Thursday, March 26, 2009

i have something to say

Jacob is 7 years old. he has autism, and a myriad of other difficulties. he experiences the world in ways no one else seems to understand. every day, jacob takes these two trash bins, HIS trash bins, and walks them around his neighborhood as many times as he can fit in. he takes them both, never just one. as he walks around the rocky roads, one or the other will regularly tip off to the side. jacob stops, lifts it upright, and continues on his way. never angry or frustrated. he keeps walking. all around the neighborhood, quietly wheeling the bins behind him.

i was spending the afternoon with jacob today as his foster mom needed a break. i can't fully explain why, but this parade of his two bins was incredibly touching to me. to watch him treat them so tenderly, so carefully. as if they were his two children, left solely in his care. he was very committed to getting them out to see the neighborhood, pausing to watch the horses or squirrels or to look at a creek. around and around the neighborhood. after about two hours of walking with him, it began to rain. i'm not sure jacob noticed at all. i let him know we needed to head back to the house until the rain stopped, and offered to take charge of one bin for him. as i wheeled it toward the house, jacob's free hand never left the side of it, as if to be a backup spotter should it topple over. as we approached the driveway, jacob wheeled the bins to their resting place, gently putting each precisely where it belonged. as we walked into the front door, he glanced back, to be sure they were as they should be.

this child is the target of teasing, rejection, namecalling. he is labeled with horrific words like "retarded" and "unreachable." and yet i see in him a level of intimate humanity i've rarely found. there is so much left to learn about autism. so many unanswered questions. countless families who struggle to make it through each day, to find the right help for their children, to try and parent them with love in the midst of being completely burned out.
one thing i'm sure of, though, is that the greatest disservice we could do to these children and ourselves is to ignore them or write them off. for the last six years i've worked directly with foster kids with developmental disabilities like autism. it's sickening the way these children are tossed from one home to another, label after label written into their records. medications shoved into their systems. rarely does anyone spend time with them to see who they are, past the diagnoses, past the outbursts and embarrassing tantrums.

each of these children is, in fact, created by God. and not just by God, but in his very image. they're not the exception to that rule, you know.

later, hours after i'd left jacob, i noticed myself rushing around, trying to get things done just to check them off the list. i remembered the care with which jacob wheeled his bins. that he felt such responsibility for them, and took that seriously. and cliche as it may sound, this "unreachable" child most certainly reached me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

file this one under "i wish they were my grandparents"

i mean, let's even pretend there was no recession...everyone was swimming in money. even then...WHO THE HECK IS BUYING THIS FOR THEIR CHILDREN?!?!?! (go ahead, read the post)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

we're famous! for all the wrong reasons....

hi friends. this blog post is going to be serious, and it's going to be long. but i'm asking that you read it, read the article included, and leave some feedback, because i'm needing some outside perspective. thanks.

okay, so, i've talked a bit here about the difficulty we've experienced with my father-in-law since we left the Church of Christ. i've left out a tremendous amount of detail in an attempt to show respect to the family and the situation. however, there are things i need to share, even if no one reads it, after a recent string of events. i do want to aim to be respectful and loving throughout this situation, but it is emotionally charged and i recognize that i may not succeed in that goal.

the reason i'm writing this post is because an article has been printed in a nation-wide newspaper that is sent to all churches of christ. this article is about our family, by name, and largely about why my husband and i no longer attend a CoC. please read the article in the link below:

okay. it's not that i disagree with the article, or am angry about it. i just feel like there are so many IMPORTANT details that weren't included. i totally understand that they couldn't include so many parts of the story for the simple fact that it's an article in a newspaper, not a biography of our family. but i do feel that i want to share some of the more important details, and this is the only forum i know of to do that.

it's true that ben and i left the CoC. this occurred after a long, painful experience in the church plant we had been working with for over four years. the primary issue was that the new preacher of the church claimed that i was "barren" (as you'll recall, until the moment we discovered we were pregnant, we had been told it would be impossible) because of unforgiven sin in my life. we tried for quite awhile to bring the elders of the supporting congregation and the other leaders of the church into the situation, and received no support, no response. it was after several months of trying to work things out biblically that we decided it was time for us to leave. it was never that we were leaving the CoC...we left that specific church. following that experience, we were deeply hurt and burned out on church, and didn't go for several months. when we started visiting churches again, we went to many CoC's before ever visiting the church we now attend. we prayed about the decision and talked about it at length. it was not a decision we made lightly, especially considering ben's lifelong background in CoC. but when we began visiting City Bible (where we are now members) we felt HOME. we felt filled and fed and ministered to. we could see it was the kind of place we wanted to raise our children. God made it very clear to us that THIS WAS OUR CHURCH. and it wasn't a CoC. i'll list just a few of the many reasons we were/are drawn to our church:
1. dynamic worship, heartfelt and passionate worship that leaves space for God to truly inhabit the praises of His people
2. a major focus on community, on "doing life" together. although it's a very large congregation, they emphasize and thrive on small group communities.
3. a strong children's program
4. sermons that are absolutely bible-focused, and delivered in a tangible, real life way that makes a difference in our day to day lives
5. tremendous emphasis on giving, supporting missionaries, planting churches, serving the community around us and meeting the needs of the members of the church
6. strong accountability for each member to take responsibility for the church and their own spiritual lives, rather than depending on a preacher/leadership to do 90% of the work
7. i couldn't begin to describe the quality of the character of the people in our church. i am constantly surrounded by incredible christians who are very tuned in to God's Spirit and leading, who are living the Word rather than simply KNOWING the Word. i am surrounded by people i aspire to be, and given full access into their lives, able to see how they live, how they struggle, how they seek God and my faith is built by seeing God work powerfully in and through them.

the only drawback of this decision was knowing that ben's parents would be upset about it. we expected that. ben's dad has been a faithful preacher for the CoC for a long time now, and their family is deeply rooted in it. we did not, however, anticipate the reaction we received. it's understandable that ben's dad would be passionate about his beliefs. it is not understandable, to me, that he would say things that seemed cruel and sometimes mean. i cannot understand how he could so separate himself from from the fact that BEN IS HIS SON, and is a good man of great character and integrity. where was the benefit of the doubt? where was the "agree to disagree." where was the atmosphere of unconditional love?

this has been going on nearly two years now. i have learned, at least a little, to turn off my emotional response to the comments we receive about our decision. i have learned to stay out of it, that it is something that should be dealt with between ben and his dad. it does not hurt me any less to see my husband disrespected by his father in this way. it does not hurt me any less to know that he believes we have left THE CHURCH, rather than "a church," and to read that he is "grieved" and doesn't feel "as close" to ben any longer is a new hurt since seeing the article.

the one thing about that article that i was displeased with was that it failed to fulfill it's premise. the article, we were told, was to be about WHY some in our generation are leaving the CoC. but i saw NOTHING in the article that sufficiently addressed our reasoning. it seemed to me to be more about ben's dad, his feelings about us leaving, and all the things he had done "right" that should've kept us there.

so this is my response. we did not leave the CoC as a whole for any real reason. but there are VERY real reasons that we would never return. Namely the judgement, condemnation and rejection we have experienced from those who ought to be CLOSEST to us, who should know our hearts and see that our lives are absolutely godly and christlike. that we have been labeled and written off, to a degree, not because we've become non-christians or are living in sin, but because the sign in front of our church simply says "CITY BIBLE CHURCH" rather than "CHURCH OF CHRIST." i cannot understand why the church sign carries more weight than the lives we are living, the good things we are doing for the Kingdom. i cannot understand the one-sidedness of the conversations that have occurred, with no regard to hearing what we have to say, only wanting to be heard.
now, the majority of those things SHOULD NOT have been included in the article. i get that. but now that a whole community of people will read ABOUT US, i wanted our perspective to be heard. i sincerely didn't think anyone we knew would ever even see it, and i don't mind if they do. but it was just released yesterday, and already people are contacting us to say they've seen it. i just feel like there should be a more complete story available. the article may portray that our family experiences a lot of drama and difficulty as a result of our decision. this is not at all the case. the things that have gone on have been very quiet, sometimes unacknowledged. the end of the article says that we all came together for tim's wedding despite our differences, as if we there were any other option. let me be clear. there is a TREMENDOUS amount of love in this family. we ADORE our time together, and wish we had a lot more of it. there is no drama, no feuding. sure, my feelings are hurt, and it's been made clear that ben's dad is unhappy and unapproving of our decision. but these are not things that permiate every interaction, every family holiday or chat on the phone. had it not been for the article, i'd have left it all unsaid and felt fine about that.

we do not hate the CoC. we do not reject it. we don't think it's wrong. we're not angry at it. we feel love and community with any who follow Christ and the Word. the problem in this story is that we're not receiving the same amount of grace for making the decision God clearly led us to, for living as Christ-followers and doers of the Word.

one last thing, the author of the article has also written a blog post about it.
feel free to read it, and to leave comments if you have them. if, for some reason, you have strong feelings about any part of this situation, please be intentional about leaving comments in a loving and respectful manner. i know that some of my close friends are upset about the situation as a whole, and i am grateful that they would defend and protect me. but this is not the forum for such a response. i'd honestly like to see a productive conversation happen there about the REAL issue the article brought up....why are so many in our generation leaving the CoC? and what can be done about it?

Monday, March 02, 2009

things are getting funner-er

i can just about promise that this will be the best 40 seconds of your day.