Friday, July 30, 2010

To answer a friend's question

Click on this to make larger so you can actually read it!

There we go!!! In the world of academia, this concept map would be called a model! These are great ways to put really nebulous concepts into more concrete and/or visual terms for those of us that need it. In academese, we'd say that character produces hope when mediated by the degree to which one is conformed to the image of Christ & the degree to which said person understand more of God's character. (Yes, I am a nerd. WOO!)

This is my attempt to answer a dear sister in Christ's question, "How does character produce hope?" based off of Romans 5:4 which states "and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." (ESV)

Character is produced via conforming to Christ's image usually through suffering. OUCH. No DOUBT that I know this. When hope in everything else is stripped away, I am left with only one option: entrusting myself to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19). The degree that I entrust myself to God as my faithful Creator is highly correlated to my knowledge of Him & how much I really want that relationship. This degree of trust is also dependent (or moderated) by how much I really want to seek God. This may be why God chooses to sanctify His children by suffering. If life is good, we might be tempted to not really seek God, thus our trust in Him and knowledge of Him may not grow as fast. Though even in suffering, I've been prone to turn toward other things than God. Yes, here's another nerdy graph to illustrate my point :)

This is why we need God's grace to grow. This is why Paul covered grace by faith & justification before this point, because if we tried to work through this logic model & graph on our own, there would be no forward motion. We wouldn't even get to the mediating factors. It is Christ who is our comforter & all in all & here in the love & power of Christ we stand :) :) Woot to Stuart Townsend who wrote In Christ Alone in 2002 because that song is pretty awesome :) Anyway, Christ makes it possible for character to produce hope because is the Triune God that is the driving force behind conforming us to His image & behind us learning more about the character of God through the Word :)

So in sum, yes character does produce hope - in a very complicated way and all by God's grace!!!!!!! :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Example

Since I've realized that I have this new challenge of an ASD and how it plays out in the way I live, I have had to reconfigure and rework my life - the way I see my past, present, and future. How exactly does this recently discovered (or diagnosed) piece of my identity into my life overall and how do I live knowing that it influences what I do without it controlling me and how I think of my identity overall? How much influence does this have on my decision making about my career and other aspects of my future? How do I tell others? Why does God have me in this position? How does this affect my continued healing from my past? 
To answer these questions, I've longed for a role-model, an example. Someone who's been there that I can ask these questions to. I wish I could spend a day or several days just talking to a specific person about this who's been there and see where she's been in life, not just what she has written down, but to really understand what her life has been like. I wish she could be there to walk down at least the first part of this 'new path' with me so if I needed anything - an encouraging word, an 'I understand, I've been there, here's how to handle it' piece of advice. 

However, this person has limitations. Any person I would pick to be my role-model would have limitations. There's no possible way to learn all the research around ASD. And every person with ASD has it affect him or her differently. Therefore, there could be things she struggles with that I don't and vice versa. This person can't always be there 24/7 and even if there was a decent friendship there, friendships aren't always perfect. 

Then who is my example? Who do I really really want to be with me down my path of life as I go with this new challenge? Who do I really want to be there when things get rough or when I achieve something that I didn't think was possible? Who do I really want there when I get in a funk and completely loose it? I know the answer. His name is Jesus. We as believers are called to imitate His life, follow His example, and thus be an example to those around us. Christ gave of Himself at The Cross. Christ has felt abandoned. Christ has felt rejected by the world. Christ is my Creator. He ordained my days before they were ever written. He knew exactly what I would face as I went through life. He knows every single piece of research, every discovery about the brain & human development that we will ever discover, and He knows all the secret nuggets of nerdy awesomeness that we will never ever be able in our limited human knowledge & technology (in a fallen world) to discover because He is Creator. 

God, Savor, Creator,
I need You as I walk down this path. I know I don't physically see You, but I see Your hand in Creation, in Your Word, in the lives of other people, even those that I want to be my role-models that I don't know if they know You yet. When I am sad, when I am frustrated, when You allow me to have victory, may I come to You with all of it. You are there when I can't sleep. You are there when I have a melt-down and seem all alone. You have seen my life- all my life, every happy moment, every painful moment, You've heard every encouraging word that's been said to me and every time someone has snapped at me out of frustration or anger because she couldn't understand what was wrong with me or how to fix it. You know my path. You have ordained my days. You are my example in humility, service, love, and compassion. You give me empathy beyond what I have ever been able to feel. You offer unconditional forgiveness because You died for all my sins on the Cross. You sustain the relationship when I withdraw into my own world and want to shut You out. You see those moments anyway and are there with compassion and no condemnation when I come to You. You take away my shame. 

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tounges above
Praise this mount I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love! 

Here's my life and Here am I to lead. Amen :) 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I still taste & see that He is good

Psalm 34 is really awesome. I think I might've done a verse-by-verse study on it at one point, but with a more general theme woven through. However, I wanted to focus on how this verse applies to my dealings with adjusting to life knowing that I'm on the autism spectrum. Throughout this process, there have been times where I've focused more on gathering information and looking at how other people lived life on the spectrum than going to God for direction. I've also wanted to talk to others on the spectrum (especially one particular person who has achieved great worldly success even while being autistic) about issues that were coming up rather than going to God. These things are not wrong in themselves, but in absence of God, they can only give me so much hope.

Psalm 34 (ESV)My thoughts
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
All times means all times. Philippians 4:4 says "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice." This is only possible when I realize that
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad. (NIV says: Let the afflicted hear and rejoice).
My soul was prone to boasting in my master's degree, in other things, but again, like Paul, I must boast in the Lord. That is the gist of 2 Cor 12:9-10. I don't just boast in the Lord in my weaknesses to make myself feel better, but so others in similar situations or with other weaknesses can be encouraged. Affliction also leads to humility which leads to dependence in and eventually joy in God.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
For everyone that has dealt with disabilities & illness, there is hope! I have found Jesus! Come with me, see who He is, exalt Him together!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK J
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Yup! This is the line in Taste & See (lyrical adaptation to this song) that made me cry really hard. My shame is gone as You draw near!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Growing up, no one realized that I was on the mild end of the autism spectrum. Therefore, all my behaviors that fell in that category were often corrected in a negative way (see my blog post on that). I was pushed to be normal and now knowing that I'm not still hurts. Growing up, I feared that I would be less of a person if I didn't achieve that sense of normal. However, God intervened, saving me just as I am. He is my Creator and knows my limitations better than I do and better than any assessment can measure. Because Christ took away any impurities standing between me and God, I can stand before my Creator without shame.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
In times when I was alone in my room as a child, I would pray and ask God to help me get through life. I knew I needed Him, even though I was operating on a works-based gospel for a while. God answered with the ultimate solution to my problems: Jesus Christ, and also allowing me to get tools such as early interventions & really amazing teachers to help me as I developed.

God protected me throughout my childhood by allowing me to be in an over-sheltered environment so I didn't get into bad situations with peers that, in retrospect, I probably wouldn't have been able to handle with my ASD.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!


EEEEEEEEEEEEEEK J If David had my manerisms, I'm guessing he would've paused while writing this and maybe jumped around in his room and eeeked and then thought, "Hm, I should verbalize that – like THAT!!!!!" I have tangiblely tasted & seen that God is good even in this 'discovering' my ASD experience. God used me to share the Gospel with my evaluator, and He has given me amazing friends at Summitview to help me J
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!

 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
So I might lack certain social skills & cognitive stuff, but eternally, I lack no good thing. I have full access to my Creator & the securest attachment ever because God made it possible not me. I have the hope that in eternity with God, all the ASD stuff will fall away and I will live with God and others that He has redeemed in perfect relationship which btw NO ONE has experienced, forever!

Even the most accomplished HDFS interventionists with amazing families and even those that have overcome insurmountable odds may still feel like they lack something at times. But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. That's how I understand the verse in my head.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Statistically (and yes, I know God doesn't operate according to statistics), people with diagnoses on the autism spectrum marry less. However, this doesn't mean that God can't use me to impact the next generation. In fact, He has used me in various classroom & babysitting capacities, even if it was for short periods of time. My prayer is for the next generation to see God working through my life.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
I'm thankful that I grew up in a family that knew right & wrong and had a pretty solid Biblical worldview. Temple Grandin often talks about growing up in the 1950's where most families followed standard social conventions that she had to learn (though her parents & teachers had to be more patient to teach her). This training in childhood helped me seek God, even if it was trying to please Him by doing good rather than seeking Him alone for salvation. That part came eventually because His kindness led me to repentance and ultimately salvation through faith in Christ alone. This strong moral understanding & training is a very strong protective factor in both our lives.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
I am righteous because Christ imputed that on me (2 cor 5:21). Thus, He hears my prayers because they are not hindered by my sin (Is 59:2). J This is not true for those that ultimately do not accept Christ as their Savior L
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
How has the Lord already delivered me from the challenges of having an ASD? By being my ultimate source of comfort because He knows what it's like not to fit in, and He has overcome the world & all its imperfections. He is my hope.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.


EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK verse J I have definitely had a lot of afflictions developmentally: attachment issues, early trauma, secondary PTSD from my mom's experience with my early medical issues, clinical depression and body image issues in adolescence, and all with the thread of autistic tendancies running through my development. Wow. And yet God preserved my intellect so I could go to school & eventually Colorado State University where I accepted Him as Savior. He has healed me from a lot of the trauma, though there's still yet to heal. He has allowed me to get a Master's in Human Development & Family studies to help others have a better developmental outcome than I had. These things have scarred me, but not crushed me. And that is all by God's grace.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Those who do not ultimately accept Christ will be eternally condemmed (2 Thes 1:8-9). THE LORD HAS REDEEMED MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have taken refuge in Him. Yes, interventions that I can use on this earth are good, but my ultimate hope is God. He works all things, including this, for the good of those who love Him & for His purposes (Romans 8:28-9) so that others may see Christ. In this, I know that God has a purpose for my life, even though it's not – nor will it ever be - a typical life. Therefore, I know that wherever God leads me and whatever challenges I face due to ASD or other things, He will use them for His kingdom if I give them to Him.

Wow. Seriously. Wow. God is pretty awesome! J

I will love You Lord forever

My lips will always sing Your praise

From deep inside I feel it rising

Come glorify the Lord with me

Come glorify the Lord with me

I taste & see that You are good

I hide myself within Your love

In your presence I lack nothing

You're all I want and You are here with me

Yes You're here with me J

I looked for You and Lord You found me

Delivered me from all my fears

With hearts wide open faces shining

My shame is gone as You draw near

My shame is gone as You draw near

I taste & see that You are good

I hide myself within Your love

In your presence I lack nothing

You're all I want and You are here with me

Jesus, Oh You're glorious

In Your presence I lack nothing

In Your presence I lack nothing

In Your presence I lack nothing

In Your presence I lack nothing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fate (more accurately Grace) Smiled at Destiny

Wonder by Natalie Merchant

Fate smiled at destiny

Laughed as she came to my cradle

Know this child will be able

Laughed as my body she lifted

Know this child will be gifted

With love, with patience and with faith

She'll make her way

People see me

I'm a challenge to your balance

I'm over your heads

How I confound you and astound you

To know I must be one of the wonders

Of God's own creation

And as far as you can see you can offer me

No explanation

Fate smiled at destiny

Laughed as she came to my cradle

Know this child will be able

Laughed as she came to my mother

Know this child will not suffer

Laughed as my body she lifted

Know this child will be gifted

With love, with patience and with faith
She'll make her way

full lyrics here

Natalie Merchant's song Wonder was inspired by a woman with a disability. When I first listened to it, I sort of knew what it was about, but not really. I always liked the part of the song that I posted here. It's taken on a new meaning as I've had to deal with my limitations in a new way.

I was listening to this song again today and suddenly I realized, "This song is really fitting for Temple Grandin and Helen Keller.". For both, the world would've looked at them in their early lives and just pushed them aside. Experts in the medical and psychological fields at the time would've said that they were destined to have a really poor outcome and a life largely cut off from the world. Yet God graciously provided both of them with advocates that helped them to communicate with the world and achieve what many would consider greatness. Helen Keller became a writer & speaker as well as an advocate for the blind & deaf. Temple Grandin is currently a professor & an advocate for those of us on the autism spectrum.

Why did I focus on these two people when I listened to this song? During my elementary school years, I looked up to Helen Keller & became slightly fixated on her life because I was becoming more aware of how my severe nearsightedness limited me & I also dealt with multiple installments of ear-tubes, so I had ear problems as well. Helen Keller was that person that 'went before me' in some respects to show that even if I had multiple sensory limitations, I could still adapt to my environment, and accomplish something.

Recently, I was diagnosed as having PPD-NOS otherwise known as atypical autism. However, I was SUPER-CLOSE to being diagnosed with High Functioning Autism. Even as someone who studied Human Development & Family Studies, facing life lived on the autism spectrum still seems like a very daunting task. One of the first things I thought of was this documentary I watched in one of my HDFS classes about early interventions for children on the spectrum. Temple Grandin was the person that narrated that documentary, thus I began to read more of her work. I guess you could say that I am borderline fixated on her life as well, but here's the reason: She is paving the way of how to cope with life on the spectrum, and she knows that her life is being used this way.

It's like God sees that there are certain disabilities that are very difficult to live with, so He - in His timing - puts these people that live out a certain disability very publicly and in so doing, pave the way for others as a way to inspire and provide hope. It's His grace that people marvel at and cause wonder that Natalie Merchant writes about. Helen Keller & Temple Grandin's stories remind me that it's grace that we see in our own lives & others that gives us hope that He will help us make our way.

Grace smiled at destiny

No this child will be able

Laughed as my body she lifted

No this child will be gifted

she'll make her way

(lyrics adapted)

PS: Here's a video that explains the story of Wonder

Friday, July 09, 2010

Spiritual Head-Injuries during Childhood

Jen Smith has a really great blogpost on her blog about the Helmet of Salvation: here in reference to how the spiritual helmet guards one's thoughts. My dear roommate sent me some reading about how the helmet in the Roman soldier's armor was a key life-saving piece of armor. If the soldier sustained a head-injury there was no MRI, no neuro-surgeon standing by to care for his injury in a sterile environment. The soldier could bleed out from an open wound, sustain a stroke, have pressure build inside his skull, contract an infection after a few days, etc. Basically, head-injuries pretty much meant death back in the day. Even now, brain-trauma from open or closed head wounds can be debilitating. Depending on the nature and location of the injury, different and/or multiple functions can be damaged.

So why am I bringing this up? I had this thought after something happened with me this morning that made me react really badly in a situation where I didn't give anyone including myself grace for messing up. God informed me that I was getting spiritually attacked, thus I needed my armor on pronto. I indignantly asked Him, "Why do I need the helmet of salvation when my BRAIN'S MESSED UP ANYWAY!?!?!" (thanks to a mixture of genetics + early development btw). Then God gave me this word-picture that He knew only a nerdy HDFS / formerly premed person would understand.

He gave me this picture of a child being hit on the head repeatedly & throughout his/her early development. Blows could come from a parental figure, circumstances, lies from the world, or several of those sources. What I was reminded was that spiritually, I was that kid. I took repeated head-trauma to my soul with people & the world saying "I was not normal enough, I was too medically/developmentally difficult to be worthy of true unconditional love, I couldn't do enough to fill a void in someone's life." This damaged the function in my soul that connected to God rightly. You could say that I formed an avoidant attachment to God through this. I wanted to know God, but I felt like He was always mad at me & that He didn't really care because I felt like I was an inconvenience. I also felt a stronger pull than the normal population to pay for what I did wrong by beating myself up both mentally & physically. Therefore, I learned enough theology in Sunday school to get by, but I never praised Him as Creator, and only prayed during crisis moments. Even then I doubted that He would truly listen & come through.

Then in college someone explained to me: Yes, you are sinful. Yes, God is perfect. But God sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. God saves us not on our own merit, but because Christ paid our penalty for our sins. I accepted that because it made perfect sense. I couldn't try on my own to be perfect. I needed Christ.

On an eternal-security level, God has secured this attachment. I have His Spirit in me as a deposit as a guarantee (Ephesians 1). On an emotional level, sometimes I feel like I still have a disorganized attachment to God. This is when the head-injured part of my soul still feels the blows from my past. The old injuries are re-opened and God is always in the process of healing them. Will my walk with God be marked by my past soul-injuries for the rest of my earthly life? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe the wounds are so deep that God will be there to intervene to keep them from getting worse, but they may still be there. Maybe He will heal them completely. I know for certain that in Heaven, God will make my soul new, thus healing my wounds once and for eternity.

Like a child that might have had a head-injury & needs extra protection, I must always remember to keep the helmet of salvation on. I must always remind myself that I am saved & allow God to protect my thoughts, especially in crisis situations. I must allow God to keep hold of me in case I loose my step and fall, or something tries to hit me in the head & re-damage me. God, like a good therapeutic professional, knows exactly what I need, is there in a crisis when my wounds flare up & cause me to think or act out of the hurt rather than Truth, and He soothes those wounds & improves my functioning toward Him & the world. Clinging to Him also gives me hope & reassurance that because of His grace, I will walk around feeling the hurt & damage from my spiritual wounds only for this world, and will walk around in perfect relationship with Him forever.