Tag Archive: taboo topic


Brett has been nagging, I mean asking, me to do a follow up post to the one we did on adoption to see what life is like two years after adopting our daughter Rachel. I have been putting it off, mostly due to legitimate reasons. We have became a family of four as I gave birth to our second daughter, Emma, and so life does have that frenetic/blurry/chaotic/kid edge to it that makes it hard to remember your shopping lists and when you last had a good nights sleep. But when I look around I see many moms with more kids, more difficult kids, and more on in their lives who can still churn out one blog post a week. So I had to ask myself; what is stopping you from taking one hour out of your day to write about adoption from the other side? Why are you hesitant?

And the answer is this: from the other side, adoption is normal, it’s every day, and I don’t see the difference.

Before we adopted there where so many questions floating through our heads; doubts, mixed feelings, insecurities, the unknown was big and looming and we were both excited and terrified at the same time. There was so much to say! And then those first few days and weeks were a whirlwind of emotion; fear and uncertainty, extreme love and joy as we got to know Rachel and she started to bond with us.

Fast forward two years and I forget she is adopted. I’m sometimes genuinely surprised when someone gives us a second look on the street. Why would you stare at my daughter like she’s different? She is just like me!

And so I sit wanting to write about being a mom. Because that’s what adoption is. Becoming a mother. On this side, with biological and adopted girls on each hip, I don’t see the difference. Both have vomited on me. Both have kept me up for hours in the night. Both needed rocking, shushing, cradling, cuddles and kisses to stop crying. Both had me sobbing in empathy with their first real hurt. Both have caused me to grin from ear to ear at their antics. Both swell my heart with pride.  Don’t get me wrong, they are different, and I have had to parent them differently, but the ultimate outcome is the same. I am mom.

So what do I have to say about adoption? If you want to be a mother, adopt. If you want to save the world, buy a superman cape. Because adoption, although it changes the life of a child that seemingly has no hope or future, is not about saving a child. It’s about starting a family, becoming a parent, having a child to call son or daughter.

There’s nothing ‘special’ about Rachel. She is a normal, shy, happy, silly, loving girl. And yet she is the most precious, adored and special girl in the world to me. Not because she is adopted. Because she is MINE.

[For more Adoption-related stories, click here]

Hamptons

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A Tough Miracle

Thanks, but I’ve had mine

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I pay a visit to a different church. All usually goes well on arrival. I find an empty spot along the side or at the back, planning a quick escape after the service. Then someone who knows me spots me, and my weakness appears… I love a good chat, and even more, a good cuppa tea.

I’m a social creature by nature, and very open to people asking me about my disability. So once I start chatting, I inevitably make a few new friends and the topic comes up. Then the inevitable happens, as if drawn by my magnetic brakes on my electric wheelchair , some well-meaning person will feel compelled to motor on over and insist on praying over me for healing. What they confuse is the message from God, and the voices in their head expressing their own discomfort at the thought of having a disability. It makes them realise their own frailty and humanity.

Make no mistake, I’m never going to turn down anything as powerful as prayer but I do ask that they rather include me in their prayers at home and that they listen to my story first. It’s always rather deflating to see people pray for healing with enormous expectation… And nothing happens. Occasionally, I meet people who are far enough in their journey to understand and appreciate my story, but I tell it anyway:

I’ve already had a miracle. My mother and I were hit by an out-of-control, on-coming car in 2007. The people who arrived on scene assumed we were dead. The professionals who did the accident reconstruction said there was no reason we were still alive. We should not have survived, but we did. That was my miracle. I’ve had my miracle. But I call it a “Tough miracle”.

Every day is hard. Every day I struggle. But I am here. This is my Tough Miracle.

We know the Lord always answers our prayers. However, as mere human beings, we have to accept His wisdom, and that sometimes His answer is “No”, or that He does things in His own time or his own way. He never said life would be smooth sailing, or that following His path would be easy. Those who stop long enough to really listen to my story, realise that I welcome their prayers to aid me through my journey, as long as it’s done in private.

I’ve had my miracle. God uses my disability in many ways. For my students in Inclusive Education, it’s very difficult to say that you cannot teach children with disabilities when your lecturer has a disability. I have learned first hand the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, and have the voice to speak out. And I have realised that physically and emotionally, I am stronger, even though I struggle, and that in God’s eyes, I am whole.

Please remember me in your prayers at home. Pray for those things you can’t see. Don’t worry about my wheelchair. Don’t focus on my needing to walk. Pray for my pain levels to drop.  Pray for the invisible disability I have: depression, which hides behind my smiling facade.

Pray that I have the love and patience to deal with well- meaning, over enthusiastic Christians who insist on praying for me in public, because I have a wicked sense of humour and am tempted to get up and walk (which I can do for short distances), shouting “Hallelujah! It’s a miracle!”

And pray for better understanding in society, so that people wouldn’t use the disabled parking spaces because stupidity is not a disability, that pavements would be flat, and that buildings would be accessible, for empathy not sympathy, and that people would stop assuming that because I use a wheelchair that I have a problem with it.

I’m here. I’m alive. It’s hard, but so is life. It’s my tough miracle.

[Helen is quite a busy woman and so doesn’t get to write too often, but when she does you can catch more of her words at Helen’s fabulous, frivolous, splendiferous, always-odd life on wheels…]

[For other stories from amazing and ordinary people who happen to have a disability or are faced with special needs, click here]

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AN INTRODUCTION

It is a silent world, a world devoid of sound. It is an abyss of unknown tunes, of unheard melodies, of nameless songs. The world I belong to is a world where I wake up not to the shrill of an alarm clock, where I walk at the edge of the sea, but cannot hear the waves crashing upon the shore, where I cannot hear dogs barking or the birds flutter above me. I cannot hear the voice of my mother, nor can I hear my own voice. It is silent.

It is a challenge in itself to learn to speak when you have no knowledge of how a word even sounds like, and also to be able to articulate in a fashion that another person can comprehend takes many years and a lot of determination along with a strong desire to succeed. I think I have a lot to be grateful for in the sense that my parents had not opted for an easier path but rather one that would make me self-confident and self-sufficient, two great qualities required in this independent age. My disability, although a huge challenge, was overcome through four things, my parents thirst to equip their child with all the basic communication skills to enhance the quality of my life, the constant support of a very close knit group of family members, my everlasting desire to achieve academically and professionally and fourthly and most importantly through divine intervention.

In terms of medical science, it was a given that with the severity of my hearing impairment, there would be no doubt that I would never be able to speak, so I could almost say that what I have done has defied medical science in the greater scheme of things. Doctors recommended that due to the fact I would not be able to pick up any form of language or speech, it would be wise to send me to a school for the hearing impaired and learn sign language as a form of communication.

I made very solid progress, my first spoken word was “flower” and the second spoken word was “aja” meaning grandfather in Hindi.  My parents had kept a little black book to record all the words that I pronounced, but soon the words were too many and the pages too few. I made remarkable progress academically as well, besides the rapid advancement of my speech. I had a great love for learning and a greater passion for reading, of which I am an avid reader and this perhaps contributed to my learning progress in a beneficial manner.

THE ACADEMIC JOURNEY

I went to a number of schools, started off at the Durban School for Hearing Impaired at the age of 4, where I did not fit into the environment, and after struggling there I was placed into the Holy Family Convent, which was also a bit of a challenge, as it was a single deaf child in a hearing classroom.

I then moved on to Stellawood Primary School then, now renamed as the Durban Primary School which had a dedicated unit in the mainstream school, called the PHU (Partially Hearing Unit). This school was to set the foundation for most of my life’s achievements, as the teachers, Mrs. L. Diamond & Mrs. P. Jackson were absolutely dedicated to making us self-sufficient, intelligent & speaking individuals. We learnt how to speak and read on the same level as learning the normal syllabi. It was imperative that we read, because our teachers believed that reading aids speaking. I had the best years of my life in primary school, and owe my great love to succeed and persevere to my teachers in primary school.  My primary school years set the foundation for a lot of the success in my later years.

I then went on to matriculate at Crawford College, writing normal matric examinations. I matriculated with 5 distinctions, doing 7 subjects all on the Higher Grade. I also received distinctions in both my languages, never mind the fact that I was told that I would not be able to grasp language.

I then enrolled to do my bachelor of commerce in accounting at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal with a Deloitte bursary. I graduated within 3 years, without failing a single subject, and became the first deaf graduate in the history of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. I then proceeded to do my honors at UNISA and graduated within one year with my second degree, honors bachelor in accounting science in 2008. I also received the Golden Key Award for academic excellence whilst in my first year of studies

I then went on to complete my articles for 3 years at Deloitte Durban, on my road to becoming a fully qualified chartered accountant, and passed both my qualifying board examinations on my first attempt, and then became the first deaf chartered accountant in South Africa.

THE TOOLS

My primary school, I cannot stress enough and probably won’t be able to stress enough, is probably responsible for the great success that I have attained today.  When I stand up at a national level to deliver speeches, or when I stand up in a boardroom to discuss business strategies and operational efficiencies, the simple teachings and principles that I learnt at school under the competent hands of my teacher (I had the same teacher from Grade 1 – Grade 7, Mrs Diamond) serve to guide me forth and this humbles me.

A lot of my dear friends that I’ve been fortunate to spend many memorable hours with here at the PHU, and who have been moulded to outstanding men and women today, will remember, the emphasis placed on a holistic education, blending reading, oral communication and life skills into creating self-sufficient, independent individuals who have accepted their disability and have risen above it more importantly.

I have a huge collection of photos from my primary school days, the camps we had been on, the nativity plays that we painstakingly put together, the multitude of crumpets that we made in order to raise funds, the warmth of our classroom, the birthdays we celebrated together…as I am in my adulthood, these memories seek to inspire me and allow me to believe in the goodness of humanity. I actually believe the fact that we were sent on camps sought to teach us a great gift of independence and resilience. Sent into the outer world, we were forced to adapt and more importantly learn to live with our disability.

For the great vision that the PHU had and the progressive thoughts that they had in the bygone days,  serves as an example of what exemplary education can achieve and therefore how it can sustain a nation by means of productive learners who can and are able to make a positive difference in our beautiful country, South Africa.  Stellawood has been one of the schools that had embraced diviersity, transcended the barriers of disability and the whole concept of a rainbow nation quite remarkably.

This school has taught me to persevere, to awake and arise with courage and conviction, to be determined and steadfast in achieving my dreams.

THE LIFE

Inclusiveness has been the greatest barrier that I have encountered in my everyday life.

It was hard in the beginning to accept that I am different from my family members in the sense that I have a profound and severe hearing disability, but once I came to the acceptance of my disability and the determination to make it my strength rather than my weakness, it was no obstacle for me.

However, there were a few challenges I faced in my life, notably the fact that it is a given that you pick up one third of a conversation and lose the other two thirds, therefore in an academic situation my learning was a bit of a challenge, but I always rose up to it by working twice as hard as I normally would and making the sacrifice in the conquest of academic excellence. I also ensured that I studied hard at school, and at university and even when I wrote my professional qualifying examinations. I used to sit in the front of the class or in the front of a lecture room, and still have the habit even in a meeting to sit in the front.

There were instances when I was mocked, or made fun of, because I sounded different, but then I always rose above that, and strived to see goodness in everyone and everything. There were times when I was discriminated against, but that along with being painful gave me the great strength to get up and face my battle head on. There was this constant human rights battle which my father spearheaded for the vast majority of my life, the right to dignity, the right to education and the right to be free and heard.

I also had some sacrifices that I had to make, for instance in the pursuit of obtaining language skills and developing the ability to speak I had a very limited childhood, in the sense that whilst other children played on the swings and with their toys, I was constantly learning. We were fortunate that we had the right guidance from the Carel du Toit centre in Cape Town, where we went as often as we could to the parental guidance programmes where they equipped us with learning techniques to aid the facilitation of speech. Professor Carel du Toit had no methodology for his practice other than he believed that if you talk to a deaf child, the deaf child will talk back to you!

I have client-facing roles which require extensive interpersonal skills. My clients have been more than understanding, most of them actually amazed and inspired. I have spread deaf awareness through corporate channels as well through a multitude of client interactions and have had the great fortune to break many perceptions including the perception that the deaf are dumb, which they are not, unless they choose to be. My struggle for inclusiveness is far from over, overcoming barriers was part of the journey.

THE KEY

I think acceptance of my disability and making it my strength instead of my weakness was a remarkable feeling because I utilised that strength to attain whatever success I may have attained. It was also then that I was able to distinguish between my priorities and instead of remaining complacent, tried to rise up to achieve and lead a dignified and respected life.

I know I am different by design, but that hasn’t stopped me from walking a path that is different and setting the bar so that others can rise up and aspire for their dreams too.

I think I have my parents to credit for the enormous strength and fortitude that I possess, because it was through them that I have managed to sustain through many battles, many hardships and still triumph still.

AURAL-ORAL

Aural-Oral is learning to talk and communicate by lipreading, talking and also comprehending facial expressions in order to make sense of conversations. It is the method primarily taught at the Carel du Toit centre, however, it is a much harder method to practice and requires a lot of time and dedication, initially it is very frustrating, however rewarding at the end.

This method was achieved by my parents talking as normally as possible to me and after my diagnosis they focused entirely on lip-reading and aural training. They adhered very strictly to the guidelines set by the Carel du Toit centre in Cape Town such as speaking and being at my level, continuous repetition of basic and advanced sounds and words as well and oral (learning the spoken language) & aural (articulation ability), this was combined with learning the technique and skill of lip-reading.

I was taught primarily by my parents who made everything a lesson for me, I couldn’t play freely on the swings like other children because it was my lesson, when we were in the kitchen, cup, water, tap…were repeated continuously to me, so it began that every minute of the waking day was spent learning to talk.

THE “IMPOSSIBLE” OVERCOME

In the end, a lot of inclusive education lies in understanding diversity. The importance of cohesion and peaceful co-existent of disabled and abled individuals needs to be a standard benchmark for society at large to implement and embrace.

I believe that all of the learning starts at a young age, once basic language has been grasped and a great love for learning cultivated, it will not take long for academic excellence to take precedence over language and communication erudition.

Whereas I am a firm believer of reading as the means and mechanism to enable advanced communication, this is not being implemented stringently enough in modern schooling systems. Due to my overwhelming love for language and literature at large, I feel that my manners of expression are varied and as such language does not become a barrier but rather a way to prove the impossible, possible.

I will be the first to admit that there is a lot of emotional trauma that comes with the discovery of any disability, but the system and support structure needs to be in place so that one can be comfortable with the disability and learn in essence to overcome it. Denial of a disability rather than recognition of it will only be to one’s detriment. It forms the basis of the attitude, and once the attitude of self-pity is set on stone, it will take many more days to rise up from it to become self-sufficient.

The schooling system needs to provide for innovative methods of integration to allow the disabled person to feel included to prevent the onset of a personality and identity crisis. It is critical to consider the overall emotions and appreciate the difficulties that the deaf individual has to undergo.

Having said a lot of things, I will also acknowledge that whilst support structures can be put in place, whilst government and legislative influences can become known and whilst people slowly transform in their overall thinking, if it is to be, it has to be up to the disabled individual alone to aspire for whatever greatness inspires them so.

THE LESSON

If there’s anything I’d like to say to everyone, be grateful that you have all your faculties, and therefore use them wisely for the disuse of them is a great insult to our maker. Further, treasure your hearing for once it is lost, it will never be replaced again. Above all, I’d just like to say that when two roads of life appeared before me, I always chose the road that was different and less travelled on, and that has made all the difference.

Follow your soul – be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of anyone else.

With my very best regards,

Kashveera Chanderjith

[To read the story of Susannah sharing about being a mother to a daughter, Monrovia, who is deaf, click here]

[To read other stories of people living with a disability or special need, click here]

 

 

Monroviablog

Our eldest daughter Monrovia, who is now six and a half years old, was born profoundly deaf. We first heard the words “profound hearing loss” when she was three weeks old, after failing multiple hearing tests. At the time I felt pretty overwhelmed by first-time parenthood, so the idea of parenting a newborn with special needs felt quite heavy and scary.

Here’s an excerpt from an email I wrote to friends after the appointment in which an audiologist told us she was deaf:  We chose the name Monrovia for a very specific reason, and now it seems more fitting than we could have predicted. When I spent time in West Africa, part of the time was in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, which had been devastated because of the awful Liberian civil war. My Liberian friends would always describe how beautiful the city had once been, and would speak with hope of what the city could become, even though it literally was falling apart. That image, of having great hope despite the surrounding circumstances, resonated with Matt and me. We wanted our child to be a person of hope and beauty even when that wasn’t what life or the world looked like at the moment. And here we are. In a place that seems so dark at the moment.

We hold this grief with the knowledge that even with M’s hearing loss we are so blessed, gifted, and privileged with a delightful and perfect child. At the same time it does feel that our immediate little world is crumbling, and we bear the weight of so much sadness right now. It sort of feels like we got robbed of this joyful beginning part of her life. Instead of just enjoying our new daughter, we are scheduling doctor’s appointments, handling insurance and specialists, researching hearing loss and learning an entire new glossary of terms. Most of all, we are incredibly broken feeling. So at the moment we are processing this, and coming to grips with a new reality for our lives.”

Six years later I can’t imagine any other narrative for Monrovia. Deafness, the word that I was initially unable to say without crying, quickly became our family’s normal. We deliberated very carefully when Monrovia was an infant and decided to pursue cochlear implants for her in order to give her access to sound. Implants do not fix deafness (nor was that our intention), but they mimic the way a typical hearing person’s hair cells work and enable some deaf people to develop spoken language. Monrovia had surgery when she was 9 months old; her implants were activated and she heard her first sound a month later! Having a deaf daughter has been one of the richest and most amazing gifts of my life, and it has shaped so much of our family’s life together.

I wouldn’t change either Monrovia’s deafness or our decision to get her cochlear implants, but there are aspects of having a deaf child that I wish others would know:

* Our complex feelings about her deafness don’t go away. We celebrate her deafness as much as we can and are very intentional about speaking to her deaf identity, but we also grieve what she misses out on as a deaf child living in a hearing world. This morning I stayed after school to watch how she was doing in her class. Within minutes I saw how she lagged behind her classmates in following verbal directions, and how she couldn’t simultaneously listen to the teacher and work like her hearing peers. Yesterday a kid called her name from 5 feet away and she didn’t hear it so the child ran off to play with other friends without her. In the morning the school bell rings at a tone that blends in with the sounds of a busy playground; as all the kids line up she is left alone playing until she looks up and sees an empty play structure. In a noisy restaurant she is completely lost in conversations. If someone speaks quickly she is still processing what they said when they move on to a new topic. Those complex feelings don’t go away, and so I wish the support wouldn’t go away either. Most friends of mine who have a deaf child are continually dealing with scenarios like this. It is amazing (and rare) to have a friend ask, “How are things going with Monrovia? Have you had any hard stuff with her deafness lately?”

*Our daughter is thriving. We are so grateful! She is in a mainstream class, on grade level, and can listen and speak spoken language even though she is deaf. But she works really, really hard. All day, every day! To keep up, to stay on track, to hear what you are saying, to focus, to process, to learn what new sounds are, to absorb new vocabulary. Unlike a typical hearing person, who can passively hear, assimilate and filter sounds, she must actively work at each of those things. So when you say, “I always forget she’s deaf!” I understand. But please know that we never forget; there are hidden parts of deaf life we are dealing with all the time: charging batteries, waterproofing her implants, finding subtitles for the movie so she can follow along, troubleshooting classroom issues (of which there are so many!)…We think about how to handle swim parties or sleepovers or talking on the phone to relatives…We field questions like, “Why does no one else at my school have implants but me?” or “Will I still have to wear implants when I grow up?” One of the biggest issues for Monrovia is that because she presents as a hearing child, it can be hard to convince people that she really still needs support as a deaf child. Yet she does.

*Please don’t say, “I wish I could turn off all the sound and just have silence like she can with her implants. She’s so lucky!” or “I think she kind of likes that she can’t hear everything. I know I would.” Really?! I can’t tell you how often I hear some variation of those comments. It minimizes her deafness and stings every single time. Instead you can ask her what it feels like when she takes her implants off at night, or what her favorite sound is, or when she wants to take her implants off. (Tonight when I told her I was writing this she said, “Tell them at night when I don’t wear my implants I can’t hear anything and I have to sign or read lips which is kind of hard.”)

*She will always be deaf. I know she doesn’t “sound” deaf. That’s because she started speech therapy when she was 7 months old, went to a deaf school that was a two hour round trip commute for four years, and still works hard on her speech and language at home and in therapy every week. I know “you’d never even know she’s deaf!” Yep. She is. I recognize that that phrase is intended as a compliment of some sort, but I cringe when someone says it (which is quite a bit.)  For a long time her implants were the same color as her hair and camouflaged. All the time people would mention, “Wow! That’s so nice that you can’t even see her implants!” What do those comments communicate to Monrovia about one of the most significant things about her? My guess is as a child she interprets the following: It is better if you don’t sound deaf. It is better if no one can tell you are deaf. It is better if your implants blend in.

*It’s ok to talk about her implants or deafness because we talk and think about it all the time. If you see her implants it’s ok to ask what they are and why she has them. After all, even Monrovia can tell when someone is staring at her and wondering what they are. She even has her own response if someone asks. If you have questions about her hearing loss, just ask!

The more people who understand this deaf journey, the more who can offer support and empathy, and the more who can advocate on her behalf and celebrate her successes. Even the opportunity to share this journey with others who listen is a gift to us, and in turn a gift to our daughter.

[You can read more from Susannah by checking out her blog, Good but Hard]

[To read other stories of People Living with Disabilities or Special Needs, click here]

Monrovia3

This is a repost that Jess graciously allowed me to share – you can find the original over here and you can, and really should, consider following her blog, ‘Jess in Process’ – in this piece she talks about losing her four year old son, Henry, 14 months ago, to a brain tumour.

Jess and Henry

FULL DISCLOSURE

***WARNING: GRAPHIC/DISTURBING CONTENT***

How have you been, Jess?

I hear this from time to time.  It’s been 14 months since my 4-year-old son, Henry, died from a brain tumor.

14 months.

Over a year.

I remember right after Henry’s death someone told me about another grieving mother.  That mother was having a very difficult time.  Her child had died roughly a year prior.

I remember thinking, Why is she still having a rough time?  Surely I’ll be doing waaaaaaaay better in a year.

After all, death is an event, right?  In Henry’s case, it was a horrible, unexpected, unplanned event… but it was an event.  An occurrence.  An experience.  Something we all survived.  We knew we’d see him again, eventually.  And in the meantime, surely time would ease the pain.

That was 14 months ago.

How have you been, Jess?

This video helps me explain…

Sometimes when I look at this baboon, I see myself.  Edgy and bewildered, protectively swatting away flies, padding through dry grass with a limp carcass in my teeth.

How have you been, Jess?

How do I answer?  How can I answer?

To be honest, sometimes I’m great.  But sometimes I’m overcome with grief.  Sometimes I’m crying in the corner of Kmart because I just saw my first yellow helium balloon (or any other random object) since Henry died.

Sometimes I’m full of energy.  But sometimes I’m exhausted from the undercurrent of pain that runs beneath every holiday/anniversary/birthday/etc. we celebrate without my son.

Sometimes I feel powerful.  But sometimes I’m crippled by the pain of one grandchild missing in the family photos, one cousin too few trampling through the yard.

Sometimes I’m full.  But sometimes I’m empty, like last Christmas when I hid the Hot Wheels coloring book and marker-set that I’d bought… on a whim… and didn’t know who to give them to.  Deep down I knew who they were for.

Sometimes I’m creative.  But sometimes I feel completely paralyzed, like when a bunch of kids blew past my 3-year-old daughter at the park last week.  She looked at them wistfully before hanging her head and saying softly, “I wish Bo-Bo Henry was still my friend.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ve healed enough to fit in with those around me.  Sometimes I’m sure I never will.  When I hear other mothers stressing about their children’s vaccine schedule, educational challenges, or picky eating, I often feel more solidarity with that baboon than with them.  But they aren’t doing anything wrong.  Those things once meant the world to me too.  They mattered when my son drew breath.  They mattered when I could hold him and fret over his future.  And with a precious daughter still in my care, they’re beginning to matter a little more every day.

But for now there’s a quiet chasm between most mothers and myself.  It’s not their fault.  It’s not mine.  It’s just the way it is.  That’s what this kind of pain does.

My Facebook feed epitomizes my reality.  Filled with healthy babies and thriving families, it seems like there’s no place for this extended and intense pain.  It’s improper.  It’s offensive.  It’s a downer.  It’s unproductive.  It’s old news. It’s as if the world keeps saying, “It’s time to move on, Jess.”

So when I hear that fateful question, I hear it as a shout.  It echoes over the noisy parade of society’s celebrations, “SO HOW HAVE YOU BEEN, JESS?”

And I think of her.  The baboon apart from her pack.  The one who’s not running or thriving or keeping pace with the smiles.  She’s alone with her dead child.  She’s trying to make sense of her existence alongside its absence.

She refuses to let go and she doesn’t apologize for it.  She sits with the ugly, the unnatural, the devastating.  She brazenly eats with death, sleeps with death, and lives with death.  And she doesn’t care who’s watching.  I envy her.

But I have something that she doesn’t.

Last spring I sat outside at dusk, whispering my pain into prayers.  At first those prayers seemed to evaporate into the oranges, purples, and deepening blues of the streaky night sky.  But I continued anyway.  “I just miss him so much,” I confided.  “I want to talk to himso bad.”

And within the silence that followed, my spirit felt a gentle whisper, “Do it.”

So I did.  I imagined Henry’s dimpled smile, his dancing blue eyes, and the cow-lick of straw-blonde hair on the crown of his head.  He was leaning against a column beside me.  He looked happy, calm, and ready to hear his mama talk.

“Hi,” I whispered, my tear-soaked face breaking into a smile.  “I love you so much!  And I miss you so, so much, my Little Love.  I want to hold you… so badly… I want to hug you and squeeze you and give you lots of kisses!  I promise I will again-” and then, to my surprise, this tumbled out, “But for now, Mommy has to stay.”

And with that simple confession, life and passion swept into my soul.  “I have to stay here a little longer,” I reiterated with fresh clarity and building momentum, “And tell people thatGod loves them. Some people don’t know how much God loves them.  So I’m going to stay here a while longer… and tell them.”

14 months later, this is what makes the difference.

This is where God meets me.  I sense him most strongly when I release the limp wrist clamped between my teeth and use my mouth to share the love of Jesus.  When I profess the truth that Henry’s death was neither beautiful nor peaceful nor sent by God for a mysterious higher purpose, I find passion.  I find strength.

When I hear from people all over the world whose lives are being transformed as they reexamine the scriptures and realize that the character of God was fully revealed on Calvary, I find momentum.  When I pause to contemplate the stunningly beautiful, enemy-loving, self-sacrificing essence of God, I find joy.

What do I have that the baboon doesn’t?

I have Jesus.  I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe who walked this earth long enough to demonstrate how we are to love one another and then gave his life to defeat the powers of darkness.

I also have the knowledge that my pain will be met with purpose.  I don’t believe that Henry’s life was savagely taken for a mysterious greater good.  But I do believe that this pain will be met with purpose as I partner with God to spread the knowledge of his great love.

And this helps me let go of what can’t be… at least for a moment.  Though I pick up my old hopes and dreams again and again, in the moments that I release them – when I release Henry into God’s care – He meets me there in a powerful way.

How have you been, Jess?

I’ve been high, low, up, down, furious, apologetic, happy, sad, rejuvenated, defeated, driven, and stalled.  It seems to depend in-part on how I spend my time, and where my heart is focused.  But regardless of how I feel, I choose to stay, and tell people that God loves them.  I choose to keep sharing my testimony.  I choose to share the God of the Bible revealed on the Cross.  Until the day I hold my son.

When you run into me, on the other side of eternity, be sure to ask: How have you been, Jess?

That’s when I’ll answer, Whole.  Complete.  Perfect. 

*** Note: If you post happy family pics/videos (like I do) – please don’t stop or feel bad about it!  Sometimes your baby’s fat cheeks or your kids’ goofy grins and belly laughs are a sacred balm to this battered soul.  Your precious offerings are a reminder of the beauty in this world and I am thankful to celebrate with you!

For more from Jess, make sure you head on over to Jess in Process: Seeking God through the lens of Calvary

 

i don’t, as a rule, share anonymous posts… however, this IS my blog and so i make up the rules and figured this one deserved an exception.

It is a post from a friend of mine who scribed a very different angled approach to the whole masturbation/pornography struggle that so many of us have or had and i thought it might be helpful, or at the very least, interesting:

Three Quick Awkward Memories:

1. In my teens my Dad used to stand in front of the TV when any potential nudity potentially happened to appear. This was very frustrating, and also had the effect, of course, of feeding my curiosity (in the days before the Instant Lust Gratification Finder known as the Internet). And the effect of making me think that it was inherently wrong/naughty/sinful to be even wanting to look at women’s bodies. And finally the effect of causing me to develop my very own DIY secret nudity search antennae. I don’t doubt that my Dad wanted the best for me though.

2. As a committed, born again christian at bible college I made a very public and tearful confession during a 3 day period of prayer and fasting. I had visited a blue cinema and watched what would now be described as a soft porn movie. After my confession a few guys came up to me (privately) and said how fantastic it was that I had confessed and how it had helped them. Personally I didn’t feel great after my confession. Just a little bit empty and embarrassed. However, I believed very much in openness and honesty, and I didn’t want to live a lie.

3. Later as a married man I confessed to my wife and to the man who married us, that I had fantasised about his daughter.

I’m only telling you this stuff to demonstrate that I am a fully qualified male, pornographic/masturbation struggler. It hopefully makes the rest of what I say make sense. For my part I don’t recommend revealing this sort of information publicly as a rule, unless you’ve got a fairly healthy sense of who you are. And even then…if you feel the need to talk about this kinda thing better do it with people who(m)  you know and trust. Confession can sometimes be a way of beating yourself with a very big stick.  Maybe I’m still doing that. I’m not 100% sure.

And now, here is a letter I found recently, sent from God to my younger self. I regret not reading it at the time.

Dear Hector (Name invented for anonymity)

You want to serve me with all your heart and soul, and you believe that I love you completely and forgive you totally. But it’s not always easy for you to get beyond the “what you want and believe” to the “who you are and what you do”. I want to tell you what I think. Because seeing yourself the way I see you can only help things, right?

Firstly, I can tell you that I am interested in the means AND the ends. In the ongoing process of you becoming the best, most complete Hector that you can become. And it is not in your knowledge right now to know who that person is.

Secondly, I think we can agree that I made sex AND I know your future. Some good news is that you are going to have a great wife (though it won’t ALWAYS be clear to you  how great she is). And you will have some great sex. And some good sex. And some sex. This will be an important part of your life. But only a PART of your life.

Thirdly, you are going to continue to struggle with Sex and the Art of Loving. You will separate sex and love in your mind far too often. You will not know a once and for all “victory” in this area (can you live with that possibility?). You will continue to WASTE time (yes, wasting time is the most serious of your offences in this matter) on bad habits. Habits that do nothing for you other than act as a kind of unnecessary release valve despite there being other, more satisfying, less self-hatred inducing, release valves available. And this waste of time will hurt YOU far more than anyone else.

But, and this is a HUGE but. You believe I’ve forgiven you right? Well, as it happens, I really have. Not only for the mess ups you’ve already made, but for all the ones you’re going to make. So that “Worst Of” video you’ve got running in your head, the one about what’s happening inside your head, the one that Me, You, And Everybody Else is going to watch come The Day. It’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Because I love you like the best dad or mum you could imagine. I spend the vast majority of my time getting excited about all the good things you’ve done. Or try to do. I spend a tiny bit of time getting mildly frustrated that you spend a bot too much of your time either: 1. Wasting your time searching for tiredness/anger/sadness/stress relieving unsatisfactory orgasmic “fixes”, then 2. Wasting your time worrying about it, and 3. Wasting your time talking about it.

And now  I’ve wasted enough time talking about it too. But I care, so it was necessary. Now clear off, relax, and get on with:

trying to make the world a better place; being honest; making people laugh; making them groan; making ‘em think; making music; being creative with words; being generous; loving that great wife you’re going to be getting; wearing your heart on your sleeve with your future kids; appreciating other people and nature and good things; crying at bad things; saying sorry when you hurt people you love; taking responsibility for your actions; dreaming of a better way; speaking out for justice; protecting the weak and the vulnerable; being weak and vulnerable; being strong; pursuing truth; being a peacemaker; turning the other cheek; loving your neighbour…

…as you love yourself. I could go on. Really, I could. But for now I think that’s enough.

Lots of Love from

The One who loves you far BETTER than you love yourself.

[Dani is a friend that tbV and i met while working with the Simple Way and she currently lives in San Francisco, which is just across the water from us, this is a piece she wrote a year ago which was published in Sojo.net and which she offered to share with us]

Dani Scoville

When my intoxicated friend leaned in to kiss me, I didn’t think I was just the most readily available girl. No, I convinced myself that his true affections for me were coming out. But the next morning, when I realized what it actually meant, I felt less worthy of being loved than I did before.

This wasn’t the first time I lied to myself in the moment and felt awful later, but I wanted it to be the last. I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen again, but I didn’t attempt to process why it happened. Then I was asked to organize an event around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

As I began reflecting on my past sexual interactions with men, I tried to bring God into the conversation for the first time.

It was easier to punish myself with guilt, follow youth group-style sexual boundaries or just say, “forget it” and do whatever I desired. I was reluctant to process my sexuality. Not only would it be a lot of work and uncover a lot of past hurt, but what if it unraveled foundational faith and lifestyle beliefs?

Up until six months ago, I had never questioned my decision to not have sex until I was married. I just did what I thought I was supposed to.

Once I began to reflect on it, though, I realized I was angry that God was asking me to wait. Or maybe it was OK to have sex, and God hadn’t told me sooner! I envisioned what would happen if I didn’t wait.

I decided that I would give my current relationship six months. If we were in love, I would give in.

But no matter how I attempted to deconstruct sex outside of marriage, I still felt that this change in my standards would result in me putting an unhealthy amount of expectation on that man to marry me. I knew that I would feel all those years of waiting were cheapened. Because, for me, sex holds an intense emotional and spiritual association.

I didn’t know all this until I questioned. And now, the only way I can envision having sex with someone is in a safe and committed context. This has also led to the more recent realization that I needed to revise my sexual boundaries in dating.

I listed all the events of the past year: what I enjoyed, what made me feel used, and what I needed to allow myself to enjoy. After I processed the last year, I thought about how my desire to be loved and accepted by a man was rooted in a desire to be love and accepted by God. If I first believe that I am God’s beloved, then I would be confident in my interactions with men, knowing I’m already loved and accepted.

So I drafted another list: this one of boundaries self-confident me would ideally want and be able to stick to. A week later, I met a guy who walked me home and kissed me good night at my gate. Rather than slam the gate in his face to make sure he didn’t come upstairs, I told him I was interested in him but that I wasn’t going to invite him in. When I woke up the next morning, I felt great.

I didn’t expect that deconstructing my sexual boundaries in the name of faith would cause me to develop boundaries. But these new ones aren’t oppressive, because they come from an understanding of myself. No one else came up with them but me. Now when the temptation to get a momentary intimacy fix is there, I’ll have my own voice and story reminding me to not give in and wait for something rooted in love.

[Dani Scoville lives in San Francisco and is an active member of ReImagine, a community focused on integrating the teachings of Jesus into daily life. to read more of what Dani writes, check out her blog, ‘Through the Roof Beams’ here]

[For another story on Singleness, meet my friend Beverley by clicking here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

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