Sunday, March 27, 2016

Resurrection Family

The news came dressed in smiles and encouragement, and in the moment, it was stoically received.  After all, it really didn't come as a surprise, we knew it was highly probable that Kenny fell in the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, so confirmation was a bit of a relief.

So tell me why, when I woke up this blessed Easter morning, the tears threatened at every single moment?  I could barely get through worship this morning, where I had to sing with our little choir without totally falling apart, and as I sit here trying to write the tears rise yet again.

Exhaustion surely is playing a part, as my travel as of late has been intense, but that isn't all.   It is grief I am feeling, pure and simple, with a smattering of self-doubt and a smidgen of sorrow.


Our appointment at the University of Washington went smoothly, and far more quickly than anticipated we had a diagnosis of Static Encephalopathy due to Prenatal Alcohol Exposure.  Kenny and I were both interviewed separately, and he was tested for a handful of other issues.  Prior to our appointment we had each filled out many surveys, and I had sent the full battery of test results, school reports, and MD files we have collected through the years, as well as a couple of pages of my own observations as his educator.

"Mrs. LaJoy, we have never had a parent come in so prepared.  We have relatively little testing to do with Kenny, because you have already had it all done.  It made our job very easy." the social worker explained.  After more background information was obtained, I was asked what my master's was in, always embarrassing for me in those moments when this happens and is assumed, and when I reply that I only have a high school diploma the awkwardness that ensues is uncomfortable.  I was questioned about what a day in the life of Kenny is like, about how I have managed to work so successfully with him academically, about how we have managed to avoid the usual obvious behavioral challenges that most FASD kids exhibit, particularly at this stage of their lives.

It was deeply saddening to learn that our relationship and family life is actually unusual for a child with FASD, that often they see mothers of children who are much younger and whose family lives have fallen apart due to the challenges of living with an FASD kiddo.  Much time was spent discussing Kenny's disposition, how has deficits have impacted the family, how I have managed to remain a positive advocate and have such an obviously loving relationship with him.  It reminded me that though daily life might be harder, the important things are solid.  There was a fair amount of time spent pushing me to think about respite care from time to time, reminding me that this was forever and that there was a need to take good emotional care of myself and our marriage.  Clearly, they have seen far too many burned out families, and they were pressing to make sure we don't become another statistic.

You see, Kenny doesn't fit the norm, not even for the diagnosis....and yet, where his critical deficits are, he fits perfectly.  I was told he was way more self-aware than any FASD kid they have seen, he is maximizing his cognitive abilities, and he is behaviorally more well adjusted.  In fact, his big picture thinking is extraordinary and "college like" in his approach.  In the next breath, he falls in the 8th percentile in a couple of key areas, they added new information about additional sensory and motor issues, and when asked if we were right in our thinking that it might be unrealistic to think he would ever live alone, there was a noticeable silence in the room.  It was stated that though the brain is elastic, and there may be some modest improvement over the next few years as he finished growing, we need to move forward in our thinking from remediation to fully living in "compensatory strategy" mode.  In other words, this is about as good as it will ever get, find work ways to work around the deficits.  

They then went on to tell us he might live with an agreeable roommate, pay a caretaker to be present, live in a group home, etc.  Finding meaningful work might be more of a challenge than usual for kids like him, because his intellect was quite high for the deficits he had, and the kind of work those deficits might allow him to do unsupervised would be mind numbing.  They pointed to some "college like" experience programs where he could learn daily living skills outside the family but are not actual college courses.  They said they wanted to point out how high functioning he was, and how he might be able to do some higher level course work with a well integrated helper in class with him taking his notes and organizing him at our local (totally non-existent) community college.  Kenny asked the astute question, "So I can get some sort of college degree, but then I can't have a helper on my job, so what good does that do me if I can't go to work with the degree because I know things but can't handle the actual job because I can't remember anything or organize?  How does that work?"  Silence again, which of course I don't blame anyone for.  There simply aren't answers.

We left with the promise of a longer written report to follow, and a list of suggestions for working with Kenny, many of which we long ago implemented.  We also left with an actual medical diagnosis, something frustratingly long in coming.  Why is it that I have had to spend years researching into the wee hours for every single issue our kids have faced, then beg for testing rather than the experts at school and in the medical field listening closely all these years and offering possibilities and testing? Why do we parents of special needs kids have to fight the entire way uphill?  It is hard enough to raise kids like this, let alone home educate them when the system can't, but it adds another layer of exhaustion to have to fight all the time.

And you know what is funny?  I still find it odd to consider myself a special needs parent, because I still see my kids as basically all "normal" and filled with potential.  Yes, even Kenny.

Kenny and I left the appointment quietly, and as we sat in the parking lot in the car I turned to him and asked, "Soooo...what are you feeling right now?  What are your thoughts?  Are you ok?  Did you understand everything that was said?"

Wisely, he said, "It was so obvious they were holding back being frank about my future because I was in the room, and they avoided answering my questions about how I can live without help and not kill myself by not setting my house on fire, or whatever."  he laughed, ever my jovial kid.  "I think we knew this all along, and I am so glad you prepared me months ago for this, because today would be much harder.  I have had time to think about it, be sad, and move on a little in my thinking.  The doctors just confirmed what we already knew.  I wish it were different, but thankfully, it wasn't new news and I don't feel sucker punched."

"Good," I said,

"How about you, Mom?  How are you feeling?"

"I'm OK, I wish they had more help they could offer, but as usual, I guess it is up to us to figure this out for your future, and I know with all of our brains, we can do that."

We started the car and abandoned conversation as we drove over to Safeco Field, where  just an hour earlier we had discovered that Kenny's idol, Bernie Sanders, was holding a rally.  Oh, how he uncharacteristically begged me to attend!!  And if we couldn't attend, could we pleeeeeeeease just drive around the stadium and see the other Bernie fans outside and see their signs?  Conceding to get out and walk around a little, I parked and we went over toward the line snaking around the stadium, where Kenny quickly jumped in line and started talking to a young college student in front of him.  2 hours later, we were still in line as I acquiesced and realized I was not in control of this moment.  I had no idea when we arrived at 1:00 pm and I was dressed in my lightweight jacket that 8 hours later we'd still be there, as Bernie didn't speak until 8:00 pm.  My frozen body had taken just about all it could take, but watching Kenny come to life was worth every shivering moment.  


The line to see Bernie at 1:30 pm...we were in the first 300 or 400 versus the 30,000 that eventually arrived.

Later, I explained it at home as one of those Divine Coincidences, a moment when God puts something before you and you can say "Yes" or you can say "No", and for some reason, I was as certain of what I should do as I was the day I walked out of Matt's 5th grade classroom realizing God was telling me I was at a crossroads and could say "yes" to what was obviously needed, homeschooling, or I could say "no" and see what happened, all the while knowing what I was being called to do.  Now, mind you, I totally get that spending 8 hours waiting for a politician might seem like a totally different commitment than deciding to spend the next 10-12 years of my life home educating, but here is what was important...

The Spirit was beautifully moving in, through, and around Kenny and I in that decisive moment.  There was something here for him, and I needed to put it within grasp.

Three hours later, as we were sitting side by side, huddled for warmth and sharing overpriced hot chocolate, Kenny turned to me and said, "Mom, this is maybe the best thing you have ever done for me.  Thank you so much!!!!  I know you really and truly didn't want to do this today, and we have to get up early for our flight and everything, but what I love about our family is we always say 'yes' when everyone else would say 'no'.  You are the best mom ever, and I am so glad we are here just the two of us to experience this together!"  Interesting of him to say that, considering I had not uttered a word about what I was feeling.  

Then came the kicker, the heart lifting reason I realized why we were there.

"You know, Bernie is a symbol for me...he gives me hope.  When he started, everyone laughed and didn't take him seriously with only 3% of the vote.  Now look where he is, he has literally started a revolution.  He has made a difference whether he wins or not, and it didn't matter if everyone thought he couldn't do it.  Being here with 30,000 other people who all see something in him makes me feel like there is hope for me, too.  Like maybe, even though I may only have a 3% chance of having a life that matters, you and Dad and my siblings all believe in me and I will make something of myself in spite of what it looks like I can't do."  With that said, he then jumped up enthusiastically to add his body to the next round of "waves" and chants for "Bernie Sanders has our back,  We don't need no Super PAC!"

We dragged our sorry, tired behinds to the airport at 3:30 am, having returned to the hotel room at around 10:30 and getting about 2 real hours of sleep.  Best danged reason to be exhausted I know of.

On our 5 hour drive home from Denver, we talked concretely about Kenny's future.  

"Tell me, Kenny, what can we do to help you live a life of meaning?  What do you think that might look like for you?  What would you need to feel happy and fulfilled?"

Kenny thought a few minutes and said, "That's a great question, mom!  I think I'd like to be able to go places sometimes on my own somehow.  I am not sure how to make that happen since I really can't drive and don't ever want to anyway.  I'd like to be able to go to a store, and not worry about getting lost, or to be able to have just a little freedom to go buy you a birthday gift without you with me."  We talked through how we could find a way for him to practice a hundred times using the bus system in town, maybe work on creating a mental map of it and then he could go in to work with Dominick and go places on his own as the bus stops right in front of the store.  We figured we would practice more at the mall the next few times we go, and find ways of embedding the basic layout of our town in his head, which we both laughed over knowing it might take a year of work...and then we had better never move!

Then he said, "I want my life to matter a little, I want to do something besides just go to work and come home, I want to help people.  I think that I can learn to do a lot of the work at the store, though it might take a long time to get patterns in my head, but over time I can do a lot of the work there and honestly be a value, but you'll need to teach me and re-teach me and I know how hard that is for you.  But I want more than that.  I want to give back somehow."

Ministry is important to him, and we brainstormed what that might look like...how he might help others through his own personal experiences, get involved in disability or LGBT advocacy and politics, which he has a developing passion for.  We even talked about writing a book together with the voice of the son and the mom sharing our experiences so others might find hope.  We realize God has given him a comfort level speaking in front of others, and that he might use that to share his story with people in pregnancy centers and churches, etc.  

As the miles passed, the conversation shifted ever so subtly from acceptance to new life.  You might say, it was a resurrection of sorts.  Now, we have answers, now we can move from trying to "fix" it, to creating the best possible life for him.  More importantly, we can continue to listen to what God desires for his life.

Walking through the doors of church this morning was hard.  I was too tired, too raw, and didn't want to speak at length with anyone, for I just knew I would fall apart. I couldn't quite understand why, and still can't.  Nothing we learned was really new, so why am I just now feeling so much?   I am sure it felt as if I was being cold and perhaps even a bit rude, but I knew I would need to turn around and leave if I had to talk too much.  However, there at church I found the solace I needed as I guess I am moving through more concrete grief, experiencing relief at knowing I wasn't imagining how damned hard this is, and happy to have received the affirmation offered multiple times by the specialists that we have worked with Kenny in all the right ways, so much so that his handicap is almost hidden from the casual observer.  

God met me this morning, in the loving arms of my pastor, where momentarily I did lose it.  God met me in the music we sang, in the message we heard that was totally apropos about failure not really being failure. God met me in the form of an 80 year old widowed adopted grandpa who earlier in the week realized I would be gone right up until Easter and had decided to buy a turkey and invite us over for dinner tonight so that I wouldn't have to worry about a holiday meal. God met me as I looked around the Sanctuary into the faces of so many who love our family, pray for us, and have even offered financial support that was what helped us get to Washington and a final diagnosis in the first place.  

God met me because that is what God does.  We will wind our way to new life with Kenny, because that is what is offered as we learn the lessons Jesus taught.  We will continue to say "yes" when the Spirit leads, whether it makes any sense at all to others or not, because the LaJoy Family is certainly a Resurrection Family if ever there was one.  Today, I understood that on an entirely different level and give thanks for that.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dude and Chick Trips

One cause for delay in blogging lately was that both Dominick and I had separate road trips out to California to visit our families, each taking turns remaining behind to mind the store.  The "Dude" and "Chick" Trips were each wonderful in their own right, as male bonding took place over visits to breweries for research, meals where 2 lb hamburgers were served (or so it looked) and donuts were obtained from an old haunt.  In fact, it looks like the entire trip centered around food:


Hoagies...


Who knows...


Snacks...


Burgers...


Donuts...

Yes, your sympathies about the cost of feeding them all are appreciated.

There was a little fun and visiting thrown in alongside perpetual eating:





The girls and I didn't have quite the focus on food that the boys did on our trip, instead focusing on friends.  We spent the night in Vegas, where Christi had never been so the girls thought they had to show her the town at night.  We saw the gamut on Fremont Street, as expected, enjoyed an 80's cover band, and laughed as we took pictures of the lights.  






There was, however, a bit of a Food Fest moment for Angela, when all of us were shocked to see her go back SEVEN times to the buffet, as she gorged on crab legs for the first time. 


Driving back to Montrose, we stopped multiple times along the way to take photos of the beautiful Utah scenery at sunset.  It looks magnificent when caught at this time of day, less so at high noon:






Big Ol' Open Sky


We spent a few days at home with Candi and Christi, enjoying spring break before heading off to Denver to put them on their flight back home.  One of the days we went Geocaching in Delta, and just enjoyed lazily taking a 3 mile walk as we searched for caches.  The kids rode bikes, teased each other, walked on bridges, and had fun sleuthing to find the hidden boxes.






Dominick and I both enjoyed having a "third daughter" around for a brief period of time, and though we missed her brother, we were so happy to have Christi with us and look forward to another visit this summer.



Always room for more!


It was nice to have a break from reality and hard work.  Everyone is ready to get back in the groove now and put their noses to the grindstone!






Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Always With Hope

The past 24 hours were a race against the weather, as Kenny and I unexpectedly hopped in the car a day early to try and beat the blizzard blowing its way into Denver.  We are trekking to the University of Washington's Fetal Alcohol Clinic with the hope that we might finally get a diagnosis for Kenny's considerable challenges.

Outside our hotel room window, where less than 24 hours ago it was dry and sunny!!


How do I put into words what this feels like?  This isn't a vacation, this isn't a fun road trip, this isn't something to look forward to with great anticipation and joy.  Almost 10 years of fighting uphill as one by one, learning disabilities were revealed, and no one could tie them together.  Almost 10 years of doubt, of unanswered questions, of research, of anticipation that NOW we will know...

What is it exactly I am hoping for?  Do you have any idea how conflicting it is to actually want a diagnosis of something like FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) because at least it would finally explain what has thus far been inexplicable?  And yet determining he is on the spectrum also confirms what we have been trying hard not to think about ourselves since he was about 10 years old or so...that we worry he will never make it on his own.  At 17 years old, it is obvious now, with or without a label, that despite his deep intellect, his ability to function in the world is so impaired that he will never be able to function without supports in place,  sometimes considerable supports, and few who know him casually would ever see that because as I have said all along, he is also incredibly intelligent.  It is about functioning, not necessarily intelligence.

I am all for not limiting kids, for pushing them to be their very best, for blasting past labels and focusing on strengths.  In fact, we have done that repeatedly with Kenny and our other kids.  However, sometimes you need the label to access services, to be able to readjust expectations appropriately so you know where to let up because damage is permanent and irreparable.  Sometimes you need a descriptor for others who don't understand but interact regularly with the impaired person...and that is an appropriate term for Kenny, "impaired".

Kenny already has some labels.  True ADHD (without medication he is totally lost and loses maturity of about 5 years), Central Auditory Processing Disorder which has been fairly debilitating to him, Executive Functioning Disorder, Verbal Paraphasia, and more.  But for all we do know, we still don't have any idea why.  We have several labels which are "symptoms", but we have no root cause label.  As he approaches 18, and we realize he will need considerable help in the future, we need a true label that might help us access long term Medicaide and SSDI, as well as programs for job coaching, etc.  

The problem with Kenny is he is too bright, and yet too hindered...a potent combination for
imploding at some point.  In order to qualify for most programs locally, he needs to have a 70 IQ or below.  Anyone who has been in conversation with him recognizes Kenny is far above that category, and that the typical low IQ envelope stuffing-parts counting sort of job would be psychologically damaging to him.  This is a seriously bright kid, one who loves tackling deep topics like theology, politics, economics.  He is deeply engaged by history and excellent at mental math.

And therein lies the problem.

He is an incredibly bright young man who:

1)  Couldn't make the simplest recipe on his own without help, as his brain causes him to skip around the directions over and over again.
2) Can't do a jigsaw puzzle without repeated instructions and reminders how to approach the task.
3)  Takes up to a year to develop the patterning necessary to recall a new activity of daily living, such as remembering to shower each day, use deodorant, shave.  We are still working on carrying a wallet everywhere he goes, two years later after beginning that one.  
4)  Can only handle one step instructions at a time, and if distracted forgets entirely what he was doing.
5)  Doesn't have "the signal" in his brain to initiate changes in activity.  He has admitted that if he didn't see the other kids go to bed, he would stay awake all night because he wouldn't realize he needed to put himself to bed.
6)  Still can't easily process directional words when sent to look for something.  Top, bottom, left, right, over, under all trick him.
7)  Often can not recall important details such as his birth date, phone numbers, his age, etc., particularly if put on the spot in a new situation.
8)  Can't safely walk in a busy parking lot because he can't take in all the movement from so many different directions.
9)  Could never, ever find his way around an airport unassisted.
10)  Can't safely ride a bike in traffic, let alone consider driving.

So much more than above are part of our daily life with Kenny.  Thankfully, every single young person in our home has incredible patience and compassion for him, and also affirm his true intellect, or Kenny would be a very different young man.

Over the course of the past year or so, we have had some very hard conversations together, this dear son of ours and I, conversations no mom should ever have to have with their young adult child...about how limited his life might be, about what is realistic to expect to be able to do on his own, about whether he will ever find a life partner or raise children.  We have talked through fears of being a "burden" on his family, about coming to terms with skills that no longer seem to be improving, about  the realities of being gay and so very learning disabled.  

And yet...and yet...and yet...  

The Spirit's mercies are great, and somehow we have managed to turn the conversation around.  Our family does not play head games with ourselves, and Kenny has said repeatedly how grateful he is for the facts to be shared openly and honestly, for my willingness to "stay on him" to stop certain behaviors before they are ingrained, and to push him to do more than he thought he could do.  We have all spoken of how it would be a blessing to have Kenny for a lifetime, if need be, whether it his parents or his siblings as he is such a gentle, kind, wise, helpful soul.  We have talked more about what is possible while admitting what is improbable.  We have had wonderful dialogue around what it means to have a life of worth and value, and shown how "performance" isn't what it is all about.  We have encouraged him not to give up on finding a beautiful, loving heart in a life partner who might one day cross his path and appreciate all the amazing qualities Kenny brings to the table.  

Writing this, I can now see in part why I haven't written as much this past year.  We have processed so very much alone as we work through this, and I am often exhausted from the effort required to be as attentive as I need to be.  

And sometimes, there just aren't words.

There aren't words for holding the sobbing lanky body of your son as he shares his fears.

There aren't words for all the self-doubt that arises in me as I wonder if I have done enough, searched enough, worked hard enough.

There aren't words for the moments of frustration that are now filled with an acceptance of "this is forever" rather than the optimism that he is still young and improving in many areas, and just might overcome certain deficits.  

There aren't words for conversations that begin with, "I sometimes wonder if it would be better if I was mentally retarded, because then I might not understand all the things I can't do."

There aren't words for how proud I am of his resilience, his innate joy in life, his graceful acceptance of limitations.

There aren't words for how much I love him.

Friday we might have more answers, or we might leave with more questions than ever.  We might leave the clinic with mixed emotions as we take in what is shared with us, or we might leave more frustrated and defeated.

What I do know we will carry with us into the clinic is Hope with a capital "H", and that Hope is not dependent upon a diagnosis, but is instead reliant upon our deep understanding that regardless of labels, skills, or deficits...Love Wins.  Kenny is loved beyond all measure by so many.  Hope will always be part of his life, as we gain better understanding of what "fits" his unique intellect and skill set.  Hope isn't lost because life turns out differently than expected, instead it shifts to include new possibilities.  

Like the jigsaw puzzle we so patiently re-explained how to work with, Kenny's life itself is a puzzle, with a variety of pieces that seemingly don't fit.  There is no box with a clear image on it to use as a guide to putting it together, but there are pieces that will eventually snap together to reveal the surprise that will be Kenny's future.

And there is Hope and Love, and a beautiful young man who never gives up.

Neither will we.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Just STOP It!



We live in a culture that divides and divides and divides again.  We are in a season in which we are seeing it in our politics to a sickening degree, where the anger and hatred on either side of the aisle continues to give rise to the very worst of us.  It can be disheartening, it can be discouraging, it can be disillusioning.  

Buying into it in all areas of life, we allow folks of prominence, be it quite notable or of a lesser variety, to "other-ize" us.  It seems we are never quite as happy as we are when we can finger-point and prove how superior our way of thinking is.

What words can I use to describe how I feel upon reading what I am about to share with you?  Would appalled work?  Disgusted beyond belief?  Stymied or flummoxed?  How about chagrined or filled with great sorrow?  

It seems now we have a new war on the Christian battlefield, and no, it is not about the abortion debate, and no, it is not about gay marriage, and no, it is not about progressive versus conservative versus orthodox.  

No...wait for it....wait for it...this is a biggie...we have created an entirely new, fathomless war about whether taking your child to a mega church is selfish or not.

You heard me right, yes, we now have to decide whether or not we are good and faithful parents based upon the size of the church we attend, and whether or not it has a large enough youth group to support both a middle and senior high youth.

Absurd?  You betcha', as Sarah Palin might say.  Here is the video clip from renown pastor, Andy Stanley, as he chastises parents who don't provide their sons and daughters the opportunity to attend a mega-church:


Here is a transcript of the key piece:

"When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”

Essentially, what Pastor Stanley is saying is don't attend a church that teaches your child to hate church, and he is saying that as he is personally hating on churches that are not like his own.  Oooookkkkaayyyy...logical?  Not.  

So let's move on, and make sure we include more ridiculousness, as we present a counterpoint to the above offered by Jonathan Aigner as shared on Patheos.com, in which he writes an open letter with five reasons why Stanley's perspective is wrong, and why mega-churches are misguided choices for helping keep your children on the Christian path:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2016/03/03/dont-take-your-kids-to-a-megachurch-an-open-letter-to-andy-stanley/

Dear Lord, save us from ourselves!!

I sit here shaking my head in disbelief and dismay.  When are we going to get it?  

No wonder contemporary parenthood feels so discouraging and parents become apathetic.  They can't even escape the Mommy Wars at church, it is just sugar coated and dressed up in a big ol' cross.

It doesn't matter whether you attend mass in a cathedral, or pray in a mosque.  It doesn't matter if you wear a yarmulke or a burka.  It doesn't matter if you are a humanist or an atheist.  And it certainly doesn't matter if you attend a large or a small church, with or without a youth group.

What matters is that you spend time together as a family seeking a spiritual path that speaks to your values and understanding of the world.  What matters is that you are together, that you are recognizing the existence of something much larger than yourselves and you model walking through the world in a way that exhibits humility, kindness, and gratitude.  What matters is that the spiritual parts of ourselves are explored and not ignored.

Are we really going to devolve into arguing about the attendance numbers at our churches?

No wonder kids walk away from the church.

This morning we worshiped in a service with 20ish or so souls present.  We sang together, three of our five participated in worship as they stood and shared announcements or led prayer.  One sat grinning a mile wide when he patted the seat he had been saving next to him for an almost 70 year old friend.  In that service, there were no less than 5 adults who have helped educate our kids as we homeschool, who have given of themselves and invested their time in them.  There were those the kids have helped with various tasks, as they have learned about the joy of service both by having it modeled, and by reflecting that modeling back.

Church attendance strengthens our family unit, it provides us with a unifying set of morals and beliefs, and it helps us be in relationship with a God we understand in a variety of ways. It binds us to a community where we belong, and it is a place where we can ask the hard questions of life.

We are being spiritually fed in a way that works for us, we are being drawn deeper into life affirming relationships, and we are safe to be who we are.

That's what matters!  Youth group or no youth group, mega church or micro church, Christian or Humanist Group, what matters is that you are making the effort to help your kids develop their inner selves, and you are alongside them as they do so, talking and sharing,  showing them that it matters to you as well, explaining why you pursue the Holy yourself.

JUST STOP IT!!

Quit proclaiming your superiority for all, quit pushing your agenda, quit adding voices to the cacophony that already tells us all we aren't doing a good enough job, and increasing the volleys in the Mommy Wars.  

And listen mom or dad...don't buy into this crap.  Give your kids a spiritual foundation that best suits you.  Help them understand the need for an awareness of the existence of suffering and encourage them to try and leave a little mark in the world.  Use whatever community you can, large or small, to come alongside you and support you in that endeavor.  Absolve yourself of undeserved guilt, and keep on being present to your child.

Grab the ear plugs and cast aside the doubt.  Trust me, God doesn't care one way or the other.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Healing Happens

Angela's Artistry
Driving home from a meeting, Angela and I were deep in conversation, when something ever-so-sweet was revealed to me.  Back in November, she was having a very difficult time as she found herself a little "stuck" in her thinking.  You see, when you come from hard places, you begin to wonder if you are doomed to repeat the mistakes of your birth parents.  The questions of Nurture vs. Nature take on an entirely different meaning when one contemplates how it might affect themselves.

Can I break away from generational birth family patterns?

Can I be someone different?

Can I tame the temperament within that sometimes reminds me too much of another that did harm?

And this was a huge struggle for my ever self-aware daughter.

I can't really recall how we got there in conversation, but we were talking about something and I referred to her mom, and she grinned and patted me on the shoulder and said she was just like me, and I think we were both laughing harder when we realized I was talking about her BIRTH mom, not me.  However, what a little tickle of joy I had that I am so obviously now MOM that it threw her to even recall or think about her first mom.  But that is how we got on the subject of how I had helped her heal from some of the old painful stuff that had arisen for her.

"Oh?"  I inquired, "How did I do that?"

"You told me I had been with you for six years now, and that I had been under your influence way longer than I had ever been under hers.  You told me that maybe it was time to move past that in my thinking, and that I was responsible for who I become." Angela shared.

"Well, I am so glad that helped!" I casually said.

"No Mom, it really, really helped me heal.  I just heard it differently and it made me change my thinking.  It made me realize I can be more like you and probably will be, because you really have been part of my life longer."

I was reminded by this conversation that sometimes, timing is everything.  Had I said something like that too early on, I don't think it would have been taken in as powerfully as it obviously was later.  Angela was ready, she was needing a different perspective to see how she might be able to escape the fear that she might be unable to reject familial patterns, and my comment later in her growing up years helped her see how very different she already is from the family she was born into.

What blossomed today was more conversation about God helping us make choices to be different, that our self-awareness is one thing...but our desire for change and willingness to walk boldly toward healing, forgiveness, shifts in understanding, etc. is what really matters.  Often, we realize truths for ourselves and because we know it will take real work to untangle and rework things, we just shove it aside like a knotted up skein of yarn.  As I pointed out to Angela, you know what?  That knotted mess remains, and often it continues to roll right back at you, returning like a bad penny, quietly insistent that you work with it to untie the mess that is representative of your emotions.  It doesn't go away because we have ignored it, and maturity is when we somehow summon the courage to grab it and start working with that twine, gently pulling it apart, forcing ourselves to see realities that are hard rather than flick it away as if that really changes anything at all.

It doesn't, it delays the inevitable personal work we must do.

That can be SO hard!

It can be painful to feel stuck, and have no language for it.  It can be painful to have fears that go inadequately expressed.  What is more painful is pretending none of that is present, for we revisit those concerns over and over and over again.

Healing happens, and sometimes it happens when we least expect it.  A casual observation is made, and yet it is exactly the way someone needed to hear it.  Something is acknowledged and someone feels joined, and things feel a little less weighty.  A different perspective is shared, and we see a totally different angle to a situation and new insight is gained.  All of these lead to healing, and sometimes we have no clue if what we have shared has made any difference at all.  Sometimes it isn't until much later that we discover that we were helpful in a situation.

And we are all healing all the time from some insult to our heart, aren't we?  Our souls are always growing, taking nurture from others, in need of the water and the sunshine that help us blossom into the new creatures and the new lives waiting for us, if only we can continue to wade through the rubble of our current lives to reach the other side.  Often it is not as fast as we would wish for, and as we turn over the boulders before us we get glimpses of our deeper selves.

Healing happens...hope is alive...love wins.



Good Ol' American Interdependence!

Good old Thomas Merton, he certainly "gets it", doesn't he? The theme of interdependence is one that is being regularly ...