Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Medical appointments, prescription trials, multiple surgeries, therapy sessions, school meetings, behaviour plans, physical care, sleep deprivation and lack of available special needs childcare.

Tears, fears and lots of heartache.

Whatever the diagnosis, raising a child with special needs is not easy.
But if you’re raising a child with special needs, what you do matters.
With my youngest niece, The Princess
What you do matters to your child.
Even if your child's special needs are so severe she doesn't have the ability to say so, what you do for her matters. In more ways than you and I will ever imagine, what you do matters to your child.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to your typically-developing children.
Stephen Covey said the security of everyone in the family rests on how the weakest family member is treated. When you love and cherish your child with special needs, even on the darkest, most difficult days, your typically-developing children know they too are worthy of your unconditional love. They can live in the security that, no matter what, they too will be loved and cared for.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to your church.
The Church in North America needs a reminder that people with challenges are worthy of love and care, and that the Lord commands us to care for them. When you visibly, consistently display your love for your child, the Church hears the reminder it so badly needs.

It may be hard on you to be the one giving this message, but when you do, it matters.
What you do for your child with special needs matters to your community and your country.

In Canada, several years ago, a father killed his teenage daughter who had cerebral palsy. His lawyer called it a "mercy killing", but more accurate information showed the family felt they could no longer care for her. My heart goes out to this family, so beleaguered they planned and carried out the killing of their own child. However, I'm even more grieved they received so much public support for doing so.
When you care for, and love, and cherish your child with special needs, even on the days you're sure you have no caring left, you declare to your community and your country that you value all human life. You silently, powerfully shout that the life of a person with special needs is also worthwhile.

What you do for your child with special needs matters to God.
God didn’t give you this challenging task – raising a child with special needs -- because “you’re so special”.

Nor did He place you in this role as a punishment.
But according to His own wisdom and goodness, for reasons we don’t fully understand, He did orchestrate the events of your life so you’re raising a child with special needs.

He who called you to this task treasures your child... and He treasures you.
He asks you to be faithful in caring for him or her. (Not perfect, faithful.) He also cares for you.

He understands how hard it is for you...and for your child.
And when you show tender-loving care to your child with special needs, He is honored by your faithfulness.

Whatever we do for someone in need, we are doing for Jesus Himself.

That doesn’t just apply to caring for poor and hungry strangers.

It is for you, caring for your own child within your own family.
What you do, on the front lines and in the shadows, in the public moments and the unknown corners of your child’s life... all matters.

Please remember... what you do matters.

-- Reenie
*From  Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families

Friday, September 7, 2012

Justin Hines: Say What You Will

Let me introduce Justin Hines, a composer, musician and Canadian.
Justin Hines

Two years ago, Justin performed in Calgary, to a packed auditorium at Centre Street Church. I was thrilled to be part of that awed and cheering crowd. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
Justin was a hit with people of all ages, including my family members, who are teenagers and middle-aged adults. They were still raving about him the next day.

That night, Justin performed his song Say What You Will, reminding us to say the words our loved ones need to hear -- before it’s too late.

Justin has performed throughout the States, across Canada, and in numerous countries around the world, growing more fans everywhere.
Some of his youngest fans, a Grade 4 class in Indianapolis, created their own video of Say What You Will.
They posted it online and sent Justin hand-written letters, inviting him to come and visit.
Justin thanked them for the letters and the video, but didn’t respond to the invitation -- at least not right away.
A few months later, Justin went to Indianapolis for another event. This is what happened the next morning. (Before you click, make sure you have Kleenex nearby.)
I wanted you to meet Justin today, because I love the story of what Justin did for those children and their teacher. (I love it especially because I'm a teacher, but you don't have to be a teacher or a student to appreciate it.)
I also wanted to introduce Justin so I could tell you some great news:
Justin Hines is coming to Calgary this fall!
He's coming back to Centre Street Church on October 12, to perform in Courage: A Concert with Justin Hines and Tony Melendez.
I promise, you don’t want to miss it. Get your tickets here.
See you at the concert October 12!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What I Wish Young Women Knew About Unjust Criticism

It took me way too long to learn some key life lessons. I haven't learned them the easy way, but it makes a big difference for me to understand these things now.

I wish the younger women I care about could learn these principles earlier than I did. It would save them so much heartache.

The greatest lesson I Wish Young Women Knew came from a wise older lady with whom I worked.

One of our colleagues was telling the older lady and me that, at a former place of employment, they'd told her all kinds of nasty things about herself. Having worked with our colleague, the older lady and I both knew those accusations weren't true. Our colleague probably knew it too. Yet, years later, those criticisms still hurt.

Then our wise friend said, "When they said those things, they were saying nothing about you and everything about themselves."

They're saying nothing about you
and everything about themselves.

My dear young woman, when people subject you to cutting words, snobbish behaviour, and unfair's because those people are insecure, and are trying to build themselves up by tearing you down. Most often, their words and behaviour have nothing whatsoever to do with you. And certainly, they're not giving an accurate picture of what you're really like.

When someone says "You'll never be good enough to date that kind of guy" or "You're not as pretty as she is," it doesn't mean it's true.

When someone points out that you're a few pounds overweight or aren't as organized as your sister, it doesn't mean those are the most important things about you.

When someone you care about doesn't affirm you for being creative or compassionate or intelligent or courageous, it doesn't mean those strengths don't exist. It doesn't mean your strengths don't matter.

When someone doesn't give you the approval or the position or the invitation you've worked for, it doesn't mean you're not worthy of that recognition.

Your worth isn't based on what other people think or say about you.

Your quality as a human being doesn't vary according to whether or not someone expresses it aloud.

Your value is based on your beginning -- that God created you. He made you in His image.

When people speak harshly of you, look at you with condescension, or don't look at you at all... most often, it has nothing to do with you.

Those people are telling you nothing about what's in your heart, your mind and your future... but they're saying a lot about their own.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lennette Randall: God's Faithfulness -- The Place Where Courage Grows

When a foolhardy wasp dove into Lennette Randall’s salad, her fingers dove in right after it and plucked it out. Eight of us had been shooing away wasps as we ate, but only Lennette was brave enough to nab one with her bare hands.

That wasp-catching episode is a picture of Lennette`s courage in facing life’s greater challenges.

Born in Sierra Leone, Lennette moved to the U.S. when she was 14. After high school, she went to live with her dad in England, and finished a communications degree. In 2006, she heard of Rosebud School of the Arts – a tiny school in a faraway Canadian village -- where they offered performing arts training with a Christian worldview.
But “all Heaven broke loose” and family and financial issues got in the way of her attending.

Two years later, Lennette considered Rosebud again, but the obstacles still seemed insurmountable – until suddenly they disappeared. A visa that should have taken 6-8 weeks arrived in 7 days. Lennette found a ridiculously-cheap plane ticket for £199 ($400 Canadian). She was on her way to Canada.

She arrived in Rosebud with enough money for one semester, hoping she could stay a year. Four years later, she’s still here -- and is about to graduate.
Lennette cherishes the high degree of investment her instructors have given her, but she emphasizes she hasn’t been “babied”. Living in a tiny village has also been an education, as she’s observed how people relate to each other and how each person finds a place.

Most of all, she says, it’s required “a lot of work and trust” day by day, year by year, to watch God provide – through scholarships, jobs, and an ability to work.
This summer, for example, Lennette worked three different jobs, in addition to playing Mrs. Spencer in Rosebud’s Anne of Green Gables, all while writing and developing her final student project Under the Mango Tree. Since she describes herself as a person who “needs to know what’s happening every day”, it hasn’t been easy.
Two years ago when her aunt died, Lennette went to Sierra Leone for the funeral, using money she’d saved for school. She returned to Rosebud with no way to pay tuition – until she discovered that generous friends had collected and donated money on her behalf.
She has learned to “trust every day” that God will provide.

During the past three years, Lennette has lost her grandparents*, as well as her aunt, so when she began her final project she wanted to honor them by retelling the stories they’d told.
But the project didn’t come together smoothly or quickly. Lennette started with the idea of an eight-member cast and a back-up choir. Early in her drafts, an unexpected male character “appeared”.
As Lennette worked with Kelsey Krogman, her dramaturge**, Under the Mango Tree gradually evolved, keeping the male character but leaving out the choir. The final version includes Lennette and Conrad Belau, who make audience members laugh and cry as they perform outside under a graceful, old, easy-to-climb tree.

Under the Mango Tree’s universal themes of cultural and family conflict; sorrow and loss; friendship, forgiveness and loyalty resonate deeply with viewers. I hope this play’s life extends far beyond the planned performances that took place this weekend.
In the meantime, Lennette will complete two more written projects and an oral exam before graduation at the end of September. Then, after she’s had REST, she’d like to look for work with a company -- perhaps in Canada, perhaps in England -- that uses performing arts as a communications tool.

It’s my prayer that Lennette will continue to use her remarkable writing and performing abilities and convey her keen insights into human nature by telling stories that express our unfailing need for God, and remind us of His unfailing faithfulness.
*Under the Mango Tree is dedicated to the memory of Lennette’s aunt and grandparents.

**A dramaturge supports a playwright, ensuring the play maintains a plotline, stays true to characters, etc.

-- Reenie

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lennette Randall: Graduate, Rosebud School of the Arts

I've changed the title of this post because spam-commenters were attracted by the name of the tree in the title of the play. The rest of the post is unchanged.

Childhood stories told under an African mango tree are reborn and retold in Lennette Randall’s play Under the Mango Tree.

Directed by Nathan Schmidt, Lennette stars with Conrad Belau -- both of them graduating students at Rosebud School of the Arts -- in Under the Mango Tree this weekend, culminating Lennette's four years of study.

Twyla traps Danny under the Mango Tree (photo credit: Neil Bousquet)
Hilarious-then-heart-rending, the story is of two college students, Twyla (Lennette) and Danny (Conrad), vying for a private place under their favorite tree, where they like to play, work, and process life.

From Twyla’s making siren noises while cycling onto the outdoor set, to catching Danny in a trap, to Danny’s rooster re-enactment and mimicking of African dance, these two display a knack for making people laugh. We audience members giggled and chuckled throughout the first act. Then the story turns serious, for Lennette’s memories of Africa are not all happy ones.

Through dance and music, laughter and tears, Under the Mango Tree shows us the antagonism-turned-friendship between Twyla and Danny. But its message goes deeper – challenging us to trust God and keep praying, even when He doesn’t answer in the way we think He should.
I hope some of you will get to see the remaining performance of Under the Mango Tree – Sunday, September 2 at 1 pm in Rosebud, Alberta, under the labyrinth tree behind Rosebud Church. (Rosebud is a small community. Ask anyone in the village for directions.) Tickets are $12. Additional donations are accepted for the tuition of students in Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

I’m honored to watch Lennette Randall and Conrad Belau perform early in their careers, and I look forward to seeing God work in and through them in the years to come.

With Conrad Belau, Lennette Randall and my friend Brenda (on right)
My next post, on Sunday, September 2, 2012, will tell you more about Lennette herself.

-- Reenie

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies... Part 3

Mamas and papas, it’s important to keep monitoring technology use when kids enter their teens. Continue to limit technology time, and remind them to evaluate the values of what they watch, hear and play. Promote physical activity. In social situations, require them to turn off technology, put it away, and use the manners you’ve taught them – make eye contact, greet others, listen attentively and make polite conversation. Shyness or being an introvert is not an excuse for poor manners.

At every age (not just adolescence), that includes not letting your kids tune out on music, games or movies when riding in the family vehicle; don’t “buy” yourself an easy break by fostering a tune-out. That may lead you to wonder, later, why your children don’t talk to each other or to you. Even on long trips, make sure your kids spend at least half their time talking to the people in the car; reading, drawing, or writing; or watching the scenery go by. Daydreaming develops more creativity and intelligence than does repetitive use of technology.
Walk-the-talk you give your kids about technology. Deliberately choose physically active and socially-engaging activities. Revolve your life around face-to-face encounters and real life objects, not around your cell phone, iPod, computer and TV. Turn away from technology to give your children full attention. Show them you can turn technology off, put it away, and limit its use. And, please, if you don’t want your kids to play violent, life-demeaning video games – don’t bring them into the house for yourself.

We adults – mamas and papas, as well as everyone else -- must also remember the manners our mamas taught us.
In social situations – at home and elsewhere – we must limit our use of the phone, the iPhone, the computer, the whatever. Immediately answering every text, email and phone call does not make us more important. For most of us, it just means we can’t set boundaries.
In social situations, when we need to respond to a call or message, we apologize profusely to the people we’re with, leave the room, If possible, and efficiently deal with the interruption. Then we put the technology away, and return ourselves and our attention to the people waiting on us.
Like me, many of you would never deliberately use technology to tune people out. But perhaps, like me, you’ve done it unintentionally.
I’ll be talking on the phone and happen to be near my laptop. I tell myself I’ll “just do this little thing” on the computer while I’m on the phone, believing I’m still fully engaged in the conversation. Only after the other person says a sudden good-bye do I realize I've done it again. My friend heard in my voice that I wasn’t paying full attention, so -- more graciously than I deserved – he or she ended the call. Worst of all, I’d just said, "You’re not important enough to earn my full attention.” Once again, I resolve not to do it again. I’m still learning.
It will be our ongoing challenge to use technology, and not let it use us.

Mamas and papas, don’t let yourselves by ruled by technology.
Please don’t let your babies grow up to be ruled by it either.

-- Reenie

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies.... Part 2

Besides teaching our preschoolers to engage with the rich and wonderful world around them, rather than using technology for their play time, we need to be thoughtful in what and how we teach about technology to our school-aged children.

When children enter school-age, there’s an explosion in the number of technological devices and activities designed for them. That doesn’t mean every child has a right to use it all, or that he should use it all. It certainly doesn’t mean, the more he gets to use, the smarter and better socially adapted he’ll be. (The opposite is more likely true.) Parents and fellow teachers, just as not all food is good for your children, not all technology experiences are a valuable use of children’s time – and that includes “educational” technology.
Every piece of technology teaches something. About every potential new program, ask yourself: what values and skills does this technology teach? (That might be different from what it claims.) Does my child need those values or skills? Is there a richer, real-life way for her to learn those skills and values? What not-so-positive skills and values might my child learn from this technology? While she’s using it, what real life sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile experiences and movement will she miss?

Mama, don’t believe your child when he calls you mean for enforcing time limits or taking  technology away. Reassure her of your love, and don’t give in when she whines. Do encourage school-age boys and girls to experience a rainbow-wide array of real-life activities (even if they’re messy). You’ll be glad in the long run... I promise.

Mamas and papas, talk to your children about your family values, and help them discern which technology does and doesn’t support those values. Foster open, non-condemning discussions about these topics. Praise your children for their efforts to make value-affirming choices. If you tell yourself, “Well, every kid is doing this now, and I want my kid to be normal, so I’d better say yes,” you’ll later wish your teens weren't so eager to give in to peer pressure from other "normal" teens. Demonstrate a courageous example by standing up against peer pressure yourself.
When your children are in social situations, please teach them to turn their technology off and put it away. Teach them ordinary manners like making eye contact, greeting people and making conversation. Teach them to cope without technology when they’re waiting or even a little bored.

Mamas, please limit your school-aged children’s exposure to technology. They’re still young enough to shape, so be intentional about shaping them now.
Part 3 of "Mamas...." will appear on August 21
-- Reenie

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be...

Recently, I sat across the restaurant aisle from a mother and her young son. The little boy, maybe six years old, was playing some kind of electronic handheld game. Twice, his mom told him to put it away. Once, she even took it away. When he protested, spelling out exactly how mean she was for doing such a thing, she gave it back, and he resumed play. The mom essentially ate her meal by herself.

On another occasion, I was visiting a young lady's home. I entered with other guests, and within a few minutes, our sweet-and-shy hostess had picked up her laptop and started engaging with it. I don't know what she was doing, but it had nothing to do with us. She gave us divided-at-best attention for the remainder of my visit.

Another time, friends and I were visiting another family's home. In the midst of conversation, a very nice young man pulled technology out of his pocket and started playing a game. Within a few minutes, the conversation had somehow adjusted to his mental absence. The rest of us eventually left the room. An hour later, the young man was still alone in the room where we’d begun, still playing his solo game.

A mother admitted to me recently she’d used technology as a babysitter for her toddler son when his baby sister had colic. Now that toddler is a teenager and his mom has paid him hundreds of dollars to give up technology for the summer. She’s only one of the many parents I've heard complain that their teenagers spend too much time on technology. This mother stands out, though, for recognizing this: her son’s addiction to technology is more her fault than his.

How do we prevent otherwise nice children from becoming teenagers and adults who tune technology in and tune people out?

We start when they're young.
Mama, when your baby or toddler learns to use a computer mouse or navigate your phone more easily than you did, please don't make the mistake of thinking she's especially clever or gifted. Of course, she is clever! She very likely is gifted! But the reason she can learn technology quickly is because, right now, her brain is a sponge for any learning.

I implore you to focus her learning on books, music, pictures, conversation, technology-free games, active movement activities, building toys, conversation, drawing-writing-scribbling-coloring, looking at nature and live social interaction. I hope you'll allow and encourage her to actively explore every one of her five senses. (Yes, I know that's more messy than occupying her time on the computer.) Please... don't overfeed her technology or use it as a crutch for yourself. Don't teach that super-absorbent brain to start disengaging from the living  world.
Part Two of "Mamas..." on August 19
-- Reenie

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breaking News, Breaking Down

I’ve long thought of journalists with envy, because they get to write as a job, and they always have assignments to produce more written words.

More often, though, and less charitably, I’ve considered many journalists as insensitive, self-serving individuals, who grab for a story no matter how much it costs those whose suffering is told in those stories – stories of accidents, disasters, crimes, loss, and sorrow.

Recently I watched a DVD that has, thankfully, changed my perspective:
Breaking News, Breaking Down.

In this award-winning documentary, Mike Walter, a news journalist with 25 years experience, turns the camera and the story on himself and to his colleagues. He tells the stories they live when they document the tragedies of other human beings, day after day after day.
  Specifically, Breaking News, Breaking Down tells about the narrator’s – and other journalists’ – personal response to the events of September 11, 2001 and follows with their experience at the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. It highlights the story of John McCusker, a journalist who was so impacted by the trauma in New Orleans, including what Katrina did to his own home, that he experienced a devastating emotional breakdown.

But the documentary doesn’t end on a bleak note. It describes the simple strategy a group of journalists followed, to help themselves and each other heal, and to find hope. They chose a place of retreat to rest and recover, and helped themselves heal further by providing physical help to New Orleans residents whose homes Katrina had torn apart.

In watching Breaking News, Breaking Down, it’s been most important for me to realize that, when journalists view another person’s trauma, report on a tragedy, tell the world of a disaster, it takes an emotional toll.

Some journalists attempt to close off those emotions. Others move to another line of work. But most journalists just keep on going... telling the world’s painful stories, and absorbing one emotional hit at a time.

To see a trailer of Breaking News, Breaking Down:
To see an interview with Mike Walter about Breaking News, Breaking Down:
To purchase Breaking News, Breaking Down:  or  
To borrow a library copy:

-- Reenie

Sunday, August 5, 2012

When I Get to Heaven

When I get to Heaven,
I will play the violin.
I’ll learn sign language with no effort
 -- and speak it fluently.
I'll have time and space to raise my favorite animals -- llamas.
(They won't even stink.)
I’ll sing and talk and write and read and play the piano
...all day.
And when I go to Heaven,
I’ll leave a lot of unpleasant things behind.
My body won’t feel old there.
I’ll never be tired.
My brain won’t lose names and dates and events.
I won't buy any more insurance in case of accident, flood, fire or violence.
Never again will I do housework or homework or follow a budget.
And I’ll no longer have to work to keep myself slim.
Over there,
my loved ones will have perfect bodies, too.
My nephew won't have diabetes.
My dad will have clear and complete vision.
And my niece, The Princess,
won’t have any more limitations caused by cerebral palsy.
She’ll be able to express herself
and everyone will understand what she’s saying.
She’ll breathe easily
and move smoothly.
She’ll have no more seizures
or surgeries.
We’ll dance together,
both of us on our feet,
for the first time.
When The Princess and I meet each other in Heaven,
it will be a wonderful, wonderful day.
But even better than all that...
When I get to Heaven,
I’ll hang out with the One Who’s loved me all these years,
every day of my life,
Who’s watched me and guided me through thick and thin,
hard times and happy.
The One Who now protects, comforts and guides me.
Every day.
I’ll sing with Him,
celebrate with Him,
and follow Him around.
He’ll give light wherever I go
and fill my heart with the eternal certainty that I am eternally loved.
By His goodness,
He’s given me a very good life to live here.
I am thankful for its blessings every day.
But when I get to Heaven,
it’ll be even better.
It will be glorious!

-- Reenie

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Father's Daughter

Because I'm my father’s daughter...

         I often talk to strangers and make instant friends.

Because I'm my father’s daughter...
         I'm passionate about classical music and I'm a loyal listener to CBC Radio.

Because I'm my father’s daughter...

         I need a variety of people in my life, and I get blue if I spend too much time alone.

Because I’m my father’s daughter...

         I love books. I collect books. I read books every single day. I must. have. books.

Because I'm my father’s daughter...

         I'm usually involved in at least three income-generating activities at one time.

Because I’m my father’s daughter...

         I enjoy that flexibility and variety, but I’ve also learned that rest is valuable, too.

Anyone who knows both me and my dad will tell you that,
         yes, I am very much my father’s daughter.
This week of Father’s Day,
         I celebrate the gigantic life-long impact my dad has had on my life.

From my heart, I thank God for my dad.

I also remember that I’m the daughter of a Heavenly Father.

Alas, I confess that His traits don't come quite so naturally.

Every day, I hope, I long, I pray,

         that I'll be a little more like Him than I was the day before.
Because I’m His daughter,

          I pray for more much-needed patience toward other drivers on the road.

Because I’m His daughter,

          I pray for increasing courage to speak up for people who are hurting.
Because I’m His daughter...

         I pray I'll speak more and more words of gratitude.

Because I’m His daughter,

         I want to speak more grace toward those who struggle.

Because I’m His daughter,

         I pray I'll remember How much He loves me...
         instead of building myself up by tearing others down.

Because I’m His daughter,

         I pray forgiveness will become my automatic response to hurt and offense.

And because I’m His daughter...

         I pray that I'll more quickly ask forgiveness when I've been in the wrong.

In what ways are you your father’s child?

And which of your Heavenly Father's traits is He growing in you?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thin Place

A thin place is where we’re especially close to God. It’s a place where the barrier between us and God is thinner, the obstacles fewer, than in most times and places on this earth. *

Every month, the Special Needs Ministry of Calgary’s Centre Street Church hosts The Outpouring, when people of all types of abilities gather to pour out their hearts in worship.
The Outpouring is a very thin place.
Now, The Outpouring is not simply a ministry to people with disabilities. It’s not a service where “normal people” include people with disabilities, talking to them about the love of God.
It is a place where many people share gifts – of music, leadership, speaking, visual arts – so people of all abilities can stand (or sit) shoulder-to-shoulder, loving and worshiping our wonderful, loving God.

During Jesus’ time on earth, He welcomed and cherished people who are poor, who are sick, people who are young or old. He gave a lot of attention to people who are vulnerable, people on the fringes of society.
So, when we gather for an Outpouring, I sense He is very close, moving among us, through us, between us. As we pour out our hearts in worship, He pours out His love onto us.

When I come away, I know I’ve been in His very presence.
If you live around Calgary, Alberta, I invite you to come and experience this thin place, near to the heart of God.

The Outpouring is held every third Friday evening of the month at Centre Street Church.
*Mary DeMuth, Thin Places: a memoir, Zondervan, 2010.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Without a Scolding

In my small city, there is only one drive-through automatic car wash.
I’m loyal to that car wash because:
(a) I don’t want to get wet at a do-it-myself wash, and
(b) this car wash is easy to drive into, and out of. I enter when it says Enter. I stop when it says Stop. I drive away when it says Go.

That matters because, once, just once, I tried a different kind.

To enter that other wash, I was to steer my tires, in a precise direction, onto a narrow pair of tracks, then put my car in neutral. The gracious, do-it-all-for-me tracks would then grab my tires and effortlessly guide my car through the swishy-sudsy experience.

It's a nice idea.

I took only a bit of trying to get my tires into the tracks, but it seemed impossible to turn them in exactly the right direction.

I steered this way and that. I put the car in neutral, tried to back up, tried to drive forward.

I kept trying but nothing worked. With a long and growing line-up behind me, I was stuck -and I didn’t know what to do.

Finally, the driver behind me came to my rescue. Standing outside my open window, he told me how to turn, turn again, and, once again, put the car in neutral.

Thanks to that man’s directions, I’m not still stuck in the entrance to that car wash.

But, oh, I paid a price for his help.

He didn’t call me names. He never swore. He didn’t threaten me. He didn’t even raise his voice...much.

But with his tone, he went up-one-side-of-me-and-down-the-other. He made it absolutely, unequivocally, 100% clear that he thought me extremely stupid. Without a single insulting word, he left me no doubt about his opinion of my worthiness and capability.

When I drove out and away from the car wash that day, I did not wave back to the man in thanks, but I did send a prayer of thanks heavenward.

I thanked God for His promise in the book of James, where it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously, without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

I have tested that promise many times, and I've found it to be true.

When my life is so stuck I don’t know where to turn or how to move forward, I can – and should – ask God for His help and wisdom.

And when I ask, He gives the wisdom I need. Best of all, He gives it without scolding.

He tells me the direction to take, shows me how to step forward... and never ever tells me I’m stupid for needing help.

I might be wayyy too slow in remembering to ask Him for wisdom, but He always gives it as soon as I ask.

I might give myself a sound scolding for getting into yet another situation, but He never heaps His own scolding on top of it.

He just wants me to go to Him for help, and He's happy to help me when I do.

He extends the same promise to you.

You can count on it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thank You for the Valley

When I was 14-years-old, on a summer missions trip, my teammates and I used to sing:

Thank You for the valley I walked through today.
The darker the valley, the more I learned to pray...

As a good-intentioned but usually-confused teenager, I needed that lesson –
that God would bring me through the turbulence of the adolescent life,
and would use every experience to help me grow.
Thank You for every hill I climbed...

I haven’t sung that song for years, perhaps decades.
But lately I’ve been singing it again.
For every time the sun didn’t shine...

The last few weeks, I’ve walked a deep valley,

climbed a steep hill,

and have seen more clouds than sunshine.

So in the darkest moments, it helped to sing:

Thank You for every lonely night,
I prayed til I knew everything was all right...

As a good-intentioned but often-tired adult,
I need this reminder –
that God is still bringing me through life’s challenges,
and He’s still using them to help me grow.
Today, I’m nearing the edge of the valley,

there’s a bit more sun in my sky....

and I can see I’ve grown a little deeper,

a little more courageous,

a little better at trusting.

So I say "Yes, Lord..."

Thank You for the valley I walked through today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Beautiful Because

I received a grand old quilt at Christmastime. My grandmother made it. My aunt had it. When she downsized, my mom accepted it... and passed it on to me.

In the nearly 30 years since Grandma died, this is the second of her quilts that has become mine.

The first has had an honored place in my home for years, but it hasn't impacted me as this one has.

The first quilt looks like most of Grandma's projects -- carefully-planned, delicately-sewn.
But this quilt has a totally different story.

It was created from upholstery samples -- rough, scratchy and heavy. Grandma didn’t attach a backing to this quilt. The pieces are in earth-toned shades, some solid, some prints, and she cut them into different sizes and shapes. Then, it appears, she sewed them together into a random, wherever-they-fit design.

By the standards of today’s quilters, this quilt could never be pretty.

But I still find it beautiful, because it was Grandma’s, and even more so because she made it. 

In the weeks I've seen this quilt lying on my bed, it keeps reminding me that you and I are like it.
We may (or may not) be pretty as this world defines prettiness, but in a way that matters, and in the way that lasts, we will always be beautiful.
Regardless of our size, body-shape, skin-tone and even of our character, we are beautiful because God made us.

Long ago, He planned us. He designed our bodies, your personalities. He chose our family, our culture, our ethnicity.

Then, from the moment of our conception, He's watched over us, regardless of whether we're pretty, or kind or smart or charming.
He watches over us because He loves us. And because He loves us, we are beautiful.

This world’s definitions of beauty change with every season. The attractiveness we have in our youth will fade almost as quickly.
But, in God’s eyes, our beauty will never fade. No matter how we look, no matter how we act, no matter what we achieve...or don't.

He will always love us.

Therefore, we will always be beautiful.
 **Thanks to Jamie Langston Turner for putting my thoughts into words in her novel Sometimes a Light Surprises.