Thursday, February 9, 2017

goodbyes

Tonight I sat with a dozen friends around chips and queso and good conversation. I wanted to say more than I said out loud, but I think they all know I am a writer, not a speaker. But if I could have made a speech, I would have said this.

Around this table is just four years or less of friendship with each of you, but it feels like more. We have been each other's kids AWANA's teachers. You have seen me cry in Sunday school classes (in th cry room of course) or in Bible studies. We have shared snacks and stories on break during VBS weeks. Some of us have studied 1 Peter and travelled to Indianapolis together. We have prayed for one another, in person or via the internet. You have cheered for my kids and those of you further along in faith have mentored me, even informally. You have shown me the beauty in complementarianism and I have almost converted enough to adopt that label for myself. You  have shown me what life looks like at different phases of the journey. You have encouraged me after each diagnosis for Grady, you have worn green for CP and blue for autism. You have made me feel included from our first Wednesday night at Boulevard.

I tell everyone I wish I could take my church to Arizona. We are not a perfect bunch, but you have taught me what gospel-centered friendships look like. It wasn't from a step-by-step manual, but it was true friendship, mostly among introverts and a few extraverts. When you have asked how I am doing, you have taken the time to listen to my answer. You have helped your children to understand mine, and that has been one of the greatest gifts. One of the hardest parts of leaving is knowing my kids won't be in Bible quiz or youth group or on mission trips with yours. Thank you for being families that my family wants to be around each week.

I don't know how to end this. I am terrible with writing conclusions, and I am terrible with goodbyes. If it were the nineties, I would start singing, "And a friend's a friend forever..." but it is 2017, so I won't. Thank you for investing in me and in my family. The Lord has used the four years at Boulevard to heal a lot of my old church wounds, and you all have been part of that healing. Please come visit us in Tucson. We don't have an Andy's, but we do have an In-n-Out.

Love always,
Amanda

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Home

Home.

The word stirs up so many memories and emotions.

It was my childhood in a quiet cul-de-sac. A dollhouse in the basement, a place for kickball games on the street, a room which held hopes and dreams and dozens of journals over a decade. It was my mom sacrificing so much to keep the house, when my dad walked out, to keep the thing that provided us stability and security. It was also this summer, as my children rode big wheels on the same pavement where I once rollerbladed for hours with my friends.

It was the four year temporary residence of Walther Second South, with its mint green rooms and bathrooms for four girls to share daily. It was late night conversations in hallways lined with painted trees while Sara Groves CDs played in the background. It was dialing FIXR and yelling, "Man in the floor!" and walking back from the caf with ice cream cones.

It was an apartment in the desert, to live in all by myself. Single for the first eighteen months and newly married for the last six. It never really felt like home while I was there, but once we moved away I missed the frequent trips for burritos and the free cable.

And for almost twelve years it was the small house on the north side of town. It was learning how to be married and how to fight fair. It was setting the security alarm every night. The dogs we owned ran freely in the fenced in backyard. It was the place to which I brought home my babies, and also the place where I did not come home with a baby. It was never enough closet space but always enough bathrooms to clean, and it was a place of reconciliation and disappointment and hope and frustration.

Now we are in a temporary place - not quite what we thought for many reasons. It is more  space than any family needs. There are pleasant fields with cows nearby that I love to watch, but the bathrooms are cold and the cleaning never seems to end. I don't feel settled here because that was never the purpose of this location for us.

In a few weeks we will be gone and starting somewhere new. Though we know where we are going, we don't have an exact address or date yet. So here I am, the one who craves stability and security, and I am having to rest on the hope that we will get there when we get there, that home is where the heart is, and a few other cliches, too. I do not do well with resting or cliches.

I am wanting to stay in the familiar, among the friends who have seen me ugly cry in small group settings, who witnessed and affirmed C's baptism, who know what G needs in VBS each summer. and yet I am longing to leave - to say the goodbyes as if ripping off that painful bandaid, and to begin a new life in a new place in a new home.

So that is my word. Home.

Perhaps in 2017 I will better understand what it means to me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace - 2016 and my word of the year

Twelve months ago I picked grace for my word of the year. I wanted to focus on it, find it in big and small ways, and maybe reflect and write on it a bit throughout 2016. And while it did show up on my radar every now and then, I did not reflect on it as much as I had wanted, and I did not write about it at all.

In fact I wrote very little on my blog this year.

I was several months behind on a birthday letter and still haven't written another. I intended to blog through Advent but left out week four, love. I wanted to find the word and themes of grace everywhere,  but honestly,  hope (my word from 2015) showed up more for me.

So I am sitting here on New Year's Eve realizing that grace is what got me through 2016, even when I didn't notice. I know there were times I prayed that the Lord would give the grace, the strength, to deal with something. There were definitely days when I was aware that I was resting in His grace because I had completely messed up a situation or a relationship. And I am realizing tonight that I should have focused on the defintions of the word more than just the feelings of what I thought grace was.

Grace:
1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
   b: a virtue coming from God
   c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2 a: approval, favor
   b: mercy, pardon
   c: a special favor: privilege
   d: a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
...

Grace may have been the best or worst word to ever pick for a word of the year. It is not something I can earn or create or even really feel physically or emotionally. Grace is what I have been given through Jesus Christ, not for 2016 alone, but since 1996 and forever forward.

2016 - you have been an interesting year. I am thankful for lessons learned, a sold house, a plan to move across the country in the months ahead.

2017 - I plan to write more often, stress less, and focus on my new word... Home.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent - Joy

Dear C and G,

Tonight we lit three candles and we focused on the word joy. John writes in his third letter, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth."

There is so much I want to share with you about joy, boys. I want you to understand what it is and what it is not. I want you to be able to see who the source of joy is and rest in that. I pray that you would discern all of your days that trusting in Jesus and obeying His word will bring you joy, even when deciding to do so brings you discomfort or pain.

I believe it brought the apostle John joy to know that his fellow believers were walking in truth because the truth is joy will only be found in truth. The world around you will tell you that you can determine your own truth, but your own truth will not lead to eternal joy. There actually is no such thing as your own truth. You will know  joy as you rest in Jesus and receive the promise that He came to earth to die for your sins. You will know joy as you set your hope in His resurrection and the promise that He is coming again, and that when He does He will right every wrong, and there will be no more sin, sickness, or sadness.

Walking in His truth will bring you joy. You cannot earn joy by following His law just as you cannot earn your salvation that way. But as you find joy in Him, that joy will compel you to trust Him enough to obey Him even when it is hard to do or understand. And when you fail to walk in His way, He is there with the grace to cover your failures and to keep you pressing heavenward.

Joy is not a Christmas wish list fulfilled. Joy is not the Christmas songs on the radio. Joy is not even happiness. Joy is rest, joy is contentment, joy is obedience, and joy is trust - all of which are only really possible through Jesus.

Love,
Mom

John 1:14-17 "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent - peace

Dear C and G,
I posted a wonderful quote from Spurgeon on my Facebook page after church this morning. It reminded me of the peace I have from knowing who God is. It was lovely.

And then five o'clock came. I needed to get you both a snack, take care of the dog and get us to church for musical practice and a meeting by six. We now live thirty-five to forty minutes from church due to holiday traffic and life in the country. Drivers were annoying. The drive-thru line was long. I had a list of things still to accomplish tonight that should have been done earlier and won't be done till tomorrow. I felt frazzled, the complete opposite of peace.

"Jesus, I need Your peace," I prayed aloud on East Sunshine.

"Amen!" came the five year old voice from the back.

I did not get instant warm fuzzies or better drivers in front of me. I did get a little perspective, but I still sat down in the sanctuary mid-hymn and unkempt.

We had a bunch of things to do still after 7:30. Normally we start our bedtime routine then. At 8:45 I wiped up Taco Bell crumbs, and we lit two candles. Hope from last week, and peace for this week. I grabbed my phone for my Bible app intending to only read Psalm 34:4 because it was the verse I remember posting earlier today. But I read the whole psalm, not knowing for sure if it matched today's Advent theme, but knowing for sure that it is God's Word and that is enough.

We blew out the candles and headed upstairs. Teeth were brushed, and prayers began. And I want you to remember what I prayed for us tonight. I pray that we would know that peace is not a feeling. Peace is knowing that Jesus paid the price for our sins, and because of placing faith in what He has done, we can have peace with God. The world is chaotic. Our plans do not go the way we have ordered them. But Jesus is our peace and we must cling to that.

Love,
Mom


Psalm34
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why I share

I never know how much to share on Facebook or this blog about our life as a special needs family. I am pretty open about the highs and lows, and I try to highlight the highs. When I point out the hard things or the different aspects of our life it isn't because I want people to feel bad for us. Our life is really good. My children don't fight. I witness miracles in the ordinary. We celebrate the mundane.
But I point out our differences, our struggles and our sadness to promote understanding, to educate, and to start conversations that might lead to positive changes.

It is hard to still be working on skills that other kindergarteners mastered years ago. Our potty training journey has not been typical, so commiserating in those conversations with friends is slightly awkward. Meltdowns have decreased, but there are still things, often unknown, which can cause frustration,anxiety or sadness for G. And we are just now really beginning to see how much life is different not only for our son with CP and autism, but also for our neurotypical som as well. My child  with special needs has many adult "buddies," but few peer interactions. It is hard for kids his age to want to talk to him because of their age and his needs. The Hubs and I will likely never have an empty nest, so whe friends joke about counting down till their kids leave for college it is hard to laugh.

This doesn't mean I want our friends to censor their conversations, walk on eggshells or force their children to be friends with mine, or even make sure that G is included in every activity. He can't do every activity due to limitations or lack of interest. We have been so fortunate to have friends invite us to birthday parties (we can't always attend), to greet him with a smile and hello and patiently wait for a response, and a church that is willing to make accomodations in classes and activities.

I share what our life is like because I believe we are meant to bear one another's burdens. My son is not a burden, he is a joy and delight. But the obstacles and issues we face can be burdensome. We were not created to do life alone. I share because awhile ago a dear person ahead of me in this autism journey blogged about their life - not just autism but the regular stuff, too. It was such an encouragement to read even before I was an autism mom, and especially after I became one. Maybe my sharing can encourage someone just starting on this path. We all need encouragement and prayer and support during different seasons. And the amazing thing about sharing the needs that we have is that we also get to share the celebration of the milestones and miracles we see.

Our family most likely doesn't look like most. We laugh, we cry, we go to a lot of appointments, we learn, we advocate, we play Trouble almost every night. We are exactly like you, yet we are nothing like you. We want to be noticed and yet we want to blend in. We long for God to show up in big ways, and we covet your prayers for Him to keep faithfully answering the smaller ones, the ones we do not even know how to pray yet.


"Jesus answered, 'This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him.'" John 9:3 NLT

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent - hope

Dear C and G,

Today I set out the candles in our temporary house. I couldn't find more than two that coordinated, so I found four different candles and set them in a platter. They are each labeled with one of the Advent words - hope, love, joy, peace. I never remember which order they are supposed to go in, and when I search the Internet to find out, I am given a couple of different options. But we start with hope.

Advent comes every year and serves as a reminder of the need to anticipate and the need to hope. We remember when the nation of Israel was waiting for the Messiah and the world was lost in sin and darkness. Advent reminds us of the waiting then, and it reminds me of the waiting now. Jesus came bringing hope because He brought the good news of salvation. He went away, but He promised to return and to give us a new heaven and a new earth. When we think of hope during this season, we remember the hope He has given us - a way to know Him and fully rest in His victory over sin - and we also hope for the day that has yet to come.

We cling to the hope that He will one day make all that has gone wrong right. We cling to the hope that there will one day no longer be autism or cancer or abandonment or violence. The world is still dark, but we know that the light has come and is coming again. We light a candle to remind us of that hope, that truth, for those of us who trust in Him for salvation.

I pray that just as Peter wrote a suffering and persecuted church, that you would prepare your minds for action and be sober-minded and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. I pray that your hope wouldn't be in a political system or a well-rounded eduction or even your own abilities or personality, but that your hope would be in what Jesus has done for you. Rest in that grace, rely on that truth, put your hope in His promise.

Love,
Mom


1 Peter 1:3-13 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.