Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pajama Day At Therapeutic Recreation

Today was the highly anticipated Pajama Day at Therapeutic Recreation...it falls on the last meeting time before Christmas. Joshua doesn't always participate. I've said it before: he's an old soul. He thinks a lot of stuff is "silly," and he won't participate in it. He's not mad about it; he just doesn't want to do it.

But he did today. I had found him a pair of flannel Christmas pajama pants at Old Navy in the BOY department (bigger kid sizes) (shhhh...no one tells Joshua), and he LOVES them...which is probably the only reason why he was excited to wear them.

BUT in one of my many epic mom-fail moments, I forgot that they were supposed to bring a $5 ornament to exchange today.

And, yes, I'm not too proud to admit that I LOOKED AROUND MY HOUSE for something I could throw in a gift bag for him to bring. Shameful, I know.

It would've been so great if I could've found a nice, unused $5 ornament lying around...

Or a gift bag.

So, Joshua came downstairs all ready to go in his pajama pants and a t-shirt. I told him that I forgot he needed to bring an ornament to exchange, and so we were gonna have to run by WM on the way. I told him he could wear his pajama pants in the store if he wanted to, or he could change into a pair of jeans. I knew that he would not be caught DEAD in a pair of pajama pants at WM...no way, no how.

Even tho, at our Wal-Marks, he would've fit right in.

Just sayin'.

Anyway, he changed into jeans and put his pajama pants in his backpack, and off we went. Our WM is right on the way to the Interstate, so it wasn't a big deal. I needed to get gas, anyway. It didn't take Joshua any time to choose an ornament. I grabbed some gift-bags and tissue paper, and we headed to the nearest check-out line.

There was a lady in line in front of me with her son. She had a gift bag and a gift...an ornament or something...and a plastic container of cookies.

Yep.

And just like in the scene from The Santa Clause...where Tim Allen's character burns the turkey and they end up at Shoney's and he looks over at a guy at the next table who is sporting a bandage on one hand and asks, "burn the turkey?" and they give each other the head nod...I look at the mom and child in front of me. I see what she's buying...she sees what I'm buying. It's before 8 a.m. on a school day at Christmastime. We make eye-contact and I ask, "forget the ornament exchange and the Christmas party?" And we give each other the head nod.

SOLIDARITY.

Joshua had a great time today. They did their ornament exchange and he told me that he ended up with a red pine-cone. Hmmmm...I haven't seen it yet, but I'm wondering if it's one of the craft items the FRIENDS made earlier in the week. And that's fine if it is. It can hang on the tree next to the BLUE pine-cone that Joshua made, and we'll have a set!

We had a LONNNNNNG commute this morning, because a drop of rain fell and everyone lost their minds, and a 35 minute drive took well over an hour. What in the world? Fortunately, Joshua is never at a loss for words, and he entertained me by telling me all about the latest chapter in the book he is writing.

After the ornament exchange, they made cookies...and then they had lunch. After lunch, they watched a movie. I asked Joshua what movie it was and he said, "Polar-BEAR Express." They planned to have their cookies after the movie, but I picked up Joshua and we came on home. We have cookies here, and he was fine with leaving a few minutes early.

He recounted his day, minute-by-minute, on our drive home. He said there wasn't any drama today because Jenni wasn't there. I told him that when I got there, he was sitting between two girls...and one of them had her hand on his shoulder. And I said that if I was Jenni...and I saw that...I might be creating me a little drama my OWN self. He said, "oh, we are all just friends."

And then he deflected my questions by bringing up the "love triangle" between Michael and Julia and Jennifer. He said that Mrs. Alanna had some new songs for the Wii Dance, and the first one was a New Direction (the FRIENDS call them New DICTATION), and that he wasn't a fan of that group but the song was "very danceable."

He said that Michael and Jennifer were dancing to the New DICTATION song and that Michael was all over Jennifer "like a monkey on a banana."

Drops mic and walks away.

"...a wise person wins friends." Proverbs 11:30

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday: Kickball And To-Go Drinks

Nothing earth-shattering today. Just a regular day.

On Tuesday of this week, Joshua and his Therapeutic Recreation group were supposed to go on a walk on one of the bridges that goes over the Arkansas River. When we left our house this morning, it was a balmy 41 degrees. And, while you'd think it would go without saying, I'm saying it: while taking a walk and getting some exercise outside SOUNDS like a great idea...what you don't want to do is to take a group of FRIENDS on a WALK...before LUNCH...in the freezing cold.

Actually, in order for this day to go well, it would have to be scheduled on that one perfect day that happens once every year, and today was not that day.

Joshua said that they went to the community center instead. They played kickball and basketball. The last time they went to the community center and played kickball, Joshua accidentally kicked the ball at Jenni's head and she ran to the bathroom crying and he ran to the other bathroom crying and the FRIENDS all split into groups of boys and girls and went into the respective bathrooms to check on Joshua and Jenni. And, when they finally convinced Joshua that Jenni was fine and that it was an accident and not his fault...they took him into the girl's bathroom to see for himself that Jenni was fine.

This drama was talked about for WEEKS.

So, pretty brave for the program directors to take them back there again.

He said, "me and Jenni only talked 2 times at the community center, and we got along just FINE."

He also said that Jenni picked him to be on her team and that's not what he really wanted, but it was FINE.

They ate lunch at Chili's today. I told him I would get him after lunch, so I got to Chili's early, parked close to their vans. Instead of going in to get him, I decided to wait for the group to come out. The scene did not disappoint. Two of the FRIENDS came out first, with one of the drivers. And then the rest of the group came out. Jenni was hauling it as fast as any FRIEND has ever hauled it. She was passing people right and left, and even cut through the flower bed to be at the front of the pack. In order to be first to the van. In order to get the coveted front passenger seat. And she succeeded. Even when Joshua walked over to tell her good-bye, she wouldn't leave the van. She opened the door and leaned wayyyyy out to hug him.

When Joshua got to the car, he began to tell me about their lunch. At his table were three FRIENDS: Blair, Mrs. Angel's Brandon, and Sarah. He said that Blair, Mrs. Angel's Brandon and Sarah all ordered the "double burger," which he said is "new on the menu." He said that "was not a good and healthy choice for them," but he didn't say anything to them about it.

Joshua got the "two burger bites and a cup of soup and water." He said that he had to help Blair cut her burger, and figure out the money for her ticket, and leave a tip. He said that he told everyone at his table to leave a tip.

At one point, Blair either ate too fast or got choked...not sure, but she couldn't breathe. Joshua said he had to help her. I asked him how he helped her and he said, "I kept her calm and held her drink."

He said that Blair wanted a "to go" drink...which, it is against the rules to bring drinks on the van AND THEY ALL KNOW IT BUT TRY TO ORDER TO-GO DRINKS ANYWAY.

Joshua said, "I didn't tell her NO, she couldn't get one. I just said, 'hey...do YOU want to make everyone wait while you clean up the mess of your drink if it spills on the van?" Blair talks verrrrry slooooowwwwly, and said, "noooo." And Joshua said, "can you wait til we get to the Center...where you can get a drink of water?" And Blair said, "yessssss."

Joshua said, "she knew the right thing and I didn't have to tell her "NO."

Not gonna lie, I was pretty impressed with the problem-solving skills he was displaying.

This is the last week of TR until after the first of the year. The FRIENDS have been counting down the days since Thanksgiving, not because they are looking forward to the break...but because they are dreading the break. Today, they were all really sad, because for some of them, today was their last day because they don't go on Thursdays.

I love that Joshua is learning skills that will help him throughout his life.

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." James 4:17

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Blessing of the InTRAnet

The Internet can be a scary place (my father-in-law called it the inTRAnet in the beginning). You have to be so careful with your personal information, because of all the crazies out there. Not only that, when you post stuff, you have to be prepared that there might be an onslaught of negative comments about it from people who don't agree with you.

FROM PEOPLE YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW.

Fortunately, for me, those times are very rare.

One of the coolest things about the internet, for me, is that it can be one big prayer chain. I remember when Clark was diagnosed with cancer back when he was little. We didn't have Facebook or blogs, but we did have email. I remember people telling me, "my parent's church in Kansas is praying for Clark." Or "my friends in Washington state are praying for Clark." One of my friends told me that they emailed the prayer request to the missionaries from their church who were serving in Japan...and THEY were praying for Clark.

Exciting and humbling.

One of my most favorite things to do this time of year, is to check the mail. I LOVE getting Christmas cards and letters from our friends and family. I love seeing all the pictures, and reading about their lives. One of the most fun things EVER happened last week. I got a Christmas card from someone I don't know. I mean, I KNOW her, but I don't KNOW her, KNOW her.

I "met" her on the Internet.

She comments on my blog and we became "friends" on Facebook. She has a son with Down Syndrome and I have a son with Down Syndrome. I am just a little further down the road than she is. 

OKAY, nosie-rosie, I am a LOT further down the road than she is. Is it further or farther? I never know. Either way, I'm in the next county...and down the hill...and around the curve. Because I'm OLD.

But she is young and fresh, and I am amazed at all she does to advocate for those with various abilities and challenges, all the while being married and raising 3 children.

And, you know what? When she asked for my address, I didn't have one single thought that I shouldn't do it. And you know what? I asked for hers as well.

And last week, I received her Christmas card in the mail...and when I put the picture of her beautiful family up on The Big Board in our kitchen, my family said, "who are those people?" I said, "that's my pretend internet friend, Deborah, and her family." And they all went, "MOMMMMMMMMM!" because they pretty much think I'm crazy. 

Jim and I have spent YEARS telling our kids to be careful with their personal information and don't talk to strangers or "friend" someone on Facebook that you don't know in real life.

All good ideas.

BUT then I come along and say things like, "my friend, Sophie, said..." Or, my friend, Kelly, said..." And my family says, "WHO?" Because I don't have any friends by those names...that they know of! Usually one of my kids will say, "MOM...okay...is this a REAL friend, or one of your pretend internet friends?" 

And that's when I have to look down at the floor and say, "a pretend internet friend."

Holly JUST told me tonight that I shouldn't go around saying things like, "my pretend internet friend," because people will think I'm strange.

Well, stand in line, honey.

When this whole thing started, I wanted NOTHING to do with it. No social media for me, no ma'am. I was very reluctant, and my kids like to remind me of things I said about it, like, "I will NEVER have FACEBOOK...what a waste of time."

For the record, I probably said the same thing about Pinterest.

Saw-reeeeeee.

Also, my 18 year old son claims he is NEVER on Facebook anymore, because "it's just not the same since the OLD PEOPLE started using it."

So there's that.

For me, this whole social media experience has been mostly positive. So far!

I love that I can get prayer requests from all over the world from people I don't even know...and I can pray for them. I love that I can keep up with family and friends, even after we move away from each other. I love that I can get recipes and decorating ideas and find out the most popular paint colors for our front door. I love getting information on things from medical issues to spiritual issues. I can "read" books on-line. I have several blogs that I read daily and I've gotten so much helpful information from them...from fashion advice and what's on sale at what store...to finding out about great books and Bible studies. Overall, it's been such a positive experience.

This whole blog started because of my sister, Leanne. She and Holly got it all set up for me and it just sat there untouched for months. Now, I love keeping track of our days. It has been a great way to journal our lives...to record what the Lord is teaching us and where He's brought us. If the whole thing crashes, I don't even care about my banking and other things that people put on their computers (note: Jim cares about all of that. He cares very much). I care about my pictures and my blog and keeping up with my friends. I have loved the connection that the internet brings. Not that it takes the place of actual human interaction...it should never do that. I just love that it can bring us all together...in a good way.

That's how Heaven is gonna be, right? Except we won't need our computers or our smart phones. All of the believers will be together in one place with God.

I can't wait!

"Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Heart of a Father

I guess there's not much more heartbreaking than seeing a father break down over the condition of their child's heart.

Oh, I'm reaching...I know. There are tons of heartbreaking things: a child born with a "disability" (I hate that word) or challenge...or when something happens later in life as the result of illness or accident or a side-effect from medication; a child (family member, friend) diagnosed with cancer; the end of a marriage; the death of a loved one; when someone is lost...and there are many meanings of the word "lost,"

On this day, there were two dads...both very different, but both with similar circumstances. Both Christians, both involved in the lives of their children.

The children in this case are both girls...sweet, precious, godly girls.

And speaking as the mom of a girl, I will tell you that it is such a huuuuuge responsibility to raise up godly daughters who are compassionate, kind and pure...because the world is pursuing them...constantly snapping at their heels, trying to get them to fall.

Trying to get them to fail.

The world entices them with the promise of pleasure without consequences. It tells them "you'll never be pretty enough," or "you won't be able to keep that boyfriend unless you go farther...and farther." Getting them to question their parents, their pastors, what they've been taught all of their lives.

Getting them to question God. 

And the world is not only OUT THERE. It's sometimes even in our churches.

Sometimes it travels in our same circles. It dresses like us and talks like us and makes us think that we are the same.

But we are not the same.

"For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:20

As hard as it is for grown adults to discern who is genuine and who is deceiving, it's even harder for a child. Even an older child. Even a young-adult-type child. And when our children are growing up and taking those baby steps of independence, which is what we want, they sometimes go a little too far in thinking they know more than every other human-being in the history of forever.

I've been there...haven't you?

You know, when you thought your parents just didn't understand...that they just weren't caught up on what life is like now...when you thought they were just trying to control you...when you thought that they surely must not want you to be happy.

It's when you think you're stronger than you are.

It's when you think you can change a person or a situation...when it's not okay right now, but we are SURE that, with time, it will be.

News flash: it will not.

"Beware of false prophets who come to you like gentle sheep, but really are ravenous, devouring wolves." Matthew 7:15

As heartbreaking as it is when you feel like you just can't reach your child...there is also not much of anything stronger than a love that will move heaven and earth to do everything in your power to protect your child.

On this day, this stoic and strong dad, sat quietly and tears rolled down his face as he listened to the gentle and encouraging words of another. Oh, how he loves his daughter. 

And on this day, there were no answers. No earth-shattering revelations...no "magic" words to change the situation or the hearts involved.

But a burden was lifted.

Because there is power in prayer and in Christian community.

"Bear one another's burdens..." Galatians 6:2

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday: "To Bring Him Glory" And The Blessing of Friendship

I don't think I can adequately put into words the emotion of this day.

It was finally the day when our choir was going to perform the program we've been working on for months. It was called "To Bring Him Glory." I thought it came together so well, and that the message of the Gospel was CLEARLY presented. I mean, there were no testimonies this year...no drama, no live animals. Just the Gospel in song...plain and simple.

The first service went well, and by the time it ended, I think we were all warmed up and comfortable with how things had gone. We were sitting in the choir loft, waiting for the next service to start when Holly goes, "isn't that Mrs. Stacy?"

I looked out in the congregation, and I saw some of our friends walking in...and then I saw my friend Stacy, and her two kids. And I felt tears well up in my eyes. I kept thinking, "don't cry...don't cry...don't cry...you have to sing...don't cry."

Here's the deal. Our friends, Bill and Ruth, from our old home town...have a daughter goes to college here in our town...and she also goes to our church. She had a solo in our choir program today, and her family came to hear her. We knew that they were coming. What none of us knew was that our other friends were coming, too. They showed up and surprised us ALL. We were so excited to see everyone! And Stacy looked like the cat who swallowed the canary...she pulled off a great surprise and it was wonderful.

After church, we all went to lunch...all 15 of us. We went to a Mexican restaurant and stayed for 2 hours just talking.

Just like we used to do.

And the words of encouragement that were spoken around that table? I cannot even tell you what it meant to all of us.

Friendship is a blessing. Friendship with other believers...it's just priceless.

And this is why we need to keep our Christian friends close. We need to check on them and check in with them and encourage them in their walks with the Lord. We need to encourage them to stay grounded in God's Word and we need to keep them accountable. And we need to have friends who will do all of that for us. Because there will be times when we are at the end of our ropes...when we are backed into a corner and don't know how to get out...when we have tried it all and nothing is working...when we are broken over the condition of a family member...when we have nothing else to give and we want to give up...these are times when Christian friends can step in and offer words that are like a salve to the soul.

Prayer is a powerful thing, and it's something we can do even when we don't know the person or the situation.

But spoken words can be a gift, washing God's grace and peace over us.

And that's what happened today. And my heart is so full.

"A word spoken at the right time is like fruit of gold set in silver." Proverbs 25:11

And, speaking of prayer needs: this came across my screen today from Melanie about her friend. I don't know either one of them, but that doesn't matter. Can we agree to pray for this sweet lady?