clear and wipe the table, and get their pencil boxes, so they're ready for school. 

My oldest comes down while the little girls are eating, so by the time we're done all our chores, she's usually done eating. I get her school ready first. We're trying a new way of doing school, and it is really really working! I'm loving it. It keeps me accountable to give my oldest feedback, and makes it easy for her to get finished. I keep all her work for the term in one binder, separated by dividers, and then give her the pages/assignments I want her to finish for the day in a clipboard folder, that she can take with her wherever, as she works through them. Sometimes she'll need other books or materials, but all her work is given in that one folder. I mark what she's completed, and give her back pages to be corrected right away. So she finishes up her corrections from the days before, and then works on the new stuff every day. 

After I've gotten the oldest's school work ready, I get my little girls' work ready. They're in kindergarten and preschool, so its only early phonics, numeracy and just a little bit of early science occasionally. It only takes us about an hour or so to do everything, depending on how much they play with it. Sometimes my almost-4 yr old gets the idea to be extremely detailed and careful, and then it takes her much longer, but that`s only occasionally. 

The little girls will go play while I do some more chores in the morning. Often it will be homeschool-related, but sometimes it`s a bigger project in the house -- like rearranging a room, or sorting out toys or clothes for them. There's always something to be done around here, of course. Lately, my theme is getting the house decluttered and ready for some cosmetic improvements, with the idea of selling it this summer.  The home staging experts call it "pre-packing". It's as good a name as any, and helps with motivation. 

My oldest will most often make lunch for us, and after lunch, the youngest ones nap. It's usually my time to sit down for a bit, as my baby is still nursing, so I will sit and nurse her and catch up on emails and facebook then. While I'm settling her, my kindergarteners will either be looking at stories, playing on the computer or watching a video, and my oldest will be working on her school. This varies, of course, depending on who's sleeping and how behaviour is. 

Once my youngest is sleeping, I'll come down and work. My afternoons are generally devoted to my business activities. Every couple of weeks, I take an afternoon off and catch up on housework, or put a big push on to finish a project I'll have been working on. By 4, I'm thinking about supper and either defrosting something or planning a quicker menu, depending on how work is going. 

Supper is a team affair. My oldest helps, my middle child (the almost-4 yr old) loves helping, and the baby keeps me company in her high chair. I'll usually get another load of dishes washed while I'm making supper, and sometimes, on a good day, another load of laundry. The kids' father usually joins us for supper, and he'll often bring a side or dessert (per my request he contribute to the meal), or, if he comes early enough, he'll help make it. 

After supper, my girls clean up. I honestly can't wait until the day they are old enough to handle doing the dishes too! But so far this is good enough. Then I either go back to working, or do chores again, while the girls play with their father until bedtime. 

Bedtime is mostly a noisy affair. PJs are a must, and regularly, though not as often as I'd like, we get their teeth brushed. Then it's in to bed  with hugs and kisses, and lots of requests for more hugs, drinks, "I gotta go to the bathroom", and finally, finally the lights go out. My oldest and I are working through a read-aloud story, though not nearly as often as I should!, and then she goes to bed too. I am working on getting this to be more of a routine, but I think it'll have to wait until my youngest is weaned. 

My baby is the last to go to bed, as she gets up way too early as it is! I push her to stay up later, so she'll sleep till a half-way decent hour, and our day isn't completely out of whack. But by the time I get everyone asleep, I'm exhausted. My evenings are usually my rest and leisure time, though I often work too. I don't tend to do chores though, unless I absolutely feel it's necessary (like mopping floors!) 

That's my day in a nut-shell. I am constantly running from one activity to the next, and though I probably spend more time on the computer than I should, it's a never ending struggle to balance between work and play, chores and fun, and quality time with my girls. 

I think whoever wrote that proverb was a mother of many little ones!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Love is..

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have Him, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have Him, I am nothing. 

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have Him, I gain nothing.

He is patient, He is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He never fails. 

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when He comes,what is in part disappears. 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and Him. But the greatest of these is Him.

Jesus is Love, in person. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Weaponized words

The old childish taunt goes like this:

Sticks and stones 
may break my bones
but words will never hurt me.

We used to sing this every time someone got nasty and started calling us names, making fun of our clothes, hair, shoes, work, house, or whatever.. And every single time you sang it, you knew you were lying. 

Broken bones and bruises may look horrible for a short time, but they heal. And eventually everything is as if the injury had never happened. But words? Words do hurt. The wounds words cause don't heal quickly -- and the scars last a lot longer -- if they ever do actually heal. 

Words have power. The Bible says that there is the power of life and death in the tongue. Words can bring healing and blessing and encouragement -- the right word at the right time can change the world. Words can also be the deadliest weapons known to man, and the wrong word at the wrong time can start wars. 

Ever thought about the first words ever spoken? Genesis records it: And God said, "Let there be light." 

Let there be light. 

You know, those are pretty powerful words. The results from those words echo from eternity. Light, as a physical thing, is one of the simplest forms of energy, and there are basically two things in this universe: energy and matter. God created one of the two basic things on that first day with those first words -- out of which He could create everything else!  

But first, FIRST, God created words. 

Words have power. With words, God spoke the universe into existence. Everything that is, was or will be, everything we see, hear, smell, taste or touch.. everything we can figure something out about it -- everything was created by words. 

Or rather, as the Bible says, by the Word. 

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

Words simply take ideas and transform them into things that can be seen, tasted, touched, heard and felt. And the most powerful of these ideas-into-words: the person of Jesus Christ. 

He was *the* Word. He was God -- the Love, the eternity, the power and majesty and might, the compassion and mercy and justice of God -- in pill form, so to speak. Encapsulated by a human being, the idea of God in a body, Jesus was literally the expressed Word of God.  God couldn't have shown Himself more clear than in the person of Jesus. 

Words have power. With a word, Jesus calmed the storm, opened deaf ears, brought sight to blind eyes, even raised the dead. With a word, Jesus blessed the food and made it multiply, healed the sick and taught the ignorant the truth. With a word Jesus revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, and His words transformed our world. 

Jesus gave that power -- the power of words -- to us. We have the same authority, wisdom, and power in our words as He had. He told us to "say to this mountain", to "ask and you shall receive", that whatever we bound and loosed on earth would be done in heaven as well. Our words have power. 

There's another children's song I sing to my girls all the time:

O be careful little eyes what you see...
O be careful little ears what you hear...
O be careful little tongue what you say.. 
For the Father up above, is looking down with love
O be careful..

Words have power. Be careful what you hear .. and what you say. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Helping out

She had auburn curls and big chocolate brown eyes, and she looked at me with this winsome smile on her face.  "Please, mom, can I help?" she begged me, again.

All I was doing was basic clean up of the kitchen after lunch, and my little 3 yr old daughter desperately wanted to help. She loves helping me do all my chores, even when her small hands aren't quite capable of it nor her still-learning mind to understand what I'm doing. But she wants to help.

As a mother, I let her "help", even if that "help" isn't the most helpful. I know that by "helping" me, she's learning the task, and that by including her, we're developing a stronger relationship. I also know that by having her "help",  I'm training her spirit to be helpful.

I love being helpful. I'm delighted that my daughter also enjoys this, and I want to encourage it.  Helpfulness is a divinely ordained role for every woman -- it's what God pronounced women to be, when He announced He was going to create us. He said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will create a suitable helper for him."

A suitable helper, a help fit for the task.. the Hebrew is "ezer" and the Greek "beothus". In English, we think of help as "nice to have, but not necessary for the task".  But there are many kinds of help: there's general usefulness, kindness, there's courtesy and respect, there's tutoring and nurturing, there's rescue and support. The Hebrew and Greek words for "helper" in this passage refer to the kind of help that is urgent, strong and absolutely required for the task at hand.

While in our culture self-sufficiency and independence are highly prized, there are some kinds of help that are indispensable. For example, when a person has a heart attack, the help of a doctor is not only nice to have, but an urgent, absolute need, in order for that person to live. A bridge won't stand without a support. A drowning person needs the urgent help of a lifeguard or rescuer. A man trapped in a burning building needs the help of a firefighter.  And it's this kind of help that is described by the original words of Scripture.

Most often, the word translated help or helper here is used to describe the kind of help God is to His people.  "I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my "ezer" come from? My "ezer" is in the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth."  "Blessed is he who's "ezer" is the God of Jacob, who's hope is in the Lord his God."  God is the divine Helper of His children. And women are given that same kind of title in marriage, to their husband. What an honor!

As I said, I love helping. I love coming alongside someone and filling in the missing information, work, encouragement, listening ear or connection that someone needs. I find myself looking for opportunities to help someone however I can, in every relationship. And yet, I hold back, knowing I can be helpful, but not knowing if that help is welcome.

I want to help. My cry echos my little girl's -- please, let me help. I'm sure God so often also longs to help, but doesn't want to force His help on us. He will hold back His help, until we call on Him. Then, stand back and watch Him work!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Do you know Him?

Do you know Him?

There's this video online, that crops up every once in a while. It's this old black preacher, in the old melodramatic Pentecostal style, asking his audience if they know Him. It's inspiring and powerful, and the slides that someone created to go with his speech make it even more impactful. The old preacher uses the names of God and the result's of Jesus' sacrifice to emphasize that there's so much about our salvation that we take for granted.

But really, when you stop and think about it, do we really know Jesus?

Jesus, the One called the Word -- the embodiment of the spoken Word of God, that by Him God created the entire universe. Everything we see around us, every pebble, every snowflake, every squirrel and icicle and rabbit and cloud was made by the Word. And, on top of that, Scripture teaches us that it is because of this Word that everything still exists. Scientifically, this would make sense, as scientists still don't know why an atom sticks together at it's core. When we all know that like-charged particles repel, how like-charged particles are so bound together in the core of an atom nucleus, that separating just one atom releases enough energy to blow up a city .. that power that holds them together is called by scientists "nuclear force", but by Scripture, the Word.

It is this powerful being that limited Himself into a finite human body, was born as a helpless baby. I have a 9 month old, and I've been having babies frequently over the last 5 years, so I'm quite familiar with them. And really, there isn't much that is more helpless than a newborn baby. About all they can do is squall and suck and.. well poop, for the polite term. They can't feed themselves, they can't communicate in any meaningful way, and they certainly can't clean themselves up. They depend on their parents to care for them. Talk about trust! Imagine, the Creator of the Universe, dependent on two human beings to care for His physical needs, and make sure He stayed alive..

Do you really know Jesus?

When I read through the story of His life here on this earth, the familiar words sometimes make it hard to see the real Jesus. I mean, He got tired. He was dirty. It's not like there was a ton of running water around, back in 30 AD, and well, He didn't even really have a home, so when exactly did He wash?? He got hungry, had to eat and drink.. and well, use the bathroom too! None of that is mentioned in Scripture, but He really was human, so all that we do, He must have done too.. He was one of us.

And yet, He was better than we could ever be without Him. He never once sinned. He didn't give into those lustful thoughts we expect from men when they see a beautiful woman -- he certainly admired beautiful women, but he didn't treat them as servants or objects. We see Jesus treating even the outcast woman, caught in the middle of adultery, with kindness and respect!  He didn't lash out when he was hurt by a friend, even though even his best friends turned on him when he needed them most. And he even forgave them, sought them out and worked to restore that relationship. He didn't even act superior, when it was obvious he was, but treated the lawyers and teachers and Pharisees that came to test him with absolute respect. He showed how to act, how to think.. how to love even the most unlove-able of people.

Do you really know Jesus?

His life was miraculous and powerful, but His death was even more so. He wasn't robbed of life, He gave it. In spite of tremendous pain and agony, physically, emotionally and spiritually, He still had enough control that He gave his life away. And why? Why in the world would someone give their life up?

Jesus did it for love.

We don't understand this kind of love. To us, there's "I love my dog." and "I love your hair!" and "I love my child." and even "I love my spouse." There's casual love, there's parental love and there's sexual love. This kind of sacrificial, unconditional love doesn't exist in our world. The closest we come is parental, and even then, if it really came down to it, a lot of people would give up their child to save themselves. In fact, they do, daily -- that's why we have legalized abortion. We do not understand the love that put Jesus on the cross, kept Him there, and gave Him the power to give His life away.

I don't know we really do know Jesus.

If we really knew Jesus, we would know how much He loves us, because to know Jesus is to know Love. If we really knew Jesus, we would be able to ask and receive His best-- His healing, His grace, His acceptance, His provision, His direction. The struggle would be taken out of the Christian life. If we really knew Jesus, trusting Him would be a no-brainer. So when He would ask you to give your last $100 to a certain missionary, you wouldn't hesitate -- He's good for it.  When He'd ask you to go to Bible college, despite it meaning you moving cross borders and requiring money you don't have right now -- you'd fill out the application forms anyway, because you'd know -- He's got it. When He would tell you to forgive the so-called friend who gossiped about you, and probably will continue to do so, despite your request to the contrary, you'd forgive anyway. How could you not, when you know Jesus?

If we really knew Jesus, we wouldn't be trying to earn His salvation. We'd be grateful to Him, in confidence of already having it. Condemnation would have no place to stick to, because knowing Jesus would erase any doubt about what you've done or not done -- it wouldn't matter anyway, because Jesus took care of it.

Knowing Jesus takes the struggle out of the Christian life.

Do you really know Him?

How do you know if you know Him? Your actions will prove it.

If you love God, you will love your brother-in-Christ.
Those who worship Him, worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Fear God and live.

Do you know Hiim?

Thursday, 30 January 2014

What if..

What if you were told, that to get everything you ever wanted, you have to give everything you ever had away?

Would you do it?

The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life? What he was really wanting was to know how he could buy it. He wanted the 10-commandment, 7-steps, 6-keys version. The ABC, 123, do this and do that, and you'll earn it.

Jesus told him that to gain everything he ever wanted, he first needed to give away all he had.

Let's say you were in that position. Would you give away all you had, to get everything you ever wanted?

Most people would probably say yes, of course. I'll sign on the dotted line -- I do this, I get that.

What if there was no guarantee that you would actually get it all? What if you had to take the chance, that if you really went all in, that you could end up with nothing?

What if that's all it looked like? That you give everything away.. and you won't get anything in return, but an empty promise..

Would you still do it?

The story ends by the rich young ruler walking away. He couldn't do it. He couldn't get past the "give it all away" part. He couldn't see the reward, that the "empty promise" was given by the King of kings, and was guaranteed forever.

There's another story in the Bible -- where someone gave away everything they had, and really had no guarantee of a return.

He gave away his name, his right to a family, his home, his friends, his dignity, his health and well-being.. even his life. He literally gave everything he had. Including his heart.

He had no guarantee that he would get what he wanted in return. The Bible says, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus died for us. Jesus gave it everything.. for us. Even though his own friends ran away, his people rejected him and put him to death.. He still gave his all.. for us. Even though as sinners we were hostile to God, we didn't trust him, we didn't believe in Him.. He still gave everything away.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't give everything away, on my own. It seems illogical, unnatural, and unreasonable to think that if you give away everything you have, you'll get not only everything you ever wanted, but more besides.

God's like that though. When God asked Solomon in a dream what he wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom, not only did God make Solomon the wisest man who ever lived and who ever will live, but the richest man too. Scripture says no one will ever have the kind of wealth Solomon did. God's like that.

My church background has a saying, "You can't out-give God."

Jesus gave everything he had, just for a chance to ask me out on a date. Just for the chance let me get to know Him. And despite knowing everything about me, despite knowing everything I have done, the good, the bad, the ugly, He asked me to marry Him -- He asked the Father for the Church as His bride. Someday, the waiting will be over, and the wedding completed. O glorious day!

How can I not give Him my everything? How can I not trust the One who gave me everything first, despite not deserving anything.. and promises me, that if I do trust Him, if I do give away everything I have, that I will get it back and more?

Jesus gave it all. Literally everything he had, right down to his last breath. He asks you for nothing in return, but hopes you'll give Him everything He wants. What does He want?

Just.. you.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


My husband spent a couple of years building foundations. It’s a dirty job, one that doesn’t show up when the building is finished. No body pays attention to the foundation when looking at a house. Unless, of course, the foundation breaks! The foundation of the house we had lived in was starting to move under the house, and that was causing all sorts of problems. The floors were slanting, the windows were loose and letting in drafts, and one of the walls was literally (very slowly) falling over.
That house is over a hundred and fifty years old. I wasn't not surprised that it’s having foundation problems. There’s no point in fixing any of the other problems without fixing the foundation first. But, frankly, it is downright amazing that the house is still standing! The builders, 150 years ago, knew what they were doing.
He who built the house is worthy of more honor than the house that was built.
Jesus often compared our lives to a house. He also shared how we need a secure foundation for our lives. In His parable of the builders, the one who built on the rock, on a strong foundation, was called a wise builder.
Wisdom builds a strong foundation. The foundation isn’t the part of the home that’s seen, but it the most vital part. Even though it’s covered up after it’s laid down, we know from first hand experience that if something goes wrong with the foundation, a lot goes wrong with the rest of the building.
Upon what is your foundation laid on? A strong foundation lasts thru the storm. In the parable, the foolish builder built on sand, easy to build but when the storm came, his house collapsed around him. The wise builder chose the more difficult route, needing more effort, but his home withstood the storm’s battering.
Wisdom gives us peace of mind, security in life’s trials and confidence when faced with a challenge. James 5:16-17 tells us that the fruit of wisdom is peace.
Where do we get this wisdom? James 1 says if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is ask. God is the giver of all wisdom, the source of all wisdom. We may have information, knowledge, but we need God for the solutions, the answers to life’s questions.
Better builders build on what *is* right, not what seems right. When the foundation is strong, you can build anything, and it will last through everything!
So how do we build? Build on what is beneficial, not what is lawful. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says we have the right to do anything, but not everything is going to be the best, give us the most benefit or be the most constructive. The wise builder chooses the most beneficial, not just what is the minimum code. If we don’t skirt the bare minimum, staying just inside the line, but instead choose that which is not the letter but the spirit of the law, we will find a life that is abundant.
Build with boundaries, not rules. The right boundaries help accomplish the goals. Rules can be lifeless with poor attitudes, but boundaries promote good health. Proverbs 4:20-21 tells us that God’s Word is life and health to us. If we stay within the boundaries of God’s Word, and don’t burden ourselves with legalistic rules, we will build a life that is whole and healthy.
Build with restraint not abandonment. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Everything in the right quantity can be poisonous, even water, which is a necessity of life! Proverbs 25:16 describes someone who eats too much honey becoming sick. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. The wise builder has self-control, and doesn’t build extravagantly or over-detailed. Jesus described a builder that wanted to build a tower, but had to sit down and “count the cost”, to make sure he could complete what he started. This is self-control. If we can choose wisely, we will be available for God’s opportunity. We need learn to say the right ‘no’ so we can say the right ‘yes’.
Build with God’s wisdom every day. The rock our lives should be built on is the Word of God. With God’s help we will withstand the daily storms of life. How do we build on this rock? It’s about the basics – maintaining daily intimacy with God, through His word. Building also takes consistency, and good friends. Choosing carefully what we surround ourselves with will determine how well we build, but what we build on determines if what we build will last.
Build to last. Proverbs 10:25 tells us what will last: faithfulness, righteousness, justice. The future is in God’s hands, but today, we have the power to choose and impact. Will we be here when the world comes looking? And when they come looking, will we have built what they are looking for?
To build wisely, pay attention. Life can’t be lived on autopilot.