Uncategorized

Good Gifts

The warm spring breeze blows through the trees and the sun glistens on a sea of blue. A sea of crushed blue metal, broken and cracked, shattered and smashed. Broken lights, broken doors. And I look away, because my heart is a little bit broken to see it that way, this wonderful car of mine. This beautiful gift of love.

About this time last year I was standing in front of a clerk taking ownership of my very first car. A car I couldn’t even drive, but still – my car just the same. Beside me, my Dad, signing paperwork and giving me the keys to a car that was his favourite. A gift of love, from a father to a daughter. He gave me this car because it was easy for me to get in and out of, and it perfectly accomodated our family. And it was wonderful.

Little did I know a year later I’d be saying goodbye to my car. Standing there at the towing lot, watching as my husband and son pulled out our possessions, it was so final. I wasn’t ready for it. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little bit as we left the lot, left behind such a lovely gift from my father. Tears welled up as I thought of the daunting task of finding a new car, something affordable and reliable. Knowing nothing would be as nice as the car we’d just left behind.

And as we drove away I was suddenly overwhelmed with peace, as I thought about good gifts from my father. Just like my Dad gave me the beautiful gift of a car that was good for our family, so my heavenly Father gives good gifts. Like the beautiful gift he gave me this week, allowing my husband to walk away from a collision with no injuries. Safe. As I went to bed that night, and thought of the events of that day, I was filled with gratitude that my husband was still beside me, snoring loudly. (Sorry honey, you know you do it!) And suddenly that sound of snores was a precious gift from my heavenly Father. His hand of protection was over us that day, and still is.

My father loves to give good gifts. His gift of love continued as we got our appraisal for my vehicle and we realized we could purchase a good quality replacement. A very yellow, sunshiny car. With everything we’d hoped for in a new car and then some. And my Father had His loving hands on that as well, in a way that only God can. And just like my Dad’s gift of love continues, how much more will the good gifts of my Lord?

Sometimes we don’t always see the beauty in the broken. When our hearts are hurting, when we’ve been dealt a blow it’s hard to see it. But sometimes we can catch a glimpse of it if we lift our eyes to the Father. As I stood there, watching the sun bouncing off my totaled car, I saw it. It was in the hug that my husband gave me, the way he squeezed my hand as we drove away. Because he’s still here. A gift of love from my God, allowing me to have a wonderful man to do this life with. And at the end of the day, as I crawl into bed, I know it was just a car. There will be more. But the gifts from both of my father’s still stand, wrapping me in love.

Uncategorized

Brick by Brick

Tolerance. It is becoming a difficult word in a difficult world. Every time I scroll through social media I see posts, articles and pictures demanding our tolerance of different social issues. You know what those issues are as well as I do – those controversial issues that rock the boat. Those issues that leave you walking on dangerous ground. Those issues that cause you to fear you might upturn the boat, sink the boat. I’m just going to say it. Those issues like gender identity, the LGBTQIA+ community, women’s rights versus the rights of an unborn child. Those issues.

To navigate the world today, tolerance is key. It’s expected of us. It’s demanded of us. Even when it goes against the very core of what what we believe in. Even when it breaks our hearts and leaves us confused and unsure of what to do, what to say, what to believe.

Right now I live in a country that by the charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms allows all Canadians the following fundamental freedoms.

Section 2 lists what the Charter calls “fundamental freedoms” namely freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

Freedom of religion. According to the charter, that means the following:

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance without government influence or intervention. It also includes the freedom to change one’s religion or belief. Freedom of religion is considered by many people and most of the nations to be a fundamental human right.

Unfortunately, all that means is that I’m allowed to attend church and meet socially with my Christian friends and family to worship God, without government interference. Because if you look on Wikipedia for an explanation, you get this.

Freedom of religion does not persecute believers in other faiths. Freedom of belief is different. It allows the right to believe what a person, group or religion wishes, but it does not necessarily allow the right to practice the religion or belief openly and outwardly in a public manner.

Do we really have freedom of belief? Because where I’m standing, it sure doesn’t look like it.

I remember being in a doctor’s office waiting, mindlessly watching what was on TV. A few ladies were arguing over something current on a program called The View. One of the women started to share something but was interrupted by another, trying to get her to shut up. She slammed her hand down on the table and said No. She said it didn’t seem fair that she was required to tolerate all the things they were sharing, not to interrupt them or put them down…but the second she opened her mouth to talk about Jesus, the rules didn’t apply. Christianity wasn’t tolerated. And just like that, Candace Cameron Bure put Raven Simone in her place. You go, girl.

Even though I don’t typically watch The View, I do know that it wasn’t long after that episode that Candace left the show. As a professing Christian in Hollywood, she sure does handle a lot of negativity for her views. But then, don’t all Christians?

We live in a culture that openly tolerates (read: supports and encourages) many things that we as Christians can’t support and encourage. We don’t support and encourage these things because they go against the core of our beliefs. We live in a country that has crossed the line between moral and immoral, between sinfulness and godliness. We live in a country that persecutes Christianity – if you don’t agree with their set moral standards, you pay for it. I never thought living in a “free” country would be like this.

But then, that’s what God intended. It seems strange to think that way. But it’s the truth – this isn’t our home. But while we live here we have one important mission – to go out into the world and spread the Good News. The news that Christ died for sinners.

Even though I find it it’s disheartening to be here in this world right now, even though it discourages me deeply that we are encouraged to tolerate everything, yet we as Christians are not tolerated. Even still, we are to be the light. We are to be the ones who stand out, the ones who are different. We are the ones who are to extend the love of Christ to others. Even when it’s hard.

Suddenly I realized I’ve built myself a brick wall between my beliefs and the world. Thinking I’ll be safe over here behind this wall – as long as I don’t say anything or offend anyone. But I look at my wall and I realize it’s not what Jesus would do. And if I keep layering brick on top of brick, how will His light shine through?

The tricky, sticky thing is that if Jesus were here on the earth right now He wouldn’t be avoiding these people. He wouldn’t avoid these issues. He would be reaching out to them in love. Reaching out to them in forgiveness. And so should we be. Even when it’s hard, even when we are discouraged and frustrated at everything that is the world right now. Because the fact of the matter is, right now the world just needs Jesus.

For this is how God loved the world : He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God STILL loves the world. He doesn’t love the sin, but He loves the people. And while I was thinking about this the other day, frustrated over yet another issue to tolerate, I was moved. Because God sees my sin, and He still loves me. So how am I any different from all these other people? I’m not, and neither are you. I desperately need Jesus, every day. And so do they. Yes, tolerance can be frustrating when it goes against what I believe in. But love is stronger than frustration. God’s love can make a way. It can break through. And sometimes, God uses His people to do it.

I don’t have perfect answers. This isn’t a self-help blog that will deliver the miracle idea of how to deal with hard issues. This is just a girl, who desperately wants to share Jesus with people who need Him. A girl fighting with herself to be part of the city on a hill. A girl who recognizes we can replace tolerance with love, because Love covers a multitude of sins.

Brick by brick, I’m tearing down walls to make room for Love. It’s not always easy. But the more the bricks fall, the more His light shines.

Uncategorized

Juggling with Jesus

I’m standing on the driveway in the hot summer sun. The new asphalt stings my nose as I watch one of my best friends show off his talents. Justin is good at everything – he can scissor jump a fence, swing higher than I can. He can jump great heights and land on his feet. He can beat me at a race every single time. But today he’s showing me how to juggle. So I stand, watching him. He’s got three balls going and then he gets me to toss him more. The balls are flying through the air, but he seems to have them under control. With the heat of the sun beating down, I try to do the same. But the sun is in my eyes, and I can’t see a thing. The balls slip from my grasp and I lose them all, one by one. We share a laugh and sip some lemonade, because it’s just a silly childhood game.

I’m not laughing anymore. And somehow, the balls have multiplied. If responsibilities were balls we juggle, I would have more than even the finest juggler could handle.

As an autism mom, there’s a lot of things to remember. So many things. And it all comes down to me, because my husband works to support the family and I keep us running smoothly. Because I’m coordinated and organized. It’s how we work. It’s how it’s always worked. I’ve juggled all the special needs balls for so long – scheduling therapies, doctor’s appointments, school meetings, outings, respite care. And then the regular mom balls – laundry, housework, after school activities, homework help, meal planning, grocery shopping. Then the balls for holidays – birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Day. And then, my own personal balls – work, volunteering, ministry and health. That’s a lot of balls for one person. And I’ve been juggling them well for years, until suddenly I realized I was exhausted.

And balls started to drop. One by one, they started slipping from my grasp. Little things started throwing me off my game. Phone calls from the school requiring extra balls for me to juggle, when I felt like I couldn’t handle one more thing. Appointments that needed to be rescheduled, and rescheduled again. And then disappointments added in the mix – which to be honest are their own set of balls. And it all stacked up against me and I did something I never do – I missed one of my treatments. Completely, didn’t even cross my mind, kind of miss. And all the balls came crashing down around me.

What do you do when you don’t even know how to recover? What do you do when you’re so exhausted, completely spent, so over-the-top discouraged that you just.can’t.even?

I didn’t know the answer, or maybe I was just so weary that what was obvious didn’t seem to be. I spent a few days there, with these balls I juggle scattered all over the floor. Picking through them each day, scrambling to make sure everyone had what they needed and all was accounted for. And in my heart, as I stared at these invisible balls that only I could see, I knew what I needed to do.

Sometimes when you’re weary, and something is broken, you just need baby steps. So I opened the curtains and let the sun pour into the room. And while the sun was shining on my face, I listened to worship songs until my lips and my heart were aligned. Until the words I was singing sank in deep, watering the deep roots that were already there.

And then I was back on the driveway of my childhood home, in the hot summer sun. With the asphalt stinging my nose and the colourful balls scattered in every direction. Instead of my thirteen year old self reaching for the balls, it was me as I am now. I picked up these balls and noticed they had words on them, names of my responsibilities today. I picked up the important ones, and started to juggle. And suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Another set of hands were picking up the rest, juggling right alongside me.

Jesus.

Sometimes when you’re weary, and something is broken, you just need Jesus. It’s not that He’d ever left, really. It’s just that in my exhaustion, and my deep discouragement, I had forgotten I could just call His name. A friend reminded me today that sometimes when the stuffing is knocked out of you, you just need to whisper His name and He will come. And suddenly, the fog was lifted for a moment and everything was clear.

When discouragement comes, when juggling alone seems too much to bear, we can call on Jesus. And we can call on others, too. God has placed many people in our lives to support and come alongside us when we are weary. They are a testament of His care for us. Even the little things that they do speak His name louder than you can imagine. And at the root of all of this is Love.

Because sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, losing all the balls, you forget who you are. You forget that you are loved. You forget Who you belong to. And when you forget, that’s when discouragement creeps in to your heart. Don’t let it. Don’t be like me, staring your responsibilities down, trying to do it on your own. Remember Love, and call His name.

Uncategorized

Stained Glass

I stood in front of a wall of glass. Beautiful, colourful glass. The light was shining through and splashing colours all over the walls and it mesmerized me. I wanted to reach out and touch it, but was scolded. Stained glass was special, I was told. Stained glass was not to be touched, but only to be appreciated from a distance.

That was when I was young, standing in a church building that I didn’t know. I liked the pretty colourful glass that featured Jesus as a shepherd, Jesus with the children, Jesus praying in the garden. A few years later, I wandered into my mother’s workshop in our basement and was mesmerized again. I could see the dim basement light, shining through her stained glass creations. Smaller scale, but still beautiful. A jewelry box, a cardinal, a blue jay. She made me a trio of balloons that happily hung in my bedroom window. But the piece I most remember was a stunningly beautiful small box. The main colour was green with little flashes of white woven through the glass. And in the middle, she had created a beautiful red and pink rose. Something stirred in me as I watched her gingerly working on that beautiful box. Maybe it awakened my creative heart. Or perhaps it was something more.

Stained glass became even more meaningful to me decades later, after I was married and had children. Someone asked me if they could pray for my children to be free of their autism. It surprised me a bit, because I didn’t know they needed to be set free. I didn’t think autism was a disease. I still don’t. But it did give me pause, and it made me think about what autism is, and what it isn’t.

It is different than you and I. Different programming, different processing, different mechanics. But still useful, still important, still significant. It is harder to appreciate the good when you don’t experience the bad. Harder to celebrate successes when you haven’t been battling trials. It’s life, really. It’s like a life that you or I live, only different. Sometimes I can eloquently describe what autism is, how it affects our lives, the good and the bad. And sometimes, I just think of stained glass.

I am transparent. I live my life in a very transparent way, because I choose to. Because it’s hard not to live life that way when your children spill your secrets to anyone who asks. Because living a transparent life can be a blessing to others. And yet, while I am transparent glass, my children are not. My husband and I have a key to all their locked up places no one else can see. And when you use it, it unlocks the door and inside is beautiful walls of stained glass. So beautiful. It captivates me, but to you it doesn’t look the same.

Because autism is different. Because it’s uncomfortable sometimes. It’s not what you expect. Autism can’t be molded and shaped into a uniform piece, easy to tuck away in a box. There really isn’t any box that autism can squeeze into. Because it’s different for everyone. Because no two autistic people are the same. Because it’s a million different pieces of glass – different shapes, different colours, different patterns. Uncut, uncreated. Raw.

A lifetime is spent creating something beautiful with this glass. Refining, shaping, laying down patterns. And if you, like me, allow yourself to understand autism you might just have a chance to catch a glimpse. And it might just be the most beautiful stained glass that you will ever see.

Uncategorized

Care to Move

It is cold today. The wind whips and whirls around me, and I can feel it in my bones. Joints pop and groan as I move, and it sounds thunderous to me but no one notices. And suddenly I realize that it doesn’t hurt today. I stop for a moment and look back, surprised by how much progress I’ve made. I’ve walked much farther than I could before. I’ve moved.

Moving hasn’t always come easy for me. I’ll watch others walk up and down the street in the winter, across the icy surfaces and wonder how they glide along without pause. Without concern. Without fear. That’s not a luxury I have, because falling is a terrifying reality. Sometimes for me moving is shuffling. Sometimes it’s side stepping and sometimes it is just standing in one place, sitting and standing repeatedly. I never knew that moving was something I would lose. Something I would take for granted.

I saw an infographic this week that said 65 million adults care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member. And that 4 in 10 people spend an average of 24 hours a week caring for their loved ones. And the stark reality of being that statistic was tough to face. Especially because I’m not the caregiver – I’m the chronically ill, the disabled.

Sometimes I close my eyes and think about what it was like to be younger, with strong legs. Legs that could pump on a swing back and forth, back and forth – a rhythmic, calming motion that soothed my soul and calmed my heart. Legs that happily bicycled to and from friends houses, all over the city, wherever I wanted to go. Legs that sliced through the water like butter, making waves stride by stride with each stroke of my swimmer’s hands. All of these things I took for granted. All of these things I never knew I’d lose.

And now, someone spends his time caring for me. Devotedly backing in the driveway so I don’t have far to walk. Removing snow and salting the walkway extra carefully, just for me. Carrying things up the stairs. Preparing my heat therapy. Wrapping and unwrapping compression. Massaging lotions and potions into these sore, deformed legs. Shaving them too, only because it makes me feel better about myself. Painting my toenails so I’ll still feel pretty.

Hours. Hours that he’ll never get back, that he’ll never spend any other way. Hours that he spends caring for his disabled wife because of love. Because of his beautiful servant heart. Because it needs to be done so I can move.

As the wind whips around me and I see how far I’ve moved, how far I’ve walked, how much I’ve done – I’m so thankful. Thankful that God heals, and that each treatment brings me one step closer to freedom from mobility aids. Thankful that while He heals, He’s given me the precious gift of a loving husband who cares for me, even after he’s spent all day at work caring for others. Thankful that I can move more and have less pain than I did a few months ago. Thankful that the future is brighter than it was before.

I may never use a swing again. I may never bicycle around town. I may never be the same swimmer I once was. But I will be able to move. Slowly at first, and then with more momentum. One step in front of the other, again and again.

Because moving and mobility is more freeing and more beautiful than I ever could have imagined before. And it’s not something I ever want to take for granted again.

Uncategorized

For All Women, Everywhere

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see everything I am. And I don’t like what I see. If I stand there long enough, I start to hate myself. Why can’t I look beautiful? I stand there and I hate myself because of the way my legs look – disfigured, large and difficult to maneuver. I hate myself for not being thin. I hate everything about myself. And then it all spirals from there. You’re not good enough. You’re ugly and you’re worthless. No one wants to be seen with you. You have nothing to offer. I’m not alone in these thoughts. These thoughts are your thoughts. And when you look in the mirror, you sometimes start hating yourself too.

I have so many beautiful friends. Thin, tall friends. Beautiful women with long hair, straight teeth, manicured fingernails, perfect eyebrows, nice clothing. Beautiful women with amazing legs that can carry them wherever they go. And I love my friends, but sometimes I hate them. At least I think I do. But when I really think about it, I know it’s not true. No, it’s not hate – it’s envy. A small little word for such a big thing.

Envy eats you up from the inside. It starts as a little whisper in your heart. Tiny, almost unnoticeable. But the more you allow the whisper to grow, the more it completely poisons your soul. Envy is the best friend of comparison. And ladies, we all get caught into the comparison trap. And it’s toxic. It’s completely savage in how much it can tear you apart from the inside out.

And that’s the thing – that’s the crazy, ironic thing. You can be a super model, with a “perfect” body and seemingly have it all. But if you don’t have a beautiful soul, you’re not really beautiful at all. Because the inside shines out, and that’s what people really see. That’s what God sees.

Like that time when Samuel was looking for a king. God had sent him to the place where the king He had appointed would be. But He didn’t tell him which one it would be. So Samuel traveled there, and stood among Jesse’s sons, looking. He looked at these handsome, strong men and thought they’d be the perfect fit. But they weren’t. Imagine Samuel’s surprise when God revealed the chosen king was just a young, small shepherd. So young that he wasn’t even called in to meet Samuel in the first place. But, God loved David so much – He loved David’s heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

And David loved God. David served God well. David became someone known as “a man after God’s own heart.” David might not have had it all together that day when Samuel went looking. But God could see his beauty. Do you want to know the real truth? God can see yours too.

You are beautiful. You are unique. You are beautifully unique when you are serving God. Like David, He’s created you for a purpose. He’s given you specific talents and abilities that you can use to serve Him well. And when you do these things, girl, you’re the most beautiful creature on earth.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3: 3-4

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see everything I am. And I can appreciate what I see, even if it’s not considered to be beautiful to others. I see grey hair that I’ve decided not to cover up, because each grey hair reminds me I’m blessed to be growing older (and hopefully wiser). I see non manicured hands, and I am blessed because I’m and to use them to serve others and not be afraid of breaking a nail. I see my deformed legs, and even though it’s my worst, most awful feature, I know these legs still work. They still carry me through my days, and every day make me stronger in some way.

Girl, sometimes I look in the mirror and on a rare occasion, I see what God sees. Or at the very least, what others see of Him in me. And in those moments, I shine. In those moments, I feel confident and beautiful. In those moments, the longer I look, the more I love myself. You’re serving Him well. You’re the only one who can do what He’s asked of you. God is pleased with the work you’re doing here, so keep it going, girl! If you stand there long enough, looking for the Spirit in your life instead of your outward appearance, you’ll see it too. And you’ll see that you’re more beautiful than you thought you could be. You’ll see that every time you serve Him, you’ll just get more and more breathtaking.

I have many beautiful friends. Women who appear more beautiful each time I see them because I can see His light shining in their hearts. And it’s more powerful than the new outfit they’re wearing. Or their gorgeous hair. Or their manicures. It’s breathtaking and it lasts forever. And I don’t envy them then – but thank God for giving me such lovely women to encourage me and walk alongside me and to serve with. Instead of being toxic, it’s like sweet perfume for the soul.

Girl, go check yourself. What do you see? What do you really see? Find your inner beauty, and let it shine for Him. You are stunningly beautiful!

Uncategorized

Moments

Tonight I looked at my baby as he lay on the couch. Long legs stretched out so his head lay on one end if the couch and his feet touched the other. And I marvelled at how not too long ago he was so small he could sleep in my arms. Remembered how he would wrap his tiny hand around my finger and nestle in for a snooze.

It seems like years have passed by in seconds, yet moments are frozen in time. Sometimes I wonder what makes a moment last forever. Big moments like when we took him home from the hospital for the first time and he cried the whole way home. Big moments like when he started school for the very first time. Big moments like the day he was diagnosed with autism. But small moments too. Like the day we were sitting on the floor when he was about 14 months old and he whipped through some preschool flash cards and shocked me with his knowledge. Like the day we drove down the highway with the windows down and his one tiny curl was blowing in the wind. Like the time he made me a cup of tea for the very first time. Like when he brought home his first perfect math test.

Moments happen daily. Sometimes we miss them if we aren’t careful. It’s in these moments that we see life. It’s in these moments that we experience love, anger, frustration, heartache, joy. And sometimes, in these moments we experience all of those at once.

Like today, when we were at Costco and he wanted a sample of stuffed chicken. I was checking my list and he asked if he could go. It wasn’t two steps away from where I was. He reached for a sample and the employee snapped at him asking if he was with an adult. Taken aback he put the sample he was holding back on the tray and walked back over to me. She rolled her eyes, threw it in the trash and mumbled something under her breath I couldn’t hear. I asked him what she’s said to him and he told me. Jilted, I told him he was indeed with an adult and to walk over and get his sample. He went back and told her he was with an adult and reached for his sample happily while she just about reached out to take it from him as I stepped beside him. She rudely asked if I was with him and I said yes. She proceeded to tell me I needed to be with him before he could have a sample in the rudest way possible. In this moment, my mama bear was awakened and I wanted to punch her in the face. He finished his sample, turned to her and to her surprise and mine said, “that was delicious! Thank you!”

The whole exchange hurt my heart so much. Maybe it’s because he’s been misinterpreted as a bad kid one too many times. Maybe it’s just because he’s nearly a teenager and people tend to group them all in the same troublemaker category. But my mama heart was wounded. Maybe I’m overly emotional – in fact, I probably am. I love my people fiercely. But what he did, that changed everything.

The thing is, he has worked incredibly hard to do what he did today. Social skills don’t come naturally to him. A few years ago, this exchange could have gone very differently. But it’s not even the social factor or the way he’s learned to navigate interacting with others. Today, I could see the Holy Spirit working in my son.

Contrary to popular belief, people with ASD aren’t completely clueless – they can understand when people are making fun of them and when they’re not being treated well. Two years ago, he might have had a meltdown. But today, he kept his composure, looked at this cranky Costco employee and treated her like Jesus would have – with grace.

I’m ashamed to say that my son chose to be gracious and I didn’t deserve to witness it because I wasn’t in the mood to be gracious. But I’m so thankful I did, because it gave me pause and I had to examine myself and my heart. Right there in the frozen foods aisle at Costco.

And so tonight, when I looked at this almost teenager as he was laying on the couch, I thanked the Lord God for giving me my sweet son. I thanked Him that I was able to see the Spirit at work in his life and it spurred me to pray for more of that. For more moments where he teaches me a thing or two about grace. And to pray that our moments will be ones I’ll remember for years to come, to tuck away in my mama’s heart, for times like this.