2015 Writers’ Blog Hop Week 3 – My favourite character

Grade 7
Picture from Young Pilot September 1980

Thirty four years later I can still picture him: my grade 7 teacher, Mr. Arthur Freeman. (The picture above was taken while I sat in his classroom.) He taught junior high for decades at Prairie Bible Institute. When I met him, his silver-grey hair masked his quick whit, keen mind, and ready sense of humour. His piercing blue eyes often clouded with tears as he implored us to learn from his mistakes. He believed in discipline and structure, but the virtue of love pervaded everything he did.

He often told stories to break down walls and build relationship. Stories of his early years; stories of raising his family; stories of how he and his wife prayed, believing God would turn the hearts of rebellious sons; stories of students coming back years later to make things right. Along with lessons of history and grammar, we learned the lessons of life. Mr. Freeman not only challenged us to memorize 100 verses and recite them with no mistakes, but he also did it himself. While we were allowed to recite individually with him, he recited in front of the class, allowing us to correct him.

Mr. Freeman not only taught us; he mentored us. This mentorship did not end when we walked out the door of his classroom. For at least ten years afterward he was my teacher, I received a bookmark and personal note from him on my birthday. I’ve heard from others that he did the same thing for them, and am assuming he sent those birthday greetings to every student he had in his class. If you do the math, that action alone speaks volumes.

I’m grateful for the amazing legacy he left for those of us who had the privilege of learning with him.

Did you have a teacher or someone else who mentored you? I’d love to hear about that person.

 


2015 Writers' Blog Hop

 

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Redefining Disability Week 4 – Where should the emphasis be: medical treatment, life skills, community integration or all three?

Disability Treatment

This week we are asked to consider where the emphasis should be for people dealing with what I like to call special abilities. (You can read my thoughts about the term “disability” here.)

I preface my answer with a question of my own: What is the specific issue we are dealing with? Some people have a medical diagnosis, others have a psychological diagnosis, and others intentionally pursue no diagnosis at all. In my mind, the type of diagnosis may affect the emphasis or treatment. For some, the focus will need to be entirely on medical treatment due to the severity of the medical condition. For others, there is nothing the medical community can do, so the focus will be on life skills and perhaps community integration.

We focused heavily on medical treatment for the first few years. Our van racked up thousands of kilometers as we drove to Edmonton (a 2 1/2 hour trip one way) an average of twice a month and also attended speech therapy and physiotherapy appointments a half hour away. However, now we only need to go to a few check-ups every year and the focus has switched to teaching life skills and getting our children involved in our local community. Life skills started with very basic concepts like how to eat. It took one of our twins six months of hand-over-hand feeding before he was able to scoop his food into a spoon and feed himself. His brother struggled with sensitivity to textures and needed yogurt to help him learn to eat crunchy and lumpy food. It’s probably a good thing we couldn’t see into the future. Hours and hours of teaching resulted in progress, very slow progress,  but it has been steady. One of our boys still needs help pouring milk from a jug without spilling it. Another one still has toileting accidents both at home and at school. All our boys are all still learning to cut their own food. All three are able to dress themselves, but they need daily reminders to put on clean clothes. [I’m told this happens with “normal” kids too :)]

Integration into the community continues to be a challenge. Since we live in a small community, there are not many specialized services available. The boys were able to attend clubs when they were younger because their “differences” weren’t as obvious. Now that they are teenagers who only function at the level of 5-7 year-olds, they are not included in community groups without an adult present. After many years of attending summer camp as a family, we decided to send the boys independently. With a trip out to camp to sort out some initial problems, all three boys were able to last 5 out of 7 days. However, we were asked to pick them up early and informed we need to be prepared to attend with them if they come again. We also attempted to register a family team for community curling (two adults and two boys with special abilities). My husband attended the meeting, sharing very openly what our plans were, and no concerns were raised. However, later that week we received a phone call informing us our boys would not be able to play. Apparently there was a concern that our team wouldn’t be competitive enough.

We are grateful for several people who go the extra mile to make sure our boys experience some of the learning opportunities others take for granted. Each day is a new adventure – some discouraging and others amazing.

It’s your turn. How would you answer this week’s question?


redefining-disability1

Last year Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk
Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk

This image brought tears to my eyes. 1998 is a long time ago in many ways, but the memories are still there. Many people who know me, don’t know. Miscarriage is a private grief many deal with, but few talk about.

My experience led to me write and enter the following story in a writing competition in 2005. The piece was subsequently published by Testimony Magazine. I share it here with hopes it will minister to others who grieve and help others understand how profound the grief may be for people who experience miscarriage.

 

Gifts from a Loving God

Leaves crackle under our feet as we walk. Lois, my mentor and friend, smiles at me. I relish this rare opportunity to spend time with her. “Infertility is a gift from God. I never thought I’d say that,” Lois confesses.

I swallow hard to bury my protest. “Are you crazy,” my heart screams. “How can anything this painful be a gift?”

The only career I want is motherhood. My desire haunts me, like a mirage in a dry, dusty desert. First, an infertility specialist informs my husband and me it is impossible for us to have children of our own. Then, against all odds, we conceive, only to face the crushing disappointment of miscarriage. Conception continues to elude us. Now what? Do we relinquish our dream of parenting children? Do we investigate other options, like adoption or foster care?

Since we have no children, I have the gift of time – time to volunteer in the local school and catering club, time to pray, time to grow. Over time, I learn to navigate the waves of grief as they splash over me – some gentle, others that leave me gasping and drowning in grief. Mother’s Day, the birth of a baby, interacting with nieces and nephews, watching parents play with their children are all bittersweet. Slowly I learn to receive and give the gift of compassion.

A year later, we begin our challenging journey on the road called adoption. In January, we hear about nineteen-year-old Mary and her baby. Mary is unsure she can provide for her baby and may be looking for an adoptive family. In May, after anxiously waiting for news that never comes, we sit down to fill out an adoption application with a private agency. That night the phone rings! “Hi, this is Sue. Mary asked me to phone and see if you are still interested in adopting her baby.” Four frantic days later, we bring home our daughter. For us, adoption is a gift of joy and celebration, but for a birth Mom, it is a gift of sorrow and sacrifice. Our daughter, Grace (unmerited favor) Victoria (victorious one), reminds us often of God’s loving gifts.

Four years later, we marvel again at God’s gifts – twin boys placed with us by Child & Family Services for adoption. (The boys were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds each. The fact they are even alive is a miracle.) As we meet the foster parents and compare notes, we are in awe of God’s leading. The foster parents love Jesus Christ and rejoice that the boys will grow up in a Christian family!

Our 18-month-old twins introduce us to a completely new world – special needs. Only those who walk in these shoes know the special joys, challenges, and gifts these children provide. The first thing we notice about our boys is their silence – no babbling, no chatter. We learn they have “global developmental delays.” After six months of scooping with a spoon, our hand over his – every day, several times a day – we celebrate while Luke actually feeds himself. At twenty-seven months, we cheer while Levi takes his first wobbly step. A few months later, he is able to climb up on a chair by himself and stand. We clap, momentarily forgetting that Levi’s balance still needs help. He stands for mere seconds, grinning from ear to ear, before taking a terrible tumble to the floor. He lands on his head with glasses protruding at an odd angle, and blood gushing.  We cringe as the doctor interrogates us. “Who was looking after your son when this happened,” she inquires while stitching Levi’s face. We learn to sign, using Signing Exact English, so the twins have a means of communicating with us. Progress is excruciatingly slow. Imagine our joy when we hear our boys, at age four, actually voice the words, “Mom” and “Dad” for the first time! The pediatrician who first saw our twins said they would never walk, talk, or feed themselves. We are thankful God has other plans for them!

Two years later, Jayson joins our family. Although Jayson is a full sibling to Luke and Levi, he has fewer obvious challenges. However, more often than not, we grit our teeth in frustration, quelling the temptation to yell. Jayson stands looking up at us, his brown eyes large. We search for any sign of sorrow, repentance, or desire to please. It isn’t there. He defies us, again. Then he lies to us, repeatedly, despite the fact that his siblings are providing a running commentary of what has taken place. Parenting skills that have worked with our other children are not nearly as effective with Jayson. God uses Jayson to give us the gifts of humility and total reliance on God.

Several years later, we receive another phone call. “I have good news! You’ve been matched with twins (a three-year-old boy and girl) for adoption.” However, the adoption falls through before we even meet the children, due to circumstances beyond our control. We grieve silently, unable to share details with our families because of legal issues.

Life settles into a comfortable routine. It seems our family is complete. We are thankful for the gift of children God has given. Now that the children are all in school, I decide to take on a part-time position with the local school board. A month later, the phone rings. “Hi, I have some news for you. The boys you adopted have a new baby sister. Would you consider adopting her if she becomes available?”

It does not take long for us to answer, “Yes!” Our file is still open from the “match” that fell through. This makes it possible for us to become foster parents in a matter of days. We drive to the hospital to meet our new little daughter. Although we are excited, we are also nervous. We have never cared for a newborn infant before, let alone one who has heart problems. The staff at the hospital is very gracious. We are patiently shown what we need to know to care for her. “She’s lucky to have you,” one of the nurses comments. “You know, some of the kids in here end up staying for up to six months because we have nowhere to send them. There are so many, we cannot spend the time we would like with them. Sometimes we have to sedate them, just so they stop crying!”

My eyes fill with tears. “God, have mercy on our nation,” I whisper as I cuddle our newest daughter close. She snuggles into the crook of my arm and falls asleep. Her face is a picture of peace and contentment.

There are still many unknowns before us. Each day brings new challenges, some very unexpected. Our stability in the midst of this change is Jesus Christ, our rock, our Savior, our guide.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I can now honestly agree with Lois, “Infertility is a gift from God.” Without this gift, we may not have received many of the other gifts God has chosen to give us on our adoption journey. We are thankful for God’s blessings: past, present and future. Although we may not always understand, we can choose to accept every gift God sends our way and trust Him to work them all together for good.

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Redefining Disability Week 3: Experiences with Medical Treatment/Therapy

Disability and medical

Our experiences with medical treatment and therapy have been varied. I would say the “human” factor makes the biggest difference. Some doctors and therapists detach themselves and only dispense medicine and knowledge. Others genuinely care about those they are treating. They laugh with you and cry with you and cheer when there is progress. When one of these individuals moves on, you go through a grieving process. Here’s a summary of our experiences:

  • The first pediatrician who saw our twins said they would never walk, talk, or feed themselves. Perhaps he was merely trying to prepare people for the worst case scenario? Thankfully his prediction proved to be false.
  • The pediatrician who became our family pediatrician told us he wasn’t sure what the twins were capable of, but he committed to being with us each step of the way. He not only provided information, but he also gave helpful referrals and filled out copious amounts of paperwork to ensure they received necessary services.
  • Our pediatric ophthalmologist is a gem. He used sound effects and animated stuffies to help with examinations. He took his time and always made sure our questions were answered before he said goodbye. He cautioned us to be careful about making appointments in the winter, knowing that we traveled a few hours to see him. When he retired, he let us know and made sure someone else was there to take care of us.
  • The first speech therapist we were referred to knew less than we did about how to help our boys. We were told he could help us with the feeding issues one of our twins experienced. The best thing he did was admit he had no clue how to help us.
  • After enduring many speech therapy sessions that were a waste of time, we finally found someone who did more than diagnose problems. She taught us how to play with purpose by getting down on the floor with our twins and building a relationship with them. She not only told us what to do, but explained the reason behind it.
  • It took many phone calls and conversations before I located an occupational therapist who was willing to travel to us. He was honest about the rules which most people played by, but told us he would help in whatever area he could. He only did assessments when they were required for funding or some other useful purpose. Otherwise, he spent his time watching, listening, joking with the boys, and offering a professional sounding board for our family. He also made himself available for many phone calls and e-mails. To this day I know that I can ask for his opinion. I know he’s there for us.
  • My first encounters with special education were not positive. I discovered a system that was more about rules and money than about meeting the needs of unique individuals. Thankfully, I met other parents with more experience who helped me learn the ropes. (I chose to serve on our local school board for six years because I believed I could make a difference for other children and their families.) We also worked with some very caring teachers and educational assistants. People who were willing to go beyond the call of duty to make sure needs were met.

I’m thankful for the many amazing professionals we’ve interacted with on our journey. It truly does take a community to raise a child, especially when the child has unique needs.

What do you look for when you need medical intervention or therapy? What have your experiences been like?


 

redefining-disability1

Last year Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.


Redefining Disability Week 2: How do you view the concept of disability?

 

 

Redefining Disability2

To be honest, the word disability irks me. I find it irritating that we use this word with its negative connotations to talk about fellow human beings who just happen to think, act, or look different than some of the rest of us.

As a parent of five beautiful children who all have some qualities which differ from the general population, I pursued diagnosis of “disability” to obtain access to the services my children need to be successful. I know other parents who have firmly rejected any sort of diagnosis. I don’t blame them. Sometimes the stigma attached to the label isn’t worth the dollars you are able to access with the label.

Why is it that we focus on the negative qualities of these individuals? Why can’t we focus on the benefits, the special abilities they have? Both of my daughters are extremely creative and artistic. Perhaps they wouldn’t have these qualities if they didn’t also have the other qualities that cause so much struggle and consternation some days. One of my sons is a gifted storyteller. Another son knows more about vehicles than 90 percent of adults. Memorizing facts is another gift.

Why is it that the general population is allowed to hide their weaknesses by focusing on their strengths, but the people who already struggle are forced to focus on their weaknesses, sometimes to the detriment of their passions and strengths?

I look forward to your comments and suggestions 🙂


One of the benefits I enjoy most about writing and blogging is meeting other people who share my passions. One of my blog hop participants is Rose B. Fischer. Last year she started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays will be answering one of her questions.

redefining-disability1


Redefining Disability Week 1

 

redefining-disability1

One of the benefits I enjoy most about writing and blogging is meeting other people who share my passions. One of my blog hop participants is Rose B. Fischer. Last year she started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays will be answering one of her questions.

 

Redefining Disability 1

My first up close and personal introduction to disability came sixteen years ago with the birth of my amazing niece, S. Due to complications at birth, she lives with Cerebral Palsy. She uses a computerized communication system similar to PECS, and has also learned how to send and receive text messages. She is dependent on help for all of her daily needs, but she now owns a motorized wheelchair she can control with movements of her head, and uses it whenever she can.

Her parents describe her as a disabled person with an able-bodied mind. Nothing is too challenging or difficult for her to at least try. She is a vivacious person who is limited only by her uncooperative body. If she can find a way to do something, she will.

Twelve years ago twin boys began educating me about the very personal challenges of special needs children and their families. L1 and L2 were born at 27 weeks gestation and spent the first four months of their lives in a neo-natal unit. A nurse who worked there at the time informed me the nurses took only four hour shifts with them because their needs required so much care. The doctors did not expect them to live. We met the boys months later when they were placed with us. We were told they had global developmental delays:

  • Crawled at 18 months
  • Learned to feed themselves at 24 months
  • First steps at 27 months
  • First words at 4 years of age

Several months after we adopted the boys, we learned they also have Trisomy 15. The first pediatrician who saw the twins predicted they would never be able to walk, talk, or feed themselves. We are grateful they have achieved all of those skills and more. However, we find we still have to work hard to advocate for their needs to be met.

L1 is very friendly and outspoken (even blurting out answers in church) and loves anything to do with animals. He constantly tells me I’m the best Mom in the whole world. L2 tends to be more of a loner, but is a real tease who loves to push his brother’s buttons until he gets a reaction. L2’s passion is vehicles – he knows all the makes and models, whether they are 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, etc. I’ve learned more about vehicles in the last few years than many guys 🙂

When the twins were five, we were able to adopt their brother. J also has Trisomy 15, but has fewer obvious challenges. His abilities are scattered, so sometimes people think he is capable of more than he is, which leads to frustration on both sides. He is passionate about hockey and has an amazing ability to remember facts.

Our youngest daughter was born with moderate hearing loss and is extremely near-sighted. A heart condition was diagnosed, but disappeared within the first year of her life. D is full of spunk, but very shy. She loves to help both Mom and Dad.


Must Read: Fellowship of the Burning Heart

I’ve decided that I will read some classics in 2015. Fellowship of the Burning Heart came highly recommended, so I purchased a copy. It sat on my table until a few days ago when I picked it up and started reading it.

Fellowship of the Burning Heart is a collection of 10 sermons by A.W. Tozer. The collection is edited by James L. Snyder. He has done a great job of keeping the integrity of the sermons while making them a joy to read. In his introduction, James L. Snyder says:

“When you finish reading these ten sermons, you will come away with a reverence for God and an appetite for the sterling spirituality he (Tozer) advocates in his preaching. One thing is certain: you will never be the same after exposing yourself to ‘Platform Tozer.’ I know I’m not.”

The book includes a short biography of A.W. Tozer written by Snyder, some pictures of A.W. Tozer, a study guide, and the ten sermons:

  1. How to Pray for Revival
  2. In Everything by Prayer
  3. Believing Prayer
  4. Prepare by Prayer
  5. He Must Increase
  6. Hearing is a Divine Art
  7. Manifest Presence – Something Else
  8. Presence Everywhere
  9. Three Faithful Wounds
  10. The Way to Paradise

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

“Never underestimate the power of prayer. And remember that without it, you cannot win. With it, you cannot lose.”

“The Bible always tells the facts…It tells you that you’ll have eternal life now and lots of trouble and hardships and thorns and cross-bearing in this world and glory in the world to come and eternity with God. If you’re man enough to put up with the thorns and the crosses and the hardships and the hostilities, you can have the crown.”

“God is God. He made Heaven and Earth and holds the world in His hand and measures the dust of the earth in the balance and the sky; He spreads out like a mantle. The great God Almighty is not your servant; you’re His servant. He’s your Father; you’re His child. He sitteth in the heaven and you’re on Earth. The angels veil their faces before the God who cannot lie.”

“Von Hugel said about Pierre Gure, the great saint, ‘The reason Pierre Gure’s writings so incessantly and habitually bless and help so many people is that Pierre Gure refuses – absolutely refuses to write anything until he is blessed himself. He wants the oil of God upon him, flowing, or he won’t touch a pen,’ I think that’s beautiful.”

“Now remember, you can have all your plans you want and you can get the help of all the advertisers and all the modern mechanical gadgets, but when it is all done, you’ll fall short unless first God is glorified in the midst of His Church.”

This book will challenge you, encourage you, and force you to examine the Scriptures.

Tozer Sermons


My Prayer for 2015

Prayer for 2015

Happy New Year! As we step into 2015, here’s my prayer:

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of a new year. Thank you that you know what each day will hold and You will guide us, strengthen us, and enable us.

Help us to be still and know that You are God (Psalm 46:10).
Help us to listen for Your voice, instead of being distracted by the turbulence around us.
Help us to feed on Your Word so that we may serve from a full heart and mind.
Help us to cast our anxieties on You, knowing that You care for us (I Peter 5:7).
Help us to be obedient to Your calling on our lives, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
Help us to glorify You in all we think, do, and say.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

Several days ago, I signed up for Kristen Ekstein’s Kindlein30 Challenge. Yesterday, I learned a new technique (from the challenge) called “Brain Dump”. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, set the timer for 10 minutes, and write down everything that comes to mind.

Kristen explained that often our creative ideas get “stuck” behind our to do lists and other things that are swirling in our brains. I tried it and this morning I was delighted with the ideas that spontaneously came. I now know what I want to focus on as a writer this year: a series of books that combine many of the topics I jotted down yesterday and showcase my photography while focusing people on Scripture. It’s so obvious now!

My first book will be 31 Days of Hope with pictures of winter beauty. I’m excited to get started. Stay tuned for further details!