Broken

Sometimes I wonder what the point is. Sometimes I look at the world and all I see is brokenness. Sometimes I look at my life and all I see is brokenness. Sure, I see that where many families would have fallen apart, we stayed together and grew in love, flawed as it is. We’ve had our rocky moments but I think, thank God, that my children are going to be ok. They have been through such a lot, but each of them is, I hope, secure in the knowledge that he or she is loved and worthy of love. Each child has hopes and dreams for the future and understands that they have to work to reach those dreams (to a greater or lesser degree). Each child also has a knowledge of God, again to a greater or lesser degree… Prince’s understanding of Christianity is – of necessity – very simple. It boils down to ‘God is love. He teaches us to love. Be kind. Where you have done wrong, say sorry.’

I have a wonderful husband, who gives me more than words can say. I hope I give him what he needs, too. He has been enormously supportive throughout our marriage (we celebrate five years this year!) and even more so these past few months during EMDR. My husband always sees things in me that I never see in myself. He always has. Ours was definitely a match made in heaven.

But then I look at me. I’m nearly 40. I’m still going through therapy. When will my life begin? When will I experience normality? When will I be able to serve God more fully?

So I said to God, “Dear God, how can I be of use to You when I am like this – broken and jagged and anxious and broken and…”

I had hardly begun this (admittedly rather truculent) prayer when into my mind came an image of Christ on the cross. He was weak. He was scorned. Naked. Shamed. Humiliated. Tortured. Nails through his flesh to enhance the suffering. Broken.

“This is my body, broken for you.” The words flashed into my mind as the image changed: Jesus with the disciples, sharing the final meal, speaking the words that would become a gift for His followers.

The image changed again: bread and wine raised aloft as the priest repeats Jesus’ words; words that have echoed through the centuries. “Take, eat. This is my body… Do this in remembrance of me…”

*****

Jesus was broken. I am broken. We are all broken, in different ways. Brokenness is the most remarkable thing about the Gospel. Brokenness was taken down from the cross all crumpled and empty. In grief and sorrow brokenness was carried and laid in a tomb, carefully wrapped in cloth. The shell-shocked stragglers walked away.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

EMDR: Laughter, the Best Medicine

When I am low, not many things make sense. Music can be helpful, especially positive songs and praise music, but laughter is, as the old saying goes, the best of medicines. I find I need to keep away from anything negative at the moment (because my head has enough already), and instead try to put into practice the words of St. Paul:

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good.

Philippians 4:4-8 (Phillips)

Our family love Mr. Bean. He appeals across the ages and across the autism spectrum too, which is good because ASD children often don’t understand humour. Prince enjoys Mr. Bean, as does little Chip, and they both often find comedy… er… elusive. The number of times we’ve had conversations beginning “Mummy, is this a joke?” followed by something which is less a joke and more a random statement! And then they’ll try again with a hundred more random statements. No wonder poor Fluff rolls her eyes. Her big brother and little sister’s ‘jokes’ are funny for all the wrong reasons o_O But I’d not change a hair on any of their bonny heads and I am thankful for my family, and for Mr. Bean!

Reblog: Results of Almsgiving, Fasting, and Prayer

One thing that strikes me with many revered writers is that the English used in translation is quite complex. I had to look up ‘concupiscible’ and I have a good vocabulary. Yet I don’t think that the writers necessarily intended to be obscure. There are many people for whom the phrasing and vocabulary of such writers just goes too far. It’s beyond their intellectual understanding, but I don’t think that that in itself excludes them from understanding the spirituality, quite the contrary. It’s not as if our intellect can ever be anything but puny compared to God’s!

I had a go at paraphrasing what I thought St. Teresa of Avila was trying to say in a post yesterday, just a couple of paragraphs. I imagined explaining the ideas to my daughters, who are themselves bright girls with vocabulary beyond their years (11 and 9), but the biggest challenge would be to paraphrase it enough so that my son could grasp it, or something like it. He is 15 but has autism and receptive language disorder. His language skills are that of the average 7 year old, at best. He has taught me that good communication is in the ability of the *communicator* to explain a concept as simply as possible. Sometimes, of course, the writing has to be of a certain level, but many times writing is needlessly obscure.

I am glad God gave me my beautiful boy. He teaches me about Himself through my son. The boy has a way of seeing things in black and white, and with an inviolable innocence that is at once challenging and compelling.

Contemplative in the Mud

Almsgiving heals the irascible part of the soul; fasting extinguishes the concupiscible part; and prayer purifies the mind and prepares it for the contemplation of reality.
Saint Maximus the Confessor

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Reblog: When Women Speak, Men Ought to Listen (a guest post for Tim Fall’s blog)

This happens in all arenas, from school to the workplace. Church should be different from the world, not the same. I sat through a service recently and at the end the minister said we were going to watch a video about how God uses ordinary people. The youtube video was about eight to ten biblical characters. It was very slick, as many of these videos are, but it had two flaws, as I saw it: 1. Each person was an ordinary person, yes, but not one of them was called to ordinary things. We don’t remember Joshua’s mate Bob who was perhaps a bit clumsy so he was given the job of counting the sheep, we just remember Joshua. And 2: They were all male! The minister might as well have said you’re no good to God unless you’re male and are called to do something extraordinary. It’s often not even deliberate, but patriarchy (as in ‘men are implicitly better than women’) is alive and well even in denominations where women are allowed to be ordained.
My own opinion on this subject is this: if God has called you to do xyz, then do xyz. If God has not called you to do xyz, then don’t do it. God used unexpected people all the time throughout the bible, young and old, male and female, Jew and gentile, slave and free. Am I called to be submissive to my husband? Yes. Am I to serve my husband? Yes. Is he to submit to me? Yes. Is he, in imitating Christ, to serve me? Yes. Does that not cancel out any complementarian/egalitarian argument? Imho, yes.

I’ve spent my whole life feeling somehow ‘less than’ because of abuse. I felt ‘less than’ because I was female and because I was physically smaller. In my abuse-warped head, might equalled right. Jesus set me free from that destructive thinking and I’m not about to let anyone shackle me again (hallelujah!), nor my special needs son (his innocence and simplicity make him more Christ-like than the rest of us would care to admit) nor my wonderful daughters.
On the other hand, I would also like to see a cultural shift so that instead of denoting traditional women’s roles as ‘less than’, the traditional female roles of nurturing and organising are revered and valued for what they are. Sometimes these receive lip service, but often it is no more than that.

Excellent post!

Laura Droege's blog

Good morning, everyone! 

I’m honored to be writing for Tim Fall‘s blog today. It’s about my struggle with the complementarian doctrine in my new church and how it affects the worship service. But it’s also about my struggle to find a voice, my voice. For so many years, I believed that what I thought didn’t matter, that my gifts didn’t matter, that my opinions, no matter how intelligent or informed, didn’t matter. None of these were worth anything.

Why? Because I wasn’t a man. 

A week ago, I decided to confront the issue. In public. In church. In front of people who would disagree–strongly–with my beliefs. Here’s the story:

The Sunday school hour had just ended, and I sat in the church pew, seething.

After a year-and-a-half of searching, my family has landed in a conservative Presbyterian church. I like it—mostly. No church is perfect. But on this particular…

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Exhale and Lean

I read a very interesting post from Laura Droege this morning. She says ‘I’ve… found that the more open I am about the illness, the less it defines me.’ Laura writes about her battle with mental illness with a tender honesty. There is a real strength in her writing – one that only comes through endurance. It’s a fascinating post, please do click the link.

As for me, I refused for years to admit that there was anything wrong, because as far as I was concerned it was my life that was the problem, not me. Over time, God brought me to a place where I had to face up to the fact that I was not well. I have been on medication for over a year and for the first time in my adult life I am not depressed. As I told my psychologist with whom I’ve just begun therapy, the stupid thing is that I never knew I was depressed until I began taking anti-depressants! I just thought that that was normal because I couldn’t remember life not being horrible. Praise God for medication (and even more for my patient, loving husband) o_O

As I thought more about Laura’s post, I recalled a time, years ago, when I was a teenager. I was receiving treatment at a private hospital that specialised in rehabilitation after serious head injury. One day in the summer, my nurse and I were standing by a window looking at the garden, green and vibrant with colour as only an English garden can be. A butterfly fluttered into view and settled onto the purple flowers. I remember the purple and the green, but I don’t recall what plants they were. Just behind the butterfly was a young man in a motorised wheelchair. We realised he must be paralysed from the neck down because he was controlling the chair with his head. My nurse sighed and tutted as she saw this young man, “Oh,” she exclaimed, “don’t you feel sorry for him!” This was a statement, not a question.

I looked at the man and frowned. “I don’t.” I replied.

My nurse turned towards me, aghast, “You don’t feel sorry for him?!”

“No.” I said, but I couldn’t explain why.

20-something years later and I think that what I instinctively grasped was that people must be endlessly pitying this young man – and to pity him continually deprived him of dignity; instead it somehow defined him by his injuries, rather than as a human being. Christ never saw people as defined by their brokenness, in whatever way that was manifest. On the contrary:

‘Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a bed, and they tried to carry him into the house and put him in front of Jesus. Because of the crowd, however, they could find no way to take him in. So they carried him up on the roof, made an opening in the tiles, and let him down on his bed into the middle of the group in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven, my friend.”

The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks such blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Why do you think such things? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, pick up your bed, and go home!”

At once the man got up in front of them all, took the bed he had been lying on, and went home, praising God.

Luke 5:18-25 (GNT)

This is also why the debate around the abortion of disabled foetuses is frightening, whatever your views on abortion in general. My son has autism. There is no pre-birth diagnosis for autism. If there were, would women choose (and in some cases, be encouraged by medical professionals) to abort their child, like they do with Down’s Syndrome? Is a disabled child ‘worth’ less than another child? Is their individuality defined by their disability, or by their humanity? What if we could diagnose susceptibility to mental ill health, short-sightedness, asthma or dyslexia? I’m loathe to say it (because often references to these things are made when a person has run out of other arguments) but didn’t the Nazis promote the same thing when they tried to ‘exterminate’ the disabled and the mentally ill? Eugenics: alive and well in the 21st century, disguised as ‘informed choice’.

My son is not autism. He is a fearfully and wonderfully made human being. He is a soul. And in reality we are all broken, in one way or another. Many people spend their whole lives trying to ‘make up’ for their brokenness: think of the cult of celebrity, for example. Many, many people think being ‘famous’ will make them happy, or being famous will make them ‘better’. Wealth is another way people try to fix their brokenness, sometimes they choose to pursue power. None of these things actually work. They may appear to, but all they can ever do is paper over the cracks. They don’t fix the structure. They’re just houses built on sand.

I don’t know if any of us are ever truly ‘fixed’, but we each have a God-given dignity that, when we put our trust in Him, when we recognise the grace given in this blessing of dignity, we are set free from all the lies the world (or our own heads) would have us believe. We don’t have to struggle to fix ourselves. We just have to exhale, and to lean on Him.

‘So Jesus said… If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples.

And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.

They answered Him, We… have never been in bondage to anybody. What do You mean by saying, You will be set free?

Jesus answered them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.

Now a slave does not remain in a household permanently (forever); the son [of the house] does remain forever.

So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free.’

John 8:31-36 (Amplified)

I wrote about a similar theme in my post ‘Why I am Not a Survivor’. The link is to the right of this page. Thank you for reading. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?

As the Scripture Says…

It’s been a looonnnng day. My sister arrives tomorrow so I have spent most of the day getting things ready – maybe doing more than I should have, health-wise, but who doesn’t when they have guests coming?

I have introduced a weekly ‘bible memory verse’. Fluff, having returned from her gymnastics squad session, was attempting to recite the following, with varying (and slightly hilarious) results:

‘As the scripture says: “All human beings are like grass, and all their glory is like wildflowers. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” This word is the Good News that was proclaimed to you.’

1 Peter: 24 & 25 (GNB)

At the same time, Prince – being his usual delightful self – loudly demanded to know why a certain clock can’t go in the dining room instead of the kitchen. No, I said calmly; it’s a kitchen clock. After repeating the same conversation 20 times Prince responded with a very rude statement about it being his house and that he wants the clock in the dining room. I sometimes wonder how he makes so many mountains where the rest of us don’t even notice molehills. I told him the (evidently shocking) news that 14-year-olds don’t get to decide where things go because it’s not their house.

“Except for maybe in their bedrooms.” Fluff piped up, helpfully.

“Except for your bedrooms.” I agreed.

“Well, maybe I’ll stay in my room all the time!” said Prince with disdain.

“Well bugger off and stay there, then.” I said, finally losing the remaining, rather thin, veneer of patience.

So much for turning the other cheek… o_O

But really I do sometimes think this lad would try the patience of all the saints put together.

Dear God, thank you for the blessing of children, especially special children who are without guile… Please give us mums and dads the patience which will have otherwise worn rather thin by the end of the day.

Amen

Are We Hypocrites for our Baby Gammy shock?

Very interesting post over at Special Needs Jungle (see here: ‘Are We Hypocrites for our Baby Gammy shock?‘). I wholeheartedly agree – and I have to say I am only thankful that autism cannot be diagnosed prior to birth. The very thought is chilling. Hayley Goleniowska, author of the post above, is right. Eliminating babies with Down’s Syndrome is eugenics. It is no different to the Spartans who left disabled babies to die of exposure. It is no different, though we might kid ourselves that it is, from the Nazi plans to eradicate disability (note: people often use the behaviour of the Nazis to support their argument – I try not to, but here there is a very clear link).

 

‘The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me… the Lord… who formed me in the womb to be his servant…

…Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? 

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…’

From Isaiah 49: 1-15 (NRSVA)

 

My son with autism is beautiful, irritating, innocent, lazy, sweet, frustrating, charming… All the things a teenage boy should be, in many ways! Hard work, yes, but I wouldn’t change a hair on his bonny head. His presence in this world is God-breathed. His existence is a gift from God. He is special, in the true meaning of the word. I have learned more about life, about myself, indeed about what it means to be human from my boy than from anyone else, more than anyone can learn from their ‘normal’ child.

 

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Matthew 25:45 (The Message)

 

 

Life Goes On

I am struggling a little today. I have been trying to study but my brain keeps going foggy (I’ve started a Statistics course with half the points of my previous course – I’m hoping I’ll be able to cope better with the workload). This morning we were woken around 4am by a series of beeps. Then sometime later another series of beeps. And another, and another. I groaned and pulled the pillow over my head.

In the morning, as Prince is about to leave for school, Frank says, in his patient, gentle way, “Can you please make sure you turn off whatever was beeping last night? Mummy and Daddy don’t want to be woken up at 4 o’clock, thank you.”

Prince stares, in his detached way. “It was my alarm.”

“Yes,” says Frank, “but why was it going off at 4 o’clock in the morning?”

“So that it would wake me up.”

Ask an autistic child a direct question and you’ll get a direct answer…

Frank knows this, so he says, “Yes, but why did you set it for 4 o’clock in the morning?”

“I wanted to get up and be ready for school.” Prince is so s…l…o…w in the mornings. He is always running late, no matter what we do. We are used to it.

“But you got up at ten to eight!”

“I went back to sleep, Daddy!” He sounds pained.

Frank sighs. Prince just looks blank.

I say, “Well done for being up in time for school. Please make sure the alarm doesn’t go off before 7 o’clock. You woke me up.”

Unfortunately, although I can appeal to Prince over waking me up (I am his current favourite, second only to Glorious Grandmother), he wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I accused him of waking anyone else up.

Then comes a knock at the door. “Taxi’s here, Prince!” Chip yells. “And you woke me up last night too! I’m tired now!”

Chip’s life could be written as a series of exclamation marks. She always manages to run into school all higgledy-piggledy. This morning, with toothpaste on her cardigan, her coat hanging off her arm and her specs askew, she looks like she got dressed in a jumble sale in the middle of a hurricane. Just as well she’s charming with it. I don’t know how she manages to charm every single person she meets, but she does.

Prince ignores her and continues calmly, yet deliberately, eating his toast.

“Prince,” I say, the same as I say every morning, “the taxi is here.”

“It’s early. It’s only 8.13.”

I cannot argue this; the kitchen clock does indeed say 08.13. At 08.15 Prince promptly stands up and strides to the front door.

Now it’s time to go.”

I follow, to make sure the door is unlocked. There’s no point trying to reason with him. That only slows him down more.

As he pulls the door behind him Prince calls, “See, Mummy, I’m not banging the door because I’m not cross!”

Hmm… I find myself humming ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ and decide to write a blog post.

Getting Christmassy and Avoiding Being Driven Up the Wall

One thing about being poorly is that, sooner or later, children realise you’re not joking when you say you’re too tired. Fluff, the middle child, today made Christmas biscuits, all on her own. I supervised from the comfy kitchen chair (designated as Mummy’s Chair), only intervening when there was An Incident involving exploding curry powder. Don’t ask. I still smell like cumin.

Christmas can be difficult for people of any age with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They like to be in control, and surprises, even nice surprises, are outside that control. This can provoke massive anxiety.Yesterday, after (what felt like) thirty hours non-stop of questions about Christmas presents from Prince, I eventually told him that if I heard one more word about his Christmas presents, I would take them all and give them to charity. He knows me well enough not to continue (because, ,as he says, I am Strict) and stomped off to his bedroom, where he was later found pacing and muttering about who he thinks is buying him a DAB radio (his latest obsession).

IMG_20131222_141416_03

Fluff made this one especially for me. I am blessed indeed!

Fluff made this one especially for me!

Merry Christmas from multicolouredsmartypants!