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"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Lump of Clay

Just recently I received a catalog for the fall recreational activities available at a local organization for children with special needs. Adapted swim, music therapy and a kids' clay/pottery class piqued my interest. Swimming and clay were my two picks, since each of these activities provide the best sensory input/experience. Music therapy may be a bit too much for my little one's sensitive ears but we're looking into it! The little man's school is concerned that he is not involved in more small group activities with other kids his age. They are also concerned that school is the only time he is away from his family, which may be negatively influencing his behaviors at school due to separation anxiety. Well, I actually don't know of very many other 3-year-olds who spend extensive periods of time away from their family other than when they are in school or daycare...but that may just be me digressing again! We are trying to find more supervised group activities for the little guy to do. Guess what, though? For his age group, all the available activities require... yup, you guessed it: PARENT OR FAMILY PARTICIPATION. Talk about frustrating! We DO want to find more opportunities for the little man to swim and/or play in the water because he loves it so much and it is excellent physical and sensory exercise. We're working on it...

The clay class sounds interesting. Had I not taken pottery/clay classes before I would think it was a terrible safety hazard to offer this as an option for kids on the autism spectrum. When I look back and remember my high school clay pottery class... I LOVED IT!!! To this day I still have the hiddeously clunky and heavy creations I so lovingly put together. I loved the class so much I just kept making more and more pieces. My poor family was bombarded with my "works of art." I do have to say some of my pieces were quite nice and quite practical...the others ended up becoming colorful paper weights. Anyway, the wonderful thing about clay is that it is an extremely "forgiving" medium to work with. If you don't like your first creation, you just re-mold it into something new! For kids who have difficulties "committing" their artwork onto paper because of the anxiety of its permanence, clay is the way to go!

One thing about clay: it is hard! Not difficult, but hard in consistency. You have to knead it for long periods of time in order to get it warm enough and make it softer. For kids on the spectrum all that squeezing offers great sensory input! Pulling and ripping the clay apart can also be extremely therapeutic, not just sensory-wise but also to relieve stress, anxiety, anger and frustration! Most therapeutic is the initial process of preparing the clay. You have to throw the clay really hard onto the table or surface you are working on. You MUST do this over and over before you can even begin to work with the clay. All that banging squeezes any air bubbles out before you start creating your piece. Those tiny little air bubbles can wreak havoc in the kiln (oven) when the clay is baking. Even the tiniest of air bubbles can cause your piece to explode, shattering not only your work but every other project that is baking in the kiln along with it.

Hmm... that got me thinking... I've frequently referenced the "hits" our family has taken on this journey. Even way back when we were waiting to have a child we took some pretty hard hits. At the beginning I always asked myself (and God) "WHY?!?!?" Yet after every one of those occasions I've looked back and seen why. I can truthfully and honestly say that more often than not I ended up feeling thankful for those hits, because when things got really, really bad and even bigger trials came, I felt I had the resources I needed to make it through.  I'd like to think it's like that lump of clay. Each of the hits are just preparing it to be molded and to withstand the heat in the oven before it can become a beautiful and useful vessel. Our lives are just like that lump of clay! Whatever the "hits" don't work the bubbles out of our systems can cause us to explode under pressure... and cause damage not only to ourselves but to those around us as well!

The Bible has so many references to clay using the imagery of God being the potter and us being the clay. In Isaiah 64:8 the prophet writes, "But now, Oh Lord, You [are] our Father; we [are] the clay and You our potter; and all we [are] the work of Your hand" (NKJV). In Jeremiah 18:4 we read, "And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make" (NKJV). Most poignant to me is the passage in Isaiah 29:16 which adds, "Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it 'He did not make me'? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, 'He has no understanding'?" (NKJV). This is why I refuse to see my little guy as "missing a piece." I truly believe he was made just like God intended him to be. God makes no mistakes! All those hits we took early on as a family just prepared us for what was to come and to help us be the best parents possible to this amazing little boy!

BUT... before I could become a useful vessel to honor my Lord, I had to surrender my "lump of clay" and let Him make me into who I am and who He wanted me to be. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor," 2 Titus 2:20 (NKJV). I choose to hand my life, my lump of clay, over to the Master Potter for Him to make me into a useful vessel that will bring Him honor. I will also keep in mind that surrendering to Him is for my good, but also for the good of those around me (remember the air bubbles in the kiln?). On those especially tough days with the little man, I will remember that he, too, is a small lump of clay who is in the process of being molded. He has been entrusted to us for a while to make sure his "clay" is kept moist and malleable, not dry, brittle and useless. It is our job as his parents to do everything in our power to get him ready so when his time comes to take the hits of life he won't shatter but hopefully give himself to the Lord to become a useful vessel to His honor as valuable as gold.

Be blessed!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reflections through a kaleidoscope

As many of you know, we are a spanish-speaking family. When I tell my spanish-speaking friends about this blog I have "issues" with its name. See, the international symbol for ASD is a jigsaw puzzle... in spanish the word for that is "rompecabezas" which literally means head-breaker. Hmm... that does not quite work for me, so I use the word for a different type of puzzle: "laberinto" which means labyrinth. It's funny because when we were brainstorming ideas for our walk team name and logo, several team members had reservations about the visual portrayal of a puzzle that is missing a piece.

This got me thinking... as Christians we believe God has a perfect plan for everything (Jeremiah 30:17-20). Our children came to our families and homes as a part of God's master plan. A puzzle with a missing piece implies that our children are not complete and that we are on this endless search to find "the missing piece." I have issues with that! I don't think my son is incomplete! I think he sees the world differently than we do, like a kaleidoscope! So this journey we are on is more of a labyrinth, since we are faced with so many unexpected turns, obstacles and walls along the way. We as families are not "incomplete," we're just on a more complicated path than most.

I am frequently astounded by my little man's visual skills. He truly has a gift for the visual, though he struggles with language and social skills. This makes me wonder about the way kids with ASD view the world. I can only imagine what it must be like; Dr. Temple Grandin calls it "thinking in pictures"... only sometimes more like a picture viewed through a kaleidoscope. The world can be a crazy and scary place and when you have an altered view, I can only imagine it feels even worse!

Well, I have decided to stop thinking of my son as "missing a piece." I have decided that this journey may be a labyrinth, but God is waiting for us at the end with His arms wide open! I have decided that my life, my son's life, my family's life is not a web to sort out or a bunch of broken pieces to put together. It is a tapestry woven with every bit that each of member of our "team" has contributed! Right now it may look like an indiscernable compilation of intersecting strings but in my heart I can see the Lord holding the masterpiece in His hands, knowing in the end it will be one of a kind!

I have named this post "reflections through a kaleidoscope" because that is what this blog has become. Each post is a reflection of what I am learning on this journey. Right now it looks fragmented and confusing, like the view through a kaleidoscope, but it is a beautiful view when you stop to admire the combination of colors and designs. I am walking by faith with Jesus holding my hand. I may not be able to see straight but that's not for me to worry about... all I have to do is hold on tightly to His hand, trust in His promises and know that this is the life He chose for me (Psalm 121). One day I will be on the other side looking back and I WILL marvel at the perfect, one-of-a-kind masterpiece who is so aptly named "a gift from God"!

Be blessed!
The little guy and Mama, Oct 2008

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I wrote this a few days ago but hadn't gotten around to sitting on the computer until now. I hope this is a blessing to your life!
October 30, 2011- After a week's drought from writing I've decided to write about two really cool things that made my week last week. They both had to do with two pretty cool kids with ASD and the life cycle of pumpkins. HUH?!?! Yup, you read right: PUMPKINS!
My little man has been studying the life cycle of the pumpkin at school. Now considering how much time he's been spending in "safe space" (i.e. time out) and/or having "interventions" for his behavior lately it was an incredibly pleasant SHOCK to hear that he was learning anything at all! But God is good and my baby IS learning! The little man brought home a large strip of red paper titled "Pumpkin Life Cycle." I asked him what it was and he said, "see, fly, punkin'" A bit confused I asked him again and he pointed at each of the shapes: see...fly...punkin'. HE WAS SAYING "SEED, FLOWER, PUMPKIN!!!!!" WOW!!! How cool is THAT?!?!? That paper is now on our refrigerator door and every day he reminds us of each of the stages, though now he's been able to work at it and say "seed, flowa, punkin" I'm SO proud! ;') That was cool moment #1.
Cool moment #2 happened at school while I worked in a first grade classroom with a little girl with ASD who has been having a REALLY hard time at school (sound familiar?). I felt honored to be able to witness this little girl who's had such a rough start to the year beam with pride as she colored, cut and pasted images of...guess what? The life cycle of the pumpkin! Her teacher, aide and I just cheered as she allowed us to offer suggestions and even help her fix each of the paper squares to fit onto a strip of paper. Her teacher made it "just right" so she could wear it as a headband/hat for the rest of the day! This was the FIRST time since September that I have seen the child be flexible, make steady eye contact, let someone help her and even dance for joy when her work was finished!
These two things got me thinking about kids like this little girl and my little man. Both of these kids have ASD and although they are incredibly bright their school experiences are so "colored" by their behavioral difficulties (did you know that was the case for Albert Einstein, too?). The joy of seeing these two kids beam with pride in their work is why I do what I do, why I've been at it for over 15 years and why I love it so much! These two kids are like the pumpkin seeds: they were planted, watered and cared for but something went awry along the way. When educators in their lives became blinded and overwhelmed by their behaviors, it's as if they'd thrown a tarp over the small pumpkin plant sprouting from the eart, stunting its growth. Without light or air, these little plants will wither and never give fruit! In contrast, when cared for, nourished and allowed to breathe and grow with the correct guidance, these little plants could end up producing record-breaking sized pumpkins (remember Albert Einstein?).
This reminds me of the many, many places in the Bible where plants and seeds are described and/or used as analogies (see list at the end of my post). Our spiritual lives are like these seeds: it is not enough to plant the seed and expect it to magically grow. We need to nourish that sproutlet! The stressors of life so often cover the light and air that we need to grow in Christ. Like the joy I felt in seeing these two amazing kids beam with pride at their accomplishments, I can only imagine God's joy when He sees us grow and give fruit against all odds! My prayer is that I can be a witness to many more of my little man's accomplishments and moments of pride. I pray that his school life no longer serves as that tarp that covers his air and light, stunting his joy and his growth. I pray that the stressors in MY life don't drown out the blessings and spiritual nourishment that God wants to pour out over my life and my family. I pray the same for you: that your seed grows into a beautiful flower and gives plenty of healthy fruit...
Be blessed!
Then he took some of the seed of the land and planted it in a fertile field; He placed it by abundant waters and set it like a willow tree. And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; Its branches turned toward him, but its roots were under it. So it became a vine, brought forth branches, and put forth shoots. Ezekiel 17:5-6

The seed shrivels under the clods, storehouses are in shambles; barns are broken down, for the grain has withered. Joel 1:17
For the seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give its fruit, the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew— I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these. Zechariah 8:12

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:3

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:8

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2