Sunday, February 11, 2018

let's talk about "retard strength"

Yesterday I noticed a Facebook memory that was shared by an acquaintance, she posted a picture of a broken ice tray in what I am sure was an epic attempt to get some ice. This person used the phrase"retard strength" in relation to the broken tray. I am pretty good at discerning what people intend while looking past their words. But what exactly did they intend to say with this reference? I googled the phrase to see what I may be missing and I was horrified. It's an actual popular phrase where in there is literally no other way to interpret it except for the very obvious reference to the super power strength that individuals who have a cognitive disability show when they reach crisis level frustration because they do not understand what is going on or are afraid and confused. The reference brings to my mind pained memories of calming down children who lash out in confusion. I wrote the following in a private message in response to this person's Facebook post, let's spread the word to end the word.

My own daughter has a cognitive disability and there is nothing funny about the remains of items that get broken in melt downs. There is nothing funny that should apply to the crisis response of any person who has reached such a stage of escalation that their adrenaline gives them pure strength. The part that people seem to find funny is that they are referring to other people who do not have the cognitive capacity to calm down or feel safe or to stop themselves before they do damage. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING good or funny about the embarrassment and regret when an individual realizes what they have done. As a support person, there is nothing applicable in the phrase and they way it is used that describes what it is like to be the person who is on the other end of the "retard strength" keeping everyone safe. But.... there is a source of pride in the phrase "retard strength" - it does not apply to an ice tray. Let me tell you about true "retard strength". There is strength that sustains a person who is put down by the world over and over again. There is strength in learning to navigate everyday routines and tasks and to learn to do those things in a way that works for you. There is strength in every single hard-won victory and there is strength in all of the failed attempts of victories yet to come. There is strength in advocacy when someone stands up against demeaning phrases that would never ever be tolerated in any other setting when used against any other group of people. You would not tolerate a demeaning reference to women or a racial minority and I will not tolerate such references against folks who have more legitimate inner strength than most people will ever know. If you were ever wondering about what true retard strength is.... I proudly have "retard strength". I have spent every moment along side my child - coordinating, arranging, cheering, hoping, praying, advocating, worrying, celebrating, teaching, crying... we have retard strength and it has absolutely nothing to do with an ice tray or any of the references made when this phrase is used.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Adventures on the horizon - part 1

I write to capture this journey.
I write to reflect and never lose this moment.
I write because the ripple may reach someone somewhere and be helpful in some way.
Due to confidentiality and respect I cannot disclose many of the intimate details that brought me to this place but I will give a general overview because it is crucial to this testimony. Some time ago I met a child in my city and had the blessing to connect with this child. The child is from a place beyond my imagination in the very worst ways and to be very honest I really had to take some weeks bordering on months to wrap my head around the magnitude of damage that I saw. It took me a couple of months to confess to God that I felt mad at Him.
Why does humanity destroy children?!
Why did God let this happen?
Where was God? Where is God still while other children continue to "live" in agony?

I see the news, I see pictures and stories all over the world and I was content to pray for them and believe that God is with all of his children and somehow he protects them...
Except that here is this child in my arms and in my heart and from what I can see, there was no divine protection from the world.

At first I drew away from God and I tried to reconcile it in my mind. I didn't mean to draw away but I just felt so overwhelmed by compassion and heart break and I felt like God was deafeningly silent.
It wasn't until I confessed my anger and just let it flow openly and poured my heart out to God (yes in anger) that the silence was broken at last.

In true God style, the answer was beyond my wildest imagination.

God first brought to my mind the last time I questioned his goodness and his presence. Only one other time in my entire life have I ever asked God "why".
My sweet Drew was in the hospital 12 years ago and during a long stint in the ICU, I broke down during a procedure that Drew had to endure without sedation. This sweet innocent helpless soul endured so much pain and I questioned God. I challenged Him. I wanted to fight Him.... He laid upon my heart an answer that I had tucked away until now.
Instead of "why us?" I should be asking "why are we chosen to persevere through this and how will HE use it?"

God added one more tag to that answer for my most recent outcry, he also laid upon my heart Job 38:4 "Where were you when I created the foundations of the Earth..." and to expand upon that "Where are you in your faith that you think that I'm [God] not there?"

So I prayed and waited and was humbled and repentant. Until...
April 23, 2017 - I woke up on this cool Sunday morning with the unquenchable fire to seek God. To go to Africa specifically and to seek him outside of my own perspecitive on a short term mission. To see him in the rawest of faith and to find him in the most humble of places. To see my questions outside of the context in which I asked them and yet see some small portion of God in the midst of pain and chaos.

I don't know when. I don't know where. I don't know how. I don't know who.... I do know that the more I study in the word and the more I pray, the more I realize that  all of my trials and my victories - they were His trials and victories and this mission is one of the reasons for all of that.

Now, I'm not flying completely blind. I've spoken to my Pastor and I have made some connections in the mission field. I'm just waiting and praying and preparring for His timing and ultimate destination.

I ask for your prayers and I hope God willing that this journey can be used not only to seek him and find him, not only for the fruit of the mission itself, but to maybe be of some use to even one person who may be asking a lot of difficult questions and not realizing that those questions and those trials are actually a call to serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

God is answering my prayers with a.... DOG?!?!

For the duration of my entire life I have wanted more than anything to be good enough. I have an idea in my head  of what is good enough and I almost never reach this idealization. Once in a while I have a glimpse that I am what I should be... I have noticed in my adult life that this always occurs when I give up my ideals and focus on God and just doing the next right things one step at a time. I have learned with time and experience that many women feel this way. We tend to compare our worst inside feelings to the best of what we see on the outside of other people. I have learned through trial and error what it means to really live the spirit filled life and to lean into the Lord. But... I'm human and I'm I have some areas that really need to grow and I tend to fall away from this blessed path over time.... and time and again. Don't worry, I am repentant but I also understand that this is typical for being human and well documented through the Bible.
I have been praying for God to show me in a real and literal way what I need to do to keep growing. I know in my heart that I need to stay in the word and to keep living the truths I know in my heart but somehow in this recent spiritual winter I have been missing the real radical presence with life application that I crave with all my heart. I WANT A ROAD MAP!!!! Yes, I know that's now how it works. God is a radical presence but we don't get a road map.
As I reflect on these deep thoughts I looked back through my prayer journal and my "ah-ha" moments. I noticed a pattern and I saw that once again I have fallen away from what I need.
I have the answer I need.
How do I get back on track and really seek the Lord with a heart that is willing to follow and learn and submit?
The pattern I saw was that I have have countless moments where I realize that if God wanted me anywhere else he could have put me in those places. I have had several realizations that I just need to be present in the moment. I need to stop comparing my worst to others' best. I need to just be content and not even worry about the next right thing when this moment is not over. This seemingly small step could really go a long way toward some areas I really need to grow in; patience, peace, self-control, grace... just to name a few.
So I pray and and I seek and I wait and I keep going in circles.... until one day I realize that I have started a project that addresses all of those struggles I just described. I think God has facilitated something in my life that is so meaningful that I can't give up and forces me to live in the moment and to concentrate on what is presently going on.
As you know we have a cute Daniff (Great Dane/ Mastiff) puppy. He is a little over 3 months old and we are just a few days past our 2 month milestone into this journey. I haven't slept through the night in 2 months and 3 days. Our world revolves around him right now. We are training him as a service dog for Faith. It's a long journey and we have already had our speed bumps but we're committed and we really believe that this is the best for our child and so we won't stop and we will give everything we can to making this work.
Part of our process is puppy training. We have committed to 2+ years of regular training with high standards. As usual I have an idea in my head of what this should look like and where we should be and what we should be doing. Our dog trainer over the course of a few sessions has said some things that really resonate with me and force me to realize that once again I am missing in this present moment. She said that one of the reasons she loves dogs is because they only have this moment right now. They don't know or care that last week they could sit and walk through the mall perfectly. Today, right now, he can't walk through the mall perfectly. When we see others around us and it looks like they are doing so well and their dog sits even when you are hopping up and down with distractions while I am still using a food lure to encourage my dog to make a good choice.... it doesn't matter is I'm comparing our worst to their best. We have not made progress and will not make progress until I am present only in this moment with the dog and we work through what needs to be done together.
 My to-do lists don't matter. My check lists of training skills and my long-term plans are meaningless in this moment. The work lists and the IEPs to be written, the dishes, the laundry, the next appointment, the next sports activity, the homework that is due, the chaos... all of it... does not have meaning unless it is what I am doing right now. It's a skill I have never learned. to practice this feels like ice skating for the first time. That dog will not learn and we can not serve our child until I am forced to practice being present in the moment with this animal when we are working.
Could it be that God has taken this journey in such a place in my life that it not only benefits Faith but also teaches me a skill I never learned and impacts our world in a big way? It seems like a God thing to do and it is in keeping with how he works in our lives. Usually when we start a project or have a door open or close, it ends up teaching us so much more that just the face value of that phase. I also believe that life is what you make it. I could choose to walk away from this idea and chalk it up to being too tired. I could just have a great family pet or I could ask someone else to train the dog. I see the potential for greatness here. I see that if I take this opportunity to learn how to just focus and be present in the moment it will impact my parenting, my teaching, my attitude, and the chaos that sometimes rules my life.

Maybe when I picture my ideal scenario, I am not picturing material things or specific activities... Maybe what I seek is the peace that comes from surrendering everything else except for this moment.  Maybe this dog was meant for more than Faith; maybe he has as much to teach me as we have to teach him. Everyone eventually hopefully has a moment in a season of life that defines them... Maybe this is my moment in this season of my life.