Sunday, October 27, 2013

12 Months of Lessons-Lesson Two: Speak Life

Speak Life by TobyMac (Video available on YouTube)

Some days, life feels perfect
Other days it just ain't workin'
The good, the bad, the right, the wrong
And everything in between

It's crazy, amazing
We can turn a heart with the words we say
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

Some days the tongue gets twisted
Other days my thoughts just fall apart
I do, I don't, I will, I won't
It's like I'm drowning in the deep

Well it's crazy to imagine
Words from our lips as the arms of compassion
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say

Raise your thoughts a little higher
Use your words to inspire
Joy will fall like rain
When you speak life with the things you say

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say

So speak Life, speak Life
To the deadest darkest night 
Speak Life, speak Life
When the sun won't shine and you don't know why
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh--

You speak Life, oh--, you speak Life, oh-

Some days life feels perfect

-----------------------------------------------

Are the words you are speaking words of hope, love and encouragement? For if they are not, they can destroy a spirit and crush it. Be mindful of how you speak. Those words could be your last ever. 

Psalm 109
This Psalm is very condemning of those who speak curses. 

I Peter 3:8-22
Talks about suffering for righteousness' sake. Not repaying evil for evil but rather seeking peace and pursuing it. Reminds about Christ suffering for sins.

Job 5
A hard book to find in the Bible. Apparently it is before the Psalms and not after.

Job suffered a lot. And it was unfair. In many ways, this chapter is encouraging. And gives me hope about the compromise I was presented when I was challenged. Oh the reunion after the challenge will be so sweet!

Psalm 15
Chapter heading: "Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?" But this is where words must be chosen carefully. Reproach. The person who doesn't take up a reproach against his friend.... Reproach: expression of disapproval; a cause or occasion of blame, discredit, or disgrace. Have you blamed someone today? Failed to consider your own part in whatever happened? 

Proverbs 15
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." How might the words you have said broken a spirit and possibly turned them away from God? How can you reach out to someone who needs life and hope restored? 

It really is amazing how one muscle can produce both good and bad. 

12 Months of Lessons-Lesson One: Forgiveness

Every day, or as much as I can, I am following a goal. I was presented a challenge. And so begins my journey through that challenge. There are many things to learn in the 12 months I have been put to task on. But I am determined to see the fruit of the 12 months. 

Where are my lessons coming from? For the remainder of the month of October, I am focusing on TWO songs. Beginning November 1, I will begin a journey through the Psalms. In December, I will begin a journey in Proverbs as well. I will then restart anew with Jesus Calling Kids/Teens. Before you ask, the main difference between Jesus Calling and the Kids and Teen versions is the wording of the text. They all follow the same passage though. I am committed to using this blog to share my lessons. Which you will learn why in my second lesson. 

I have determined that if I miss a day due to illness that I am NOT going to beat myself up over the head about it. I got off track in the devotional because with the autism, I have sequential thinking. I try to follow the order of the pages, so when I miss a day, I think I have to make up days. Then I get exhausted. So the additional challenge is to retrain my brain to concentrate more on the date and not the page orders. So it is possible that I will be starting Jesus Calling back this week. 

Songs? Yes. Because music is one of my languages, I can learn something through songs. What kind of songs will I share? Everything ranging from TobyMac, Jamie-Grace, Britt Nicole, Newsboys, Newsong, Rebecca St. James, Jump5, ZoeGirl, and Superchick to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry (hey, don't judge). Anyway, today I will start with lesson one. 

TobyMac "Forgiveness" (Video available on YouTube)

Lyrics:

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we all step across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find, we find

It's hanging over him like the clouds of Seattle
And rainin' on his swag fallin' deeper in his saddle
It's written on his face 
He don't have to speak a sound
Somebody call the five-o for we gotta man down

You can go and play it like you're all rock and ro
But guilt does a job on each and every man's soul
And when your head hits the pillow at the nightfall
You can bet your life that it's gonna be a fight y'all

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
And we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness
Forgiveness, we all need, we all need, we all need forgiveness
Forgiveness, we all need, we all need

Mr. Lecrae
My momma told me what I would be in for
If I kept all this anger inside of me pent up
My heart been broken, my wounds been open
And I don't know if I can hear I'm sorry being spoken
But those forgiven much, should be quicker to give it
And God forgave me for it all Jesus bled forgiveness
So when the stones fly and they aimed at you 
Just say forgive them father they know not what they do

Now you can go and play it like you're all rock and roll
But guilt does a job on each and every man's soul
And when your head hit the pillow at the nightfall
You can bet your life that it's gonna be a fight y'all

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
An we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness

No matter how lost you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter how hurt you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter how wrong you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter who you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
From forgiveness
Ask for forgiveness

'Cause we all make mistakes sometimes
And we've all stepped across that line
But nothing's sweeter than the day we find
Forgiveness, forgiveness
And we all stumble and we fall
Bridges burn in the heat of it all
But nothing's sweeter than the day, sweeter than the day we call out for forgiveness
Forgiveness
We all need, we all need, we all need forgiveness
Forgiveness
We all need, we all need

No matter how lost you are, we all need forgiveness
No matter how hurt you are, we all need forgiveness 
No matter how wrong you are, you're not that far, you're not too far
No matter who you are, you're not too far, you're not too far

We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness
We all need forgiveness, forgiveness 

-------------------------------------------

In this song, I learn that we are ALL sinners and we are ALL in need of forgiveness. I learn that Christians, especially more mature Christians, are called to forgive others. I learn that no matter what may have occurred that we are able to be forgiven if we just call out for forgiveness. 

This song gives me some consolation right now as I reflect on the person who presented me with the 12 Month Challenge. Because I can see how forgiveness will be there when the time ends if I show myself faithful to complete the challenge.

I also learn that no matter how hurt I feel in the now, I am only one step away from forgiveness. 

Ultimately, God is the great forgiver, but other people help is to see that. 

So lesson one, forgiveness. We need to practice lives of forgiveness. We need to seek forgiveness. And we need to be forgiving. 



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Struggling - An Open Letter to Someone I Care About

Tom, if you are reading this, here is what I WANT to say:

1. Closeness. Let me define closeness of friendship for you because I think you misunderstood me. When I said I didn't say the same thing to J as I did to you, the closeness I was referring to was one that came from time invested and you have known me longer. So of course it feels like you are closer. It was not referring to level of friendship because both of you are on the same level with me and others are reaching that level as well. You just need to be patient and stop forcing it to happen before I am ready.

2. Forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? When you said you forgave me then turned around and broke your promise without even talking to me or with me first, do you honestly think you acted with forgiveness? I want to believe the best. I want to believe it was a mistake. Because I find anything else to be askew. If it was intentional, I feel like if you truly had forgiven me, you would have held off on doing that until you and I had had a chance to actually talk things through. But surely, it has to be a mistake, because you said you forgave me. But it has created a serious fracture that is only going to make things harder. Tom, I am hoping against all hope that you understand this more than anything and more than anyone. Look how many times we have had our arguments and had forgiveness. Tom, I am going to trust that you are already trying to correct things, but that you ran into the same wall a lot of us do: those pesky Facebook limits! We all make mistakes. I know I did. But forgiveness will allow us to talk through things. However, until things are fixed, my hope that we can resolve things is rapidly vanishing. I prayerfully challenge you though to act with that forgiveness you said you had and to restore it in good faith moving toward conflict resolution. 

3. My response. Ugh. But in the end, I came through. I did the right thing. I got help. I sought wisdom. And now I am in the hardest part - the wait. But I am afraid. I am scared. While everyone else has complete faith and confidence that we will work things out, I feel scared. What if we don't or can't? Look at point 2. Tom, that's a pretty serious breach that is going to make things more difficult. Even though I turned in a couple of promises that have to go into your care, I have NOT written a letter yet. Besides, I need your help. The fact that I have NOT written the letter means I am not giving up on you. Not yet. Why should I? Up until the breach in point 2, you never gave up on me, so it wouldn't be fair for me to give up on you either. Now...I have to answer the question: Have you ever done anything to give me reason to doubt you? YES!!!! Dang it Tom! 

4. You asked me why I didn't send the same message to J as to you. To put it simply, she didn't say the words. You did. Everyone else I have talked with are happy I might return. They have been nothing but encouraging as they have also seen that I am in a different place now than I was before. You're the only one who has expressed anything different. And in case I never get to tell you in person or on the phone, here's the  conflict, the struggle: You acknowledge the progress. But instead of just believing in me based on the progress, you said you didn't want the old drama to return. But here's the worst part, you attached the friendship to the deal. Something that you shouldn't have done. And, in a sense, by saying that, you were actually not only looking for drama, but contributing to the creation of drama. And now I am confused. Because then the other thing, you also immediately ASSUMED that this conflict, my lashing out at you, had to do with my coming back. No, Tom, it didn't. It was your words. And nothing but. Matter of fact, I am very sad that until and unless we talk and work through this conflict and you restore the Facebook situation in good faith that I cannot come to church. I was looking forward to talking with you about what reasonable expectations might be and drawing up a contract with you that you can present on my behalf. But now due to point 2, I am now having doubts that you're even the right person. Although you do need to share what you wrote in that letter for me for court. It was beautifully expressed. 

5. Tom, did I mess up? Yes. I know I did. I was frustrated and confused and I was feeling discouraged. I have had one of those weeks from hell that you wish would just go away altogether. But in light of point 2, can I be honest and say that you really didn't help the situation any? Whether the deletion was intentional or not, it is the way you did it that will present the challenge for me to believe the best about you. I do honestly feel that had you simply waited and talked WITH me first rather than acted in a manner that feels so punitive, that we could have easily worked through things. Now I have more people than I can count who are praying for me and fighting for my heart as your action has shaken my trust in God a bit roughly. Neither of us will come out of this without scars, but those scars don't have to be deep if you will act in good faith knowing that not only do I want to work things out and resolve things, but there are people fighting for us to do just that. G said it was like when a family fights. They say things they don't always mean. They do things they regret later. But then they come together and they work things out, and things are better than before because of the experience. He said that in a sense we are family Tom. He said he has complete confidence that you and I will work this out. I am not as confident. You shook me up. Tom, maybe you should just try to stick to not trying to figure out what caused meltdowns until meltdowns have calmed down. I think this time, it only made things worse. You're right, the meltdowns are WAY less frequent. But coming back to church had nothing to do with it like you so quickly assumed. But this was a meltdown that was brewing. Probably the wisest thing this time would have been to just send a text that said, "Susan, stop and think and when you're calmer we will talk." But do you think point 2 helped? Because I think that only made it worse. 

6. All I can say, again, is I am sorry. At the end of this day, do I regret the contacts I have made? No. Because here is what happened: I had a breakthrough with G. One that would indeed make you smile and say amen! And he and I connected on a heart level that far surpassed the fact that his size can be very scary for a little one like me. But in that, I found that he has a soft spot. And he is a very compassionate man. I also got to spend time with L and her oldest son. And it turns out we kind of have the same passion when it comes to the need to expand special needs ministry at church. The kids are aging out and then there's not really anything to draw them or their families in. What if the church could piggyback and form a very small, internal, special needs adults group with two pastors and two elders and their wives, sort of like a LIFE group? It also meant I was able to get to know another new friend better. And she could possibly be of help to you and the church as well. And it meant that another breakthrough happened. Up until this, I never hugged June. NEVER. And here's the thing. Each of these connections are fighting for US, fighting for you and I to work through this. And now I have another person on my side. One I didn't even know I had. So I guess they were right. Beautiful things can come out of the pain. But now, can you please do your part to ease the pain? I'm not asking you to fix it because that's God's thing. Just ease it (point 2). 

Whoa.... Supernatural literally just happened. And I just heard God for the first time since point 2. God said trust baby. Trust. God is telling me that you are in fact working on the issue in point 2 and reassuring me that we will definitely talk. And He just wrapped His arms around me. Oh, how I want to trust God right now and believe the best about you. I feel sad and hurt and scared. I am not angry anymore. I know you didn't mean to hurt me. Not with your words nor with your actions. I know you are hurting too because you feel my pain right now. And I know you are struggling right along with me. And Tom, I think we both just proved that people with autism do have empathy. Shame on anyone who says differently, right? Because they don't know me. Tom, I want to come to church Sunday. But only if you WANT me there. REALLY want me there. Know what? This sucks. Why? Because we are two people who are in conflict with ourselves and with each other. Is it going to be easy to resolve things? No. It never is. Is it resolvable. Yes. 

Steps toward resolving things that we both can take now:

1. You can act in good faith and restore the whole Facebook thing. I will not hold it against you, but I will expect you to uphold your promise to NEVER do that without FIRST talking to me and with me. 

2. I can act in good faith and come to church and sit with you just to show I am better than that. And in doing so, I will be exemplifying through my actions that I can forgive you and want to work through things. 

3. We can sit down this week and go over some CLEARER boundaries that will need to be very consistent for the next couple of months. With that being said, I don't know exactly what those boundaries will need to include just yet, but I will refer back to the first thing. OR, we can keep the appointment we had made for the 29th and plan on close to 2 hours, and in this week, I can talk with the appropriate person at the church who can help me to prepare to talk with you. And either he/she will talk with you as well, or he/she will just present you with what is discussed with me so you know how to respond. Either way, we should both draw some boundaries just to make things safer for each other. After a couple of months, we can revisit them and either relax them a little bit or tighten them or tweak them. But Tom, I need you to understand something. When you lash out in response to a meltdown, you accuse me of abusing the relationship. But have you stopped to think that if the boundaries were a little more clear and consistent, you wouldn't ever feel that way? Have you considered that? I keep asking for clear and consistent boundaries, but I have been hearing friendships don't work like that when I ask. No, Tom. Here's what I learned from what happened with B: ALL relationships NEED boundaries. But for a person with autism, those boundaries NEED to be VERY CLEAR and VERY CONSISTENT. The purpose of setting boundaries isn't to punish someone, but rather to say, I love you and I value our relationship enough that I want to protect it and will do what is necessary to safeguard it. Boundaries help protect relationships from harm. They help protect the people in those relationships from getting hurt so much. They help the people learn and grow. As much as you might hate having to set boundaries, you need to do that if you do care about me. I want to believe that you do. We need to agree to the boundaries. We can either set the boundaries on our own, or we can have another person enter in to help set the boundaries. Either way, we need boundaries, and for the first two months, they will need to be consistent. If after we set them, you find you have reason to need to bend them, you need to make alternative plans to help satisfy them even if it might mean that you have a make up plan. If we set the boundaries on our own, then we can re-evaluate them ourselves. If we let someone else help set them, then we will have to let them determine how we are doing. 

4. Believe in me. Don't tag stipulations. 

5. Don't assume. We both have a bad habit of that!!! What do you call them? Vain imaginations? 

6. From now on, if either person feels there is a problem, he or she needs to send a flag that signals we need to talk. No more yelling or one-sided conversations. 

So, Tom, are you willing to act in good faith out of the forgiveness you said you had and move forward with me to resolve this? Because I'm waiting. And my arms are open. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Identity Crisis

It has been almost two years since I was referred for an evaluation for autism and was diagnosed. I was a little over 33 years and one month in age. 

During that time I was working with what I felt at that time had to be the worst group of people filled with the most hate possible. And I felt like church people were just cruel and heartless. I all but, and almost did, lose faith in God. 

I am not going to rehash anything though. But it did seem very unfair. Well, to be honest, there was a lot of unfairness in what I experienced. Diagnosed in December. Got told repeatedly I couldn't do certain things because I have autism and fill-in-the-blank with whatever misconception of autism is in existence. 

It was three or four months before I was finally connected and sent for ABA therapy. And I was only in therapy for four months when I got a fatalistic document. 

Three more months fighting the unfairness and I gave up and left. 

My friend didn't want me to go, but he let me. He knew I had to do it. He knew I was hurting and as much as he didn't want me to go, he knew that at that moment, it was what was in my best interest.

Now believe me, I gave him plenty of reason to give up on me, but he didn't. I praise him for his stubbornness. Why? Because if he hadn't been so stubborn, I wouldn't be where I am today.

So let me tell you what I have done in the ten months since leaving. 

1. I tried another church that has extensive special needs support for adults. 
2. I continued in ABA therapy.
3. I continued in a social group through Voc Rehab. 
4. I began to come out of my shell and make some friends. And I even began to develop a crush on someone. 
5. I began smiling almost endlessly. And have yet to find a person who doesn't instantaneously fall in love with me as a result. 
6. I decided I didn't need extensive special needs support. Just having a point person within the church who understands autism is enough and having friends in group activities and partners in service activities is enough. And that's true.
7. I began speech therapy. And now I have more confidence.
8. I missed a lot of church because of illness and because I simply didn't like it. 9. I started doing social outings outside of an official group and will pick up again after court.
10. I visited another church. It felt more like a concert than a worship service. I don't know why people like it. I hated it. It felt like torture.
11. I visited another church. I almost liked it until I learned that because I don't know exactly when I was converted and therefore may not have been baptized by immersion after conversion that I might have to be rebaptized. No thank you. But it's not fair to me to try to pursue it if that's going to be the sticking point.
12. I went back to the place I left. My heart never left it anyway because all my friends I already have are there. 
13. I have been doing a lot of self-discovery and self-exploration during this time.
14. I have developed more artistically. With the help of another beautiful friend. She helped me do a pre-wedding collage piece for my friend and revamp an old drabby three legged table converting it to a beautiful four legged table just the right size for a precious granddaughter of my friend. I am no longer afraid of paint getting on my hands, although if it's on there too long, I will start to meltdown. And I still won't touch raw dough or raw meat. And sticky mess is enough to send me for a tailspin as is a ticking clock.
15. I have less meltdowns and the meltdowns I do still have are becoming less self-injurious in nature. 
16. I am lashing out less. I had to work on an emotional color wheel assigning colors to emotions. I hated it. But I found it to be a good start. So now I do a chart. I write, "I feel...," assign colors and words to what I feel, and then state why I feel it. Then I go to the person who led me to feel that way. The chart helps me process so I don't lash out as often. 
17. I have more confidence now.
18. I am also hugging more people because I want to. Although I will pull back if it's not someone I feel safe with.
19. I am still afraid, but I will try anything once. I now like sushi and gluten free paper dosas (Indian). But I don't like wasabi (it burns the nose). 
20. I see the positives more.

All this to say that God is leading me back to where I was and I know that even though I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go, but I am working on it and will continue to do so. 

Thanks in part to my friends, especially stubborn Tom, who through their continual love, time, energy, and grace have exemplified God's character to me and allowed me to see enough of God to help me desire God more. 

So, even though I am really anxious right now over some very grow up issues I never had to worry about before, I am still hoping God will and trusting God to work things out. 

By the way, why did God let me have autism? I don't know. Some days I feel He did it to be cruel, and others I realize God may actually have autism too. PLATYPUS! Either way, God loves me and I love Him; my friends love me and I love them. And my friends have been, are continuing and will continue helping me along the path in life. Tom is my biggest advocate right now. And I thank God for him every day. I also thank God for Janet. And my mom. And my therapists. And even for the mistakes others made with me and the mistakes I made. We can all grow from those mistakes. 

I'm sure Tom and I will have many more discussions regarding church decisions that we have to make so I don't get hurt again and can continue progressing and avoid regression. And that's okay. 

And if that group of people is reading this? I love you. And I forgive you. And I hope you can forgive me too. 

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