Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eagles and zebras and bees

This clever video from Raising Small Souls is telling as it uses the animal kingdom to craft an analogy of different strengths and learning styles in the natural world. Which would be you? The duck, the eagle, or the squirrel? In our competitive, standardized world, it is a needful reminder to prize our individuality. Teach to the strength; remediate the weakness. But whatever you do: don't forfeit the uniqueness.

Doesn't it blow your mind anew to see how many different species God created with each of their own adaptations to environment. Their incredible "accomplishments" come instinctively when they're allowed to be who He made them to be.

A doggeared book my kids still love offers a related metaphor. In The Treasure Tree, John Trent and Gary Smalley use personification to teach kids the four basic personality types. The lion, otter, beaver and retriever learn to work together employing each other's strengths to overcome challenges and find life's treasure. Amazingly, even as 5 year olds, both my kids immediately and accurately identified their role in the family. And pegged each of us, "Dad, you're Lance the lion!"

He watches over His nest like an eagle and hovers over His young; He spreads His wings, catches him, and lifts him up on His pinions. Deuteronomy 32:10-12

The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:2-4

Even a sparrow finds a home,
and a swallow, a nest for herself
where she places her young—
near Your altars, LORD of Hosts,
my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in Your house,
who praise You continually. Psalm 84:3-4

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Friend Indeed

What a glorious sunny day in December! I had time to breathe while I waited for a friend. A dear, dear friend I rarely get to see anymore. We were condo neighbors, then prayer partners when I first moved to California 17 years ago. Neither of us had children, and she not a husband at the time. The combined weekly prayers of our trio (a third neighbor joined us) covered the full circle of female experience. Representing a lifespan between us, we prayed each other through some heart-wrenching transitions from single-hood to marriage and infertility to menopause. As time has rolled on, we've traded places and themes until now, lo and behold the daughters we prayed into existence are approaching the age we were when we met (almost)! Cue the Circle of Life song from Lion King.

It was Carolyn who changed my prayer for a baby from a request to an intercession. She aptly foresaw that the baby we were hoping to adopt was likely already conceived and growing in someone's belly. It was Carolyn who called me when she went into labor to cue me to my knees-- and again just an hour later to say her baby girl had arrived! Suffice it to say, walking with her stirs a lot of memories. It has been years since we've had more than 5 minutes on the church patio and as many as 6 other ears listening to all we confide.

Carolyn's the kind of friend I can (and do) call for a ride to the airport at any ungodly hour or from the dark roadside alley 40 minutes from home where AAA left me stranded with 2 kids recently or when I'm desperate to keep an invitation to a dinner dance and can't find a babysitter for my "spirited" child. I know she'd do anything for me...and vice versa.

Now that you know I love her, I must also tell you she typically runs a little late. So, I had some time by myself at the beach as I waited to relish this annual-at-best beachwalk we had managed to schedule. Twenty minutes later strolling up the serendipitously low tide, I realized I was 5 blocks north of where we'd agreed to meet! Oops. No matter, ours is a totally forgiving friendship too. By the time we recognized each other waving in the misty distance, I had found 2 sand dollars and heard the Lord speak volumes.

Like a trusty hearing aid, when Carolyn is around--or even approaching me from afar--I seem to hear better. Hearing the Lord doesn't happen a lot for me in this manner. Sure, when I am in His Word I hear principles and application. Far less common though is alone time when I feel His thoughts virtually drop into my mind. Usually when I walk with a friend, we are talking. While highly pleasurable and beneficial, our chatter makes it impossible to hear any other voices, especially that stillest, small voice of all. So, this day in addition to the extraordinary visit with Carolyn, I received the elusive gift of silence with God...and a tangible token from the sea.

I'm quite sure I began praying for a friend for Reid when he was about 2 (it's recorded in an old prayer journal). That prayer request is one I've reiterated, re-used, thrown out, and recycled in turns with great angst, acquiescence, acceptance, and assertion. Just recently, 12 years hence, I see stirrings of an affirmative answer as Reid talks about 2 boys on his bus route. It used to be, I was organizing facilitated play groups, recruiting typically developing peers from church, or negotiating the parameters of a playdate to ensure it's success. How refreshingly different to now be sitting back and merely asking, "Do you want to take an extra cookie for Billy?" Or coaching Reid on how to ask Aaron for his phone number so we can call his house. How much better to have the desire come from within rather than be imposed upon. How spontaneous and better than what I ever asked or imagined.

The Lord does answer prayer...all in His good timing. So, I continue to pray that one day Reid will have a friend like Jonathon was to David; a friend like Carolyn is to me; a friend who sticks closer than peanut butter, to quote one of our favorite Steve Green Hide 'em in Your Heart scripture memory songs! And...I continue to believe he will.

I am a sucker for children's choirs and this one does my heart good in their rendition of the irresistible old favorite, What a Friend we Have in Jesus.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:13-17

"Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' ! Samuel 20:42

"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. James 2:22-24

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Free to Fly with the Wind

I am going to free myself up from my self-imposed template of length and structure for awhile, in favor of being more prolific and getting more posts out to you.

This story in the LA Times of a blind runner competing on a high school track team underscores the irony that in order to run with the chariots or really be free, we must in fact be tethered. Liberation for me, comes from being bound like an ox to Christ. When we submit to His yoke, our burdens lose their weight and we are finally on course. Read it and well up as I did at the beauty of her ambition and gratitude, the coach's resolve and resilience, the teammates' compassion and character development that are all perfectly woven together for good as the Father designed in advance. The story is also covered here in Breaking Christian News with a different slant.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-3

Interesting that like God, the runner knows each helper by name.

And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name." Exodus 33:16-18

And how naturally inclusion flows out of the Coach Sramek's expectation of mutual respect and manners from his players.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Starfish, Starfish wonder what you are...

This little ditty on Sara Groves' Station Wagon CD spun through my head as I spotted something on the surface of the sand and lunged for it like treasure.

starfish starfish wonder what you are fish
time and tide go washing by and
you don't even care

peaceful creature come and be my teacher
flotsam, jetsam swish and swirl.

I'm not saying I remembered all those lines at the time and obviously I got my sea creatures mixed up. Not until I sit to write this, did it dawn on me that I found a sand dollar not a starfish....pshchw details! Treasure is treasure and I don't happen to know a sand dollar song! Do you? The tune put me in mind of the book, One Small Starfish by Anne Addison which is excellent resource...which led me to...the mind races so fast from one thought to the next, you know how it goes. Soon the the ideas turn into ones that you know aren't your own. They take on a symbolic, metaphoric, distinctly divine quality.

The thoughts flooded so fast I could identify them as from God. I can't fabricate ideas that quickly let alone spell them out in words. I have learned to run my thoughts through two filters in order to prove them of God. First, do they correlate with Scripture? Second, do they agree with His nature? If yes on both counts, then I take it as from God to me. If no, then the voice could be my own or that of the enemy. Indeed, these sounded like His voice.

What a glorious, sunny, low tide shore! No question, I'd found a whole sand dollar. Stoked, I turned it over in my hand to see the underside. Despite it's unquestionable wholeness, it had a definite dent. Not broken or cracked, just pushed as if it were an organic 3-dimensional model of the top down SPECT scan view of Reid's brain I had just reviewed with a third psychiatrist. Smack dab in the right front quadrant was this considerable impression. Hmuh? uncanny representation of the white hot, overactive spot that makes his scan resemble a stop action photo of fireworks lighting up a July sky. The hot spots, otherwise referred to as a "ring of fire," were top priority to treat. This little gem of a sand dollar reminded me of my fearfully and wonderfully made boy in a split second. He is an incomparable find...placed in my path...specifically for me...unique, beautiful and whole...impressive and impressionable...that, like the sand dollar, arrived smaller than average.

Just steps down the beach, I found another sand dollar. What a day! Is this one Allie? Bigger, cleaner, not perfect either, but more speckled and gray than marred, like the first. My steps quickened to instinctively "show and tell" with two little girls playing in my stride. "Look, wanna see what I found? Aren't they special?" I imagined saying these words as well as, "You can keep it." Before I could utter them, they caught in my throat with ostenstibly selfish thoughts like, "They're mine. Finders keepers. You can look but, please don't touch them." I walked quietly by instead of stopping. Now, intentionally keeping my mind open to more thoughts from the Father. "Keep them, they're for you today," He seemed to say.

Hmmm...keep them as a sign...of this push and pull dynamic that is perpetual for letting out and reeling in the line of a kite. Relinquishment and responsibility. How many times have I revisited this parenting topic? When will I have done it sufficiently and in a healthy way without one ounce of rationalizing? In my head, I know the goal: our kids are not our own; they come from God; they are arrows in our quiver to be sent forth; ours for a time to prepare for independence. Heart knowledge is a different matter.

How many layers must there be to this teary onion? I have released my kids multiple times and in myriad ways, yet still I catch myself with hands grasped figuratively, hanging on with a comment, or controlling through an expectation. Am I hoarding my kids as treasures or sending them out for the glory of God?

I gave Reid the middle name of Samuel knowing full well the story of Hannah's infertility and her bargain with the Lord if He remembered her. Like Sarah, I named Reid Samuel because "I asked the Lord for him." But could I also "give him over to the Lord for his whole life" like she did? Not exactly. I could barely send him to school at age 13, let alone leave him to be raised by priests. I recall a relinquishment prayer exercise embedded in Catherine Marshall's book, Adventures in Prayer? More than once, it has been an issue for me.

Clearly, relinquishment is more a process than an event. At first blush, it sounds like turning someone over to the wolves. As an adoptive mom, it also smacks of the dreaded rejection curse which has deep roots we don't want to dig up (let alone reinforce in anyone's spirit). The nuances of it though, involve trusting people and powers outside myself. As a special needs mom, I have done significant mental wrestling before trusting nursery workers to love my child, Sunday school teachers to accept his quirky behaviors, an audience at Borders to receive his singing well, neighbors to figure out how he's different, playmates to perceive his ill-expressed intentions, teachers to be insightful, wise, and responsive, babysitters to be of good character, even family to expand their minds and hearts. So it is, that relinquishment and trust are inextricably linked.

For Reid to ever have hope of an independent, full life (that remotely resembles his sister's), I have to squelch my own internal control freak and let go of protecting him, speaking for him, answering for him, meeting all his needs. I need to trust numerous others to stand in those gaps. Sounds easy enough but is hard with a child who has unpredictable development and neurology.

During a season of perpetual anguish when I was exhausted and unsure how to help Reid or know what to do next, I sought healing prayer for both of us. I envisioned myself helpless on a shore and described Reid as a boat floundering at sea in high winds, adrift without a rudder at the whim of a raging storm. Truthfully, at that time he had little control over his own body or mind--the embodiment of vestibular anarchy. The answered prayer came not as a solution or reply but as a picture of Jesus with him in the boat. Much like the disciples in Mark 4, Reid was and is and actually will be fine because of that single fact alone. Jesus is with Him. Can I yield to that? Can He be trusted?

Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:37-39

"...the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:7-9,,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Song for the Road

You already know I'm a Beth Moore junkie. With five close friends--made even tighter by our weekly commitment together--I just completed her Psalms of Ascent Bible study. Who knew? The specific Psalms 120-134 were ones the Israelites had memorized, like a "Road Trip" playlist on their community ipod. On repeated treks to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, the men, women and children had those short, catchy, rhyming psalms stuck in their heads as if they were top 40 hits. Take a listen to these renditions by messianic Christian Chuck King.

The Biblical word for road trip is pilgrimage. After updating and unpacking it, I have come to love the ring of that word. I am on a pilgrimage. And so are you! Whether through autism, through marriage, through divorce, through cancer, through illness, or through a chapter in life, we are all on our way to some place else. Heaven, namely. We are never stuck but always moving on toward some thing better.

Songs make the time go faster don't they? On an arduous car ride or a harrowing adventure. Songs do a whole lot more than that. Like the hunch that there is a God, almost all of us know innately that music has a power over our soul. All agree and yet, it remains a spiritual mystery how and why music empowers our communication and binds us to the otherness of heaven. Music assists us in entering the spiritual realm. Singing enables the expression of our soul. Songs release God's power. Jesus sang with the disciples. Song originated with God and accompanied creation. Song can change our perspective. I won't pretend to explain but merely to illustrate.

Colloquially speaking, we say that, "music tames the savage beast" whether we attribute it to Shakespeare in Twelfth Night or William Congreve in The Mourning Bride. I have seen this to be true. Years before his Abilify prescription (which has also served to tame the savage beast), Reid came home from a day to top all days at school. Possibly his worst ever. Honestly, I've repressed the gory details. Suffice it to say that those days often included reports of him under a desk, chewing his shirt to shreds at the collar, hitting a teacher, being restrained by staff members, being dreadfully uncomfortable needing to poop but unable to relax enough at school to do so in their restroom with its buzzing flourescent lights, automatic flushing toilets, not to mention other patrons. It was hellish. Some combination of those had accumulated. By the time I rolled into the carpool line, the teachers could only scoop him into the car. Time to recuperate. Wait, we were due home for piano lessons.

His lessons are pretty similar to the classic variety although he takes from a beloved music therapist of 8 years. Because of her training, who she is and their established rapport, the 30 minute session retains a therapeutic quality. In fact, it often takes on a certain magic. Anyway, I was ready to bail that day, send her home and forfeit the fee. I couldn't see how Reid would ever pull himself together to attend. He collapsed into the house, eyes still red from crying and disheveled from the ravages of his day. After some ineffective cajoling and sympathetic urging to get him to the piano bench from me, Angela simply sat down herself and played something. (If I ever write a book it will have to be fiction since so many relevant details escape me.) I think it was a praise and worship song, maybe something she was dusting off for church that Sunday.

Thus began a slow-motion scene from the movie of our life. Stilled by the music, Reid rose from the crumpled pile on the floor, joined her on the bench and after 20 minutes skittered out to the kitchen a new boy. Music had transformed his day from disaster to joy. His emotional tank was refueled for whatever lay ahead. Dumbstruck and speechless, I stuttered to Angela, "how...did...i didn' that...can't." Angela's response I do recall, "music tames the savage beast." She's humble and accurate. I started scheming a way to have her take up permanent residence. We need a live-in pianist.
Dr. Fryman, the world renown osteopath we were privileged to see, utilizes this pipe dream wish of mine in her San Diego practice. In her 90's and still treating infants, she has mentored nearly every young osteopath worth their salt. Her treatment protocol is incredible albeit elusive. Parents are consulted with but prohibited from accompanying their child in the treatment room. At first, this policy put me off tremendously. Anticipating Reid's first appointment with her I felt as if I was relinquishing him to a demented Oz behind a curtain only to wait in t he field of monkeys. Once I got to know her though, I appreciated the method to her apparent madness. She eliminates the triangulating that can happen with kids with behavioral challenges. In this intentional way, she can treat them more individually and without distraction. The kids quickly learn to trust her calculated, consistent, predictable routine and benefit immensely from each visit. Reid would emerge out of the corridor of her round building practically stunned by an epiphany. So deep was the transformation I could perceive it in his face, stature and dare I say, soul. Osteopathy is a holistic approach.

A large part of Dr. Fryman's effectiveness is her spiritual gifting and faithfulness. Another part is her understanding of music. She employed a concert pianist who accompanied her hands-on osteopathic manipulation with live classical music. She chose music that matched the energy of the child taking "music therapy" to a new level. As the treatment progressed, she would cue the pianist with a new composer or piece that synchronized with the patient and synergized her manual adjustment. I don't think I'm extrapolating to say that she was calling upon the powers of heaven through music to heal. Many miracles quietly occur in that place.

The Listening Program, AIT, Samonas, and many musical permutations are marketed as beneficial for our kids with autism. I am not endorsing any of those, nor one over the other. We have invested in several of them at different times. I am not certain their claims are valid, provable, or worth niggling over. What they do all indicate though is that music influences our brain function.

Can you add a little music to your life today? Open yourself up to be healed, restored, redeemed. Marinade in some sound waves. Steep in a psalm.

This is what the LORD says: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'
Jeremiah 31:6-8

"The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:16-18

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7