Saturday, December 19, 2009
It is my heart's deepest desire that I may truly understand the love my God has for me and communicate it to the world. May you also begin to understand who is this God of Love.
But for now, we'll finish remembering England...
We left Stevenage Friday morning for London. By the time we found our hotel, dropped off our luggage and decided a general direction to head, it was already after 11:00am. But we managed to fit quite a few things into that short time frame.
We first took a rather long train ride (like the metro in D.C.) to the Imperial War Museum. Most of the week was spent doing things I enjoyed... so I wanted Matthew to see something he would enjoy. Plus, it was free! ;) We spend quite some time there and it was amazing to see huge, ancient tanks, missiles and cannons, a replica of a WWI trench (it was dark and crowded; very realistic), the eagle that Hitler had placed above his headquarters (what a piece of history!), a display on spies throughout the years, and so much more. Of course, I think my dad and brother were much more interested than I was. But I still enjoyed seeing everything.
We really had no plans after that, so we started walking towards the Thames River, which was near many interesting sites. I was wanting to see the Churchill Museum and War Cabinets. I recently read a book called "The Spirit of Churchill" by Debbie Brezina that sparked my interest in the man who inspired a single nation to stand alone against Hitler and Nazi Germany. His strength, wisdom, insight and courage were astounding. The author emphasized many of the small events in his life... and how they eventually shaped him into the man he became. I hope that I allow the small events in my life to shape me into the person God wants me to be. Whether I become a player on the world stage or just in my own home, I want to be known as a person of strength and conviction--as Churchill was.
Anyway, all that to say, we did not see the Churchill Museum. :-) Though I wanted to, we did some other things instead. When we reached the Thames River, we saw the London Eye--the world's largest ferris wheel! I had heard of it from a friend and, of course, Matthew wanted to ride it from the moment he heard of it. I wasn't that interested (the height made me feel sick when I was still on the ground!) so while my dad and Matthew rode the Eye, I went to...
Of course, that was absolutely amazing. When I walked in, I literally took a step back. I had no idea where to even look first... a case of sensory overload, for sure. Many people think I am morbid because I enjoy walking through cemeteries and looking at graves. But the reason I like to do so is to see the history in such places and remember the significance of those men and women who shaped history.
Parts of the Abbey were built in the 13th century... that was amazing to see. I also was in awe of seeing where men such as John Newton, David Livingstone, George Friedrich Handel, Geoffrey Chaucer and others were buried. Unfortunately, the area where William Wilberforce is buried was closed by the time I reached that part of the church. But it was still a wonderful experience. I was especially moved by reading some of the engravings on various tombs. Some were merely monuments to power and prestige (mostly kings and queens). The ones that were most inspiring, though, were the epitaphs to unknown men or women who were honored for loving their Lord. There were a few that almost took my breathe away--things I want desperately to be said of me when my time comes. It was a wonderful reminder of how and why we should live our lives--for God and for others. Those are the lives that truly matter.
Once I was done with the Abbey, I met the guys in the gift shop (where they'd been waiting quite awhile). We bought a few gifts and souveneirs and then headed to Trafalger Square. I still do not quite understand the significance of that location... I'll have to look it up soon. We then saw the Royal Art Gallery was close by and... free! (We like free things). :-) So we went. That was an absolutely astounding experience. We saw original paintings by Rembrandt and da Vinci... paintings hundreds of years old that were still looked as bright as they must have looked when they were first painted. I couldn't fathom that they are truly that old; they have been wonderfully preserved. We also saw paintings by Monet, van Gogh, Picasso and so many more. I have a few new artists that I'm interested in as well. Next to Westminster Abbey, I think the Royal Gallery was the most excited part of London.
Well, by the time we finished touring the Gallery, we had been touring London for eight hours, with only PB&J to tide us over. Matthew was extremely bored looking at paintings, as well as hungry, so we headed out to find food.
We hopped back on the train and stopped at Piccadilly Circus (which seems to be London's equivalent to Times Square). It was very busy and high-end. We walked around for a little while, but didn't find much to eat in a reasonable price range. So we got back on the train to find something else.
We ended up eating cornish pasty's at a little restaurant in the train station. We had heard about them, but didn't eat one until our last night. I wish we had tried them earlier... I would have eaten one every day! I have been craving one ever since. :-) Cornish pasty's are basically like a hand held potpie. We learned the history of them--they originated in Cornwall, a mining town on the coast of England. The miners, who continually had dirty hands, ate them since they could hold the part where the pastry was folded over and eat the rest without getting it dirty. Anyway, I always love learning the history of things--though I feel certain Matthew only cared about the eating!
Well, there is the end of our trip to England! It was a fun and enjoyable trip... we learned a lot; it was certainly a new experience. But as much as I loved our trip, I was also glad to come home. The United States of America is a beautiful place to live and I'm so glad to be a citizen of this great country.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Living in the U.S. my whole life, I had never seen a castle before (they’re rather scarce in the Midwest) and I was not prepared for its immense size! I always assumed, in theory, that castles would be big. But this castle went on and on and on… covering several acres of land; and we did not even see the whole of it!
To gaze at walls built 600-700 years ago by ancient kings and queens that I’ve read and studied over the years—well, it was quite amazing. In so many ways, pictures can speak so much better than I can. But I will try to give you an idea of my feelings as I walked through this historic castle that is still home to the Queen of England.
Matthew and I walked for quite a ways outside the castle, listening to a self-guided audio tour that came with our admission. We learned that Windsor was originally built to be a fortress, which seems obvious when you look around! It is situated on the highest point of land and provides breath-taking views of the entire landscape. In the middle, there is a great, round tower that rises much higher than rest of the castle. When you look at it, you can imagine ancient soldiers defending King and country from any forces that may have come against it.
Of course, I took millions of pictures (or close to it!) outside of the castle. However, once we went inside, pictures were not allowed, so I purchased a guide book to help me remember all I had seen. But for any who may read this and for my own memory’s sake, I will try to describe what we saw.
We started with Queen Mary’s Doll House, a beautiful house that was never intended to be used by children, but was given to Queen Mary in 1924 by a relative. The house was about twice as tall as Matthew and I and I immediately thought how Tiffany would love to play with something like that. The details were exact, with linen closets, an ‘electric vacuum,’ (apparently the latest and greatest in the ‘20s), sewing machines, and of course, furniture, people, and much more. The house also has working electricity and plumbing! Wouldn’t you love a dollhouse where you could actually turn lights on and off and give your dolls a bath in?
My favorite part of the entire castle came shortly after we saw the Doll House and entered the Grand Staircase. You walk up a flight of red carpeted stairs, flanked on either side by statues of knights on glorious horses. The ceiling stretches at least 30 feet up and is covered by ornate carvings in the wood and stone as well as arrangements of swords and armor for decoration. It is magnificent to see and perhaps just as thrilling was the thought that the Queen herself climbs those stairs during State occasions to receive visitors… and many other monarchs before her have done the same.
After that came room after room of ornate furniture, beautiful old paintings and highly decorated ceilings. We saw the Guard Chamber, where the walls were adorned with old pistols, swords and other weapons in decorative fashions. There were several cases of ‘display’ swords, including one with a handle covered entirely by sapphires. The room also featured statues of several of Britain’s defenders, including Admiral Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill.
Then I entered St. George’s Hall. I had a hard time at first determining whether I preferred it or the Grand Staircase. Though I decided on the staircase in the end, it does not diminish the beauty of St. George’s Hall. The Hall seems to stretch forever and is where the Queen holds banquets, seating hundreds of people at one very long table. The Hall is covered in red and gold, which gives it a majestic appearance. Its walls and the ceiling are covered in small shields featuring the coat of arms for each Knight of the Order of the Garter. (I did not quite understand the Order, but it was certainly interesting to see how many knights must have belonged to it over the years)!
I could go on and on and on, about the room full of china sets used by the Royal Family over the years, one huge room dedicated to gifts given the Royal Families (including a solid gold tiger’s head with crystal eyes and teeth), the magnificent paintings of all the kings and queens, their families, important political figures and such, the room of intricate centerpieces and chandeliers covered in gold, the throne room (decorated completely in blue) and so much more. But the things I have mentioned were the highlights (at least for me!) and I want to ensure I have accurate descriptions with which to remember the experience by.
There are two other things that I want to describe in great detail; the Drawings Gallery and St. George’s Chapel, but they will have to wait for the next post!
(And pictures may be added to this post at a later time).
Sunday, December 13, 2009
When we landed in Chicago last night, I immediately felt such contentment and happiness to belong to this wonderful country. Britain was outstanding and an amazing experience, but nothing can compare to the U.S. Even with all our problems, economic, political and otherwise... no place will ever come close to the glory of this land.
I hope I always remember my feelings when we landed back home--and always keep in my how blessed we are. God bless America!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
St. John's College in Cambridge
We were in Cambridge two days ago, on Tuesday. I would have posted then, but had no internet access. Now I do, so the posting may begin!
We started out when Mr. Barry Hack picked us up. He is working with my dad (or my dad is working with him... they keep arguing about which it is) while we're over here. He is a great person and so funny to listen to. He talks about many interesting topics... I may have to dedicate a post to all the fascinating and hilarious conversations I've listened to over the last few days.
Anyway, the reason I mention the beginning of our day was because it started with us running late. We were stuck in traffic when my dad and Mr. Hack were supposed to be in Cambridge for a meeting. So what do we do? Stop for coffee, of course! Not just a quick drive through McDonald's or Starbucks though... no, we go inside, order something to drink and sit for half an hour! It was my first experience with what is obviously a different attitude towards work over here!
Boats on the river!
Once we finally got to Cambridge, Matthew and I walked from the offices we arrived at to the downtown area of Cambridge. Once we found our way (it took awhile, what with detours to a shopping mall and a museum and such), we finally were able to see the beautiful, ancient colleges of Cambridge. Apparently there are 31 colleges that comprise Cambridge University. We only saw a few, but they were all remarkable.
St. John's College (again!)
I could talk (type?) forever about all saw and did, but here is a brief summary. We started at Corpus Christi College, where we were yelled at by a not-so-nice gentlemen for 'goofing off' (we weren't), took a million pictures of King's College Chapel, walked through the lesser known Clare's College and saw some of the best landscaping, climbed 123 stairs to the top of the Great St. Mary's Chapel, saw the Christopher Wren Library from a distance (SO sad I couldn't see it up close!), walked by many more beautiful colleges, visited the Christian Heritage Tours of Cambridge in the Round Church and saw and learned so much amazing history!
Matthew in the courtyard of Corpus Christi College.
Of all I learned, one of the most remarkable was discovering how old these building actually are. For example, Great St. Mary's steeple (that would be one of the LAST things to be built) was started in 1491. Henry VI started the building of King’s College Chapel which was eventually finished by Henry VIII. And the historic section of Cambridge was finished around 1600… around the time America was just getting started! Isn’t it amazing?
King's College Chapel from the top of Great St. Mary's
You have to look at this one sideways. These are the ropes to pull the bells in Great St. Mary's Cathedral. As we headed up the stairs, Matthew asked "Did they hang people in here?"
All of us on top of Great St. Mary's Church.
Heading down the stairs from the top of Great St. Mary's
Beautiful landscaping (for December) inside Clare's College.
Another view of St. John's College (and my dad!)
Monday, December 7, 2009
However, we are still having a great time, especially noting several (rather random)things that are just a little bit different than they are in the United States. Here are a few…
1. Moss grows everywhere! The roofs are covered with it.
2. Lights switches must be flipped the other way to turn on!
3. Of course, cars drive on the wrong side of the road. Which isn’t as odd as I thought it would be—unless you’re crossing a street! Then you have to make sure you’re looking for traffic coming from the right direction.
4. Matthew thinks it’s hilarious that you have to ask for the “toilets” instead of the restroom/bathroom. On that note… the bathrooms are horribly small here.
5. There are no traffic lights! Only very confusing round-a-bouts. That’s another thing to look out for when you cross the street. Instead of looking ‘both ways,’ you almost end up turning in a circle to check all the directions traffic is coming from!
6. Matthew also points out that they “talk weird” here. Which was to be expected. ;)
7. The electric outlets are different. I have to use my dad’s adaptor to charge all my electronics.
8. I saw sheep! In a field that is. Do you know, I realized upon seeing those sheep that I’ve never seen sheep outside of a zoo. Rather sad…
9. We passed a sign on the road that read “Motor Regulations End Here.” Which is rather scary to think about… there are also places with no speed limits.
10. Stevenage is a “new town,” meaning it was built after WWII. It also means that roads were designed with no traffic lights and cars, bicyclists and pedestrians all have their own road/path. And they are designed to never (or seldom) intersect. All the walking paths go under the road instead of crossing it.
11. Just about everyone looks SO proper here—even the little kids are dressed very nicely. I can’t imagine Tiffany (who is 10) ever dressing as nice as the little kids I saw at McDonalds! Of course, that might be more indicative of a laid back Midwestern life rather than an American trait… but still, it was interesting to see. :)
12. Apparently they don’t believe in ice here. At least, I have yet to get any in any of my drinks.
It’s funny… I remember thinking everything was a little different when we first got here, but they are all such small things that I can’t remember what they all are! I’m sure I will think of more eventually and when I do, I’ll be sure to make note of them!
Tomorrow we head to Cambridge for the day! We plan to follow a walking tour route we found online and see the sights listed on it. It also came with 18 pages of historical information, so we’ll learn as we go. (Just don’t tell Matthew!)
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I expected packing to be a rather bigger deal than previous trips I have made since we are going overseas. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I did not need much additional time. In fact, I began packing much too early and ended up sitting around wondering if I was forgetting something! Matthew took a little longer to get everything together (I'm still not sure if he has his toothbrush!) but we are almost ready to go!
Here is what our travel schedule looks like:
Leave Granby, CO no later than 10:00am.
Arrive in Denver around noon.
Get lunch with our family.
Fly out of Denver around 2:40pm.
Arrive in Chicago sometime after 6:00pm.
Meet my dad in Chicago and board a plane to London after 10:00pm tonight!
So that is the plan. It will be Matthew's first flight in years and the first Trans-Atlantic flight for both of us. We are mildly excited... ;) (Actually, Matthew said he didn't sleep much last night, he was so excited. I suppose that's a little more than 'mildly').
Well, I suppose I should finish getting ready to go! Next update will probably come from another country!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
And while you are there, be sure to check out Natalie's book! It's an excellent read for anyone!
Amazingly, Generation Joshua (whom I mentioned a few times in the interview) already found it and posted a link on their website as well!
It's so neat to see how quickly word can spread!
Anyway, I hope you take time to stop by Natalie's blog and enjoy reading the interview!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Today I volunteered at a processing center in Denver. Over the next three weeks, they expect to sort and ship over 650,000 shoeboxes! While there, I met a man named Eddie, from Africa. I learned after the fact that he is a part of the International Operation Christmas Child leadership teams who distributes boxes overseas. He became a part of this incredible program after receiving a shoebox himself many years ago. When I heard his story, I was reminded of other stories I had heard... stories that could only be true because one man or one woman or one family followed God's call to share Christ with the nations--through a shoebox.
There is the story about a family who sent eight toothbrushes to a little boy who "just happened" to have seven brothers and sisters.
The one about a little girl who had decided God didn't exist because He never gave her shoes--until she received a pair in her shoebox!
Story after story of children and their families who now know Christ because of the Gospel that is shared along with the wonderful gifts of shoeboxes.
A shoebox... such a simple act, but such a powerful tool.
If you have never filled a shoebox, I ask you to visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/ and consider what you might be able to do next year.
If you have sent shoeboxes before, consider taking another step... telling others about this remarkable program, either informally or by volunteering with the organization itself. http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/Volunteer
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope we will not only give thanks, but be called to action to help those who so desperately need the greatest blessing of all--the love of God and His salvation.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Our nation is currently faced with many evils. From the growing acceptance of homosexuality to the rampant slaughter of the unborn, the fight against evil lies at the root of many controversies in America. However, in an attempt to put an end to these controversies, many unbelievers, and sadly even some believers, are calling for compromising good and evil. A brief look at history denies the effectiveness of this approach. One of the darkest hours in our nation’s history, the struggle over slavery, demonstrates that when the epic struggle between good and evil lies at the root of a problem, compromise is impossible and only delays the inevitable climax.
From the writing of the Constitution to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, our forefathers made several attempts at coming to a lasting solution to slavery through compromises, but they all ultimately failed. At the Constitutional Convention, the delegates compromised by promising the slave trade could not be banned until 1808, but slaves would not count as a whole person for representation purposes in the House. But, this failed to bring any permanent settlement. In 1820, the issue once more arose and once more politicians attempted to settle the question of slavery with a compromise. The Missouri Compromise attempted to resolve the matter with the 3630’ line. This also failed to last longer than a generation. The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Douglas’s advocacy of Popular Sovereignty were last desperate attempts at compromise. But, they succeeded even less than the previous compromises. Each of these “solutions” failed to permanently resolve the dispute. They only delayed the crisis that would ultimately come.
There is a reason for the failures of these compromises. The real struggle over slavery lay not in the issue of slavery itself; but rather in a much deeper struggle between two incompatible forces—Good and Evil. Just as white can not be mixed with black and remain white, so it is with Good and Evil. Good cannot remain good if it has been tainted with Evil in a compromise. Because slavery is wrong, there was no meeting place between its supporters and opponents. Contrary to popular belief, they could not compromise, or even peacefully coexist. As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14; “for what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (NIV). Good and Evil are at war with each other and always will be until Evil is ended by Christ’s return.
Ultimately, the only option that provided a lasting solution to the issue of slavery in America was a battle and a decisive victor. Despite decades of attempts at compromise, the dispute over slavery was not resolved until the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln recognized this in his famous speech at in Springfield Illinois when he said, “that agitation [over slavery] has not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis has been reached and passed” (Schweikart and Allen 288). He realized because of their incompatibility, a permanent resolution between Good and the evil of slavery could only come after a battle in which one was defeated. There were no other options.
As we continue to battle the evil in today’s society, we need to remember the history of the conflict over slavery. As our forefathers discovered, compromise with evil will not bring about a lasting resolution. We can learn from the past that compromise will only delay the climax that must ultimately occur. Instead, we must continue fight for what is right, no matter how attractive a compromise appears. The battle may appear difficult and futile at times, but ultimately there will be no resolution until Good triumphs over Evil.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
But as I was looking through all the information we received, I found this amazing article: Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew. Even after living with my sister for 19 years, I learned so much from this article--both in how to treat other children with autism and some of the struggles my own sister may have. Some of these are things everyone of us should keep in mind with any child with any disability (1, 3, 7, 10). As for the rest, if you ever wondered how to relate to children with this kind of disability or want to understand what they and their families deal with every day, this article is a wealth of information. This is just parts of the article. For the whole thing, see http://www.southflorida.com/sfparenting/sfe-sfp-autism,0,6196233.story
Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew.
Some days it seems the only predictable thing about it is the unpredictability. The only consistent attribute -- the inconsistency. There is little argument on any level that autism is baffling, even to those who spend their lives around it. The child who lives with autism may look "normal" but his behavior can be perplexing and downright difficult.
Autism was once thought an "incurable" disorder, but that notion is crumbling in the face of knowledge and understanding that is increasing even as you read this. Every day, individuals with autism are showing us that they can overcome, compensate for and otherwise manage many of autism's most challenging characteristics. Equipping those around our children with simple understanding of autism's most basic elements has a tremendous impact on their ability to journey towards productive, independent adulthood.
Here are ten things every child with autism wishes you knew:
1. I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily "autistic." My autism is only one aspect of my total character. It does not define me as a person. Are you a person with thoughts, feelings and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight), myopic (wear glasses) or klutzy (uncoordinated, not good at sports)? Those may be things that I see first when I meet you, but they are not necessarily what you are all about.
As an adult, you have some control over how you define yourself. If you want to single out a single characteristic, you can make that known. As a child, I am still unfolding. Neither you nor I yet know what I may be capable of. Defining me by one characteristic runs the danger of setting up an expectation that may be too low. And if I get a sense that you don't think I "can do it," my natural response will be: Why try?
2. My sensory perceptions are disordered. Sensory integration may be the most difficult aspect of autism to understand, but it is arguably the most critical. It his means that the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me. The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile. I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you but I am really just trying to defend myself. Here is why a "simple" trip to the grocery store may be hell for me:
My hearing may be hyper-acute. Dozens of people are talking at once. The loudspeaker booms today's special. Musak whines from the sound system. Cash registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder is chugging. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain can't filter all the input and I'm in overload!
My sense of smell may be highly sensitive. The fish at the meat counter isn't quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn't showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they're mopping up pickles on aisle 3 with ammonia….I can't sort it all out. I am dangerously nauseated.
Because I am visually oriented, this may be my first sense to become overstimulated. The room seems to pulsate and it hurts my eyes. The pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing -- the space seems to be constantly changing. There's glare from windows, moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion, too many items for me to be able to focus (I may compensate with "tunnel vision"). All this affects my vestibular and proprioceptive senses, and now I can't even tell where my body is in space. I may stumble, bump into things, or simply decide to lay down and try to regroup.
3. Please remember to distinguish between won't (I choose not to) and can't (I am not able to). It isn't that I don't listen to instructions. It's that I can't understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is what I hear: "*&^%$#@, Billy. #$%…" Instead, come speak directly to me in plain words: "Please put your book in your desk, Billy. It's time to go to lunch." This tells me what you want me to do and what is going to happen next. Now it is much easier for me to comply.
4. I am a concrete thinker. This means I interpret language very literally. It's very confusing for me when you say, "Hold your horses, cowboy!" when what you really mean is "Please stop running." Don't tell me something is a "piece of cake" when there is no dessert in sight and what you really mean is "this will be easy for you to do." When you say "Jamie really burned up the track," I see a kid playing with matches. Please just tell me "Jamie ran very fast."
Idioms, puns, nuances, double entendres, inference, metaphors, allusions and sarcasm are lost on me.
5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. It's hard for me to tell you what I need when I don't know the words to describe my feelings. I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened or confused but right now those words are beyond my ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation or other signs that something is wrong.
Or, there's a flip side to this: I may sound like a "little professor" or movie star, rattling off words or whole scripts well beyond my developmental age. These are messages I have memorized from the world around me to compensate for my language deficits because I know I am expected to respond when spoken to. They may come from books, TV, or the speech of other people. It is called "echolalia." I don't necessarily understand the context or the terminology I'm using. I just know that it gets me off the hook for coming up with a reply.
6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Please show me how to do something rather than just telling me. And please be prepared to show me many times. Lots of consistent repetition helps me learn.
7. Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do. Like any other human, I can't learn in an environment where I'm constantly made to feel that I'm not good enough and that I need "fixing." Trying anything new when I am almost sure to be met with criticism, however "constructive," becomes something to be avoided. Look for my strengths and you will find them. There is more than one "right" way to do most things.
8. Please help me with social interactions. It may look like I don't want to play with the other kids on the playground, but sometimes it's just that I simply do not know how to start a conversation or enter a play situation. If you can encourage other children to invite me to join them at kickball or shooting baskets, it may be that I'm delighted to be included.
I do best in structured play activities that have a clear beginning and end. I don't know how to "read" facial expressions, body language or the emotions of others, so I appreciate ongoing coaching in proper social responses. For example, if I laugh when Emily falls off the slide, it's not that I think it's funny. It's that I don't know the proper response. Teach me to say "Are you OK?"
9. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns. Meltdowns, blow-ups, tantrums or whatever you want to call them are even more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses has gone into overload. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented. Keep a log noting times, settings, people, activities. A pattern may emerge.
10. Love me unconditionally. Banish thoughts like, "If he would just……" and "Why can't she….." You did not fulfill every last expectation your parents had for you and you wouldn't like being constantly reminded of it. I did not choose to have autism. But remember that it is happening to me, not you. Without your support, my chances of successful, self-reliant adulthood are slim. With your support and guidance, the possibilities are broader than you might think. I promise you – I am worth it.
And finally, three words: Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I'm not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don't lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people? Also true that I probably won't be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.
They may have had autism too.
All that I might become won't happen without you as my foundation. Be my advocate, be my friend, and we'll see just how far I can go.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Lewis on Joy
I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, "This is it," had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting ever could find would be either an image... or a quiver in the diaphragm... I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy-not the wave but the wave's imprint on the sand. The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations... soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, "It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?"
Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was desiring... Inexorably Joy proclaimed, "I myself am your want of something other, outside, not you nor any state of you..." the naked Other, imageless (though our imagination salutes it with a hundred images), unknown, undefined, desired.
We drove to Nebraska this past weekend for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time, though it was far too short... and the drive too long. 10 hours one way is crazy. I do not expect to ever complain about those nice 5-8 hour drives again.
It was on those drives, though, that I learned so much of God from the amazing beauty and great vastness of the plains. The mountains in Colorado are beautiful examples of God's majesty and strength. But only in the prairies do I ache for sheer happiness and peace. I was reminded by C.S. Lewis' description of Joy in "Surprised by Joy." He calls it "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction." Unsatisfied, because that kind of Joy--the kind where you ache while you have it and long for it when it is gone--is only a small realization of that purpose for which we were ultimately created; to know God and dwell forever in His presence. And for me, every part of the prairies speak of Him... and these thoughts were inspired as we drove.
As the wind whisps across the prairies, sometimes soft and gentle, sometimes rough and strong, I think of that Scripture where the Lord appeared, first as a "great and strong wind" and soon after as "a still small voice." In all the winds, strong or gentle, I know His glory and feel His love.
In the old country churches we passed, with spires reaching towards heaven, I was reminded of a great longing we all have for God. As the spires reach upwards, we ourselves are constantly reaching and striving for something greater than ourselves.
With the annual blazing fires, designed to cleanse the earth and prepare it afresh for new crops, I see the fire of His cleansing as He renews our land and prepares our hearts to worship. And in the billowing smoke that rises to the heavens, I see that worship as the saints praise His mighty name.
But it is the vastness of the prairie that reveals HIM as nothing else does. In the great, open spaces, I feel as nowhere else His open arms, stretched out to me in never ending love. It is in the endless plains, where I see forever, that I see best His eternal presence and greatness and glory. Gazing at the infinite sky and land, I know His sovereign might over all that is.
This beautiful, endless, vast prairie-land is mine to call home. But it is also eternally His. And so in knowing it, I come to know Him better.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
More importantly, the contestants all did wonderful! The hard work they spent certainly showed in their performance and their scores. And...
I am quite excited to announce that five students from our little contest (of only 30 students) have qualified for the National Competition!!!
1. Natalia Leslie
1. John Myers
2. Aaron Wilson
1. Abigail Myers
2. Bethany Franklin
We also have one student who is a runner-up for Nationals: Luke Rathke!
It is so exciting to see all the students who worked so hard and more importantly, invested in God's Word. To be a part of instilling such valuable gems of truth into the lives of others was a great blessing. I know everyone who participated feels the same and I am so thankful for all our volunteers who invested in so many lives.
I'm also incredibly thankful for our wonderful team--my mom, Carrie, Janet and Suzanne. (See below picture). They were all amazing. It's remarkable to see how well things run when each person fully and capably fulfills their roles.
All in all, the Bible Bee was a wonderful experience. And now I'm looking forward to volunteering at the National Competition in November!
Our wonderful team. :)
Thursday, September 17, 2009
There are so many things happening in our country, but two in particular have stood out as I hear the stories.
The Valley that Hope Forgot
With over 40% unemployment in San Joaquin Valley in Southern California, Sean Hannity broadcast the plight of farmers in that region tonight. I kept hearing the accusation that the government cared more about an endangered species of fish (called the Delta Smelt) than they did the people in the Valley. I was rather confused about exactly what was happening, so I started researching. (Internet, by the way, is a wonderful thing).
The best explanation I can find is that environmentalists started demanding several months (or even years?) ago that California "modify water exports to prevent the extinction of the delta smelt." (1) Apparently that means reducing water into the Valley to a mere 10% of what they previously used. 10%!!! And this is a valley that produces food for the entire nation--now subjected to 40% unemployment rates with families going hungry every night. Why? Because the Federal Government, the current Administration and Department of the Interior are more concerned that the fish have water than the people.
For shame. I am all for protecting the environment, but NEVER at the cost of human pain and suffering.
Well, the second topic I wanted to discuss was ACORN, but that may have to wait as I have other things to do. For now, I will just quote one of those speaking out on this...
"To preserve liberty, you have to restrict the Federal Government." I'm afraid that is becoming more and more true.
Friday, September 11, 2009
As I traveled, however, I was also somewhat saddened. My dad kindly booked me a first class seat for my trip, which I greatly appreciated. But as I looked from those around me seated in first class to those men in uniform walking back to coach, I was saddened. They were the ones who should have been first on that plane. Sitting in first class. Being honored for what they have done. I wish I could have given up my seat for them... and I wonder if America, or myself, fully grasps what they have done for us.
When one of them perishes in the line of duty... when we hear of another attack in Iraq or Afghanistan... do we think about the life that was cut down? I am ashamed to say I seldom think of the life that was lost; of the mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children, grandparents and friends who are grieving; of the great sacrifice that was made. I know I cannot begin to relate to the sorrow of those families or the sacrifice of those men... but I hope that I--and all of us--can at least remember, be thankful for and honor those who gave their all.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I have recently been reading a series of books called Zion Chronicles, by Bodie and Brock Thoene. I wish I could say they are enjoyable, but I’m afraid they are not. They focus on Hitler’s rise to power before World War II; not a pleasant subject to dwell on, but one that is still necessary. Reading of so much suffering has made me ache inside. And mourn. And think. Why? Because I feel so deeply that the things that happened should never have happened. Should never happen again. Yet they did. And they do.
You may know the history. In 1933, Hitler began his attempt at domination of Germany, Europe and the world. For over ten years, the world watched as he invaded, destroyed and eliminated nations and lives. And the world was complicit in his schemes! It is beyond comprehension that in the entire world, room could not be found for a few thousand or even a few hundred Jewish refugees. England, the United States, the entire world sent back ships filled with precious lives—tiny babies, beautiful little girls, rambunctious boys, young men and women just beginning life, mothers hoping to protect their little ones, fathers trying to save their children…
And we rejected them. Left them to die in the middle of an ocean, sent back to die at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis; refusing to be the shining city on a hill we were conceived to be!
And as I read and thought and mourned, I couldn’t help but wonder. . . are we still complicit in the schemes of the devil as he seeks to steal, kill and destroy the innocent creations of the Father?
There have been millions who died and continue to die through abortion. It’s a number you all know. But when you hear the number, do you think of the life? Beautiful, tiny, innocent babies, created by God to be loved, nurtured and cherished… do you see them? A baby boy with big brown eyes. A little girl with beautiful golden hair. DO YOU SEE THEM? He would have been a strong, caring person. She would have loved to help others. They should be wanted! By all of us. We should have a burning desire to love and care for them, to hold them when they cry and see them become all God intended them to be.
What about the 12 million illegal immigrants who dwell in our land? Again, we’ve heard the numbers, debated the solution. But these are not numbers! They are people. They have histories. Families. Lives. They were created to be loved. Mothers hoping for food and shelter and freedom for their children. Fathers trying to make enough money to support their families. So many, just trying to survive.
When you hear of genocide. . . do you see the mothers and fathers grieving, wailing, crying for their lost children? The little ones wandering alone, wondering where everyone and everything they have ever known has gone? Do you see the broken hearts and broken lives?
I’m not saying I know the solution to these issues that so many have dealt with. But I wonder. . . when we hear ‘abortion,’ ‘immigration,’ or ‘genocide,’ do we see only another ‘issue?’ One more ‘problem?’ Do we fail to realize that behind each problem is a story and a life? Or do we see these innocent people as human beings, created in the image of God?
I wonder. . .
If we really saw them the way God sees them, what would we do differently? Would we talk so casually about deporting immigrants? Argue over money sent to Darfur? Lament the millions of babies dead while never thinking of doing something about it? So often we throw around these terms, never thinking of the life that has been lived. The people who are real. The hurt they suffer. And never thinking of how God mourns when people suffer because we fail to care.
When I think of these things, it is not pleasant… but I don’t want this feeling to leave. I want to be so burdened that I do something worth doing! That I move others to do the same! I am praying that God will continually give me a burning passion and desire to do something to see people rescued, protected and cared for the way God tells us to! The way HE cares for and loves them! With an eternal, everlasting, never-ending, overpowering, unbelievable love! That’s the kind of love I want. And the kind of love I want to act on.
I know it will not change everything. And I know the policies and procedures still have to be dealt with. But I can’t help but think that if we tried to see people through God’s eyes, instead of problems through man’s eyes, this world might be a very different place. A place of love. And God would be in the midst of it.
Friday, September 4, 2009
The amount of Scripture these students are learning is phenomenal. Young people hiding thousands of Scripture verses in their hearts. Knowing that "the Word of God will not return void," I am excited to see how God will use such a program to bring revival to our hearts and renewal to our land.
As I cannot be a competitor in this wonderful program, I am working as the Logistics Coordinator for the contest in Wichita. Needless to say, there are many details to take care of for a competition like this. I have been busy gathering supplies, making lists, helping train volunteers, compiling lists, holding meetings, writing lists, planning snacks and food, assigning rooms... and did I mention lists? :) It has been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I enjoy organization immensely, so this has been an enjoyable, though challenging, project for me. Thankfully, our "Local Planning Committee" consists of several well qualified ladies who have taken their respective responsibilities and run with them quite well. We (my mom and I) are very thankful to have them on our team.
The Local Contests take place all across the country next Saturday, September 12th. Please pray for these competitions. 1) That God will use them mightily to work in our nation. 2) That all the little details will fall into place without overwhelming those of us who are responsible for them. 3) That any plans of the enemy will prove fruitless as we do what he fears most... declaring the Word of the Lord!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Thus begins a new book--Pajama School--written by a friend of mine, Natalie Wickham. Natalie has just started a new contest to promote her new book and provide YOU with a way to win a free family pass to the 2010 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival! There are also other prizes to win, so be sure to check out Natalie's blog at http://www.pajamaschool.com/blog!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Here's what happened: my mom's computer randomly turned off and refused to turn back on a few weeks ago. This is the third time this has happened to the same computer. So we sent it in to HP on August 17th and were told we would have it within 3 days, per our warranty. Now, if I can add correctly (which I can), that means we should have had it back by August 20th. But apparently HP cannot add, as it is now September 1st and our computer is nowhere to be seen.
They tried to ship it to us on August 24th (note: four days AFTER we should have had it back). Unfortunately, someone on the continent can't spell and they sent it to a non-existant address. So FedEx got the computer within miles of us, couldn't find the house and sent it back to California.
We had been tracking the package and when it didn't arrive on time, my dad got involved. (He's the person who can make things happen in our family). So on August 28th, he took off an afternoon from work and spent the entire time talking to HP. After being transferred around the world, he finally talked to the management, who promised to overnight the computer and get it to us ASAP.
Allowing for the weekend, that means we should have had our computer yesterday or today at the latest. Well, it didn't come yesterday, so we called FedEx and were told the package would come today. It did, around 12:30pm.
But guess what? (You might want to sit down).
They sent us an empty box.
That's right--no computer, just a box with a return label in it. NOT what we needed or expected.
So since my dad is now in China and it is early morning (around 2:45 am) his time, I got to call HP. I spent about an hour and forty-five minutes trying to track down case manager "Steve." I started out in Mexico, who promptly connected me to Nova Scotia. After talking to them for awhile, we got disconnected and I got to start all over again. This time I ended up in India, got nowhere fast, hung up and called back again. I once again ended up in Mexico, who once again transferred me to Nova Scotia, who finally located the case manager in Ontario. He's now working with California to get our computer to Colorado by tomorrow.
All that to say--the quality of the product and of the service at HP has been pretty dismal. (And this isn't the first time we've had problems--just the worst). So if you're ever considering buying a computer or other technological products, let me encourage you to not try HP.
On another note, I did receive some interesting lessons on various cultures. Mexico can't help you with anything, but is more than happy to transfer you wherever you would like to go. India can't help, won't let you talk to anyone else, and will only promise that someone will call you back within three business days. (Both my mom and I had this experience). And Nova Scotia and Ontario tend to be pretty helpful and actually get stuff done, but they can't figure out what on earth those people in California were thinking. (Neither can I, come to think of it).
Well, that's my story... and unfortunately, it's not over yet. I have to go call case manager 'Steve' again and make sure the computer is on it's way to the right state and address. Then I think I'm going to get a bowl of ice cream and go watch a movie. My mind needs to rest after traveling around the world in an hour and forty-five minutes.
So... I finished all the requirements for my Bachelor degree in Social Sciences this summer. Yes, that is a four-year degree completed in 10 months, 7 days! I'm now waiting to graduate from Thomas Edison State College, a regionally accredited school in New Jersey, sometime in December.
After finishing my degree, I ended up spending a month traversing the country; in Virginia for a camp called iGovern East, back to KS for a couple days, up to Nebraska to see grandparents, drove out to Colorado for iGovern West, stayed in CO for a week after camp with my family who is out there for awhile, back to KS to plan a Bible Bee and now planning to head to Pennsylvania this weekend! It's been busy, but fun.
In the midst of all that, I started a job with CollegePlus!, the organization that helped me plan and achieve my goal of getting a degree "Faster, For Less and For Sure." I'm currently coaching 18 students to do the same thing I did and enjoying it so far.
I am also hard at work organzing a Bible Bee in Wichita. We have around 40 contestants and are down to the last couple weeks before the competition, so there is a lot to do.
On a more personal note, I just spent a wonderful couple of days with my best friend and am off to Pennsylvania this weekend to spend some time with another great friend. For those of you who know I was hoping to go to China--well, I didn't. My dad left this past Saturday, but because his schedule was so full, I was not able to go with him. So I'm going to PA instead and hopefully can tag along the next time he heads somewhere. (He did mention Europe...) ;)
Well, hopefully that brings you up-to-date on my life thus far. I will hopefully elaborate on all the exciting things I'm a part of later on. I just wanted to let you all know I'm alive and well and that I DO plan to keep up my blog--somehow.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Me sitting on 'Delicate Arch;' on the left hand side. (Gives you an idea of how big it is!)
Well, I finally have the internet and the time to update this blog! And I learned how to upload pictures, so I added a few of them to each of my posts. (Though the date stamp should be ignored on most of them. It got mixed up a few times).
We have been in a house in Ivins, Utah since Monday, in a little desert community called ‘Kayenta.’ I wasn’t sure about the desert when we first got here, but it has grown on me a lot. I don’t think I would like to live in the desert, but it is still a beautiful part of God’s creation.
I’ve been taking advantage of being in a house that has electricity and internet by studying! Lots of fun… or not. I’m studying Intro to the Modern Middle East and I’m pretty sick of it. But if I can survive a couple more weeks, I will be completely DONE with my degree! Of course, then I’m contemplating a Master’s. I think I’m officially crazy. But once I finish this degree, I will at least take a few months before plunging into anymore school!
Anyway… they left on Thursday and we had to find our own amusement after that. It wasn’t too hard, actually, because Thursday afternoon Alyssa had a phone call from Social Security. Why the government insists on talking to her when she has no idea what they’re talking about, I have no idea. When they called, we put the phone on loudspeaker so we could hear. The conversation went something like this.