Why Did I Choose my LGBTQ Children over the Church?

I recently learned that not one but two of my children experience same sex attraction and do not identify as heterosexual. The last time I was at church a man, one of the deacons, stood up and spoke against the ‘spread of the homosexual, anti-church agenda’. My kids don’t have an agenda; they’re just kids. A fortnight ago I asked the pastor to meet with me to discuss whether our family would be welcome to worship at the church. Trying to be gracious, I also said it was probably better if I resigned my membership and found a church closer to home. The pastor ignored the request to meet and agreed that it would be better to find a church closer to home. He didn’t respond to other issues. I was left deeply disappointed. What I got was… just fluff. Like a politician, it was carefully worded, but it didn’t actually say anything of substance. I had had respect for this man. Now, well, not so much. Will we find a church more locally? I don’t know. I pray, as I have always prayed, that Jesus is the centre of our home.

So why did I choose my children over the church? Because I’m their mum.

Made in God’s Image?

Even without overt sexual abuse, all young women are known to experience a descent into low self-esteem at puberty, probably as they realize their role as sexual objects.

Aron, Elaine N.. The Highly Sensitive Person (Kindle Locations 1732-1733). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are you the parent of an adolescent – past, present or future? If not, I imagine you were one yourself, once! Do Dr. Aron’s words shock you? I hope so. I hope that they shake the core of any decent human being. If you are a mother or a father, how can we best instil into our adolescent sons the non-objectification of women and girls, given that it is e.v.e.r.y.where? Do you recognise where you yourself have objectified women, however unintentionally? This is just as much a question to women – women’s magazines, etc., attest to the fact that women buy into this objectification of one another. How can we best teach our daughters that they are worth so much more than just their physicality?

If you are a follower of Christ: Jesus is recorded on many, many occasions taking care to give particular respect and esteem to the women that He encountered, who were at the time generally treated as ‘less-than’ the men. It is clear from the New Testament that the early Christian church – the living expression of the New Covenant – was a place where women were included and valued. Jesus in fact told men, in no uncertain terms, not to objectify women. So why is this rarely addressed in churches? Why is a structure in which men’s voices are always the loudest (reflecting the world – not Christ) still the status quo? I ask this of Christian men and women, not just men. Men have to recognise their privilege and women have to recognise where they are reinforcing stereotypes against one another (which is also a reflection of the world, not Christ). We need to stop these generational inflictions on our young people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – and all, by grace, are lifted up and made beautiful. A healthy self-esteem is a recognition that we are bound, in this earthly body, to fall and to fail, but that we have a dignity bestowed by a loving Creator, who made us in His image.

There are words of hope for those for whom this is a daily struggle, for whatever reason, and they come from the same chapter; Jesus was on a roll that day 😉 Can you imagine what it would have been like to actually hear Him speak, to be there in His presence? Amazing!

Jesus said:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

Matthew 5:3, Amplified

Sometimes blessings come from the places we least expect, eh?

What are your thoughts on the prevalence of the objectification of women in Western culture and on the subsequent effects on young people? Is it something you have given any thought to? How do you think men and women within the church can respond?

 

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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We’ve had an eventful couple of days. Fluff had fallen asleep with her main light on on Saturday night. Frank and I had gone to bed. She got up to turn the switch off and tripped on her way back to bed, falling face-first into the side rail. This caused an immediate massive nosebleed so she took herself to the bathroom, which is thankfully next to her bedroom, and promptly passed out. When she came to – which may have been as much as 30 minutes later – she called her sister and Chip ran downstairs to get me.

I dashed upstairs into a scene from a horror movie. There was blood everywhere. Fluff had begun to go into shock and was standing in the middle of the bedroom looking dazed and shivering, so I grabbed a blanket and wrapped her up in it, then made her climb into bed with her duvet tucked around her. Seeing a protuberation on the side of her nose I checked to see if it was in fact bone sticking out of her face – it wasn’t (at least, it had not broken the skin), but that and the bloody gash made me concerned. I told Chip to stay with her, warning her to call for me immediately if Fluff changed in any way, and made my way downstairs to the telephone. I dialled 999 and requested an ambulance.

Meanwhile, I used another phone to call my dear sister, the consultant paediatrician. I would advise anyone with children to have a consultant paediatrician for a sister. Very handy. She instructed me to give Fluff a cup of tea with sugar in it, so I sent Chip – suddenly turned remarkably helpful – off to put the kettle on. It’s true – the English response to any emergency is a cup of tea and I can confirm that this is endorsed by the medical community* (or at least, my sister). While we were waiting for Chip to return I prayed with Fluff.

By the time the ambulance arrived, poor Fluff was still shivering and looking dazed. On seeing the trail of blood, and the blood all down her legs, the paramedic – in his dry, Northern manner – commented that it was just in time for Hallowe’en.

Fluff managed to walk to the waiting ambulance and Frank went with her. I drove behind with Prince and Chip. It was a long night. A&E on Saturday night was busier than usual, including several individuals who were rather the worse for wear, but we all sat patiently in the waiting room, as we English do, the rough and the not-so-rough together. The police brought someone in and they too behaved as calmly as if they were just off to walk the dog. Gotta love the police.

Two young women – we’ll call them May and June – around the age of 20 brought their friend in – we’ll call her Sally – who had drunk too much, fallen and hit her face. May called Sally’s parents and calmly explained what had happened while Sally loudly informed the receptionist of her name, date of birth and address, so that everyone in the waiting room overheard. June held Sally’s head and her sick bowl and gave continual reassurance. That right there, I thought, is what it means to be a friend. I whispered this to a wide-eyed Chip, who was watching them with fascination adding, “Note how the other two are completely sober… You can have fun without getting drunk – and it’s safer.”

At just after 4am, as we were leaving the hospital, Sally was still there, and with a sheepish expression explaining herself to her bemused-looking father. She was much more alert. I reckon the only lasting damage was a bruised ego, poor girl. Sally’s situation was, I feel, quite an important thing for an impressionable 13-year-old to witness. Funny how things happen.

Fluff was admitted at 3am and subjected to a series of tests. It’s a forty minute drive to and from the hospital but I was back with her by 11am. She apparently had no memory of the night before, and had woken up in the hospital bed wondering what had happened to her bedroom, though she did remember falling. She kept asking to go home, insisting she was completely fine (she has an extremely stubborn tendency to stoicism). And eventually, after having seen the maxillofacial surgeon and having an ECG, deemed fit to leave, only now she was disappointed because she wouldn’t be getting the meal she had ordered for tea!

Throughout everything that happened, I remained calm. I was, however, concerned that the staff took Fluff’s symptoms seriously. This is the same hospital that missed symptoms of an aneurysm in my very dear friend last year which led to her death hours later, at the age of 38, after they sent her home. That was, as you can imagine, utterly devastating not least because she was such a vibrant person, so I kept reiterating the pertinent points about Fluff and her fall, probably tiresomely, to all the doctors and nurses.

Fluff is fine. She has a black eye and looks like she did a round in a tent with a feral cat but she and her brother are now happily playing with their guinea pigs and eating ice cream. I am cream crackered and resting, but fine. What I want to know is this: how come attending a theatre group prompted the PTSD blitz, yet going to the hospital with my bloodied daughter, in the same place my dear friend’s fatal illness was missed, prompted a self-assured, calm competence? What the flip is wrong with my head? How come the EMDR and BWRT have worked in some areas but not completely?

Meh. It’s all a journey. I’m just glad Fluff is ok.

*Please note that any reference to the consumption of tea as the true English cure-all is not intended to act as a substitute for proper medical advice…

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Autism, Family, Grief and Kindness

During the funeral for my mother-in-law last week, I made sure Prince stayed with me. I carefully explained exactly what would happen beforehand and although the girls went with my parents, Prince stayed by my side the whole time.

Prince is 17 years old and has autism. He goes to special school. He struggles with anxiety so was, of course, very worried about what the funeral would be like. I think he thought we’d all be wailing and moaning and falling over one another or something, because beforehand he was constantly asking me if it was ok that he was sad, but not very, very sad, and he was glad Grandma was not suffering any more (he didn’t word it like that but I think that’s what he meant). He also said, quite bluntly, that although he liked Grandma, he didn’t know her very well, so he wasn’t as sad as he would be if it was his other grandmother, whom he knows very well. Which is fair enough. I told him not to say that to anyone else, though!

To be honest, when we would take Grandma out (she lived in a lovely care home for the three years prior to her death) I was mostly thinking about how to manage her with her frailty and dementia (make sure she is not distressed or too tired, keep her upbeat and happy by talking to her and constantly reassuring her, even if I’ve already done exactly the same thing a dozen times or more), Prince and his autism (minimise anxiety, keep him passive), boisterous or bickering girls (make sure they’re not forgotten in the need to put Grandma and Prince’s needs first) and a husband who gets easily distracted and might not notice if his mum is about to topple over or something (keep an eye on him). This family time was lovely – my MIL was lovely – but could also be quite stressful, so encouraging anything other than quiet, non-anxious, absorbed-in-his-radios behaviour from Prince was never really the priority. I don’t mean to sound mean towards my husband. He had all the same things to deal with, along with my PTSD and CFS, so we have always had to look out for one another. My point is that I didn’t seek to encourage interaction between Prince and his grandma.

On the day of the funeral I made sure Prince was with me, to make sure he was ok. I didn’t want to risk my parents saying the wrong thing to him, however well-intentioned they may be. I sat in the pew first, followed by my son and then my husband. During his sister’s beautiful eulogy, Frank began to tear up and I saw him wiping his eyes and nose. I felt bad that I hadn’t sat in between them both, but I couldn’t move as that would distract from the eulogy. Then came my turn. I stood and walked to the front of the church and read a poem I had originally written after the death of Frank’s dad. As I came to sit back down, I deliberately sat in between Frank and Prince. I took Frank’s hand. He squeezed mine. The tears began to flow. I reached for the tissues and thanked God that I had kept it together until after my poem. Then, to my surprise, Prince took my hand in his. He didn’t say anything, but this little gesture from a young man for whom touch is anathema made me realise what a wonderful boy I have. That simple act of taking my hand meant so much to me that I can’t really describe it. You won’t know what that’s like unless you’re a parent of a child with autism yourself. Prince saw that mummy was sad and he wanted to make me feel better.

I love my boy. I love his innocence. You can take your neurotypical sons. I’m glad they have parents who love them. I’m glad they will have the chance to ‘succeed’ in life, to go to work and have a family of their own. But I wouldn’t change a hair on my boy’s head.

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. 

Matthew 10:42, The Message

I think my boy is a true apprentice, even if he doesn’t know it.

Up

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Image from wikipedia ‘simple balloon’

 

My lovely boy has begun being more helpful around the home. When I praised him for it he replied, “I’m 17 now, Mummy, so I don’t find it as hard to be grown up as I did when I was younger.” Prince said this while clearing off the table ready for tea, having unloaded the dishwasher without even being asked and having picked up some litter off the floor which our naughty delightful Chip had casually discarded (she’s a s*d for doing that). Meanwhile, I felt like crying, because this boy, this young man, has been the subject of many a prayer, especially for his future. His anxiety, as well as the time it takes for him to process a situation, had led us to wonder if he will ever live independently, let alone support himself. Now we have a smidgen of hope. We’ll see.

It’s strange how that happens sometimes with autism. A child shows no sign of doing something that you would expect of a non-autistic child and then, all of a sudden, they can do it, as if by magic! Even if they’re several years beyond the age that their non-autistic peers did the same thing. For example, until he was five Prince had almost no voluntary speech; he just repeated what was said to him, very precisely, and often completely out of context. This is known as ‘echolalia’. All of a sudden, virtually overnight, he began speaking in proper, original sentences. The same happened with toilet training, wetting the bed, tying a knot and all sorts of other things over the years. We would try to explain, in very simple language, what behaviour was expected. We would carefully demonstrate, over and over. Prince seemed to understand (or not – he can have a noticeably blank expression), but would carry on regardless. Then one day he just did the thing correctly and that skill remained part of his repertoire.

Miracles can happen. Just love a child with autism. You’ll likely be tearing your hair out in frustration many times over the years, and one day something happens, like fitting a jigsaw piece into place. One day he realises that this particular jigsaw piece has been upside down the whole time, so he just flips it round and pushes it into place, and you feel the same awe as if he performed a miracle right in front of you.

How much more worthwhile is the celebration, the joy, in finding the one little lost sheep when you know the other 99 are safe in the fold?

“…what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”

Luke 15:8-9 (NRSVA)

Treasure in jars of clay, indeed!

Flawed by Design?

‘Doing it all’ isn’t biblical. The world says we must do it all… This means abandoning the never ending need to please. The belief that we can and should do it all ourselves is a lie that haunts us. 

…God made me with limitations on purpose. Having a limited capacity is not a flaw in my character; it is by glorious design and for an incredible purpose: to realise my need for Him.

~ from Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

“Nobody… sews a patch of unshrunken cloth onto an old coat. If he does, the new patch tears away from the old and the hole is worse than ever. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine bursts the skins, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined…” 

Mark 2:21,22 (Phillips)

Marmite Wars (and Other News)

Tesco bans marmite from its shelves! The attention-grabbing headlines reflect a wider truth which is, funnily enough, exactly what any sane voter could see would happen. I voted ‘remain’ because to leave the European Union is likely to benefit the few at the expense of the many. There are some very undemocratic processes within the EU that need reform, but our departure throws out an infant blue whale with the proverbial bathwater. The pound depreciates. Food prices rise. No sugarsnaps*, Sherlock. More on this from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/2c651be2-9228-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923

*’sugarsnaps’: my word of choice. Polite yetersnappy.

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In other news, I continue to use the KonMari method of decluttering, along with the Sidetracked Home Executives method of home management. The household is becoming more organised and orderly, albeit at a slower pace than I would like due to my health (and certain messy members of the family who shall remain nameless). My lovely Fluff, now aged 13, has really taken the ideas on board and has been very helpful. I’m so proud of her. Her attitude to everything has changed for the better lately. Hurrah!

I’ve begun studying Data Analysis again with the Open University. It’s going well but I need to be extremely careful to stick to a schedule of study, housework and rest because if I don’t it will all fall apart (again).

My dear mother-in-law was poorly and ended up in hospital for a week but is back at the care home now. I think the dementia has progressed, but she is very well looked after. I’m going to crochet a cuddly animal for her, because often she needs to be comforted in a very basic way and what better than something to snuggle with? I’ve been crocheting away like mad, lately, ready for Christmas as money is a bit tighter this year (and because when I finally decluttered my craft stuff I found a huge stash of yarn). I’ve even been to a sewing class where I’m learning to use a sewing machine 😀

Prince has had a resurgence of the pain that made him stay off school for six months (from December ’15 to June ’16), so we have an appointment at the pain clinic for the beginning of next month. He asked me yesterday if I was praying for him. ‘Of course!’ was my reply but I was so touched that he thought to ask. Please pray, if you’re so inclined, that we get to the bottom of it quickly? His life is hard enough with the inevitable, near-constant anxiety that autism brings. 

How’s life where you are? I’d love to know.

Reblog: #worldwithoutdowns: A Challenge for Christians

My first thought when I heard about the new, safer pre-natal test for Downs was ‘thank God there’s no test for autism!’ Abortion of children with Downs is eugenics by the back door, in my opinion. I know there will be those who disagree. But I also know that we are firmly instructed ‘do NOT judge’ as well as ‘love one another, as I have loved you’ and the way He has loved is without boundaries. None of us is worthy of Christ’s love. So what do we do? I believe this post from Included by Grace makes some very pertinent points.

Then people began to bring babies to [Jesus] so that he could put his hands on them. But when the disciples noticed it, they frowned on them. But Jesus called them to him, and said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never prevent their coming. The kingdom of God belongs to little children like these. I tell you, the man who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.”

Luke 18:16-17 (Phillips)

NB I have not seen Sally Philips’ BBC documentary as we don’t have a television license. I did catch her on BBC Radio 4 the other morning, speaking about the programme, the Downs community, the current very high rate of abortion for those diagnosed with Downs before birth, and about her son, whom she clearly values as much as I do my own dear boy.

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I was going to write a ranty post about the implications of genetic screening (and it may still work out that way) but in the middle of composing it in my head, I got a message from a friend who is isolated from her church, her family and community because she is a single mother with a severely autistic child. Many Christians would talk about the value of life and speak up against abortion, but then sit in churches that exclude these ‘valuable lives’ because they are so inflexible and inaccessible to them. Changing things for the few is met with horror at the mere thought. So families and adults with disabilities are left out, excluded, not welcome.

Watch Sally Phillips documentary “World Without Downs”

I wanted to join in the throng of ‘all life is sacred’ with the many that have responded to Sally Phillip’s BBC documentary that I…

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Endings; Beginnings

The end of the summer holidays came at just the right time for the King family. On Monday Our Little Chip continued to demonstrate her not-so-little-ness by starting secondary school. On the same day my eldest began sixth form. Secondary school? Sixth form?! And dear Fluff had great fun, as a lofty Year 9, telling her sister what not to do so that she won’t look like a lowly Year 7. I have to say, though, how smart they both looked in their blazers – a bittersweet welcome to the new school year.

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from idpinthat.com

At the same time my very dearest friend in all the world came to stay. Although several years older than me, Kelly is at the beginning of her journey through motherhood, having her first child in her early 40s, who is officially the world’s cutest toddler (Chip said so, and she is the sole authority on these things). Plus we’ve had Chip’s friend, Jodie, round ours a lot because they both now go to the same school. Jodie’s mum is a single parent who works late, so I’ve invited Jodie to make herself at home. It’s so lovely to have a full house, especially sharing meals together! I managed to get a highchair from freecycle so we even had a seat for little Noah. It’s as if our rambling Victorian house is finally being put to use, albeit temporarily. There’s plenty of room, plenty of food and love to spare.

Now that the weekend has arrived I’m knackered, but know that I’ve made a solid start in the mum sweepstakes. I’m currently assisting my two boisterous beauties with their homework – secondary school and the pressure is on. They’re giggling over the fact that Richard III’s body was found under a car park. This is, apparently, the most amusing fact in the world. Hmm. My bed is looking so very appealing. 😴

Waiting in the Empty

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Image from idpinthat.com

Marcus Buckingham notes that your strengths are not simply what you’re good at and your weaknesses are not simply what you’re bad at. You will have some activities in your life that you might even be pretty effective at doing, but they drain you… A weakness is any activity that leaves you feeling weaker after you do it. It doesn’t matter how good you are at it, or how much money you make doing it – if doing it drains you of energy, you’d be crazy to build your career around it. 

~ John Ortberg, ‘All the Places to Go’

Right. So I should give up this whole ‘being a mother’ thing? Actually, maybe I should give up the being ill thing. I know I’d love to give up the PTSD thing. That’d be great.

In plain English, what a load of bollocks. The rest of the book has been quite good, though, so maybe Ortberg is going somewhere with it. I’m just rather discouraged today, because I feel like whatever I do as a mother is never enough and this stupid illness prevents me from doing so much. I have one child who has anxiety about the fact that things change (bless his dear, serious, innocent face) and there’s no way I can negotiate that one, other than to repeatedly offer the same reassurance. Such is autism. Another child treats everywhere she goes as a litter bin, and seems to think it’s amusing. She’s a happy-go-lucky little soul, but there are limits to how much go-luckying a mother can take.

Then there’s the other daughter who, in teenage angst, actually walked out of the house yesterday and disappeared for several hours, to the point that I was driving around looking for her and trying not to imagine all the awful scenarios that play out in a mother’s mind. I can’t even tell myself that those sorts of horrible things ‘happen to other people’ because they have already happened to us. There is no magic cloak of protection. When I eventually saw her, she just seemed so small.

So today will be a day of praying, because sometimes sadness is a blessing in disguise. It makes us lean right into Him. And maybe that’s where we’re supposed to be, because God is always good – and that is the message of the gospel. Thank God.