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Sunday, April 7, 2013

DARE to Respond

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl

“Something doesn’t sound right,” our pediatrician said, at our 3 week routine exam for our newborn. “It is probably nothing, but I would like you to go see a cardiologist-- now.” By the end of the afternoon, we had received the devastating news about our son’s heart condition (TAPVR) and registered at Columbia Children’s Hospital for his open heart surgery. A faint warning, a tiny hint, lead our pediatrician to made a bold choice-- she responded. She filled the space of doubt with a certainty that was needed to save a life. She taught me an important lesson.

17 month later I had a hunch that something wasn’t right. T was throwing objects and tantrums, flipping and kicking during diaper changes, tantruming at the sight of a car seat, pushing and hitting other children and destroying every space he came in contact with. Some people would say he was just an active boy toddler. But my heart was telling me otherwise. And from my experience so far as a parent, I knew that I needed to look at my child with fresh eyes and ears. Be willing to see the boy God gifted us. Willing to respond. So we did. I attended a workshop on toddler anger, and then, after confirming that my son’s behavior was atypical, I called Easter Seals. They confirmed that T needed help. And so we started the journey of responding to our son T with occupational therapy, psychotherapy, diet, at-home behavioral work, and a lot of love.

We have been told that if we had not responded as early as we did, T would have significantly worse challenges today. Embracing him where he is each day and responding is the best thing we can do for him. It is a hard lesson to remember. Each time we think we “know” him, he changes. And as soon as we think he is getting “better” he challenges us with a regression. But through learning how to see T, and to respond to him, we have learned how to see all people, to see life, and respond to it. We have found joy.

My husband Lynn and I have made many hard changes and choices since then. I guess by default we have become responsive people. When things don’t seem right for our family or for T, or even for our community, we investigate. We ask questions, we communicate, and we respond. Our children need our eyes, ears, heart and voice. There have been many difficult choices along the way. Like pulling T out of his school and choosing to homeschool him when we saw him suffering for too long. Or this last month when we left the stability and easy comfort of our church to find a new one more fitting to our family needs and beliefs. Both of these choices were lonely, painful ones. They meant losing people (if, we found sadly, our relationship was contingent upon our membership in the institution.) The changes meant stepping out of our comfort zone to respond to a life filled with uncertainty and possible failure, but also with immeasurable potential. A life of incredible joy.

I suppose I’m realizing that “responding” is unleashing the creative force that God places in my life. Responding sometimes feels first like walking on a thin, lonely tightrope when, as I get to the other side, I realize I’m walking on God’s firm hand. I cannot fall. Responding is starting a painting without any idea how it will look in the end, but taking bold strokes anyway. And the mysterious beauty of the painting emerges.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that I am constantly called to respond to this life I have been blessed with. How many times during the day or year do I miss the opportunity to respond-- to be quiet, to listen, pray over a need? To see the suffering or joy in another person and to express a kind word or action, just because I’m so blessed to see. To forgive someone. To identify a problem and have the courage to take a step toward change. To take a risk to be unpopular. To have faith. Maybe living is responding. God whispers, and sometimes He yells. We choose whether we listen and respond. We choose whether to dance to the music God is playing for us (I think all the time?) and to have access to immeasurable joy.

I pray that you and I might have the ears and heart to hear the music of our life, and to have the courage to walk, run, sing, shout or dance along the path God has chosen for each one of us. I really do think He wants us to respond... Don’t you?

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Am Content With Weakness

A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

Get him OUT of here!” shrieked Cindy, the music teacher at a class for 3-year-olds in Tiburon. She whirled around, glaring at my son who was lunging forward to get to her. He grabbed around her, at one of the sparkly CDs and t-shirts  in her cabinet. All of the other noisy kids were crowding her too, trying to see the exciting giveaways. But only my son was spinning out of control.

With my six-week-old baby attached to me in a sling, I reached out to catch T, but he jumped away from my grip. I grabbed again and this time got him, falling to the floor with him kicking, yelling and hitting me. I started to cry as I held him, shielding my infant who was still miraculously resting in my sling.

No one acknowledged me. Mothers started to step over me to get out the door. Shame, embarrassment and rejection burnt my insides. Tears flowed. My shaking hands couldn’t get T’s shoes could I get out of this place?

Desperate to get AWAY, I dragged my screaming boy by the feet, out into a hallway. I tried again to put the shoes on, but eventually I gave up as more moms and kids walked by, ignoring our display. I put the hollering T under my arm, flailing, with the baby on the other side, and I hobbled outside. Upon the first gulp of fresh air, T sprang from my grasp running over rocks, behind bushes, toward the busy parking lot. I glanced in through the open window of the classroom to see Cindy glaring out at me, just as I caught T.

What could I say to make her understand our pain? “You KNEW about his challenges,” I sobbed. “I told you...How could you treat us this way?”

“It is YOUR fault, she hollered, pointing her finger at me.Your son isn’t the problem. It’s you! You shouldn’t have brought your baby.”

"My fault," I thought. There was that pain again. So deep. The foot of a heel, pressing into my chest. Stomping me down.

We were attending this music class six weeks after the birth of my third child, and six weeks after T had been kicked out of preschool. Three years after T fought for his life during open heart surgery and two years after his arrhythmia treatment. One year after he was found to have sensory processing disorder, among other challenges. Three days after our new nanny quit and I hadn’t slept more than a few hours the night before.... We needed parents, children, and educators. We needed community. I was searching for a place to just BE.

I drove away with a deep, burning, gushing pain rolling around in my stomach. My fault.

My son is now seven, and I am used to rejection. Being at the other end of a finger or under a heel. The fingers have belonged to preschool teachers, an elementary school counselor, a pastor, relatives and moms in every place imaginable. I have been beside my son. I have been blamed. I have felt my cheeks burn, the tears well up-- I have felt the shame.

“It is my fault.” I feel it everywhere I go. Can you imagine how he feels?

No matter how educated I become, or how many discipline and treatment strategies I try. No matter how many solutions I pursue to help my son. No matter how many therapists support me, no matter how closely I follow and pray to know God better-- I still blame myself for my son’s challenges and his exclusion. And I’m pretty sure that other moms, especially special needs moms, know what I’m talking about.  If I could just be a better, smarter, more patient, more healthy, more EVERYTHING mom, then my son would be OK.

And, it turns out, lots of other people agree with me. I should be better.

But where is the good news?

When my face is shoved into the dirt enough times, when my chest aches with the isolation-- I (strangely) attach to something more powerful, nourishing and richer than I ever imagined. (I wonder if I could find it if I weren’t feeling so much pain?)  God is bigger than any pointing fingers, any inequality, any cruel people, any blame. All God wants from me, is the me whom he made.  The me who I am; vastly imperfect, fully worthy of blame, but wanting forgiveness. He holds me steady, and so I grow. When I attach to God, I shed my pride and the “old me” dies-- I have nothing to prove or defend. I can understand the people who point fingers at me more clearly-- I can see that they are just like me. Confused by this world’s lopsided, broken nature, and needing someone to blame besides themselves.  

Let me be clear-- when the cleat is shoved into my chest (like it was this week), and I am blamed again for all of my child’s, actually all of my family’s, struggles... well I hurt in a way that is almost unbearable. But after the pain, I have finally learned to give thanks to God. The people who hurt me have pointed the way to Him. The flying rocks have shown me which path is NOT for me. I am blessed for the beautiful life I have been given.

I pray that my small story, my dirt, and the gifts that God has given me might be used as an instrument to touch someone in a way that ends the blame and the hurt. I pray for my own heart to be opened enough to allow a forgiving God to enter in...A heart that doesn’t rush to blame. Because this spring, I plan to grow.

Thank God for new seasons.

"Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me,  ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’  I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians chapter 12 v. 8-12

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Monday, February 18, 2013

Who Is In Your Group?

ex·clu·sion:a keeping apart; blocking of an entrance.

I wonder how many times I have kept a person apart from me whom I could have loved instead. How many times have I excluded? The creepy power of exclusion is that when I'm doing it,  I am foolish enough to feel justified. Such as, "she does drugs, so I'll stay clear of her." (she could hurt my family.) Or, "I have seen her yelling at her kids too many times," (so she is out of control and could hurt my family.) Or "That child is spoiled or watches to much tv, or he is a bully, or he makes too much trouble" (so my kid isn't going to spend time with him...I'm doing what is best.) Or "she doesn't even smile at me so I don't want to get to know her." Or "she cheated on her husband" or "she snubbed me at that party"... or...well, you get it. Judgements can seem well-founded to that ugly portion of my heart that quietly pounds away, blocking the entrance to ME...  Judgement and exclusion is a blood clot or sticky plaque growing in my arteries, quietly disconnecting me from life and from love. The definition above says it well-- exclusion (which I'm realizing, to me, is the equivalent of judgement) pulls us all apart. It is love's enemy. God's enemy.

The common thread that I have discovered in almost all of my judgement, my need to exclude, is FEAR. Fear for my family's safety and well-being, fear for my reputation, fear of not being loved, fear of being hurt, fear of being disappointed. Fear that God is not really taking care of me and this world.

Why write about this today? Lately wherever I have looked, I have seen exclusion. Well, I haven't just see it-- it has screamed at me. And the echos of those screams haven't escaped my mind. So here I write. I believe that I recognize judgement and exclusion more clearly today than ever before because of my struggles as a parent of a special needs child. I have parented a child whom, at times, in many places, people have drawn away from. It has been a quiet, life-sucking with drawl. My family has felt painfully excluded. Judged. But ironically, this experience of exclusion has blessed us enormously-- maybe more than any other aspect of parenting. I can relate to SO many more people today. I can love more. And the door to my heart is very much more open.

When I was in elementary school, I remember my first experience with exclusion when I saw a large, sweet, awkward, glasses-wearing boy getting punched and teased by a group of classmates. I remember yelling and running at the perpetrators. I was that kind of girl. Overly confident. But there was something in my gut that was disgusted with what I saw. At least when I saw it so clearly as at that moment. Maybe it was my selfish fear that I could be that boy some day. 

In college, I joined a sorority. I thought it was a decent way to make friends and go to fun parties. I was later upset when I learned that during the "rushing" process, we were required to score potential new members based on their appearance. I remember another sorority sister asking me if I had rated the girl in the "porkadots." I wanted to vomit. Don't get me wrong, I was (and am) not above judging others (as pointed out earlier.) But to actually have it written on a score sheet (where I couldn't avoid the truth), and to exclude along with a large group of women, brought this issue into the spotlight for me.  I couldn't look. I went inactive shortly after. It was then that I started to think about exclusion-- exclusive friendships, groups, clubs, and how much they worried me. Something, maybe it was God, was pulling me in a different direction.

But we all still do it. We try to find people who are like us. We pull away from people who are not. Our groups might not have names or scorecards, but we have them. We hang out with people who dress like us, or who dress "different" and therefore like us. People who share our faith, or lack of faith. People who have similar parenting styles. So what is the big deal?

The big deal is this--people do not love others if they exclude them...if they don't let them in to their group. If they think they are from a "different group." For example, in Marin, we sadly neglect our homeless family population. I have learned that our neglect is largely because we do not believe there are many homeless people. And when we do learn that homeless families really exist (hundreds of them), we judge them, creating distance from our (wealthy, successful) community to theirs.

I am not that different from a homeless mom. If my husband lost his job and one of us became ill (common background of a homeless family) we could become homeless.When I get to know homeless moms, my similarity to them becomes evident... if I let them into my "group", and they let me in to theirs. I have been blessed with powerful lessons from homeless families about strength, grace and resilience.

Or divorced families-- I just spoke with a separated, lovely mom who is suffering from shock and isolation after her husband left her and her children. She is not much different from me, but right now she might feel that she is. How does one cope when a family suddenly breaks apart? With raising children alone? And watching families going on vacation to Tahoe this week, while she copes alone...She sees distance. Where is her group? She is like me. She could be me. She is part of my group. She has shown me my blessings and how little I deserve them.

Or what about the GBLT community? My husband and I have a couple of gay relatives. We have often talked about how much courage it must take to admit to being so different from what our "mainstream" society proclaims is acceptable. From what some Christians proclaim to be sinful behavior. I am not so different from a gay person. Human sexuality is a giant, scary thing to me. Men scare me (except for my husband, of course.) I do not claim to understand human sexuality, nor can I judge others for their experience with it. Though I am heterosexual, I am part of the same group as those who are GBLT. I love my partner, whom I'm blessed to have as my husband, with all my heart. I love him just as many in the GBLT world love their partners. I can't imagine having to hide that fact.

Or let's consider those kids who can be challenging to be around because of their "imperfection" or their special needs-- like my son? I can write about this today because we don't feel so excluded at the moment. We have found our group, though it may be scattered and small. And maybe because we have looked a little harder than most, we have found beautiful, genuine people to spend time with.... But I can tell you...if you are a parent, you are not that different from me, either. Not so different from me, the parent with the challenging child. And your kid-- he or she is not that different from my child. He is not perfect. He can be a pain in the rear-end. But, guess what, he or she deserves to be included and loved, anyway. At least that is what God says. He or she will enrich many lives if given the opportunity to connect. If the exclusion is lifted. If he or she can taste differences and love them.

This world has all sorts of colors, bright, faded, torn. I pray that one day we can weave them together. All pathways open. All part of the same group. We will make a beautiful land.

"The central tenet of Christianity as it has come down to us is that we are to reach out when our instinct is to pull inward; to give when we want to take; to love when we are inclined to hate; to include when are tempted to exclude."
Jon Meacham 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do You Dare Ask for Help?

A little boy was having difficulty lifting a heavy stone. His father came along just then. Noting the boy’s failure, he asked, “Are you using all your strength?”

“Yes, I am,” the little boy said impatiently.

“No, you are not,” the father answered. “I am right here just waiting, and you haven’t asked me to help you.” 
- Anon

Help. How often do we ask for it when we need it? I confess that I once measured myself by how often I did not need help for most everything. I did careless things like carry a piece of furniture twice my size inside from the car, rather than asking for help from a person in the next room. "There, I did it." I would think. And I would feel so satisfied.

But there was a problem. I took credit, and pride points, for everything that I did well, particularly scoring a good job when I didn't have the right experience, starting my own business, moving across country to San Francisco without any friends in the area, recovering from a failed relationship and finding someone so much better. I took the credit for my blessings. I forgot that God was there with me, probably chuckling at my ignorance. Or maybe he was really miffed? I was not doing it alone. But I didn't recognize it. I just sprinted along, believing that I was one of those "resilient" people. When I wasn't feeling insecure and trying to prove myself, well, I felt kind of proud.

Then I became a mom.

I had it in my head that if my husband and I were good parents, we wouldn't need any help. We would read and follow the best parenting books, and "poof" we would become picture book parents with compassionate, intelligent, well-behaved kids. We were educated entrepenuers and we loved each other. With the right amount of nourishment, love, discipline and structure we could "create" (as though we were the creators) great kids. Right?

Of course not! When our son T started walking at 13 months, one month before my second baby was due, my life took a distinct turn toward CHAOS... And boy did I need HELP. You would think we could have handled anything at that point. We had just taken T off of his heart medication, his open heart surgery and atrial flutter were behind us. We had moved back to our beloved Marin from New York. We were remodeling a new home. It was time for the dream life. Two kids? We thought, "No big deal!"

Then T  became mobile, his new brother N entered the picture, and T began DESTROYING everything. He tore books, cleared shelves and drawers, threw objects. He wrecked everything in his path. He responded to no consequences, even natural ones, and became defiant-- about everything. He talked non-stop and never stopped moving. Food would fly. If another child came into his vicinity, he would offer a smile and then a quick-like-lighting SHOVE. Faces transformed from smiles to alarm, then disgust. He started throwing things at little N. And when N tried to walk, he could barely get a step in before T would intercept. N became exceptional at finding the ground just in time to avoid a push. I remember sitting in my living room, helplessly nursing N, watching T wreck everything in sight. I learned that my sense of peace relied on visual order. I felt unraveled, all day and night.

So I stopped sleeping. Many nights I got 2-3 hours of sleep. I felt terrified for the next day of chaos. Especially frightening was the expectation, the uncertainty, of dealing with the next day. Alone. Without sleep. Guilt. Instead of feeling the joy of motherhood, there was misery, fear and lonliness. The blessing of the day was a walk to the market without a major episode. A moment when I could feel in control. We could not consider going to church because we couldn't imagine leaving T with any Sunday school teacher, or sitting through a service. We were trapped.

No one was knocking on the door, offering to help. And I didn't have the skills, the courage, the humble heart to ask. Honestly, I didn't know who could have helped me at that point. When things were really bad, and I hadn't slept for nights, I would break down. I would ask my husband to stay home from work. It was only when I reached real darkness (fear for my children's safety and my sanity) that I started searching for help... I called Easter Seals and they visited and told me that T needed an OT. Simple, right?

Of course not! I spent six months calling OTs. Trying to get someone in Marin to help me. No one had time. No one returned calls. I hired a nanny to help me for six hours a week. But after a few weeks in our house, it became apparent that she could not help me with T. So she helped with housework and my little baby N. I missed my time with him.

I know that many people cannot afford 6 hours of nanny time weekly and an OT. I understand that I was blessed. But sadly our life was still so far from healthy. I was overwhelmed by T. Almost all of the time. I was not getting a break. I needed more help.

Then I got pregnant. And for some reason, when I had my third child, I truly could accept my need for help. Help! I asked Ross Academy, the preschool where we had been on the waitlist for over a year, to take T for five mornings a week to provide him with consistency. I  informed them about his challenges. They met him. They accepted him. They commited to our family. I hired a nanny full time. On my way to help, right?

Of course not! When our third child was born, Ross Academy called me in the hospital, the day after my C section, and informed me that T could not come back to school. They didn't have a specific reason-- just that he wasn't right for their school. Sorry! I cried non-stop for the next four days in the hospital, while calling every preschool in Marin. No space. Five weeks later, with three children under three years old, my new nanny quit too....

But I kept searching, seeking help. I knew I needed help. I became very comfortabe admiting, heck, proclaiming, that I could not do this alone. I just kept searching.

And four years later, I DO have the help that I need. I have survived. Honestly, without the people in our lives who have helped our family, I am not sure whether our family would be OK today. There is so much love here. And, I can tell you, that we have NOT survived alone.

This post has gotten way too long, so I'll continue some other time. My point is pretty simple. My special son T, along with his very special siblings, has taught me an incredible lesson...

Asking for help takes courage. Asking for help takes a humble heart. God hears our prayers, and I believe that God works through the people in our lives, too. So when we ask God, and we ask people for what we need, we have a chance to flourish. But if we never ask, if we suffer quietly, we overlook the greatest gift we have been given-- each other. God is in each one of us.

I'm so grateful for the people in my life who have helped my family -- occupational therapists, osteopaths, a pastor, a children's ministry leader, psychologists, psychiatrists, nannies, a housekeeper, pediatricians, integrative doctors, learning therapist, teachers, sisters, friends, and parents.

I'm also grateful for my unbelievable husband who has supported me when I have turned into a sleepless wife monster. (I know, I say it a lot, but he really is amazing.)

Help isn't easy to find-- especially the right help. But ask, be honest, and you might be surprised what you get. Grace (undeserved favor from God) is at your fingertips. I know that I do not deserve the amazing family and support that I have. But here I am. It is miraculous. And what has it done for me (other than making my life more peaceful?) I want to share it.  When you reach out to others, and you receive mercy (help that you do not deserve,) well, you want to give back. A lot. You can relate to others. You meet God. And there is much joy.

Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door shall be opened. 
Matthew 7:7 

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. 
Mahatma Gandhi 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No more Hiding

"Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together."
~Vesta M. Kelly

My son is a snowflake. His mental state can change depending on the way the wind is blowing, the temperature, or simply the tone of a person's voice. And like a snowflake, when his surroundings change, he is affected. He is fragile. He might get stuck on a minor problem and it could carry him away into consuming anxiety. He could get caught in a topic, and want to obsess over it. Right now all he wants to learn about are presidents and fish... Like a snowflake, he has an incredibly unique pattern that people do not understand. They might mistake him for just a distraction, and walk right over him.

But aren't we all like snowflakes, in a way? Each of us distinct and carefully designed.

I think I am. I am sensitive. I long to stick-- to other people, to a greater community and ultimately to God. I am blessed with a husband who sticks to me perfectly. But I wonder if I could stick to anyone if I could not (or cannot) embrace who I truly am-- me with my mask off. I wonder if I could stick if I were pretending to be somebody other than me. If I had to hide.

In my 42 years, I have had periods of depression, and probably anxiety (although never diagnosed.) There were even times as a teenager when my depression made me want to take my own life. In my early 30s, I had to take medication for depression, along with lots of therapy, after I had a traumatic event kind of stir it all up. Now I seem to do pretty well most of the time avoiding true depression. I have learned how to cope. I have become closer to God. I seek people in my life who are authentic. I know what to do when I start to go downhill (talk to those authentic people, get lots of exercise, pray.)

But there is more-- I have slowly learned, probably from being humbled so many (many!) times, that I can fail. I am forgiven if I don't handle every situation or challenge in life perfectly. I am forgiven if my husband-to-be runs off before the wedding (yes, that did happen to me.) I am forgiven if I am fired from a job (yup, to my type-A personality dismay, that happened to me, too.) I am forgiven even if my son has horrifying behavior that makes heads turn everywhere we go. I am forgiven if my house is a mess (still working on believing that one.) I am forgiven if I admit that I have suffered from depression. I still am loved by those who authentically care about me, and by God-- DESPITE myself.

Also, I have gratitude for the dirt. Because I have been through that dark tunnel of hopelessness called "depression", I can relate better to my son T and to many types of people. He may not suffer from depression (we aren't sure), but what is going on in his mind at times causes him isolation, alienation and pain. Being misunderstood hurts. And so I guess I am thankful for getting "mentally ill" in my life. I get it. I have sadly hidden this stuff from most people. This last month I realized that hiding me is not ok. I am made this way for a reason. Not to hide. My three kids need a parent who does not hide. 

Are you mentally healthy? If you think you are, then what would it take for you to be mentally unhealthy? How many steps away are you-- really? After the recent Newton Connecticut shooting, and because my son has become more difficult than ever to live with during this last month, I have been thinking a lot about mental health. How do we respond to people who are not coping with the world in a healthy way? Do we stick to them, with love, like snowflakes do, absorbing their unique pattern, and filling in the spaces when we can? Or do we step on them, or melt them with the heat of our expectations and disapproval? Or do we just let them drift? 

I have also been thinking about the stigma of describing someone as "mentally ill" as opposed to describing someone as, say, having a heart condition (which my son also has.) Do we believe that people are responsible for their brains, and their neural pathways? Are we responsible for how we respond to the world and the traumas we are faced with? Are we responsible for the traumas themselves? Are we in control of our own heart beating? I wonder. I don't think so. 

Many people who are "mentally ill" are extremely sensitive. I put this in quotes because I wonder if "ill" is the right description. Maybe "mentally different from the majority" (and therefore blessed?) would be a better label. The movie I saw this last week "Silver Linings" illustrates the beauty, the darkness and the idiosyncratic coolness of a person who is "mentally ill." When you are sensitive, you care deeply. You feel persons, places and things deeply. You are funky, possibly funny, and you are full of surprises. That is my son T.  And I suppose, to a lesser not-so-cool degree, that is me too.

I am certain that God put me, my son T,  and every other person on this earth here with absolute intention. Every hair on our heads. But we will never know the fullness of that intention if we hide from who we are. All facets of ourselves. I'm blessed today that my son T has taught me to see his pattern clearly, with all of its unique "special" needs and gifts. My daughter and middle son too are unique in striking ways that I could miss if I forget to stop and carefully observe. Because I am blessed by their lives, and all that they have taught me so far, I can see myself a little bit more clearly. And so we stick together.

I pray that I, and you, (and I suppose everyone) could move toward being more of whom we are truly created to be. And in doing so, that we could accept the mystery that God has created in the people around us, in all of their weaknesses and strengths. I pray for less judgement, less labels. More acceptance, humbleness, and people who stick.

"I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower - the Light in the darkness, the Voice in silence."
~Helen Keller

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. For the yoke that was weighing upon them and the burden upon their shoulders, thou hast broken in pieces O God.
~ Isaiah 9:2, 4