Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hope: reflecting on my word for 2015

Hope was a strange word to focus on this year. There was little I could tangibly see or do that made me think, "Ah, I'm really getting this hope thing down now.  Gold star for me." But honestly that is not the point of my word of the year choices. My word doesn't mandate that I make another checklist of things to do or characteristics to be. My word allows me the freedom to simply focus on one thing. No rules. Just freedom to focus and notice and apply.

I don't know if I am more hopeful this year than last. I think I am, but there isn't any data to back it up. I do know that I noticed the word "hope" or themes of hope in books and songs and verses. I know that on really hard days, I could remind myself of the hope I have, hope that is not of myself.

I want to continue resting on hope in the days and weeks ahead. I want to choose hope over despair each time I am sad or overwhelmed. I want to help others experience true hope. I will be choosing a new word tomorrow, but I'm not giving up on hope. I'm clinging to it.

Other reflections on hope from me in 2015 can be found:
 One Word: Hope
An April Update of Sorts
Some Thoughts On My Word for 2015
Hope and Weariness
Advent: hope

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dear autism

Dear autism (and cerebral palsy, too),

I hate that you steal.

Today after The Hubs got off work our little family went to a local theme park because we were given passes this year. It has been a long semester, and this was the first time we were to go during the Christmas season. We rode all the little kid rides that Bug and Bubby wanted to ride. Except the train because we knew Bug wouldn't handle the wait even though he LOVES the train. We had planned to watch the Christmas parade. Bug loves the 4th of July parade we go to each year, and he loved my home town's homecoming parade this fall, so I knew he would love this. But autism, you stole that potential experience from my sweet boy. During the wait he had a mini meltdown, and we had to make the choice to leave before the parade. I watched both my boys miss out, one crying because of something being off in his world and one because he was missing out on something he really wanted to do.

This isn't the first time you have stolen from us. You steal from us on most Sunday mornings still, when either The Hubs or I have to take Bug into the cry room at church. You steal from us when you make it impossible for Bug to join his peers singing on stage, and you steal from us when one parent stays home with Bug while the other goes to watch Bubby in a choir concert or church musical. You steal these big, special moments and the little moments, too. You steal moments which should be used to linger and peruse longer at the library, moments when Bug can't keep up on the playground or on Wednesday night game times, moments when other little kids ask me, "Why are you walking him down the stairs like that?"

But you have given us some gifts, too.

You have given us the gift of celebration. We celebrate every milestone - using the slide, navigating some stairs, saying hello to a peer, decreased echolalia, and maneuvering a spoon. You have given us the gift of perseverance and prayer. You have taught us to pray without ceasing, to wait even when it's hard, and to hope even when the "experts" have not understood.  You have given us the gift of showing us that we have some wonderful true friends - those who still meet us at the park, who understand our crazy schedule, who don't mind talking at length about Veggie Tales, who aren't afraid of drool on the couch or an outburst of tears from a child or his mom.

You have stolen some moments and some abilitilies. You stole the end of our day, but we still look at all the wonderful memories we made today freezing our butts off riding a fake dumbo and eating a funnel cake. You gave me the gift of seeing how much character and maturity my six year old has and the depth of love he has for his little brother, when many other children would have pitched a fit while yelling hurtful things. In a strange way, you have given us the gift of being a strong family, though I know our strength is not of ourselves but because there is one who makes us strong even when we are weak.

Oh Autism and CP, you haven't stolen everything, and you will not steal everything. Not one single ounce of love for my sweet boy will ever be stolen from my heart. Even if you disappeared from his life tomorrow, my love would be the exact same amount. Because there are some things nothing or no one can steal.

Bugaboo's Mama

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

If I could start a one room schoolhouse...

A conversation with a friend this evening has me once again dreaming of starting a school. Or a one room schoolhouse. Or at least a co-op.

I love homeschooling. I love picking out and tweaking curriculum. I love lesson planning and teaching. I (usually) love being with my kids everyday. But I do miss teaching a group of students and the interaction that happens between peers.  Sometimes I wonder if my kids miss out on some of the traditional school things that I experienced. I have (mostly) good memories of my elementary school days. I have (mostly) good memories of teaching elementary school. But I have no desire to return to the regular classroom. The last six and a half years have shown me what I do and do not want for curriuculm and instruction for my children. I know exactly what I would do differently if I could teach a group of students again.

I love the Charlotte Mason method. I love the use of narrating and grand conversations, spreading the feast and short lessons, and I am even learning to love nature study. I feel like every child on earth could benefit from many aspects of Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy.

I have an elementary education degree and a master's degree in educational leadership. The state of Missouri says I could be a principal at a public school, yet I love being a stay-at-home mom. I want to be able to use my education and my passion for teaching, but in a different way. If I had a bigger house I would try out a one-room schoolhouse co-op here in my home, but that isn't possible where I live.

So many dreams and ideas dance in my head, but I don't know if there is a next step to take yet or even what that next step should be. I have a bit of a vision and a lot of questions, but for now I wait.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent - joy

I stretched out a twin bed this afternoon listening to my sons play on the floor near me. It was gray and rainy and felt more like March or April than December. The weather matched my mood. Today is one of the days of the year when I am reminded of something I lost - or perhaps a more accurate way to say it, someone lost me. I can say it's their loss, and that is true, but it doesn't completely take away the pain of being rejected, erased, and replaced. The word for the day is joy, but honestly I felt melancholy.

Driving to Bubby's musical practice tonight, I felt a still, small voice remind me, "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come for you." As the choir sang tonight, I found myself in the cry room at church, holding Bugaboo who was having a meltdown, asking God to show me where I can find joy in this situation, in all of the situations that cause me pain.

"I will not leave you as orphans."

I googled for verses to read for the third week of Advent. We lit three candles, hope, peace and joy.  I read from Isaiah 35:

"Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
'Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!'
Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song. ...
There will be a highway called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road.
It’s for God’s people exclusively—impossible to get lost on this road.
Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
no dangerous wild animals—
Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed will come back on this road.
They’ll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night."

My voice cracked reading it. Everything I needed to read tonight to point me to joy was in this passage. And then there was still more to read.  We are a day behind in our new advent book, and tonight was about the goodness of being adopted into God's family. Fitzpatrick and Thompson wrote:

"If you are in a family, you know that our families are not perfect. Moms and dads sin against children, children disobey their parents, grandparents don't always love their grandchildren the way that they should. Our families aren't perfect. The only perfect Father is God, and He has decided to make you His child. ... In our forever home we will love and be loved perfectly. In our forever home, Heaven, God's love will make us so lovely that we will never sin against anybody or be sinned against. So right now, when you feel like you aren't loved by your parents, you can know that God
loves you completely and fully, and one day you will be home with Him."

Maybe it doesn't seem like much, but sitting tonight with the candles and the verses and the devotional, God reminded me of why I have joy. I am His. He does not leave or reject or replace me. He has given me the hope of heaven and the peace that passes understanding which brings joy on this rainy, melancholy day. He has not left me as an orphan, as the fatherless, He has come for me. That is the joy of Advent and of my faith in Christ.

Monday, December 7, 2015

For Bugaboo as he turns five

Dear Bug,

Five. How is that even possible? Your auntie Lisa texted to say how you look like such a big boy today, and it is true. Before my very eyes you have transformed from baby to toddler to preschooler, and in less than a year, you will be a kindergartner. I still remember the first moment I held you, overwhelmed with love and gratitude that you were here.  Each night I check on you one more time before I go to bed. You are sleeping, and I look at you and have that same overwhelming feeling. I am so glad you are here. I am so glad I get to be your mama.

You are the hardest working child I know, and your perseverance during therapies each week amazes and humbles me.We have seen such growth in speech and gross motor this year.  I love how you and your echolalia attempt to call Dad "Babe" instead of Daddy. I love how you know the names of every kid in your Cubbies class and who is absent. I love how you will sing so many songs when you think no one is listening, and how you have quoted part of Rev. 3:15 for a month now. I love how much you love Christmas trees and books, and how every morning you want a piece of toast.

This year you have really mastered the slides at the park and on the church playground. You are getting faster at the stairs, and your auditory memory is amazing. Your recent favorite thing to do is to attempt to climb on the kitchen table. You reach your hands up to the light fixture and sing loudly, 'The name of the Lord is a strong tower!"  You continue to develop your own sense of humor, and you love to quote a few of your favorite movie lines much like every other male member of both families. This fall you were able to take an art class and a music class, and those have become new favorite activities. You sit in with your big brother's school work a good chunk of the time and can do the recitation work of poetry and songs just as well as he can. You love Robert Lewis Stephenson poems and the book Paddle to the Sea along with your own favorite books of Pete the Cat (still), Winnie the Pooh, the Rhyme Time Bible and any ABC book we bring into the house. We had a Pete party for you a few weeks ago, and you are still talking about it. I have loved watching you learn and play and grow this year.

You have taught me to pray and to persevere and to be thankful, and I will always be your advocate as well as your mama. Happy birthday, Bugaboo! We delight that God gave us you, and we have confidence that He has a plan for your life.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent - peace

It is the second Sunday of Advent, the day we light a candle labeled peace and remember the Prince of Peace.  But I don't feel much peace this year. Just days ago, in a city very close to where The Hubs grew up, a place where his family members still live, terrorists killed fourteen people. We are told to trust our government, that they will keep us safe from this, but they don't. And now they want to limit even more the ways I can protect my family - ways guaranteed by the Constitution. This makes me anxious, angry, and unsettled. I do not feel the spirit of peace this week. Instead I feel sorrow, and I wonder what kind of country my children are going to grow up in?

We lit the candle, and I read from John 14. Jesus is telling His friends to not be troubled because He is going away to make a place for them and for those of us who believe. He promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He promises to leave us His peace. "Not as the world gives do I give to you," Jesus says. I'm wrestling with that tonight. How does Jesus give us peace in this world that offers false peace or no peace at all? I know He is the Prince of Peace, but I was hoping I'd feel it a little more than I do.

We also read the first part of Isaiah 11 tonight, and Bubby's big question was about the child playing over the cobra hole.  "How can a kid play with a poisonous snake?" he wondered aloud. So I explained that someday Jesus is coming back and creating a new world for all His believers to live in where the animals won't be dangerous and everyone will be kind. There will be no more sin. "And He will kill all the wicked guys with just using His breath!" Bubby summarized.

"Peace on earth, goodwill to men," we sing, but that peace is not fully realized yet. I have peace with God because of the gift of Jesus taking God's wrath for me on the cross. I have peace in my heart, but the right-now-peace-on-earth seems not quite yet. I desperately want peace, but the peace I desire is not possible in this present world. Why won't you fix all of this right now, I pray. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, because this world just feels awful this week.

And then I recall 2 Peter 3:8-9, "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

God Almighty is waiting because He wants more people to experience the peace that comes with repentance and leads to an eternity of peace. In these turbulent times, I will choose to rest in His plan, be obedient to what He calls me to do, and be thankful for the peace that I have in my heart and the peace I am assured of inheriting one day.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Being Picked

I help in Cubbies every week at our church. I am the secretary, and I also help Bugaboo with the things he needs assistance with - holding the styrofoam cup at snack, helping him up and down the stairs, removing him if he has a meltdown, and being his helper during game time.

Preschoolers are a squirrelly bunch. I say that with love and affection.  They all could use a one on one helper during game time, I think. But a lot of the activities would be impossible for Bug to do without me lifting him to jump or hold his hand to run the relays. Earlier in the year there were a couple of things that happened during game time that broke my heart. There have been a couple times I have had to hide and cry in the ladies' room. Some weeks I wait and break down at home. But we show up every week and give it a try because overall it is a good thing for both of us. Most weeks there aren't any tears.

This week though there was a wonderful moment. It came time for a relay with partners. Usually I'm Bug's only partner because he can't keep up with his peers for these activities, and four year olds aren't great about slowing down to help their teammates. But this week a little girl on his team declared that she wanted Bug as her partner. She ran slowly. She laughed (in a nice way, not a mocking way) when he ran the wrong way. She let me help both of them finish. She encouraged him by just being his friend. And she encouraged me because she picked him for a race even though she did not have to.  My son was picked, and in that moment I was given another glimpse of the goodness of God.