Monday, February 28, 2011

February Podcast: Paula Dawson

Paula is a woman who gives real meaning to the word, sweet. She is kind to the marrow.

Here's a glimpse of her last Friday winning a night out at a happening local nightclub. (who knew?) Spending time with Paula makes me feel like the lucky winner.

On Monday nights, she is found fully engaged in the waiting room at the Music Therapy Center of California. Our own permutation of a support group has resulted from our boys being in The Kingsmen band together. While they rehearse, we (four moms and grandma) talk. It's a sacred time. Paula listens and speaks with style, grace and humor. Never flustered, quick to laugh, always willing to help, Paula is a balm in Gilead.

I consider her an inspiration to the autism community. Last night she was gracious enough to let me ask her a couple questions while recording:

Click Autism Unplugged Paula Dawson.mp3 or the play button below.

I always wanted to do a photo montage of Conor in the famous Fantasia pose we mentioned. His bravado thrills me at every performance.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Good Trade

He shot off the school bus forcing back tears. Running straight to his room, shutting the door he began an intense conversation with himself. "Mom, stay out I need privacy," may have been shown more clearly than it was said. I kept a distance while he brought a half dozen reusable shopping bags from the garage and filled them with the VCR tapes that line his desk. The self-talk was emotional and heart wrenching:

"Please don't take them away."

"You don't need those anymore."

"You can do it Reid. Just give me a bag."

"Allie I'm so sorry I've wasted your time." sobbing

"Will you forgive me?"

I sat on the stairs interceding, texting my prayer partner, and absorbing the significance of this cathartic scene. It was painful to sit and watch yet, promising. Wondering what had gone down at school that day, I was sure this must be a step in the progressive breakthrough we've been asking for. Victory is coming over the addictions and obsessions Reid battles. I knew for sure I hadn't prompted the video removal this time. It was entirely spontaneous and self-initiated.

As his tears and intensity subsided, I noticed the approaching dinner hour. In the drama, it completely slipped my mind that Tobias, Area Director of our newly launched Young Life Capernaum ministry, was coming at 5:00pm to hang out for their long anticipated "contact" time. Oh boy:/ Finally, now?! How would this possibly play out?

I spared Tobias the blow by blow and began the old spiel I give every first time caregiver and respite worker. Reciting the steps to structured success and doling out $5 for the ritual trip to Roberto's, I paused. Wait! The Spirit prompting me now, Let this be a new leaf. Let me show you the new thing I am doing.

I backed off, "I'll be upstairs if you need me, do whatever you want." Leaving them in the family room with the tv still on, I returned to my prayer stair. Before I knew it my tears started to flow.

Not only did Reid turn off the tv (an unheard of action usually requiring at least 10 minutes of negotiation and transition), but he promptly took the chord charts from Tobias' binder and broke into the purest form of worship this side of the pearly gates.

They continued for an hour through praise song after praise song about God's love. He Knows my Name...How He Loves Us...Mighty to Save...

Like a natural born worship leader, Reid called out lyrics to an invisible audience. Side by side they brought down the presence of the Lord to inhabit the praises of His people.

Those songs of deliverance perfectly timed, were the antidote to Reid's traumatic day, the encouragement of things to come, a replacement for what he laid down, and salve on the wounds of loss represented in those four shopping bags of dvd's.

All I could think of was how that day, that appointment--unbeknownsdt to us--had been ordained long before in order to answer our call for help and give him something better in return for the idols he was casting down.

Relating easily now, he and Tobias made a plan to sing every other Thursday leading others in worship. For such a time as this, Capernaum is in San Diego....and not just for Reid.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-15

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me...
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Reid holds onto two photos of his baptism--really of the crowd who attended his baptism. They were in a frame on his desk that has long since folded, literally. Now they are loose leaf and so much easier to cherish. They float around the house and turn up wherever he leaves them.

When he holds them, he lovingly drawls out the names of the people he sees with legato musical phrasing, "Caaarla," Joshhhhhhhhh!" It's sweet.

Yesterday, it was more than just sweet. With new eyes to see what is happening in the unseen spiritual world, I grasped the symbolism and promise he holds in those photos.

They don't come out by accident when the cleaning lady organizes his dresser; they come out when he is searching for meaning in life or feeling weary, neglected, discouraged. They came out last Saturday.

There are 379 photos from that day, but the one that does it for him is of the throng of people applauding as he returned to the beach shivering with glee. They were present for a profound moment of belonging. Certainly now if not before, they belong to him and he to them. They love him and he loves them.

At breakfast, I was able to articulate, "Reid, I love remembering your baptism. God made a covenant with you that day. He began a new thing when you were baptized. You died and rose again out of the water with Christ , like Jesus did on the cross."

He was totally attentive with 8 hash browns left, so I went on, "And you know what, God is a finisher. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished." His Word says He will finish the good work He began in you." Those are promises and He is a God who always keeps His promises."

What's a momento that strengthens your spirit for the journey?

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. John 4:33-35

When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don't quit on me now. Psalm 138:6-8

...we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. Hebrews 12:1-3 Amplified

Photo credit and thanks to Doug Miller.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


That word "lifelong" looms as an ominous cloud over the classical definition of autism. Whether you read it on a book cover, hear it from a doctor, or google search it, it's superlative and so final.

Here's one:

Autism is a complex, life long developmental disability that interferes with the person's ability to understand what he sees, hears and touches.

and another:

Autism is a lifelong disability affecting nearly 1 in 250 children

born in the world today. With the diagnosis of autism reaching

epidemic proportions, it is important that accurate information is made

available to anyone who will be working with, living with, or loving a

person with autism.

Lately (and remember I'm 14 years post-diagnosis), it's hit me thus: Who among us doesn't have a lifelong condition? Whether you call it sin or humanity, we all have it. It's not going away this side of heaven.

We all grapple with some resonant theme for the course of a lifetime. Some get help, make significant progress, experience breakthrough, accomplish amazing milestones, others remain stuck. We may make great strides for a season, even appear "recovered" for periods of time, but then slip back, fall off the wagon and feel hopeless. Two steps forward, one step back. It's universal--with or without an autism diagnosis.

Whether we tend toward pride, rejection, greed, anger, selfishness, fear, we each have our hot buttons. There are interventions available to help us in the natural world. Spiritual gains are there too. The Lord may reveal a verse that helps us through a time; accountability partners give us a leg up for a season; we enjoy success, even deliverance for years of time. But we remain: human, sinful, incomplete.

Personalize it. What prayer do you pray each Sunday in church? Have you become a broken record asking God for grace in the same area? I have confessions and recommittals that are recurrent, if I'm honest. They are lifelong issues related to my unique temperament, circumstances and alas, even God's purpose in my life.

And so, we work out our salvation... Life...Long...until that day we are complete in Christ.

Until then, you might say we're all learning how to self, to sin, to _____.

Jon Foreman sings it best:

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. Psalm 19:6-8 The Message

For to me, to live is Christ
and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-22

Therefore, my dear friends...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling... Philippians 2:11-13

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Autistic in the spirit

An undeniable emptiness, I've felt before, came over me this morning. It's just Reid and me at home this weekend. Have you ever felt alone in someone's company? Hearing him hook up to the television--like an IV--I followed him downstairs feeling taken-for-granted, ignored, like furniture.

All he really cares about is that constant stream of visual stimulation. His assumption that I will always be here to provide basic wants and needs, is accurate even if hurtful.

I say "Good Morning" to no response. Until, "can you bring me hash browns?"

How many times do I wake up and the first thing I say to the Lord is, "Will you bless my day?" or some other thinly veiled demand for creature comfort. To some degree, we all go around idolizing our own pleasure, achievement, pastimes, or just our own navels. While God sits waiting for a heartfelt "good morning" connection.

God in Heaven continues to bless us but, you know all He really wants? Relationship! To have us come look in His eyes, play footsie, or otherwise give Him the time of day. That's all I want from Reid. Spent umpteen hours--his lifetime--and thousands of dollars trying to achieve it. To have him greet me
spontaneously, care what I think, want to sit with me or tell me about his day.

Maybe, just maybe, God's purpose in allowing autism is to illustrate the condition of our hearts toward Him in the spiritual realm. Can you think of a better way? Many of us are autistic in our spirits. No intervention the world offers can save us from ourselves. The reality of Reid helps me grasp the parallel and modify my own behavior toward God my Father in heaven.

If God loves me while I am yet a selfish sinner turning my back and gaze away from Him, then I can keep on loving Reid on the days he doesn't express any reciprocity. I see myself in him.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Motivators

I need help on this one...what can you give me?

Monday, February 7, 2011

This is a test...

This is only a test...of your ability to read behavior as communication.

Do you think he's had enough of these Social Stories?

What is Reid saying through his actions of crumpling an entire folder of social stories?

No offense to Carol Gray intended. I love social stories and Storymovies. In fact, my dream is to write some myself to illustrate spiritual realities. Just yesterday, I requested a new batch from Reid's school. They obliged without procrastination. How long will these last?

Maybe it's just time to freshen up the subject matter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sing a New Song

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:26-28

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:2-4

Almost every Sunday morning as we coast the 2 miles downhill to church (coffee or smoothie in hand), Reid breaks spontaneously into a praise song. (His memory for lyrics is astounding, not to mention the artist who's recorded it and what track it is on which of their albums.)

Eight times out of 10, the song Reid picks en route ends up being on the church bulletin that very Sunday! It's uncanny. This didn't dawn on me at first but, it has happened enough now that I am quite sure of the correlation. (All of us learn through repetition.)

Last week, he and I drove alone so instead of the usual foursome belting out the prophetic pre-worship selection, I was able to ask him, "Reid, how do you think of what song to sing in the car?"

After the usual pregnant pause I offered, "Does the Lord tell you which song?"

Immediately, "Yes the Lord gives it to me."

Is anything too hard for the Lord? Even if we struggle to communicate with ones profoundly language delayed, the God who made us all in His image, has a way.

As Hans Christian Andersen said, when words fail, music speaks. Music is the language of the soul, as another blogger points out.

Karen Kingsbury's fictional book, Unlocked, gave me much food for thought. She portrays Holden, a teenager with autism, with a close friends who unlocks his potential as well as the meaning behind some of his self stims. When he rocks, he is interceding for classmates.

I wonder if we gave our guys more credit for having spiritual gifts and disciplines, if they would grow into maturity?

Might we too, as they teach us in the process?