Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mama angst

I dropped him off at camp today, oldest child, newly sprung from 3rd grade, looking somehow smaller than all the other children even though this is supposed to be 3rd grade camp. What are all these other parents feeding their children, Miracle Gro?

Him, excited, nearly spinning himself into mental circles with the wondering of "What do we do next?"

Me, nervous, nearly falling down under the weight of the wondering "Will he be ok?"

Him, picking a bottom and then changing to a top bunk.

Me, remembering my husband's "I had a few campers fall out of the top bunk every year," not knowing what to say to him in front of his peers that wouldn't make him lose face, wouldn't take the light out of his eyes. Closing my eyes and trusting God to guard his sleep.

Him, wanting to change into his camp shirt right away.

Me, making him wait because 'none of the other boys are changing right now, so why don't you wait until they do?' All I want for him these next two days is that he 'fit in'.

And then there was the running off and me begging for a goodbye and him moving on and me getting in the car and driving away wondering if these boys barely old enough to shave are really capable of caring for my child. Despite my providing the camp with a guide to the hallmarks of Aspergers and the areas Gates will most likely struggle in, are they REALLY ready? Will his heart and his soul be nurtured or will I get back a child scarred when the dearly desired experience turns sour?

I come home and I worry. Worry about the bathroom and what if he needs to go in the middle of the night but is so frightened by the dark and wind that he wanders into the lake? Worry that he will be so overcome with newness that he will sink to the ground overwhelmed and no one will hear his cries over the wind. Worry that for two days no one will talk to him. Worry that the shine of camp will dull and cut too quickly.

I do not worry that other children will find him strange. I know they will. But will they find him loveable? Will they see the heart that I see? Will they marvel at the knowledge held in his mind? When he laughs too loudly, will they laugh with him? Will the staff be a safe place for him to fall?

I open Facebook and I see a Twitter update from a favorite author. Just one verse and nothing more.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deut. 31:8, NIV)
God himself going before us. Going before my child. Never leaving him, never forsaking him. I am not there, but God is. And God cares and loves and knows him more than my wildest abilities.

If I say I'm not still worried, I would be lying. My frantic Facebook updates chronicle my restraint in NOT emailing the camp to see if he has survived the last 4 hours. But I am trying to rest in this, the exhortation not to be afraid. God is there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Get well soon and don't touch me

One of the challenges for a child with Aspergers is helping them to learn empathy. To say it doesn't come naturally to them would be VASTLY understating the issue. So it came as a bit of a shock to me this morning when Gates embarked on a mission to help his poor, sick mother feel better.

When I coughed he got me a cup of water.

He asked me about ten thousand questions about what time I started feeling sick, and what felt sick first, and how sick did I feel, and did I have a temperature?

He prayed to God to help me feel better.

And then he wrote me a 'Get well' card. I will probably keep it forever (for one thing, he told me to keep it).

The first thing you need to know is that he is incredibly practical and to the point. No fluffy pictures, no little jokes. He didn't even get out the nice paper, just some scrap paper.

See? Straight and to the point.
And then I am told to keep this helpful card.

But most importantly, there are TIPS!

Most important? Pray to God. Second most? Don't touch anybody.

And that, folks, is  how an Aspie wishes you Get Well Soon! With a handy list of tips. I love my boy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mystics, Moonbeams and Myers-Briggs

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You AreSeveral months ago I picked up a copy of the recently released One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I had never read her blog before, I was simply intrigued by the idea presented in the book and more than a little drawn in by the beautiful cover. Written in the rhythms of poetry the book is an invitation to discover grace in every moment, both the beautiful and the ugly, to see God in the mundane moments of our lives.

I was only a few chapters into the book when controversy erupted in the blogging world, perhaps not on the level of the controversy recently created by Rob Bell and Love Wins, but nonetheless, the parallels were there. Defenders of the faith, aghast that anyone would dare write something outside the realm of what they deemed appropriate spiritual writing, criticized the book severely for what they deemed a number of heretical ideas. It felt like a spiritual witch-hunt, complete with burning torches and the mobs in frenzied agreement.

The claims? Mostly that Voskamp dares to use mystical language to talk about spiritual matters, that she speaks of relationship with God in sexual terms, and that she doesn't see God as holy enough. Perhaps even that she lessens the sacrifice of Jesus. Illustrations of being drawn to worship God under the light of a full moon are projected into criticisms of panentheism, despite her own insistence that nature is but a reflection.

I do not know Ann. I cannot know her heart fully. But what I can say is that having begun reading her blog I see a woman who is DEEPLY in love with a holy God. I see a woman who realizes that viewing God's holiness is not limited to words left for us from centuries ago, not limited to the confines of the church building, to heads bowed in prayer. God's holiness encompasses all creation. It lives and breathes through every moment of our days and if we but take the time to stop for a moment and look we can see the artist's signature written across the world.

If one wants to question the orthodoxy of her beliefs she has spelled out beautifully in a page on her blog exactly what she believes:
I believe in Jehovah God who created the whirling galaxies, the birds soaring in the sky overhead, the endless crashing waves and all that dances within them. I believe in Father of all who knits together life, made in His very own image, in the secret quiet of our beings.
I believe in Jesus Christ, the One with no earthly Father, with the dust of this earth between His toes, and with our names etched onto the palm of His hands, right beneath the nail scars…Who now sits at the Father’s right hand making endless intercession on our behalf. I believe in the stone rolled away, in the Body being raised, in the first fruits of the dead…and us all following soon, very soon.

I believe in the Cross as our only Hope, our only Claim, and our only Foundation. I believe that in the pounding surf of life we have only one thing to cling to: the feet of our Lord, hanging on that tree, His lifeblood flowing down, washing us whiter than snow.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, moving, whispering, indwelling our very skin. I believe in living by the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and producing fruit in the Spirit…in the Spirit who helps us in our weakness with groanings that can’t be expressed in words.

I believe in the infallibility of the Bible, God’s Word – a sure Word, a pure Word, the only secure Word. I believe the words on those pages are breathed from the very throne room of heaven, are the love letter penned from the heart of the Lover of our souls; a beacon of light for stumbling feet to find sure footing on a dark path.
It seems orthodox enough to me. Not that I am the perfect judge of all that is orthodox, but I'm pretty sure she covers all of the basics.

Photo by Ben Leto
So, what of this claim of mysticism? What of the accusation that quoting mystics somehow equates with heresy? Why are some bloggers so bothered by her 'heresy' that they CANNOT LET IT GO, continuing to dig at her with little jabs designed to get their audience nodded and jabbing along with them? (And why do I keep going back to these blogs, trying to figure out what motivates them?) What is the block that seemingly keeps them from understanding a more mystical view of things, the block that keeps me from understanding their seemingly cold adherence to sola scriptura?

As I lay in bed last night pondering this for the millionth time it hit me. Personality type. I wonder if it all comes down to personality type.

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator and the Kiersey temperament sorter then you've probably seen groups of letters tossed around: ISTJ, ENFP, ESFP, INTP, etc. Each letter of the group indicates how an individual is disposed to interact with the world around them; how they relate to others, how they process ideas, what energizes them. For example, a strong E personality is energized by their relation to people and objects in the outer world, whereas the I personality receives energy from the inner world dealing with ideas and concepts. S's prefer facts over ideas; N's prefer ideas over fact.

In a 1982 study (The Prayer and Temperament Project) Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey divided the four main temperaments into four streams of church spirituality: Ignation (SJ), Augustinian (NF), Franciscan (SP), and Thomistic (NT). Each of these temperaments deals with spirituality in a uniquely different way. I'm not going to detail the differences here although it can make for some interesting reading. Here are a few resources if you would like to learn a bit more: (Uses Corinne Ware's four quadrant approach to spiritual type) (OK, that one's mostly for fun...although once you dig deeper into the site it has some excellent suggestions on types of prayers that flow most easily from your personality type as well as suggestions for areas in which each type may need to focus additional attention.)

So, what is my point? Simply this, each of us will approach our spiritual life in a different way. Some will approach it entirely from logic; eschewing all idea that feeling might have any validity in the spiritual walk. Some will rely entirely on feeling, trusting that what they experience is real. Neither one is entirely wrong. Nor is either one entirely right. Simply because we are predisposed to relate to the world, to our spiritual life, in a certain way does not mean we should not challenge ourselves to understand from a different perspective. Most descriptions of Myers-Briggs types will also include areas of weakness for each personality type that will require effort in order to become a more balanced person.

Ultimately, my point is that more grace needs to be extended when we see someone who experiences God in a different way. If you are a realist, a person who deals in what logic and the printed word says, understand that there are people in whom God has placed a personality that is willing to embrace the unknown, a personality that is ok with some divine mystery and the creativity to express God in words that may feel awkward to you.

And if you are someone who dwells in the realm of mystery and metaphor, understand that not everyone will be able to understand that bent. Don't be quick to write off the ones who combine logic and scripture as hard-nosed, uncaring people whose only concern is using the Bible as a weapon. (And yes, I'm speaking to myself here.)

photo by amanderson
It all comes back to the heart. Only God can truly know another person's heart, only grace can make us shut up long enough to get a glimpse of it, only love can teach us to live with those whose hearts beat for the same God but whose minds express it differently.

photo by Elliott Brown

photo by Johan Hansson

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sometimes it just takes time

A year or two ago I went to a plant sale and bought an iris to plant by my house. If there is any plant that I truly love (next to tulips and daffodils) it would be the iris. I've always admired homes that have great bunches of them blooming in shady patches, slender stalks stretched tall with velvet crowns.

Well, the iris did not grow the first year. It did not grow the second year. (Or possibly I am imagining that two years have passed, time has pretty much ceased to have any meaning for me.) So I was quite shocked this past weekend when I noticed it had shot up and was getting ready to bloom. I now have two beautiful blossoms as reminders that sometimes things grow when you have given up all hope that they will ever bear fruit.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)