Monday, April 30, 2012

Mentorship right under my nose

What a week last week was! Four school night's out can nearly do me in.  Each night was worthy: an ASA film festival, our Banding Together board meeting, the Miracle Project launch in San Diego, a Kingsmen gig, Young Life fundraiser and Prom!!  Yet, on the heels of these daytime highlights: Allie presenting her "senior legacy" (one of 7 voted by classmates), an IEP, extra rehearsals and of course the up-do hair appointment, nails and pre-prom prep, they created a dizzying array of highpoints necessitating several take out dinners and a do-nothing Sunday.

Life is full. Where to start?

How 'bout with a line from yesterday's sermon? Summarizing a sermon on discipleship, our pastor implored us to, "look behind you, and see who's following you." All of us have opportunities to mentor and be mentored.

I saw this Friday night. A group of young musicians, The Dudes' Bandslam, are steadily following Reid and his Kingsmen bandmates. The Dude's Bandslam has been together a little more than a year. They opened Friday night for The Kingsmen who've been gigging for five years.

Mentoring is one of the key buzz words embedded in the threefold mission of Banding Together: to give music therapy scholarships, mentorships and instruments to youth with special needs. We toil in trial and error to create the first chicken, or is it the egg, of a mentorship program.  Gaining momentum, we were just awarded a grant from WRAMTA for a series of Jam Sessions linking local musicians with kids. Another smashing success that's evolving are Soundcheck Jams with touring musicians at the Belly Up Tavern. They deserve a post of their own.

Try as we might, it seems the most solid example of mentorships is right under our nose. It was obvious last Friday night; The Kingsmen themselves are the mentors!  How often is this how God works?  His ways are mysterious and higher than ours.  While we're busy compulsively planning good things, He hits a pop fly into left field. His upside-down Kingdom way never ceases to surprise and delight me. It makes me laugh honestly, in acknowledgment that it is so much better than anything we could have asked for or even imagined--around any brainstorming board table.

Back to the gig: the Dudes' Bandslam played the first set at our coffeehouse fundraiser.  We do a series of 6 of these throughout the school year.  Local high school bands and jazz ensembles perform, invite their own following. By selling raffle tickets, we raise money and awareness for music therapy.  Each one is awesome in its own right, having a different flavor depending on the crowd and tenor of the band.

I'm biassed obviously, but the last one of the season is special because it puts our mission into 3-D. Kids--with autism, who've grown up with music therapy--are up on stage rocking the casbah in order to raise money so kids like them, but younger can get the same benefits. Innately, they demonstrate our mission better than any board member could articulate it. They embody the mission. It rocks!

So, this tongue-tied board member hopes you can see from the pictures what took place. A community turned out.  Their were so many webs of connection between the audience--from church from Miracle League baseball, from the chiropractors office, from Capernaum.  Everyone knew somebody. That made for a receptive, encouraging environment.  Nervous as they were, the boys had the crowd whether they remembered the lyrics or sang off key.  Dancing in the aisle and hooting was encouraged.  We--because I include myself in the bunch--were like a bunch of college freshman having our first beers at a frat house. Crazy and carefree...

The paparazzi rivaled a royal wedding. In addition to the professional photographer, Stacy Bostrom, who volunteered (her portraits of kids make me drool), there were 3 videos rolling, a couple SLR's, and every iPhone in the place. Again, whether they kept or missed the beat, this was going down in history. Note: these pics are from my phone; hers will follow.

By the time the second set came around, our partner sorority Alpha Xi Delta had collected $400.  The Kingsmen took the stage and brought it home. Reid took the announcements from there. As front man, he has developed a comfortable schtick telling the audience where else they perform and what he likes best about being in the band.  On a roll this time, he even gave the last call for raffle tickets and said, "we messed up" when one of the songs had a false start.  No worries, they are seasoned performers. One comrade mom who has known Reid since our boys were kindergartners riding horses was mesmerized, "I don't think I've ever heard Reid speak." Such is the transformational power of music--and the stage for him.

That's when I saw it. On the overstuffed loveseat sat the entire Dudes' Slamband squished together, almost on each other's laps. The four of them, elated their set was done, watched every move The Kingsmen made.  Wielding drumsticks in the air, they copied unabashedly showing us how mentorship works. Never mind the local pros, The Kingsmen were mentoring them--modeling how it's done--breaking down the next steps--showing rather than telling what it is to be a band.

They need to have an encore ready next time, for they brought down the house!  Everyone wanted more.  Adrenaline rushing through his veins, Reid broadcast to every lingering fan, "Mom, I did an awesome job! That deserves a treat." He doesn't need a microphone.  Once home, he remained on top of the world spouting off another historic one-liner: "Mom, I DO wanna do more gigs. When's the next one?"  The thrill of living one's destiny feeds on itself and can't help but be passed along.

This from the boy who hours before didn't want to go. No one would have guessed how nervous he had been beforehand.  I hope he doesn't remember either:)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  Hebrews 12:1-3

What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  1 Corinthians 1:11-13

Friday, April 6, 2012

Run to Papa first

Notice the order there?

I hadn't before (and I just blogged about this verse.

Our Wonderful Father comforts us directly. He doesn't hire a counselor, delegate it to mom, or stand at a distance watching through a two-way mirror. He is hands on, demonstrative and effective.

Aware of my tendency to call a girlfriend, my husband or my mom before going to my Abba God, I began a new discipline awhile ago. Before I pick up the phone with a question or quandry, even to share exciting news, I stop myself. Instead, however quickly, I close my eyes and go to God first. I may still call the friend but I am noticing that I hear more from the Lord this way. And find a different, deeper satisfaction in Him.

This intimacy of "throwing myself headlong into His arms--celebrating His rescue" Psalm 13:5 doesn't come easily to someone who grew up without a Father. But it can be learned! Barry Adams Father's Heart materials are a great resource.

"No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first." Oswald Chambers

Likewise Beth Moore writes, "No one is more pleasurable to be around than a person who has had her cup filled by the Lord Jesus Christ."

Correlated with Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide! Prayer calendar for April.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is He who will save us. Isaiah 33:22

American Idol is on tonight! In addition to entertainment and joint focus for our family, it provides an apt illustration of this Scripture. Reid predicted Scotty McCreery as last year's winner and this year we're rooting for Joshua.

At first glance I did not link those 3 titles--judge, lawgiver, and king--with the concept of saving. Condemnation comes to mind before rescue. Certainly the three outline our judicial system and represent a triune God. But then I recalled how the American Idol judges graphically illustrate "the save." One save per season. Last year it was especially dramatic with Casey (click to view). We sit on pins and needles, braving the commercials, sweating each of Ryan Seacrest's fakes to see who will be cut each week. And then whether the judges will use their one save of the season or not.

The Bible is clear about God being judge. That's a relief! I don't have to concern myself with doling out criticism or seeing all sides of an issue. It's also clear on how to be saved.

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

I feel for those American Idol contestants under the immense pressure of rejection. As each one gets cut, I pray they remember the difference between the judges and the Judge. It's easy to misplace our fear of the Lord. We will be inevitably defeated by the fear of man.

Not to put autism completely aside, we idolized our home program case manager. She was a godsend when Reid was 5 yrs. old. Her passion was to support families, especially moms in the early diagnosis stage. She was gifted at setting up a program, staffing, training, listening and walking alongside those in the midst of the initial panic and information gathering that marks that phase. I don't know how she put up with me--on the phone or my doorstep ranting and neurosing for hours on end.

She shared with me once that as much as she loved it, there was a pitfall. Emotionally desperate moms (myself included) tended to set her up as a "savior." She arrived on the scene with answers and seemed able to save their child from certain demise. This was a danger for her, since she knew that was not true. And also for them, since she was not omniscient, omnipotent, nor Savior. She could help, but she could not save even one of them.

Having made this mistake in degrees with others after her, I have finally learned that no therapist, drug, diet, or intervention can save Reid. God, the God who designed our sense of smell, heals sensory integration disorder. God, the one who knows our every thought, knows the mind of a even the nonverbal child with autism. No expert, no matter how expensive or experienced, can direct us as well as God can through His Holy Spirit. Don't give them the power that is God's alone, to save....from autism or any other human condition, including death itself.

The insanely good news is that Jesus has more than one save per season!! He came to save us all.

‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' Acts 2:20-22

Correlated with Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide! Prayer calendar for April.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What are we working for?

Today Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide calendar prompts us to pray for Teacher, Aides and Therapists (we've known a few) with this verse:

But as for you, be strong do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7

work for... reward.... Those are loaded words at my house!

Trained as we are in the ways of the autism world, I can't read them without picturing a PECS chart of possible motivators. "What will we work for today, Reid?" A video, piece of gum, or student choice....

From a tender age the premise can be established: tit for tat. You do what I want then, I'll give you what you want. It can quickly become a way of life.

After pooping on the seat or emptying the silverware, Reid's been known to shout, "That deserves a movie payoff!" And so his artful negotiation developed. Here's how ridiculous it can seem:

"You want me to do what? Three chores in a row? Compost, garbage cans, and silverware? What's it worth to you? Can we go to Target?

From the earliest days of our journey, this thinking smacked of no good to me. Oh! not that it doesn't work. It the short term. Yet, isn't there more to parenting than compliance? Don't we want children for more than transactional accomplishments? Where is the love?

Given the choices we had (and have) as consumers in the autism market (which is a growth industry), I searched for what would be the right choice. Applied Behavioral Analysis or Floortime seemed the prevailing options at that time. The Bible doesn't give specific direction about autism intervention and the myriad of therapy choices, anymore than it does about spanking, but seeking the Holy Spirit, we have to glean what we can from related verses. And consider the character of God.

He didn't create people just to get the garden of Eden weeded. He wanted company walking in the cool of the day!

Early on in our journey, we visited Dr. Serena Weider in DC and pursued Floortime with a vengeance. This antithesis to ABA was revolutionary at the time. School districts wouldn't, claim they couldn't, do it. Therapists would only do it in a hybrid approach along with the more scientifically proven behavioral theory. To me, it answered the cliche WWJD question? If He were the parent of a kid with autism, what would Jesus do? Floortime is a vivid picture of what Jesus did (and does) with each of us.

He got down on our level, became flesh no less, to engage with us, entering into our humdrum lives even following our lead as Floortime instructs. He meets us at the well drawing water, or in the leper colony where we're stuck, or at the tax collecting table where we work...spinning tops or flipping lightswitches back and forth ad nauseum. Whatever holds our interest, he starts there and patiently uses it as a means to relationship with Him.

I can only think of one chart in Scripture: those Big 10 ground rules on the stone tablets. And when we broke them to shreds. He rewrote them knowing we couldn't keep them to the letter, anyway. He'd have to send His only Son, the only one who could. Yet he wouldn't send him to show off and go home with all the stickers. He sent Him as a servant to get down in the mud with us. It's by sticking with him, abiding in relationship that we learn how to really live. You see, He is the reward!

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. ” Genesis 15:1-3

Surely God in heaven wants to give us the reward of being with Him for eternity. He doesn't force, bribe or coerce us into choosing it though. He gives us free will to worship Him, lift our eyes to His gaze, enjoy His presence. Like the most compelling Floortime player you could imagine, Jesus lovingly persists and hounds us and keep things just beyond our grasp in hopes that we will want to engage intimately with Him. It's why He created us in the first place.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:5-7

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Repentance: my new best friend

Today's prayer prompt on the Turning the Tide! April Calendar leads me to confession. I've fallen into a common trap set for strong women who are motivated by challenge. It's a deep hole that can trip you up at various points for long periods of time on the autism journey. Beware!

"...for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power. Philippians 4:13 The Living Bible

My mom taught me self-esteem through this scripture--or at least a portion of it. Whether it was my warped listening or her incongruent circumstances of being a single parent, I mostly heard the first part: you can do all things! Abruptly cropped there, the verse became a distorted lie and my head swelled past the healthy percentile. She had me convinced I could be president of the United States if I just put my mind to it. "Mind over matter" was inflated to more than mere axiom.

So, only mildly daunted by the impossibility of conception, I entered adoptive motherhood of twins confidently. I can do anything I set my mind to. I kept marching through early intervention and autism diagnosis, I can do this, watch me. My strong-willed self-talk escalated until it approached ugly fallacies like, "my love will make the difference" and "I know better than anyone" and "I don't need help, I'm fine." Floortime, 40-hr. week intervention, team meetings, PRT, Brain Highways, GF diets, homeschooling, bring it on. I was invincible--and deluded.

I shudder to think now, how great God allowed the demands to become before I would admit the truth, even to my own husband. The raw reality was clear to us both when I finally said, "You're right. I can't do this." I had long before started calling my own shots and was far off base from things God had asked. That's not self-esteem, it's not scriptural; it's sin straight up. I had agreed and perpetuated an ugly mess of pride, self-sufficiency, idolatry, unbelief and control. As each layer of wrong thinking is revealed, the Lord has graciously led me to repentance.

Repentance is my new best friend, for without it I'd still be mired down in that trap with no way out--still trying to do the impossible...alone...or with the added weights of shame and guilt.

Repentance is a powerful punch to the enemy of our souls that's actually deceptively simple. As I come across a verse--like the one today--that I've either misinterpreted, misconstrued or missed the mark in living out, I simply turn around from what's false and agree with the truth as laid out by my loving Father in heaven.

This is amazingly similar to what Reid does at school when he missteps on one of a myriad "School Rules." They call it "turning the day around." Maybe he left the area during morning meeting. He has a chat with one of the teachers to recognize the rule and hopefully choose to turn it around. No condemnation. No permanent penalty. Just returning to life as usual with new resolve to abide by whatever rule. Let's just reason together.

Whether in the natural realm with school rules or the spiritual realm with God's stated principles, freedom begins by recognizing we got something wrong. Then turning away from that, I can agree with truth and walking increasingly toward it. It's a process made habitual by individual small steps.

For example, as I read Philippians 4:13 and realize my flawed thinking, I pray something like this repenting and agreeing with Scripture:

Lord, forgive me for thinking I can do anything without you. I repent for giving ground to pride and selfishness and control. I repent for putting other people and things (idols) in the center of my life. Thank you for offering me Jesus' help. I want to operate in His strength and power which is far superior to my own. I ran myself ragged chasing solutions and doing a million things you never asked me to do. I am so sorry for listening to so many experts before my own husband, let alone You. It went awry like confetti following the law of gravity, when I made my own rules. I need your strength and power. Thank you for the help of Christ. Help me stay close enough to you to hear only what you are asking me to do.

"...for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power. Philippians 4:13 The Living Bible

Correlated with Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide! Prayer Thrust.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool. Isaiah 1:18

Monday, April 2, 2012


Yikes, its April and we all know what that means. Even those without the diagnosis are thinking about autism. Admittedly, it feels a bit like St. Patrick's Day to me. I can feel the cynicism bubbling up like a briny bucket of corned beef and cabbage. As my husband says, (he has Irish citizenship mind you), "I don't have to wear green I'll be Irish tomorrow."

Gratefully this year, Holy Week is trumping World Autism Awareness Day in my thoughts. Just the same, I pray without ceasing and the best way I know to celebrate Autism Awareness month is to participate in Children of Destiny's Turning the Tide Prayer Thrust. You can print out their month of daily prompts or "like" them on Facebook.

As soon as I clicked there this morning to see Ephesians 3:20--the verse on our adoption letter 17 years ago--I broke into song: "How can I keep from singing your praise?! How can I ever say enough? How amazing is your LOVE!!!"

A plan revealed itself. This year April 2012, I'd like testify to answered prayer! God is answering those prayers, daily, monthly, annually, through our lives. As we lift them up in trust, He is turning the tide. He is answering. Lest the stones cry out, I'd like to give testimony to the ways He is answering at our house. God keeps His promises in our autism-laced lives.

The Passover Seder is a ritual re-telling of how God delivered His people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. At a certain point in the scripted object lesson, guests around the dinner table recite the specific things God did on their behalf followed by a hearty, "Dayenu!" proclaiming in Hebrew "that would have been enough!"

Two years ago in April 2010 I set out to post a prayer a day. Somewhere around the 10th, all hell broke loose in our house and we were thrown into a harrowing crisis I have yet to recount publicly. It came flooding back to me today marked as it was by coinciding with autism awareness month and this same prayer calendar. That seems a fitting place to start:

That you kept Reid out of a psych hospital...that would have been enough!

That you sent people two by two in prayer vigil with us....Dayenu!

That musicians came to soothe his spirit as he dried out from wrong meds...Dayenu!

That you assigned total strangers to pray for us in new ways.....that would have been enough!

That you parted IEP waters in a single stroke to allow a miraculous change of

That he is no longer in a pressure cooker of behavior mod and physical restraint but a nurturing community of redemptive grace....Dayenu!

That you replaced my worst fear with new faith...Dayenu!

That you showed me who you really are in the wee hours of the night......that would have been enough!

That you've kept my marriage together through years of stubborn neglect and thrashing.....Dayenu!

That you didn't just deliver Reid, but each of us in the process.....Dayenu!

That I am not the same...that would have been enough!

That my husband's heart is transformed.....Dayenu!

That Allie sees you're real...that would have been enough!

That the boy who I was once told might not write his name, went through 3 composition notebooks yesterday handwriting lists of his favorite things....Dayenu!

That Reid has a ministry to others...that would have been enough!

That you've given Allie more not less through these trials....Dayenu!

That you blessed us with two babies not just one...that would have been enough!

That we can call you Father by a spirit of adoption....Dayenu!

That you still show your glory through healing...that would have been enough!

That you communicate intimately with your people...Dayenu!

That You give us the very faith to believe there is yet more blessing in store....that is enough!

That you are good and your love endures...Dayenu!

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more that we would ever dare to ask or even dream of--infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes." Ephesians 3:19-21 The Living Bible