God Didn’t Create Autism

 

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Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

I’ve been toying with writing several topics on autism. And since April is Autism Awareness Month, I figured it was as good of a time as any.

 

Those of you who know me, know my son, Adam. He is an awesome kid. He’s sweet and kind (most of the time), and quite smart if you look past his disability. And those who have the pleasure to know Adam, love Adam. Everyone loves Adam.

Before he started school, I prayed that he wouldn’t be targeted by bullies. And God has been faithful. They not only not bully him, but he gave Adam a class of kids that not only like him, but they also support and defend him. And I feel blessed that he has given him the classmates he has. Matter of fact, throughout the years, teachers have all talked about what a great group of kids the class of 2019 is. And they are. A few years ago, I was talking to one of his teachers and told her how I much I love his class, and how great they are. And her comment to me brought me to sobbing, ugly tears.

She told me… “That class is special. And I think they are special because of your son.”

Now… How can I deny God working through my son after hearing those words? I don’t deny it. God has used my son without him even knowing it. He’s impacted those around him. However, one thing I don’t agree with is that God made him that way. Not any more than a child getting cancer, becoming blind, or paralyzed from an accident. When Adam was born, he was not autistic. He slipped into autism.

God didn’t design him to be autistic; he allowed him to be.

As much as I see the impact he’s made on people, I still pray for God to heal him. And yes, I believe autism can be healed. When I tell people that I pray for him to be healed, many times I hear something along the lines of “God created him that way.”

But I don’t believe it for one second.

The other thing I hear is: “Well if he didn’t have autism, he wouldn’t be Adam.”  This is even more untrue. Adam is special because he is Adam, not because he has autism. Autism is holding him back from being even more amazing.

Autism keeps him from forming deep relationships. He can’t drive. He can’t date. He won’t marry and have children. He won’t go to college (at least in the near, foreseeable future), and more than likely, he will live with us until we die. And worst of all, It keeps him from a close, personal relationship with God. He knows about God (as much as he knows about bedtime stories), but he can’t connect with him or serve him or speak to him like a normal person can. The bible is too much for him to read, and his autism makes him selfish to care about serving others. And as much as it hurts my heart to see him miss out on all the experiences and relationships of life, him not being able to have the joy of serving God is the worst of all.

When God created man, he designed man to be in his image, to be in a relationship with him. Autism interferes with relationships. God would not create someone who cannot be in a relationship with him.

And… Adam is mild on the spectrum. I can’t help but think of those who aren’t so mild. Of thousands of children who are even more disconnected, who injure themselves. Kids who smear poop on the walls. Kids who bite themselves until they bleed, or bang their heads. Children who turn into adults and have to be put into institutions because they hurt their caregivers or themselves. Kids who don’t talk, don’t communicate. God wouldn’t create people who can’t be in a relationship with people or be able to serve him. There are people who have no quality of life because they are affected by autism. God wouldn’t create autism.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Autism doesn’t allow this.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Autism takes away empathy and makes a person selfish. It is hard for them to think of others.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Someone trapped in their thoughts, quoting the same YouTube video, banging their head on the wall, can’t do good works. They can’t serve God. God has prepared his creation to serve and love him, and autism doesn’t allow this.

So I pray.

Just like the blind man he made to see, I pray.

Like the crippled man Jesus made to walk, I pray.

Like the man with the withered hand, I pray.

God didn’t create my son’s autism. He created Adam, who is amazing. But I know that he is still trapped in the box of autism. I can’t help but wonder what he could accomplish without it weighing him down. And I often think about how incredible it would be for Got to heal him, of all the people who would see and believe the power of God. Yes…God may choose to use him with Autism still, and he may not want him to be healed of it. But even so, like the parable of the widow who kept going back to the unjust judge, I will continue to pray that cage will be removed from his mind. Until the day comes when I talk to God myself about my request, I will pray my big, bold prayers. If Jesus can make a dead man to rise again, he can repair what is broken in my son’s mind. I believe this. But I also know that the final decision is God’s.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Church is More Than Ice Cream Trucks and Selfie Stations.

pexels-photo-919273.jpegSo today I came across a Facebook post that made me grumpy. The person had obviously been talking about the church I go to, about the church that has impacted and changed my family’s lives. The person said something along the line of… “After going to a church with root beer floats, ice cream trucks and a selfie station, I want to focus on why we really celebrate Easter.”

I had to bite my tongue. It made me wonder if the person bothered to listen to the powerful message about my savior, Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life.

But taking a step back, and holding my tongue for a couple of hours, I remembered thinking of another “mega-church” and years ago, I remember thinking about that church along the same line as this person probably had. But now, being in a church from its early start, I know that River Church is more than ice cream and selfie stations.

Did they serve ice cream last night?

Yes, they did.

Did they have a “selfie station”?

Sort of, but not really.

I’d like to address these two things, not to merely defend the church that I love, but to justify the reasoning behind why they do these things… at least from a long-time attendee perspective.

Our church is a new church, having been established only 4 years ago. But in those four years, we’ve had to add services to accommodate the unfathomable growth. We still hold services in a warehouse and have to take into account the amount of space we have to work with.

This weekend we celebrated Easter. In order to prepare for the influx of attendance, especially those who don’t normally come to one of the five-weekend services we typically have (yes, I said 5). River Church added two more Saturday services. To encourage attendance on Saturday, knowing full well that Easter Sunday would be packed full with people who only attend on Easter and Christmas, they offered pancakes for the Saturday morning services and ice cream for the evening services. They’d even promoted it in the weeks previous that they were bribing people to come on Saturday instead of Sunday with pancakes and ice cream. And they were justified to do so because the 9:45 service on Sunday ran out of space. People had to sit in the youth room and watch via screen and broadcast. So one reason for the root beer floats and ice cream trucks (and I really didn’t realize they had an ice cream truck) was to encourage attendance on Saturday to make more room on Sunday. (BTW, there was no ice cream or pancakes on Sunday).

The other thing that people may not realize, is that River Church is always encouraging fellowship. They want people to stay after and talk. Ice cream is just another way to encourage that fellowship. God tells us to be in fellowship with one another:

 Acts 2:42   They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Ice cream may not be “bread” but it is a way to connect with one another, to have time to lift up your fellow believer. To make new people feel welcome and have the opportunity to connect instead of just running in and out of a church.  River Church did this long before they had throngs of people coming, back when we only had 1 church service. There is always coffee and snacks to promote a feeling of fellowship and make an excuse to interact.

And looking at the people who only come once or twice a year, we want them to feel welcomed. We want them to grow in their faith and come back more than that once or twice a year. It isn’t a worldly gimmick. It’s about treating people like people and making them feel welcome and at home.

Now, about that selfie station…

Every since they started River Church, they have offered family photos on Easter Sunday. As a mom who always is the one taking the picture and not in it, and who doesn’t always get organized to get family pictures taken often, I appreciate the opportunity to have that photo. We spend so much time getting ready for Easter, that it is so nice to stop for a second and focus on our family. Or friends. Or both. And in the past, they would have someone take your picture and send it to you later.

This year, they changed it to use your own phone, etc. So the so-called “selfie station” is just a way to accommodate the church’s growth and still offer the opportunity.  They had people there, helping take pictures of your family. And they had taken the time to set up a pretty backdrop so you could get a nice picture. I do know that last year, it took quite a while to get our photo back. So having people use their own phones/cameras and not having to fill out contact info, enabled a lot more people to get through the line (more people, things have to be streamlined) and also took out the chaos of trying to get photos back to people. As the church grows, accommodations need to be made.

 

 

I love seeing how my family changed and grew…not just in height, but in numbers as we added our son, Lukas. THIS is the “selfie station”. And again, it is a way to make a church feel more like a home. When you are at a family gathering, do you take pictures? Do you snap some photos of your children’s birthdays? Why? Because it is your family. And our church is also our family.

So the real question is… why is the church so big? Some might say it is because of the gimmicks of ice cream and selfie stations. But the reason I came, and why so many others came, had nothing to do with being entertained or getting free treats. When I first came, I felt God there. And that is why we came. Not the coffee. Nor the snacks. Nor the ice cream or family photos. It was, and still is, the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit, and a pastor and worship team that preach and sing to God. And I walk away every week feeling inspired to be closer to Jesus.

THAT is why River Church is growing. God is moving. God is present. And God wants us to grow with him and grow with our church family… even in the presence of some ice cream and photo selfies.

Sure, some people might come for the ice cream first, but we hope that they end up staying for Jesus.

 

Smoothies and Weight Loss…part 2.

IMG_5614So I have one more week down with the whole smoothies experiment. Overall, I really like this change in my life. I’m enjoying the taste of almost all of my smoothie recipes from my book….except for the one I made for lunch today. Not good. (Let’s just say there is no place for Tabasco sauce in a smoothie). Blech!

My weight loss for my 2nd week?:  2 lbs

Overall in two weeks: 6 lbs

Which compared to the “up to 16 lbs” claim on the book cover isn’t as impressive. BUT, I’m happy for what I’ve done. My clothes aren’t as tight, and I find myself really looking forward to drinking a smoothie instead of eating breakfast or finding something for lunch. I’m actually ENJOYING them.

I’m planning (and keep putting off) adding some exercise to my new lifestyle, one that I did a few years ago. For those of us who are not fans of exercise (like me), and who don’t care for running full sprint on a treadmill, I’m going to start next week on a Couch to 5K again. It is a great way to get someone who does nothing off their butt and work them into exercise. It alternates walking and light running until you can tolerate more running. In the end, you are supposed to be able to run a 5k (although, I never made it that far last time I tried this).  I’m posting this because it might make me more likely to follow through. The app on my phone has a plan that plots out for 3 days a week, which gives me an excuse to start on Monday. 🙂

Stepping into Smoothies and Weight Loss.

So a few weeks ago, there was a display of things at my son’s preschool. Books, toys, knick-knacks. Lots of things that you could buy. In amongst the stuff, was a book called ZERO BELLY SMOOTHIES. According to the book (at least what it says on the cover) you can lose up to 16 lbs in 14 days by drinking smoothies.

IMG_5614Not that I’m considered obese. For my age, I’m actually doing pretty well. However, since my wedding day, I’m about 40 lbs heavier. Not that I want to be as thin as I was on my wedding day, but every year I find the scale going up. My pants size keeps increasing. And I’m starting not to be a fan of my growing belly size.

I had looked at low carb diets and keto supplements, but honestly, limiting myself to low carb foods does not thrill me. I’m not a big fan of meat and dairy (at least not meat and dairy all the time), and I love fruits (which are considered sugar for low carb diets), so this smoothie idea felt better for me.

So for 1 week, I have replaced my breakfast and lunch with smoothies. Considering I’d been eating like garbage (breakfast cereals, etc) in the morning, it was no loss there. Lunch is a little more challenging, but I am actually getting better nutrition in me than before. For dinner, I cook what I want… carbs or low-carb.

It does take some getting used to. For starters, not all plant protein supplements are created equal. I got this one first.

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The one thing I can say about this one is that the company name is very accurate. Yes, it is like drinking grass. Not good. The book had recommended several brands, this wasn’t one of them. So then I got some of the other ones they DID recommend

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I got the SunWarrior chocolate protein at my local HyVee. Some of the recipes in the book call for chocolate protein powder. I will say, this one is pretty tasty (in comparison). BUT… after a couple of hours, I do feel more hungry than I do with the other brand I’ve been using. If you are looking to supplement your foods rather than replace, this would be a good choice.

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Vega One is pricier. But the taste is tolerable and it actually does keep me satisfied for quite a while. And I feel fabulous. Did I mention that it also contains probiotics and Omega 3s and fiber? All kinds of stuff that I was depriving my body of before I started this process. After a few days, I wasn’t sure that I would actually lose weight. But even if I didn’t, I felt good. When my SunWarrior runs out, I will most likely replace it with the chocolate version of Vega.

So here are the few hurdles I’ve had to work on starting this smoothy lifestyle. The startup can be a little pricey. The proteins are not cheap. And I’ve bought other things that I need for my recipes, different nut butters, for example, or flaxseed oil and powder. Also almond milk and other odds and ends that the recipes have called for.

Another thing is getting used to the tastes of plant protein powders. They aren’t the best. It does have a very distinct taste. And nearly everything turns green. Your mango smoothie? Green. Banana smoothie? Green. Spinach smoothie? REALLY green.The pictures in the book are before adding the protein powder because many are just not pretty to look at. I tried to offer it to my teens, and pretty much got an instant reject. After a week, they are tasting better to me.

Here was my breakfast and lunch yesterday:

 

 

And for lunch today, I had this: (I forgot to take a photo.. this one looked like a glass full of chocolate)

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So my results after 1 week of smoothies? I’ve lost 4 lbs.

4 lbs isn’t a huge loss… but here is the thing: I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been still doing some snacking occasionally at night. Still eating the occasional dessert. I’ve been eating what I want at dinner. And I feel really, really good. I mean, I’ve only had 1 cup of coffee all week, and that was for comfort, not for need. My son is sleeping now, and I have no desire to nap. I don’t need it. My mind is alert and my brain fog has decreased. I feel inspired enough to keep going. The next week will be the interesting one because normally, my weight can fluctuate a bit.

Let me know if you do smoothies as well? What are your favorite recipes? And if you want to start, let me know! We can swap ideas and motivate each other.

The Chaos (and love) of a Creative Mind

pexels-photo.jpgMost of you who read this blog and this post, know me personally. They know that I write. That I am a face painter. That I am creative. I love that God created me to be creative. It took me years–even into my late 30s–to accept and love who I am. I spent a good deal of my life fighting myself, belittling myself, looking down at not being put together, instead of enjoying a bit of creative chaos.

Here are some things I’ve noticed and accepted about being creative, chaotic, and maybe a little ADD.

  • My mind doesn’t shut down easily. I stay up late because it continues to tick through tons of things.
  •  I don’t “see” things. I could walk by weeds in my flower bed for weeks. It’s not that I’m lazy so much as I just don’t pay attention to them.
  • I need to be creative or I become depressed. If that means putting a craft before mopping the floor, I will do it to protect my sanity.
  • Organization can be hard.
  • Procrastination comes easy.
  • Too much detailed information makes me shut down. If someone is giving me too many details, I will find myself thinking about what to do later.
  • I will forget things if I don’t write it down because my mind becomes cluttered quickly.
  • I get bored with monotonous tasks… such as housework. Doing repetitious things makes me want to pull out my hair.
  • My mind often flips from one thing to another like a button on a remote control. It can also drift into itself and my imagination.
  • I can get disappointed in things because my creativity always imagines things happening bigger than life… in detail.
  • I am passionate about the things I believe in.
  • I MUST create. It is not an option.

When I am painting faces at an event, I often hear mothers talking. I hear things such as:

“Wish I could paint like that.”

“I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”

“I could never do that.”

And in their voices, I hear the sadness of them not being able to do it like me. My response is something along the line of “I bet you are pretty organized.” And many times, they nod their head.

Listen to me on this one. IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE LIKE THE OTHER MOMS. You are you, and God created you to be exactly like you, differences and all. Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same? It’s okay to be one way or the other… or even a mix of both.

In the past, I envied the moms who looked like their homes never had clutter and even resented them and their annoying perfection. But God didn’t create me like that. He created me to imagine, create, to dream. And if you looked at my office right now, you’d see a pile of metal stamping supplies. And in my dining room, I still have my face painting kit sitting there, not yet put away because my closet where it goes needs to be gutted and reorganized. (It is on my to-do list). My computer home screen is covered in files and images, which is why I have my own computer because it would drive Pete (my husband) bonkers to try and share with me.

My house gets cleaned…eventually.

My dishes get washed (but maybe not right away).

And things are never, ever, completely organized. I am usually chasing one hair-brained idea or another that gets in the way.

And I’ve learned to accept that it is okay to put things aside once in a while and feed my creativity–you need to. And my home doesn’t have to be perfect to have a happy family.

I recently had a mom (one of those put-together, “perfect” moms) tell me that I could pray to be domestic and organized in reply to me saying that, “I’m not very domestic.” I think that those who are put together think that being put together is the “right” way. In the past, I would have beaten myself up and compared myself to her, begging God to change me. Now, I smile knowing better.

Don’t get me wrong… I like having my house picked up. I still strive for it, but I won’t punish myself for not being there. But to do anything domestic, I have to have a list to keep my chaotic mind on those tasks. (And somedays, I actually DO follow the list). I like my home clutter free, but I will NOT consider myself a mom failure if it isn’t. Those kinds of things come harder to me, and that’s okay. I embrace my creativity.

It’s learning to work with what God gave me, and accept that I’m not like the “perfect” mom… who, by the way, isn’t a perfect mom. There is no such thing. And despite my undomestic imperfections, we are raising some pretty awesome kids.

 

 

A Door Closes

pexels-photo-277559.jpegA few weeks ago, I came across the picture of an 11-year-old Bulgarian orphan, one that caught my attention. I see children needing families all the time because of the facebook groups that I am on. But for some reason, this boy caught my eye.

I inquired to the agency that had him and got his information. In the past, I wouldn’t have even considered adopting a child that old. However, recently, we fostered a boy the same age. And in our home, that age seemed to work really well. And I had to wonder if the whole foster experience was preparing us for this young man.

There were several reasons this was a good idea. For one, it would be someone Lukas could relate to later in life, another Bulgarian sibling he could connect to. The age of the child also worked well for Adam. He actually liked our foster child; young children tend to exasperate him and annoy him. Kira was open to the idea. Lauren wasn’t as convinced, but she wasn’t fighting me on it too much. Even Pete didn’t throw away the idea when I brought it to him. However, an international adoption costs in the realm of 30 thousand dollars, which is money we don’t have. So we knew, if God wanted us to do this, it was going to be a big step of faith. We’d have to know that God would provide the money, somehow. I also know, from experience how HARD adoption is. So taking this path was one we would go into eyes wide open to the disruption. It would be hard for the whole family.

And this was what I posted about the other day on Facebook, about wanting very vivid answers from God for such a huge decision. It felt right in many ways, but the fear of the “what ifs” were there.

What if he disrupted our family?

What if he abused our younger son?

What if it was chaos in our home?.

What if we couldn’t raise the money?

What if he was our son and God planted him for me to find?

Lots of questions in such a life-altering decision.

The other day, the agency told me that another family had stepped up and the door was closed. It made me both sad and relieved for an answer. For a short time, I really did think that he was placed in my path to be a part of our family. But now I know he is with someone else.

So now I am left to the why. Why did God place him in front of me? Was it just a test, to see if we would trust him with such a large amount of money? Is he prepping the idea of adding another child? I don’t know why. I just know that God always knows and we just need to be willing to take that step if he so calls.

Metal Stamping Fail

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Fidget Spinner added to photo by my son, Lukas, because he thought it should be included.

A week or so ago I was thinking about ways one can fundraise (that is another blog post in itself), and a fellow adoptive parent talked about how she had made hand-stamped jewelry to raise money for their adoption. She had sold a couple hundred for $15 or more a piece. Cool! I thought. She even showed me some lovely pictures of her projects, and of course, being crafty, I thought, “I can do that!”

And so I tried to set up an Etsy shop in anticipation of the projects I would make and sell. With my overactive imagination, I could see the money rolling in. Except to set up the shop, you actually have to have things ready to sell. Go figure, eh? So I had to stop my set up and actually make some stuff.

So with a Hobby Lobby gift card in hand (Thanks, MOM), I bought an alphabet, lower case, and a few things that I would need to get started. Then I went online and got some metal rounds to create all of my profitable pieces. I went home, with the few metal pieces that I had already purchased at Hobby Lobby, and got to work… sort of.

In my first go, I tried to make a mother’s necklace with my kids names on it. Well… The Kira was uneven, Lauren looked quite nice, and then Adam ended up Abam. At that point, I had given up on that one and just started using it for practice.

Then I realized that I really did need the uppercase letters, so another trip back to Hobby Lobby, and I now have a full alphabet, which of course, would make my pieces much better. I also picked up some square blanks to practice on as well.

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So with the square packet of blanks, I thought I’d give it another go. I figured it would be easier than the round. I chose the famous Harry Potter quote: I solemnly swear I am up to no good. Except the first one, I got all the way up to the “to” before I grabbed a Q instead of an O. I finished it, pretty grumpy at my mistake, and tried it again.

 

Three more tries and I got something… sort of. If you don’t count the uneven spacing and crooked letters. Honestly, this is much harder than it looks. And the phrase from Harry Potter started perfectly describing my skills at metal stamping, especially the part that said “no good”.

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Again, fidget spinner added by my son.

And my crafty side, that feels like I can just fix it a little, doesn’t get to fix a little in metal stamping.

I got my new circle blanks in the mail (and I”m feeling pretty grumpy about the process so far). I decided to just type HOPE in the middle of the blank.Besides, I could use some hope at that moment.

HOPE can’t be that bad to stamp, right?

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Except when you start off uncentered. With a few frustrated embellishments to add for dramatic effect, I made something that a 5-year-old would be quite proud of.

And my Etsy shop? Still empty right now. Maybe after spending a small fortune, and a lot of ruined blanks, I will be able to sell something to make back the money I’ve invested in my new frustration.

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