All new…

It’s May! Not quite sure how it’s happened but all of a sudden here we are! Our bank holiday weekend was bustling with games, family and food. A really precious time together a chance to think, take stock, laugh, share, and – on this occasion – dodge the rain showers.

2016-05-04 09.32.38After a long weekend going back to school, and groups yesterday felt like another mini fresh start with all that brings… the excitement mingled with dread and anxiety over the transition from one thing to the next, and the tiredness that brings with it. No-one wanted to get up this morning!

But as I have got back from school drop off, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining, washing has been hung on the line and the dishwasher is on again… and so I am immersed in things that speak to me of newness and fresh starts, of being cleaned ready for another new beginning.

As I hung out the washing I was thinking about how many new starts there are in a life of faith; our following Jesus is an adventure marked by stepping out and stepping up; punctuated with steps forward and 10 steps back – and then the picking up, dusting down and taking another step forward as if for the first time with Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is a work of ‘being made new’, ‘from glory to glory’, a ‘now & still more to come’kind of work within and through us.

2 Cor 318 the message

love this verse so no apologies for having used it before in another post!

Truth is though, transitions aren’t the easiest things in the world to navigate with ASD! Which is tough, because there are so many, and the pace of them is relentless… and it seems there are going to be just as many in a life of faith, as we grow into the likeness of Jesus. There is the difficulty of things left behind in order to embrace what we have grown into (even clothes that don’t fit at all are a struggle to part with in exchange for the new, and new clothes take a lot (months sometimes) of adjusting to before they become part of life). I see a similar difficulty in our growth in faith, letting go of old ways of thinking that don’t fit us and exchanging them for God’s perspective – the perfect fit; or like habits, from character defining ones, to the mundane like moving onto the next age group of Bible notes! These moments of letting go and embracing, natural to growing in faith, are tricky.

There’s also the fear that comes with transitions, with a difficulty visualizing and anticipating what ‘could’ be, anything new is very starkly an unknown even when it builds on a pattern or an experience that has come before. In day to day life we try to support this fear, perhaps through the use of social stories to map out with our girls what this new thing or new way of doing things will look and feel like, how they will be able to interact within this new setting or situation, what they might say, what they might feel. Sometimes simply with visual prompts that break down the transition into smaller more manageable steps, this can work is there are small changes to something familiar. The best way is when we do it together, so we are there to provide the continuity needed to face the fears; so that we are able to whisper encouragements and explanations, able to remind and prompt; so that we are on hand to notice when it’s becoming overwhelming and there needs to be a rest & some space. Of course we’d love it if this could be the support we could offer for every transition… but of course it’s not always possible (and also of course we want our kids to gain more independent skills to cope with transitions for the times we can’t hand hold so sometimes we do step back and hover).

But it occurs to me that in our growing in faith, in all the transitions that this will mean, we have a promise of this kind of support – without limitations!

 Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” (Isaiah 30:21 MSG)

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Mt 28, 19-20 MSG)

But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. (Jn 14:26 AMP)

We were dipping into ‘The servant Queen and the King she serves’ and talking about how we might share this story of the Queen’s faith with our friends and neighbours over the weekend. My sister read out this wonderful quote which she had slipped to her Dad, King George VI as he went to speak to the nation:

Minnie Haskins’ poem “The Gate of the Year” (1908) :

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’

It is this that I need to show and model to my children, the truth and certainty of the Good Shepherd knowing the best pastures and the places of rest; the Light of the World for whom night and day are just the same; the Way the Truth and the Life the one who by the way he lived and loved, died and rose again is himself the ultimate social story; the ever present comforter who continues to lovingly pick us up and dust us down and set our feet on the right path and whisper the words we need – and the courageous trust we can put in God for every transition, for all our growth, for every challenge.

 

2016-04-23 17.59.08

 

Oh no, not again!

What a week!!!

There are some weeks that have a fairly even Featured imagebalance of difficult and delightful, others every now & then unexpectedly delightful but others that… – yes I know, I can see where this sentence wants to end! Need I say more? Its been one of those weeks (and its not quite finished yet).

For a start I have been busy busy busy – no-one to blame but myself, but it’s been another patch where everything has come at once with extras thrown in for good measure! It’s so tiring juggling though isn’t it, and that’s probably where the problems began! Andrew’s been away at a conference and the girls have found that hard, so many of our usual ways of doing things have had to bend a little, so I made an assumption that T’s behaviour yesterday after school was just more of the same, and Daddy was back so maybe it heightened her difficult reactions a little more. There was more than a little tetchiness, clingyness, shouting, not co-operating, kerfuffle about seats & cutlery & where the food was on plates, more than a little arguing with me to take control of bedtime stories and the way pyjamas got put on and exactly where the covers covered her. All the usual sticking points but more intense than the average evening.

When the stories were finally done, and teeth had been attempted of course that’s when the tears came. And in the sobby and rather soggy tumble of words I began to glean that I had done the unthinkable – I had forgotten to go to a little performance at school of the songs they have enjoyed learning in their music lessons over the last weeks. You can imagine, I hope, just how devastated I felt as she talked round and round the same facts that she couldn’t hold together because they didn’t compute – she knew I gave the slip to the teacher to say I was coming, she looked for me, I wasn’t there, and I was the only Mummy who hadn’t come.

I held her for a long time, thankful that the other two seemed to be alright and getting things done to get ready for bed without my prompting, I held her waiting for the sobs to die down, waiting for a chance to look her in the eye and reassure her I loved her so very, very much. As the sobs calmed down a bit there was some angry hitting and kicking, she was beginning to make sense of that knot of feelings she had been carrying all afternoon. ‘Are you cross with me?’ I said, ‘I’m sad, I was scared, I was all alone’… ‘I’m so sorry T, I completely forgot it was happening today’…’but today will never happen again Mummy, and you were meant to be there’… ‘I know, I’m really, really sorry, I’m sorry you felt scared, I’m sorry you felt all alone, I’m sorry I didn’t remember – could you sing me the songs at home, just for me?’ … ‘no Mummy, that’s not the performance, you were meant to be there‘. More sobbing.

As she gradually fell asleep in my arms I sat and felt it. I hate it; I hate letting them down, I hate not being everything they need- it is so painful for me to feel ‘not good enough’, I hate it when I try to do too much and fail; because I love them, and I love to share moments with them – moments become memories, building blocks of family closeness. My sorry is heartfelt, sorry for ‘the good I have left undone’.

Almighty God,
long-suffering and of great goodness:
I confess to you,
I confess with my whole heart
my neglect and forgetfulness of your commandments,
my wrong doing, thinking, and speaking;
the hurts I have done to others,
and the good I have left undone.
O God, forgive me, for I have sinned against you;
and raise me to newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Is 41v10

Today is a new day, God loves giving us new days and fresh starts. I write grateful for forgiveness and renewed strength to get up and keep trying in the power of the Holy Spirit; but also with sadness for a memory lost.

But I am reflecting that perhaps within that sadness there is a recognition of another precious Mum & daughter memory made, through that moment of sitting together hearing hurts and saying sorry. There is an honesty and vulnerability in that moment that is so important. I would be modelling a lie to my children if weakness and failure was never acknowledged or owned, if forgiveness was never sought. Both Andrew and I have tried to embrace this as parents, saying sorry to them and taking ourselves to the time out step (& sometimes accepting being sent!), and then getting up and starting again. We want to model authentic and radical discipleship for our children – warts and all. And it’s true isn’t it… we all fall short – of our own high standards, of people’s expectations, and most importantly the Bible tells me I fall short of all that God intends for me to be – we all need to live by God’s grace, parent and child alike.

It’s not easy though, is it!

‘gentle touch’

‘No, you can’t keep it, its a dead duck!!’

Don’t you find yourself saying the oddest things sometimes as a parent. Found myself needing this rather unexpected sentence on a family day trip looking round a National Trust property. They had used taxidermy game birds and rabbits to ‘bring the kitchen to life’ and B (our oldest) had got more than a bit mesmerized by the feel of the duck’s soft feathers, so much so that I’m sure we provided a fair amount of entertainment as we did everything we could think of to try and move her on to the next room on the tour. B has always needed to touch, she craves the sensory input. ‘Look with your eyes, not your fingers’ was a well used mantra when shopping, or in other people’s houses when she was younger – with limited success!

It can quite often be the opposite experience though with all my children, some things just can’t be touched… not always predictable, differing depending on context or stress levels, sometimes its ‘dirt’, sometimes clothes that are too ‘scratchy’ or ‘shiny’ – I have a particular pair of trousers that B in particular can’t stand, no chance of her climbing onto my knee when I’m wearing those – or it can be certain food textures that can’t be touched at all. Of course the impact of touch doesn’t stop there, there are often extreme reactions to being touched too, sometimes needing hugs so very squeezy, or to press their face up against mine so much its as if they’ve quite forgotten the basic need to breathe – other times being overloaded just by the suggestion of being touched, just being looked at feels too much, someone sitting down too near, or walking past too close, or at its worst walking towards them to help in some way gets the response ‘DON’T TOUCH ME!!!’. At either extreme touch can be a tricky business.

I’ve been asking myself how to begin translating the language of touch that we often find ourselves using about God. ‘We all need God’s touch’, ‘pray for someone who needs to feel God’s touch right now’, ‘I pray that God will touch you as we worship this morning’ – quite apart from the fact that my girl’s first thoughts will be literal interpretations, this language in the context of hypersensitivity/ hypo-sensitivity seems to me to be quite ripe for misunderstanding!  What do we mean? Why do we use the word touch when we are describing God healing us or changing us, challenging or encouraging us?

In the encounters between God and His people we read about in the Old Testament we see a picture of God’s powerful holiness – so perfect, so whole, so Other than us that to touch even a

Featured image shadow of His presence could kill (2 Sam 6:6-11) to touch even the base of the mountainside when Moses went to listen to God was so dangerous that God gave clear instructions to His people to keep them safe (Ex 19:12-13). Yet there is also the beginning of the use of the language of God’s touch there in the Old Testament as well, people who were loyal to God described as ones whose hearts had been touched by God (1 Sam 10:26). There is also the language of God’s tangible presence when encouragement from God is promised to his people:

After all, it is I, the Eternal One your God, who has hold of your right hand, Who whispers in your ear, “Don’t be afraid. I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Then Jesus comes, completely tangible; living, eating, walking and talking alongside humanity. He literally touches blind eyes and they see for the first time, ears and they hear; he picks up children who are brought to meet him and they are blessed; when a woman who is living as an untouchable reaches out and touches the edge of his clothes she is healed and he knows. After he has risen to new life, he appears to his close followers inviting the doubters to touch his wounded hands and side and know without doubt that he is alive and not a ghost. In all these encounters there is a seamless, wholeness brought about by his touch – physical healing with new perspective, new spiritual understanding, new courage, new belonging, new purpose, new insight, new hope, new relationship with God. The transformation that the ‘touch of God’ in Jesus brings, is powerful, that dangerously powerful kind of powerful we saw in the Old Testament. No one goes away unchanged. Its another amazing glimpse into grace isn’t it, the so-powerfully-holy-it-could-kill-you God reaches out towards us to help us with a gentle touch. I love the gentle image of God’s  patience in Revelation where He stands at the door and knocks, and waits for us to let Him in, this gentle touch, this encounter is not forced on us.

So when we talk about God’s touch, we are using the words to describe encounters with God’s powerful and personal presence. A presence that encourages, guides & keeps safe (holding the right hand), and powerfully heals bringing both physical and soul wholeness. For us its not with Jesus physically there actually touching us with his hand, but through the literal & real (even if unseen) presence of the Holy Spirit that we might not feel physically – though I’m not going to rule out the possibility!

Ok, so maybe I’m a bit clearer – now how to share that with the kids!!

I may have engineered a conversation or two in time to comment here! … First with B; what does it mean when we are praying and we ask God to touch someone? – um, not sure, maybe it’s when people have those wierd reactions, like God has actually touched them with his finger (pointing finger into my arm) and like the Holy Spirit has rushed into them like from a superhero… All I can say is I am looking forward to picking up where we left off! Plenty to chat about there, but interestingly literal don’t you think!

Next a conversation with T; what does it mean when we’re worshiping at church, and Daddy says come and find someone to pray with if God has touched you today? – God touches people to make them better – do you mean like when mummy has to touch your knee to clean it & put a plaster on if you fall over – no mummy (rather bemused and amused that I should make such a silly comment!) not like that, God’s hands are powerful!

Amazing, I love chatting with them about these things, always surprising – its little snippets here and there out loud together showing glimpses of all that God is showing them as they grow. So exciting…