Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Breaking Sabbath

I wondered what I had done to my Sabbath. 

Sundays are set apart for my family. We go to church for Coffee and Conversation and Worship. We stay for Coffee Hour, catching up with friends and family over veggies and dip and a multitude of sweets. We go home, rest, read, play games, hang out, have dinner, do our nightly devotions and slip into bed contented after a day of relative rest.

But not this Sunday. Or next. Or the following Sunday. Or the one after that. Instead we will be rushing from church to home almost immediately following worship. I'll drop off four kids, pick up lunch, and be off once again with a thirteen year old and, hopefully, some coffee. I'll bring Haley to one of our favorite places to be - Epoch Arts - so she can help build, decorate, script, and costume a "Childhood Nightmares: Video Games Gone Wrong" room for Epoch's annual haunted house. No relaxed Sabbath for me. 

The first day was this past Sunday. I successfully ushered children out the door of church, even amidst their pleading that we stay just a few more minutes. Lunch prepared the day before, we ran inside, picked up lunch and my computer, and bolted out the door in hopes we'd make it on time. Mostly there, with a little time to spare, I made a short detour for coffee. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted in a whirlwind of excited teens, questions about homeschool co-op, and hugs from people we hadn't seen in months. In short order, Haley was off to sit in the theater in a circle of forty or so teens and I found a comfy spot on a couch with my coffee and computer ... for two hours.

Two hours! Two hours of relative quiet. Two hours to myself. Two hours to read, to write, to pray, to contemplate; to have wonderful conversations with amazing people; to listen to teens planning crazy, scary, mind-bending rooms with equal amounts of passion and teamwork, and to just sit and breathe. 

It turns out I'm not breaking Sabbath, I'm getting a delightful break on the Sabbath.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Of Church and Lobsters

From Gathering to Sending, they participate in worship ... through the prelude, the readings, the sermon, the Meal, the hymns, the prayers, all the way to the postlude. Well, they do in some churches, anyway. Others banish them from the sanctuary before things get too serious, too intense, or maybe just too bothersome to have them around, so it seems. 

I don't understand sending children somewhere else, such as "Children's Church" or the nursery at some point during worship. Granted, I slept through many a sermon as a child, taking everyone standing for the Gospel reading as my cue to curl up in the pew and snooze. But the times I stayed awake, I got something out of it. Like the sermon about lobsters and how when one molts, others gather around it and protect it while it's vulnerable, waiting for it to rebuild it's exoskeleton before it ventures out on its own. I don't remember what Bible reading was being referenced, but I do remember the message that we are here to be a community for each other, to take care of the vulnerable, to love each other, to work together, to be the church (not a building, but a people).

My children have always attended worship from start to finish. The entire service is Children's Church - worship for all of God's Children. My children sometimes get more out of it than me.

One of my children, at age 4 or 5, returned from receiving a blessing at the Communion rail with tears streaming down her face. When I asked Haley what was wrong, she answered, "I feel like I'm missing out on something very special." We spoke with our Pastor about First Holy Communion that day after worship. 
Alia blessing Gramma
My youngest, Alia, has attended worship nearly every Sunday since she was eight days old and attended cross-generational Tuesday Night Sunday School since she was ten days old. From a very young age, she has had amazingly deep things to say on the subject of death (To Dust We Shall Return and There's One More Angel in Heaven are just a couple examples), mostly due to the time she spends experiencing worship in its fullest. She also walked out on a sermon once when she was a mere two years old. Why? Because our Pastor used part of our Tuesday Night Sunday School lesson from the previous Tuesday in his sermon and Alia took offense at having to listen to a repeat of what she already knew. "Pastor already SAID ALL THAT STUFF!" 

Time and time again all of my children have said astoundingly beautiful things or asked thought-provoking questions based on what they gleaned from attending a full worship service.

But... children at worship??? Aren't they disruptive? 

I have five children, two on the autism spectrum. Worship can be challenging for and with children. I've suggested streaming the sermon into the restroom, as that's where I ended up more often than not during the sermon with five small children! With a family member or friend helping them navigate between the bulletin and the worship book, and a little patience (ok, sometimes a lot of patience), it's possible... and totally worth it...to include children in the full worship experience. One learns how to behave properly during worship and grows in faith by watching others, by being involved in worship, and by being recognized as a full and valuable member of the church (not a building, but a people).

What happens to children who are involved fully in the worship experience?

They join the choir (Alia sings with the "adult" choir when it suits her, and Haley has been a full member of the adult choir since she was twelve).

They serve coffee hour, as my eldest Aspie son does. It may just be his penchant for desserts, but it is what he does to be more fully involved in our church family.

They become an acolyte, crucifer, or both (Haley and Zachary serve as both acolyte and crucifer in our church).

Or they fuss and fidget and drive you slightly insane during worship and then totally surprise you with a question or comment regarding a reading or the sermon when you least expect it, as Coren (who happens to have Aspergers and is sensory seeking, making worship a challenge for him), age 10, does. 

Instead of seeing Children's Church as a separate experience, perhaps we need only to gather around and support our children while they develop their worship skills and until they are able to navigate worship on their own. Like lobsters. Sort of. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Get a Job

Why don't you just get a job? 

I've heard this several times over the past few weeks. I'm assuming the people who said it to me are concerned with our financial situation (trust me, I am, too!).

I have mentioned to my husband my need to add income to our family finances several times over the past few months, and have been set straight by both him and my body.

I have a full time job managing my health, working with my two autism spectrum children, my child with autoimmune issues, and my other two children and their quirks. This includes researching illnesses, medications and treatment options; scheduling and attending appointments; getting to various tests and medical procedures; keeping prescriptions current; maintaining a stock of supplements; and making sure each of us takes the proper medications and supplements each day. I work with my Aspie kids on behavioral and life skills, I get infusions every five weeks, and deal with side effects and the damage disease has already done to my body on a daily basis.  

I have a full time job homeschooling my children. We unschool, which, for us, means a big investment of my time lining up educational opportunities, gathering materials that help our children follow their current passions, driving children to and from various activities, answering myriad questions a day, and helping each child with whatever they might need whenever they need it. This includes doing math in the car, interrupting housework to research the answer to a random question which then leads to an hour or two of exploring a topic, or running to the store to get items needed for a scientific experiment.

I have a part time job volunteering. I teach two to three classes at homeschool co-op; work with a few awesome women to run the co-op; am on the Tuesday Night Sunday School Planning Team; sing in our church choir; am on the Mutual Ministry committee at church; and help put together our church's Christmas Pageant. I am a La Leche League Leader, taking calls daily and holding monthly meetings ... and I also run the silent auctions for LLL of CT's annual conferences; am an administrator on the Living with Psoriatic Arthritis message board; and participate in giving opportunities like New Beginnings (providing low income school children with clothes for back to school - I get to use my frugal skills and other people's money to clothe as many children as possible!) and Operation Christmas Child. All of these I can do at my own pace, in my own time, for the most part. 

I have a part time job taking care of our household, from housework to finances to scheduling - it's up to me to keep us organized. I clip coupons, find the best deals, scour thrift shops for needed items, barter, trade, and do whatever I can within my power to save as much money as I can while meeting my family's needs. I pack for vacations and weekends away, for Summer Camp, and for Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. I deal with various food allergies and issues, preparing meals that will work for as many family members as possible.
I battle exhaustion and pain daily in order to accomplish all of the above, which is a job in and of itself.

I know many people living with chronic illness for whom regular employment isn't possible. For some, just living with their illness is a full time job with too much overtime (as mine is at times). So instead of asking why we don't just get a job, please assume that we would love to if we could.

As for me... Forget getting a job. I might need to hire someone to help me with the ones I already have!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Double Digits

There are certain birthdays that get to me. Ten is one of them. TEN whole years. Double digits, even. And that Coren has reached this milestone blows my mind. What happened to my chubby cheeked four year old? He's supposed to still be four, right? Or six. Definitely not ten. TEN. 10.

Ten finds Coren taller, more sure of himself, and bursting with creativity. His Minecraft creations blow my mind. His kindness and compassion inspire me. His continued need for mama snuggles is just plain awesome. He connects with people easily and has a wealth of knowledge in that decade old brain to share. 

Sometimes is difficult for me to remember that he's no longer six or seven. No longer little, really. Perhaps it's the adorableness he continues to embody. Maybe it's his verylongwords like canIwatchamovieinZachary'sroomifZacharysaysit'sOK, 
or his playful nature. Whatever it is, he makes it really difficult for me to fully absorb the fact that he is indeed OLD.

My Moondragon...
Ten wishes for your tenth birthday:

1. I wish you keep your kind heart always, and that it serves you well in life.
2. I wish for you to always be open to offering and receiving hugs - you give the best hugs ever!
3. I wish for you to follow your natural curiosity where it leads and learn a lot along the way.
4. I wish that you'll always embrace your uniqueness and not be defined by any labels.
5. I wish for you to continue telling me all the interesting things and ideas going on in your creative mind.
6. I wish that the world will be an accommodating place for you as you maneuver through life.
7. I wish that you'll always be as comfortable being yourself as you are now.
8. I wish you would give me some chocolate. I could really use some chocolate.
9. I wish that you would just accept that fact that although you are cute, you are also adorable. 
10. I wish you would stop growing up so fast, while at the same time I enjoy seeing you grow up and am curious to see who you will become. 

Happy TENth Birthday, Moondragon!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Suicide Prevention Day: One Way Ticket To Hell

It's World Suicide Prevention Day. I guarantee you all know someone who has attempted suicide. If you know me, you know someone who has attempted suicide. To anyone contemplating suicide: I love you, I need you. You matter. I want you to read this. All of it. 
To those who love someone who has committed suicide: I love you. I'm sorry. And I hope you know this...
(Originally posted 3/22/12)
In the past year, several of my friends have lost friends to suicide and as a result there's been a lot of discussion about suicide, the survivors of suicide, and mostly about the intensely emotional nature for all involved. This has led me to a lot of thinking, copious writing, much deleting, and to the realization that I cannot write about this without getting emotional, or while making any sort of coherent sense. So I figure I'll just type and see where it gets me...

Suicide is a one-way ticket to hell. 

That's what many of us are told, what many of us believe. This is not what I believe, and I'm going to attempt to tell you why, from a Christian perspective - because is was a Christian perspective that I was subjected to when I was in a place where death seemed preferable to life (to put it mildly). It was a Christian perspective that added to my despair. I have a different Christian perspective: 

Those who commit suicide are forgiven

Suicide, by someone in overwhelming emotional and mental pain, is NOT a one-way ticket to hell . Someone experiencing extreme mental and emotional anguish is not in their right mind. The majority of suicidal people are mentally ill, and last time I checked, mental illness is not a sin. In fact, it's something to be concerned about, to be taken seriously, and to be treated. 

As a Christian woman who at one point in my life lived in such a state of despair and mental torture that I was blind not only to the Light, but to reality, I would hope that, if I'd succeeded in killing myself, God would have had mercy on my soul. In fact, I'm confident He would have. 

"But if you kill yourself, you're committing murder and you'll go to hell."

Let's think about this for a moment. Do all people to kill other people go to hell? Police officers? Soldiers? Those who kill others in self defense? Jesus himself forgave the murderer on the cross when he was crucified. In other places in the Bible, murderers like Saul (Paul) and Moses are redeemed. God forgives our sins, including murder. 

"But if you commit suicide, you can't repent for your sins, so you go straight to hell." 

By God's grace we are forgiven our sins.  As we live our lives, we acknowledge our sins and ask forgiveness. When you kill yourself, there isn't an opportunity to repent, but that doesn't mean you aren't forgiven. If you die in a car accident and the last words out of your mouth are "Oh, my God!" you do not go to hell because you didn't have time to repent for taking the name of the Lord in vain. God is merciful and just. Jesus bears all of our sins. If we die without asking forgiveness for every sin we've ever committed, God still forgives those sins.  Jesus died for us, bearing our sins - so if he bore the sins of the person who committed suicide, he bore the sin of suicide as well. Jesus saves completely - one cannot be partially saved. 

Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are saved through faith - through the gift of God - not by what we do. Salvation is a gift, given fully and with love. 

"Then you're saying that it's OK for people to kill themselves."

No. Suicide is never the right choice, although to many who attempt suicide it seems like the only choice at the time. This is something you cannot understand unless you've been there. Really. No one's imagination is that good. Suicide doesn't leave the world a better place - suicide robs the world of a beautiful soul

If you are ever the victim of someone else's suicide, let your own heart be at peace knowing all is not lost. If you ever know someone who attempted suicide and failed, say these things to them, "I love you. I forgive you. I love you." If you are ever at that place where your death seems like the only option, get help - and know that I love you. 

If you need help or think someone needs help, call 1-800-SUICIDE or find help where you live here: http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/International_Suicide_Prevention_Directory

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Teenagery Parentingishness

Photo that is completely unrelated to the post. But then again
this post might make just as little sense as the unrelated photo.
I had to have a parenty type conversation with a teenagery child. I had to use words like trust and respect and appropriate and think about it. I had to admit that some of this teenagery stuff leads to great amounts of freaking out in this mama's brain and that due to the Aspie status of the eldest teen, the younger teens are both teen test subjects in my parenting journey. They are male and female, and thus give their mama differing things to get all crazy-like about. I promised to try to sort through my scrambled thoughts before getting all parenty like.

It hit me like a ton of bricks how intensely responsible I feel for my nearly grown but not enough so children's behavior. I also realized that I didn't have a typical teenhood, so I have alarm bells screaming in my head about things that might not be as big of a deal as my mind is making them. 

And the guilt! Especially with an amazing friend's child involved. The why didn't I, I should have, didn't we talk enough about thoughts combined with the did I handle it right, was there more I could have said or done confusion. Then again, I'm still not sure how big of a deal this all really is, and assume it depends on whom you're asking. Hearing it's typical teenage behavior isn't as comforting as it might seem if you're not ready for typical teenage behavior. 

There is no handbook for this teenagery parenting thing - just talking and loving and being there and being tough and being clear and forgiving and admitting that neither the teen nor the mama know what we're doing, and agreeing to both do our best with trust and respect and appropriate and think. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Aaron's Arms

I adore Aaron's Arms: Not Church as Usual. It is a Facebook group where we come together to talk about faith formation and disabilities. 
We are individuals and families who either work with or are caregivers to special needs children and adults. Together we invite, network, and seek out congregations who offer a sense of belonging in the life of the church, and is open to developing worship services, curricula, and outreach projects designed to create a gentle space for special needs people so they may be guided in their faith formation.  ~Aaron's Arms
We share articles and experiences, inspirations and frustrations. As a mom with two children on the autism spectrum and Tuesday Night Sunday School Planning Team member, it's refreshing to have a place to land when I have something, good or not so good, to share about my children and their unique needs or our unique cross-generation faith formation opportunity. 

Today, we were challenged by the page's fearless leader to post our Top Ten short-term goals for September. 

That got me thinking. I had no goals. Really. None. I'm in survival mode, apparently waiting for my body to decide to cooperate with the big plans I'd like to have. Except for TNSS and homeschool co-op, I haven't set personal or family goals in too long. 

That one simple request knocked me in the back of the head Gibbs style. It's time to look forward and set goals:

1. Work on decent sleep for all.2. Get caught up with scheduling doctor appointments for all.3. Prepare basement room for transformation into bedroom.4. Start packing for Camp Calumet Columbus Day Weekend.5. Tuesday Night Sunday School preparations!6. Batch cooking day with kids to stock freezer with easy meals for busy Autumn months.7. Have kids each set goals for Autumn learning.8. Learn to make professional puppets and otherwise prepare for teaching homeschool co-op classes.9. Attend Evening Prayer.10. Special one-on-one time for each child this month.

Wow. Not the goals I thought I might have, but those are what came to mind as I typed. Not too shabby.