Category Archives: Bringing up kids

Beyond the Board to Break Through

(Written by my dear friend, Lisa…)

Do you have six seconds for a powerful object lesson?

My daughter passed the first part of her Black Belt test in Tae Kwon Do and broke through 2 boards with her elbow for the first time at the test. In practice, she hit the middle of the board but didn’t break through, leaving bruises but no broken boards. It’s tempting to focus on the center of the boards because if she aims too high or too low, the boards won’t break.   The object lesson for me came from her training. She was taught that she can’t focus on the boards but must focus beyond them at the man holding them. If she aims for his chest, instead of the boards, she will have enough momentum to break through.

It reminded me that in prayer, it is tempting to focus on the challenges that I’m praying about, but that is the equivalent of looking at the board. We need to look beyond the problems to God and seek His heart, trusting Him to break through. He holds the ‘boards’ and us in His hands, and He is able. So I want to remember to look beyond to board … to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, it says that “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I appreciate the repetition: All. All. All. All. No exceptions. God is able!

So I say with confidence, I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure” (Psalm 16:7-9).

Samuel Has a Ball Bowling

For any of you who’ve read my blog over the past few years, you may remember we have a grandson living in Grand Rapids who was a micro-preemie. His survival was in question and the source of unceasing prayers for months. Three years later, Samuel is still almost off-the-charts small, but the doctor has signed off on his needing any more speech assessments and says Samuel has completely caught up intellectually and physically (as far as coordination and skill go), for which we are all deeply grateful to our merciful heavenly Father, who loves us all even more dearly than we can imagine loving one another! Samuel has a passion for “Dude Perfect” and anything that has to do with balls, and so he asked if he could have a bowling party for his birthday. I haven’t been to many parties for three year olds (since all our other grand kids live pretty far away), but I can say that this is one of the most fun birthday parties I’ve ever attended where a small fry was center stage! Sammy carried his own ball and learned how to roll it down a little ramp to give it enough momentum to make it all the way to the end of the lane. I’d never seen one of these contraptions before, but what a great way to get toddlers going!  We had four lanes’ worth of family (Brianna’s family also lives in town), and everybody got to bowl a couple of games, but I think we all enjoyed watching Sammy, who was so excited he was practically ecstatic the whole time!Sammy’s mother was a heroine that day, carrying Baby Sister the entire time to keep her content and then making sure Sammy was happy even when it was someone else’s turn now and then (although I think he not only had his own turns, but he got one of his mom’s and one of his dad’s each round as well).Brianna’s dad handily beat the rest of us, although her brother-in-law Sam had unbelievable power!             Most importantly, everybody had a ball…including sweet Samuel!                             He even got a few balls among his birthday gifts!  🙂              Samuel wanted a carrot cake shaped like a ball for his birthday.  The cake was moist, full of carrots and walnuts, and had cream cheese frosting. We all loved it (at least, those of us with teeth), but it made me consider the fact that Sammy is very unusual! However, isn’t every child unique and wonderful?!?In a day and age when fewer people are investing in children and more people are lavishing their love on pets, I’d like to encourage married couples who are considering whether or not they want children to go ahead and take the plunge! Sure, they’re a huge amount of work and life will never be the same, but it will be better! Through all the sleepless nights and struggles, you’ll become less selfish and emotionally richer. Most parents I know wouldn’t trade their kids for anything, even if they do roll their eyes at times and tease about it! In fact, I don’t think there’s anything more precious on earth than a home with children.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3-5).

(P.S.—I took the photos from the bowling alley, but the three portraits of Samuel were taken by his mom and used by her permission. Thank you, Brianna!)

When Faith Brings Unexpected Joy to the Cancer Journey

If you’ve had any experience with cancer, you can’t read Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die without feeling the profound weight of grief Becky Baudouin experienced as she walked through the great shadowlands with her mom.

My husband appears to be healthy today, but he’s a survivor of prostate cancer, and once “The Big C” enters your life, it never quite leaves, hanging like a gloomy cloud perceived somewhere at the edges of your peripheral emotional vision. The husband of my dearest friend from childhood is going through chemo treatments right now, so the fear is fresh again in me…the hope for healing…the longing for health…the insecurities about the future…

Becky’s book is like a basic 101 course in dealing with life and death issues!   However, it’s also like taking medicine, so I was very ambivalent about starting. It’s painful to reflect on past losses; it’s even painful to process present challenges! And, it’s downright terrifying to consider possible future worsts while hoping for bests. Therefore, reading Becky’s book was an exercise in faith and hope…hope that faith could bring unexpected joy even in such tragic circumstances as the loss of an irreplaceable loved one.

Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was truly therapeutic! Becky opens the doors of her heart and takes you on a journey with her through her own childhood, her mom’s illness, grieving the loss of her mother, and coming through the depths of grief back to life. Interwoven throughout the book are some of the treasures she learned from her mother about faith, life and death. The author’s motivation is obvious—she wants you to know that you are not alone in your suffering, that all the crazy stages (such as grief brain) are pretty much universal, and that (as her mom taught her) you don’t have to be afraid of death.

Shining through the weight of grief is the weight of glory. One of my favorite thoughts was this: When we were little, sometimes our mothers would call us home, but we wouldn’t want to stop playing. However, at other times, we would realize how hungry and tired we were and would be glad for the dinner bell! Reflecting on this, Becky writes, “…surrendering in death is accepting God’s timing when he says, ‘It’s time for you to come home now.’ When we live a surrendered life, when we’ve learned to listen to his voice and follow where he leads, we trust him because we believe he loves us and knows what’s best. And hopefully when he calls us, we will realize how hungry we are for heaven, how ready we are to go home.” Amen? Amen. I think that will be the greatest unexpected joy for each of us as we anticipate death! We will see Jesus coming for us, and suddenly, we’ll be overjoyed to go!

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Follow Me, Boys!

If you’re ever in the mood for a charming Disney movie about small town America in the 1930’s, especially if you have any grade-school aged boys or budding Boy Scouts in tow, you might really enjoy watching Follow Me, Boys When our boys were growing up, they loved all the old Disney movies with Fred MacMurray, like The Happiest Millionaire, The Absent-Minded Professor, and The Shaggy Dog. They were family “cult classics” that got watched repeatedly.  We also had a lot of laughs over the Disney movies starring Kurt Russell like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, Now You See Him Now You Don’t, and The Barefoot Executive. By the way, did you know that Walt Disney personally signed up Kurt Russell with a ten-year contract when he was just a kid, and Kurt became one of their studio’s leading stars in the 1970’s? Somehow, we all missed finding the earliest Disney movie where Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell starred together: Follow Me, Boys! It might be because it was so old (1966), but it’s full of good-spirited fun and all the themes that make Disney movies memorable!Fred MacMurray plays the role of a young musician who decides to give up city life and settle down in a small Midwest town, where he becomes involved with the Boy Scouts. Kurt plays the role of a young boy who struggles with finding his own identity because his father is an alcoholic. Although you can kind of guess the plot from the beginning, there are some twists and turns along the way, and it’s a refreshing break from modern life! It’s good to remember a time when America was safer, life was simpler, and boys were free to enjoy hard work with lots of challenge while still having fun.Both my older brothers were proud Eagle Scouts in the 1950’s, and I’m really excited that my oldest grandson has just joined Boy Scouts! If your church doesn’t offer Awana or some other program geared to help kids grow up wise and capable, at least consider Scouts. But, maybe watch Follow Me, Boys! first. By the way, there’s something even better than following a good role model who will teach you how to tie knots, fish, and work hard as a kid, and that is a role model who will teach you everything you need to know about life both now and forever. There is only one such perfect role model, and his name is Jesus. Jesus can teach you not only to fish, but to be a fisher of men!  Do you know Him? Are you a follower? It will be the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life—much harder than becoming an Eagle Scout— but you’ll never regret it!

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Learning to Understand Autistic Life Animated

We have someone attending our Sunday school class who appears normal…unless you try to talk to him. Sometimes I see him look my way, like he’d like to talk, but if I approach him or try to engage him, even in light conversation, he doesn’t respond and will look away. I assume he’s autistic, and I’m still trying to figure out how to connect with him, but after a year, I haven’t broken through. Do you have anyone in your life space like this? If you do, and you’ve been able to connect, please share any advice!! For one thing, when our class starts up again for the fall semester this Sunday, I’m going to try something new I just learned about this summer!          Recently, I saw a really inspiring docudrama about Owen Suskind.        Life Animated (2016, PG, IMDb 7.5) shares the Suskind family’s story.                      Their father was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal       and Owen was the second son born into a warm and wonderful home. Owen seemed normal for the first couple of years, but then suddenly he began to regress, stopped communicating, and developed strange behavior patterns. The Suskind’s ideal home was turned upside down in a heartbreaking search for understanding what had happened. Owen was eventually diagnosed as autistic. The rest of the movie traces the heartaches and challenges of trying to learn how to communicate with their son.                              Probably every child’s journey is quite unique,                             but Owen loved Disney animated classics,  and the family eventually learned how to use pictures of scenes from the movies to communicate emotions… love, joy, grief, kindness, and kinship.                    Life Animated follows Owen’s journey from childhood to adulthood,  educational achievements, and even touching on the topics of romance, hoped-for marriage, and learning how to cope with the limitations and disappointments of autism. In many ways, Owen’s story is a wonderful story of success and triumph over trials. Today, Owen is able to give lectures and offer suggestions and ideas for other autistic young people.                                   Life Animated made me cry and rejoice.  Why can’t Owen (and millions of people for so many different reasons) just enjoy a normal life like the rest of us? Why do so many people suffer and have to live with broken dreams? In all the heartaches of life, I console myself by remembering that life on earth is not the end, it’s only the beginning…a place to develop character and find grace. To find the end of ourselves and the beginning of God. To lose our lives so we’ll find eternal life. God is good. He can be trusted.

As Karla Akins says, “Autism isn’t forever, but love is.”

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

A Pair of Miracles: The Terrors and Triumphs of Rearing Autistic Twins

If you are struggling to provide love and care for an autistic person, or you know anyone who is, this is an A+ resource giving you an open window into the hearts and hard-earned wisdom of Karla Akins and her husband, Eddie,  who took in and reared a set of autistic twins.

That’s right! They actually took on a set of twins, not because they had to, nor because they had no children of their own (because they did). Can you believe this? It’s mind boggling to me. I wouldn’t have had the courage to take on the frustrations, pain, and heartaches of adopting even one autistic child, so I stand in awe of this amazing couple (and any of you out there trying to cope with an autistic loved one).

Not only does the book tell their story, it gives counsel and resources for every step of the way, from the first terrifying realization that there’s something dreadfully abnormal about your child through learning to communicate with, educate, and preparing to emancipate your youngster. There are countless tips on everything, level-headed discussions on schooling options, the litany of therapeutic interventions, and the various medical and dietary issues (and how to maintain a gracious attitude in the midst of obnoxious know-it-alls who try to tell you what you’re doing wrong). A Pair of Miracles is also full of scripture passages and biblical wisdom to encourage you in the way of godliness, and it ends with numerous helpful appendixes.

I’d never heard of autism when I was growing up in the 60’s. In the 80’s, I had one girl friend who had an autistic child, and ultimately, I think the pressures from trying to care for that little girl destroyed their marriage. Today, I know of two couples who have autistic children. This is consistent with the statistics. Autism wasn’t even diagnosed until 1943. By 1966 (when I was a teen), researchers estimated that 1 in 2,500 children were born with autism, but it wasn’t until 1980 that autism debuted in the DSM (Diagnostic an Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have autism, an astounding 1 in 42 for boys but 1 in 189 for girls (roughly five times as likely in boys).

The question is, is this phenomenal growth actually in the occurrence of autism, or in the reporting? Some believe that much of the increase is simply in public awareness, claiming that earlier generations just thought autistic children had very low I.Q.’s and were unable to learn. Many ended up  tucked away in long-term mental hospital settings so most people didn’t even know they existed. It’s only been in recent years that people are becoming aware that many of these children are very bright, just unable to communicate and socialize normally.

Although there’s no fool-proof way to diagnose autism, and no one knows what causes autism, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) helps mental health professionals assess children who may have autism. If your toddler manifests at least 8 of the following symptoms, you may be able to get professional help for him, and the studies show ample proof that the earlier the intervention, the more likely the child will develop some ability to communicate and care for themselves over time.

Here are some of the problem areas that manifest in an autistic child: He/She

*Avoids eye contact
*Doesn’t respond to his own name
*Fails to follow objects or visual gestures
*Does not wave or communicate with gestures (although they often stiffen or flail in non-obvious gestures)
*Doesn’t make noise in order to get your attention (although they often scream
incessantly or make non-normal grunting sounds)
*Doesn’t initiate or respond to touch (in fact, can be strongly resistant or
combative if you attempt touch)
*Is unable to imitate facial expressions (but can make strange faces for sure!)
*Never progresses past parallel play
*Doesn’t show empathy for others
*Doesn’t engage in imaginary play
*Can’t talk about or understand feelings (severe cases can’t talk at all)
*Has a hard time making friends
*Can’t understand or follow simple directions
*Can’t understand abstract concepts and takes things too literally
*Refers to self in third person
*Often has unusual physical posture and toe walking

If you’ve been saying, “Oh, yes! That does describe my child,” then please seek medical help for your little one, and I strongly urge you to read A Pair of Miracles. It offers hope in the most difficult circumstances, and their story of faith and perseverance will strengthen you for the battle to withstand the agonies of autism. Who knows? Perhaps your child might also ultimately become a miracle of love and blessing like Isaac and Isaiah Akins.

“A person can have a doctorate degree from the most prestigious university on earth and still flunk heaven…What matters most, I think, is how much did we love? Autism isn’t forever, but love is.” (Karla Akins)

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
(Romans 12:15)

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another,
even as also ye do
” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

 

 

 

Contrasting America and Africa: What Are You Looking For In A School?

A few days ago, I had the privilege of escorting a pair of darling twins home from their first day of school at a lovely, modern facility. I was there early, waiting a little anxiously with all the other parents who were wondering how their cherubs had done. Joshua came bursting out the exit door first, showed me his new lunchbox with its cool, flashing lights, and immediately asked if he could join in with the other children on the playground. Grace took forever. In fact, I had to ask several times where she might be, and eventually a teacher went back inside to find her. She’d gotten lost and wasn’t sure where to go. However, she seemed perfectly unworried and untraumatized (although I was a bit of both), and all the way home (which took close to 45 minutes through construction and rush hour traffic), she kept up a bubbly conversation about her day, what she ate, who she met, what she did, and what she was planning for the next day. Joshua, on the other hand, fell asleep! Their first day appeared to be a success, at least from the outside.

Last fall, while in Africa,  we visited a school in Swaziland  and brought the children lots of food, toys, and school supplies.  It was in a poor, rural village with a dirt yard  enclosed by barbed wire  and a big room with a concrete floor, which served all the children.  This was not a mission school,  so I was happy for the opportunity to share with the children  but had no particular expectations for what the children would be like  or what they would be learning.  After they excitedly helped unload the bus,  they played with us,  and we enjoyed watching them play.  The teachers had the children form lines,  and we helped pass out the supplies,  which made the children (and us) very happy.  And then, something unexpected happened!  The teachers had prepared the children to give
a little “thank you” performance for us!  The kids sang songs with their teacher in their language,  but they also sang Christian songs, like” Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Amazing Grace” (in English),

and then one of the little girls did a wonderful job of telling the story of Jonah with a clear gospel message. She did such a great job it made me teary-eyed, and I marveled that at this little school deep in the heart of Africa, the gospel was going out to the world who were coming to them!  Isn’t that beautiful?Here in America, we take the knowledge of the gospel for granted, and in the public schools, teaching about God is actually suppressed. How sad! Instead of “freedom of religion” (no state-selected religion so that children of all faiths can practice their religion without being oppressed) it’s become “freedom from religion” (no religion allowed at all). Millions are going to schools where they do not learn about God. As you send your little ones off to school, I hope they will be learning about God and how to share His love with those around them!  In some ways, America may be darker than Africa at this point! If your children are not learning about Christ at school, I hope they’re learning about Him at home, and that you’re teaching them how to share his love with others at school.  As my spiritual big brother used to say, “Wherever you go, you’re either a missionary or a mission field.” What about you and your children? Are you preparing them to be missionaries in the dark and needy nations…everywhere “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

(The first photo is not of “Joshua” from my story, but it’s the son of a dear friend, whose son is also just starting school. I know this little boy will be well taught at home, no matter where he goes to school! Thanks, Amy. 🙂  )