Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's all in the timing

When I registered my daughter G. for Kindergarten they gave me a packet of number cards, alphabet books, shape recognition games and cutting exercises. So much homework, and she hasn't even started school yet!

One of the concepts she needs to learn is opposites. So when we're lying in bed we play the opposites game. I say "hot," she says "cold." I say "high," she says, "low."

But when I asked G. for the opposite of "late," she yelled: "Staying home!"

Touche'! Some days, between remembering snacks, finding car keys and throwing shoes on the right feet it seems a wonder we arrive at all! Then there's that 20 minute time warp between the front door and the car...

I've been thinking about God's timing lately. It was 5 years ago when I first asked my doctor why K. was so unusual and challenging to parent. After 1 1/2 years on a waiting list we saw a developmental pediatrician who put us on a 6 month waiting list for a child psychologist who couldn't tell us what was going on either.

Three years ago I wrote a prayer in my journal begging God to show us how to reach K. It wasn't until last spring, when I heard about Aspergers and asked for a specific assessment, that we received a diagnosis and relevant, helpful advice. I have no idea why it took years of painful misunderstandings.

And while we're on the subject: Why did God make his people wait so many years before he sent Jesus to earth? Why do some people only learn about God's love and forgiveness late in life after spending years of loneliness, addiction, anxiety or brokenness?

Some say God's perfect time is always right now. They believe if good things take too long coming it's because you've been wasting time waiting for a miracle and should start making better choices. If painful things happen, it's because someone evil used their freewill and you just happened to be in the way.

For me, a philosophy which gives bad, selfish or ignorant people (including myself) that much power over my destiny would make it hard to fall asleep at night. Our choices are important but they aren't everything, and we need a strength greater than our own to make good ones. And there is so much that is out of our control.

I like believing that whenever things happen it's God's timing. Challenges aren't blips, they're opportunities - to grow, to rely on him, to seek out and comfort others in the same situation. We might not figure out the reason for the pain, but there definitely is one. God's in control. Even when he asks me to wait.

Unlike the Schellenbergs, he's right on time.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The best thing of all

Every night before we tuck K. and G. into bed we read to each of them from a Bible storybook. Last night I read K. the story of Paul and Silas locked in a Philippian jail for preaching about Jesus, singing through the night in their chains, and then going free after an earthquake bursts open all the doors. The end of the story said Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Philippi which we can find in our Bibles.

K. wanted to see it in his Bible, so I turned to the book of Philippians and showed him. "What does the letter say?" he wondered. I read the first few verses. "What's the rest? Keep reading!" So, long after he was supposed to be asleep, I read all four chapters of Philippians to my 7 year old.

When I got to the part that goes, "I consider everything to be nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. To know him is the best thing of all," K. said, "Ya!"

I read on: "I want to know Christ better. I want to know the power that raised him from the dead."

He cried out, "Yes!"

It reminded me of the stories I've heard from China or Vietnam where people hide in rice patties or warehouses all night long to hear someone read from the Bible. Like Paul and Silas so long ago, many people around the world risk their lives, their homes, and their freedom just to hear and share the words of Jesus, because they believe in their healing, transforming power.

They get it: Everything else is nothing compared to knowing him.

I don't know what kind of challenges, disappointments, or pain K. will face in his life because of his disability. I don't know if he'll get married, pass algebra, or drive a car. But seeing his eyes light up with excitement about the power of Jesus at work inside him I know, like the persecuted Christians in the rice patties, my son gets it too.

And everything else is nothing compared to that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Just watch my "toss pile" grow!

It feels so good to declutter. I feel like I'm on "Clean Sweep," except without the corny TV show host.

Last week we donated a sofa, chair and filing cabinet to Love 'n Care ministries, clothes to Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and we recycled piles of packaging and paperwork. I feel like someone added 100 square feet to my house, and I no longer have to bodysurf over boxes to reach the back of the storage closet! Bonus!

It felt so good, in fact, that I think I'm going to declutter on the inside too. There are a few things taking up space in my mind that need to go: indecision, jealousy, hopelessness, self-depreciation. I'm fed up with the way they've been crowding peace out.

I'm ready to start standing up to criticism and condescension by respecting my own dignity, privacy and reputation. Instead of only sharing the questions I'm still processing and the areas I need prayer, I'm going to let my friends see the strong advocate, coach and "prodder" that my children and interviewees (and any professional in a position to help Kieran) already know.

Four years ago my family faced changes and challenges that became the catalyst for the creation of a New - more confident and joyful - Ange. With Tony's job ending in 4 weeks, we're in that same situation again, and I am presented with another opportunity to re-examine, risk, and reflect.

I think I feel a Newer Ange coming on.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Caution: may have been exposed to miracles

I was wondering if you'd help me out....but I'm sure you won't because you don't have to and our relationship doesn't normally work that way and you have bigger things to worry about....

I'm guessing the way I said that didn't leave you feeling very honoured or inspired to help me, did it? Then why do we approach God that way?

I was brought up in a church tradition that suffers from a mild allergy to miracles. Nothing life-threatening, mind you, just enough of a reaction to keep us from tasting certain blessings. I've been to many prayer meetings where I wondered why we were even bothering, the people praying seemed so convinced that God wasn't going to do anything anyway.

I think the reason for the "rash" of doubt is that we've all experienced times when we felt strongly that we should pray for a miracle, but we didn't get it. We dared to believe and then were disappointed. So we change our theological diet to exclude most of the New Testament: Jesus and his followers' works of wonder, healing, deliverance and transformation. We give up on God far too soon and we miss seeing all the wonderful things God is doing all around us right now.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dream on

Sometimes I hear people wondering whether we should really be praying about trivial things like parking spots and sales on pants. While I share their ideal of growing in our ability to desire what God wants rather than just asking him for what we want, I figure: 'If I'm going to think about it anyway, why not think about it with him?' God knows I'm thinking it anyway, and he loves to be included.

When my husband was finishing his second degree and I was cooped up in an 2 bedroom apartment with a newborn, I confessed to our pastor's wife my dream of owning a house. It was a long shot - we were still paying off student loans and not even close to saving up a down payment. I expected her to scold me for being selfish and materialistic. Instead, she told me to write a List of all my dreams and commit them to God.

A few months later we were in our house.

And I could tell a similar story about my piano, car, sofa, family vacation, seminary education, and most of the pants in my closet. All felt out of range, but became mine -through generous gifts, amazing sales, or determined saving - after I committed them to God. They're not just things, they're reminders of what can happen when I commit my dreams to the Dream-giver. They're souvenirs from a land called Trust.

This spring I'm starting another List. My husband's position at work is being eliminated in 6 weeks. God knows I'd love it if he would lead us to:

A job that gives T. joy, energy, and a sense of purpose.
A salary that pays the bills, plus enough to "splurge" on private occupational and speech therapy for K. Okay, and summer camp.
A workplace close to home so Tony can spend two more hours a day with those he loves, instead of Transit Tom.
A schedule that allows him to continue to be involved in church.
And time to install a basement bathroom. (That one's probably just a pipe dream.)

When he gets this job (I'm sounding more confident than I feel) instead of a lucky break, it will feel like an answer.

Because I dared to ask.