Archive for October, 2011

It was a wonderful Saturday morning. Hubby and I slept in (until 7:20am … oh, how age changes a person), pot full of steaming coffee, and laundry started (this was NOT the dreamy type of wonderful, just the realistic type of wonderful … laundry has to get done, so it might as well get started early, in hopes of getting done before bedtime … but, I digress).

Then I came upon a newer worship song and it set the mood for my day, like coffee could never do. It starts like a Negro Spiritual, and ends like new release from a Vineyard CD. It creates a mood of solemn reverence, as well as unbridled worship.

It is a song based on David’s Psalm 103. It is a song of what God has done for us. It is a ‘bedtime’ Psalm. It reminds me of kid’s picture books like Robert Munsch’s “Love you Forever” or “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam Mc Bratney. Books that tell a child how very loved they are and how far their parent is willing to go to love them. This Psalm is the same, it tells of how desperately our Father God loves us, and how far He will go to prove it.

So, whether you are reading this at bedtime, or at the beginning of your day, bless God, and don’t forget a single blessing

Psalm 103

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.

God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work, opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
God has set his throne in heaven; he rules over us all. He’s the King!
So bless God, you angels, ready and able to fly at his bidding,
quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels, alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
everything and everyone made by God.

And you, O my soul, bless God!

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Sometimes God speaks in whispers, and sometimes His voice yells into my being. I like it better when He yells (it is easy for me to become distracted when trying to hear whispers), but He seems to prefer whispering.

There was a time, a few years back, when He yelled … loudly. I am not sure, looking back, why He was so intent on my hearing His voice. Maybe what He wanted most was simply that it was undeniable that He was pursuing me.

It all started on a bright and sunny fall Sunday afternoon. I was walking with our oldest daughter (about eight years old, at the time). As we walked we talked about various things. The only thing I remember talking about was when I asked her if she would be interested in learning a how to play a musical instrument. I had asked if she might like to learn to play the violin, the guitar, or maybe take voice lessons (notice the smaller size of these suggested instruments … money was tight, and as much as we wanted to provide this opportunity, it also had to fit with our budget).

My daughter’s response was that she would like to learn to play piano (not in our budget). I did not want to discourage her, but I did want her to recognize the enormity of her desire. So, I told her it was an expensive instrument, and that if that was what she desired most, then she should pray and ask God to either make a way for us to get a piano, or that He would take her desire to learn to play piano away. I also quoted (something I do not do ofter or well, because memorizing is a struggle for me), Matthew 19:26, ” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

When we returned home that afternoon, I shared with hubby our conversation. The next morning, hubby got a phone call from his mother. She called him (not a regular occurrence) to ask if she could purchase a piano for her granddaughter to learn to play on. He immediately called me, to share in his sense of shock. We decided that we would not share this with our daughter.

Over the next number of weeks we looked high and low for a good, used piano (we did have a conservative budget). It was not an easy task. I cannot remember what the budget was, exactly, I just remember that there was nothing available in any store I visited. Through the hunt we would check in on our daughter, and ask if she was still praying. Every time her response was the same, “everyday, Mom.”

Finally, just weeks before Christmas, a store that I had left our budget with called to say that a piano that met our needs and budget had just arrived. Arrangements were made for it’s delivery. We still chose to not tell our daughter … but I think we told every other living soul around us. I am not sure if it was possible for our daughter to ever realize the excitement and anticipation that this event created for all around her.

Then, on the Friday before Christmas break, it was delivered. She walked into the house, and we put her on the phone with her gift-providing Gramma (so that she could live through the excitement with us). She was led to the piano, blindfolded, and then it was revealed. She was ecstatic! She played, she sang, she played. And we all smiled brightly.

The whole story was shared with her, and we reminded her of the verse from Matthew that was the central point of this adventure. That verse has become her life’s verse (as each of our children have one), but, really it has more meaning to us than even to her.

That season is one I look back on as our ‘with God all things are possible’ season. It is a time that God spoke, loudly, and reminded me of how He is in control of our lives, and how with Him, the impossible for us, happens.

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One Flesh

One flesh … just the combination of those two words makes us blush, or snicker, or raise our eyebrows at each other … in church. And when your adolescent child refers to yourself and your hubby as ‘one flesh’, well, then you know you have a story to tell.

It is not as if our kids have not heard the the phrase ‘one flesh’ before. It is one they have probably heard at church, at school (they attend a Christian school), and at home. The context in which they are familiar with it is from Genesis 2:21-24 :

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

So, for our kids, it is simply a statement of fact … until … they reach adolescents, and their sexual awareness awakens. Then they too will blush and snicker when they hear those words. Recently though, hubby and I were ‘accused’ … at the dinner table … of being one flesh. You can imagine the looks that hubby and I shared, along with raised eyebrows. The mutual look at each other communicating, non-verbally, “they have no idea how true it is,” just about had us both in uproarious laughter.

Then, one of us had the ability to control our laughter and ask what they meant. The response was great! “Well you two are similar in how you answer us, and how you want us to live that you are like one person.” We all laughed, but hubby and I looked at each other, one of those eye-locked moments when we were truly of one mind, as we contemplated what was said.

I do not think there could be a more desired, less hoped for compliment that our kids could ever say of us.

You see our marriage is as far from perfect as is possible, we have both wronged each other in more ways than either of us would ever admit to any other living human being, and there have been numerous times when (validly, for the standards of the day and time we are living) we have both stayed together for the long term health and benefit of our kids. We have failed our vows and original commitment to each other over and over. We are individually, and together, flawed flesh.

Yet, out of the mouths of our babe, came the most beautiful words. And then it hit me, our ‘oneness’, our being ‘one flesh’ has far more to do with the one who put us together, the one who made us for the other, than anything that hubby or I could ever do. The story of our being ‘one flesh’ is one that reveals the Maker, and the miracles He does, despite our fleshly humanness.

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It was ‘supposed’ to be a long awaited weekend of romance, of no interruptions, of just hubby and I. It ended up being a weekend of nitpicking.

We had originally planned to go away  w  a  y  back at the end of June, and then I took on a temporary (but intense) short term job. Then it was going to be at the end of July, but the job still was not done. Then it was supposed to be early August, but we had short term international students. Then later in August, but our international kids who were moving in for the school year arrived earlier than expected. Then … well, it just wasn’t happening.

So, I decided that it was time to plan at least a one night getaway (and to maximize we would be away for two full days plus one night). I booked a day off work, I reserved a hotel room, I organized our kids lives and transportation, and I let hubby know that he would need to be ready to leave on Friday morning.

When ones hubby doesn’t have a ‘fill in’ at work, when one goes away, it means you do not leave until the job is done (sigh), so we didn’t quite get away right after taking the kids to school, as hoped … more like later morning. Then, there was a line up at the border (it was a day off for most schools, so everyone wanted to cross border shop) which meant we didn’t get over the border until after noon.

Finally, at about two in the afternoon, we were in our destination city, having a lovely lunch.

Less than twelve hours later, I received the first of many related calls, that ended our getaway, and it was lousy.

What I really mean to say, is that at least one of our five kids at home had creepy crawlies in and on their hair. They were scratching up a storm, and feeling really buggy. Yes, that is right, a lice infestation!

So, we instituted a group calm (over the phone), and suggested a quarantine of sorts for all, from all else. Then, we migrated back to our home and native land.

This was a somber, sad, disappointed sort of drive home … our time of relaxation, rejuvenation and being alone had been cut short 😦 and we had to face creepy crawlies on our return home.

On return we discovered that not one, but two kids were crawling to see us! So, we did what the experts said to do to the live and nitty pests, and the disinfecting laundry was underway by before 5pm Saturday evening.

On Sunday morning, there was nothing living on or in anyone’s hair 🙂 We were so thankful that the torture was short lived.

By 7am, on Monday morning, I was putting the last load of laundry into the dryer, feeling thankful that we were truly at the end of this recent adventure.

As our household awakened, I did another head check, from first awake to the last, expecting it to be just a confirmation of what I already was convinced of … the lice were a thing of the past. WRONG! Suffice it to say that I am so very thankful that hubby could arrange his schedule, and stay home with the ones whose creepy crawlies made a miraculous return from the dead, to delouse and to … do more laundry.

All that to say, hubby and I did get away, and we did have a full twenty fours hours together, and 😉 he is so not a lousy hubby.

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There is a life mystery that I expect I will never fully understand. It is twofold: First is the amazing love, and dedication, and awe, and commitment that a parent feels when their newborn is placed in their arms. Second is how that beautiful, innocent, miraculous bundle of joy turns into a surly, snarly, stubborn teenager.

As a parent, who has experienced both the beautiful babe and the surly teen, I am baffled at how one morphs into the other. I am also confounded at how I have morphed as well. From the moment that I would have confirmation of being pregnant I was in love, I was willing to die for that child …

  • and then they become a defiant two year old,
  • and then they won’t eat their veggies
  • and then they get into a fist fight on the playground
  • and then they talk back
  • and then they argue over anything (as in anything you say)
  • and then they won’t talk
  • and then you understand why some creatures eat their young …

I also work in a school, and so I get to see teens, daily, with their chosen packs (you know, like wolf packs … so many similarities 😉 ), and it does a number on my ‘parent perspective’ of those surly teens.

Here is what I see:

  • ‘friends’ who embarrass and humiliate them in front of other ‘friends’
  • faces of failure, because they didn’t get the mark they thought or hoped they would on an assignment or test
  • not wanting to ask for help in class, because they truly feel they are the only ones who do not get it
  • exhaustion caused by working late, so that they can have the money to buy the ‘things’ that keep them ‘in’ with the pack
  • exhaustion caused by the reality that a teens body has a different clock from an adults (and from our school schedule), their bodies are programmed to ‘awaken’ in the evening, making sleep hard to come by until late into the night
  • inattention in class, causing reprimands from teachers who have not been alerted, by parents, of the illness of a family member, the pending separation/divorce of parents, deaths, etc., etc., etc.
  • students who look like a scared creatures when they walk down the hallways, because they feel they have no ‘pack’ to belong to
  • students who are self-injuring (cutting, eating disorders, drugs, alcohol, illicit sex), who have so much going on in their minds and bodies, that they hurt themselves to distract from the big hurts in their lives

This is what I see, it is not all I see (I do see good stuff too, and lots of it, but the good stuff doesn’t contribute to surly so much), but this is what I see that makes me look at my surly teens differently. I now know that when they hop in the van at the end of the, our van might be the only place they have felt ‘safe’ all day, and they might be surly to me because I might be the first person in their day who they know will love them, despite their behaviors, or their looks, or their hearts.

Moms and Dads, we need to continue to be the same ‘in love’, willing to die for you parents that we were when we first laid our eyes on our babies. We need to stop responding to our kids surly behaviors, and start seeking the reasons why they are surly. We need to stop being offended by their attitudes, their music choices, their clothing and hair styles and start looking through all of that to the child/adolescent/teen/young adult at the core of who they are. We need to love them through the eyes of a Father God, who looks at us, not as we are (thank goodness), but as who He knows we can become.

Every week, I know of a daughter who willfully breaks the rules of her Father. She lies, she snubs others, she can be really mean to those younger than her, she has hissy fits, she leaves the house without telling anyone where she is going, and she might spend days without saying a single word to her father. Then, one day every week she goes out in public to say how much she loves her Daddy. And you know what, because her father is God, He welcomes me back … every time. Because my Father God knows I am going to be surly (it’s a given, just like our kids), but He sees in my the enormity of what I can become, and He isn’t going to give up on my until I see it too.

Don’t stop seeing the enormity of what our surly teens can become.

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Our oldest daughter was a most desired child.

She was not our first child, though. I remember when I found out I was pregnant that first time. I was in a total and complete sense of awe (hubby just kept saying “you realize everyone will know we’ve had sex now” …  the mind of a man is truly a complex simple thing). Very soon after having the pregnancy confirmed, I eagerly prayed to God, with thanksgiving, and promised Him that I would remember that this baby was His first, and in that recognition, I was giving our baby back to Him. I felt like Hannah promising Samuel back to God.

Then, at around eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, the baby died.

One year and a bit later we got the confirmation that I was pregnant again. I felt so thankful, so blessed by God, but I did not offer that baby back to Him (immediately). There have been many times, over her nineteen years, when I have been confronted about the sacrifice that I have held back from God. I have never been directly confronted by individuals, so much as confronted by my own guilt for holding back my daughter from the God who gave her to me. I would be awakened to my guilt when I was reading, or listening to a speaker, or singing a hymn or worship song (try singing “I Surrender All” when in a position of NOT surrendering).

Over her nineteen years I did gradually lay her in the hands of the one who laid her in mine. It was a process, a journey, and I know now that I will be continuing this journey throughout all of my days. There was a pivotal moment a few years ago, when I was confronted with my need to put my words into action. I did speak of it in the past (Do You Love Me?), and that day forced me to lay my mother love, to lay my daughter, on the alter (like Abraham with his son Isaac), and to let God be in control of her life. And I believe that day I did.

That baby is now turning nineteen this weekend. She has grown from a round faced, little girl with Shirley Temple blond curls, to a young woman with a striking sparkle in her eyes. She is intelligent, responsible, and exhibits wisdom in how she thinks, and in how she chooses to live her life. She has never been one to follow the crowd, and she has a mind that is all her own. I am proud of who she is, and how she is living her life. She loves Cinderella, swimming, learning, and coffee shops. She is completely convicted of what she believes in … no half way under that blond curly hair! She believes in black and white, and a few shades of gray. She believes in justice, for all. She loves to follow the lives of Mother Teressa and the Kardashians (?). She dreams of the Mediterranean and of shoe sales.

I am blessed to be her Mummy. She is the child who first introduced me to birth, and of living outside of my own body and being. She acquainted me with the wonders that innocence can more easily see. She can make me think and re-think like no other on this planet. She still invites me into her joys, and her sorrows as she opens up her heart to me.

What I wish for her is that she would continue with the foundation she has behind her, and reach with joy and humor and eagerness and faith and wonder toward whatever is to come.

I can not pretend to know what the future holds for her, but I know who is holding her as she ventures towards and through it. And, because I chose to laid her there, I know that she is in good hands.

My dear, you are beautiful, it’s true.

Mummy 😉

Jesus looked at them and said,

“With man this is impossible,

but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

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I love the students that I work with, and I love the job that I have. I get to work with students who live with the struggles of physical, mental, social, psychological and other difficulties. I get to assist them in finding the keys to unlocking their gifts, and finding ways of learning that may be unconventional. I love the job that I get to do!

I believe that all people in a society need to attain the benefits of being in, and being part of, a community. I believe that including all students in a school community provides the students with special needs the ability to interact with others, and it also provides non-special needs students the opportunity to get to know their ‘special’ counterparts, and thereby learning that they may share common bonds, and learning the capacity to look at life from a different life perspective.

What I struggle with is when inclusion is forced (like brussel sprouts on your plate at a Thanksgiving Dinner). There is nothing so pointless to me as a student with verbal comprehension skills at a grade four level, in a grade twelve History class (I realize this is probably a rarity … but I am trying to make an exaggerated point). To me doing that to the student with special needs is an act of torture for them, which rarely gets lived out in a manner that improves how they appear, socially, to their peers.

What I do not struggle with is when inclusion is natural. When the person with special needs and the community they live in gravitate to, and accept each other. Now I know that this does not always happen naturally, and it is imperative that we sometimes ‘create’ natural-looking opportunities for the ‘typical’ and the student with special needs to come together. And that is one of the parts of my job that I love … facilitating opportunities for my students to accept, and be accepted by their community.

I was thinking of a natural inclusion recently, while at a course about autism. I was thinking about times when my life crossed paths with people with special needs.

There was the boy with Downs who was my age, who attended my church. He sang every hymn … by memory. And he was loved by all at that church.

There was this boy in hubby’s youth who probably had autism, and was loved by the entire group. I remember when he had a big crush on a girl in the group, and he sang her name in the multiple-storied cabin we were retreating at. His peers were giggling in the background … and we still giggle together today … and that boy (now a man) laughs along with us.

And the other boy with cerebral palsy who chatted everyone’s ear off, and they listened … and they told him he talked alot, and that was okay.

And the lady at the workplace I took students to, who would sweep the floors while smiling brightly. She was thrilled to be making the staff lunchroom a cleaner place for her co-workers to have their breaks.

Those experiences are the ones that make my heart sing, with the knowledge that the key to their truly being part of the bigger community, has been found. When people with special needs are not just ‘placed’ into situations to ‘be’ included, but when they are included, with little to no recognition of them having special needs. To me, that is an inclusive society.

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