Reflections

unexaminedlifeAn unexamined life is not worth living, as the saying goes. I ran across that quote recently and, for some reason, it made me think about blogging.

With my curiosity aroused, I pulled up my blog and realized that I haven’t posted anything to date in 2014, and that in 2013 I published a total of just 5 posts.

So where have I been?

Actually, I have been adjusting to what feels like a whole new life. I have switched from a part-time to a full-time work schedule, become separated and now divorced from my husband of twenty years, moved from a house to an apartment, been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, helped my son (who is also on the spectrum) adjust to a new school, put down roots in a new church, and even gotten a kitten.

I have maintained some friendships and let others go, sought out some new kindred spirits and reconnected with some who were lost along the way. It has been a whirlwind and a roller coaster all at the same time.

Through it all, I have missed a lot of things about blogging – the chance to control your own soapbox, the interactions with readers and fellow bloggers, and the way it makes you think about what is going on in your life and try to distill some meaning out of it.

At various points along the way, I have identified myself primarily as a special needs parent and later as a book reviewer, but for now I just want to be me and see where that road takes me. I make no promises about keeping to a schedule of posts or sticking to a particular topic, and I reserve the right to change my mind and contradict my earlier opinions at will!

My hope is that by searching through the jumble that is my brain, I will occasionally unearth some insights worth sharing, or at least help me clarify the questions that I need to be asking myself.

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It has been quite a long time since I have blogged about anything other than books, and I don’t really know who is still out there listening to me, but I have been feeling the urge lately to start documenting more of what’s going on in our lives again.

There were several things going on when I started pulling back: my husband and I were having serious problems which led to our current state of separation, I was having some issues with the school which I didn’t want to write about until there was some sort of resolution, and I was also just starting to come to terms with my Asperger’s diagnosis from last fall. This summer I was also plagued with extreme fatigue due to the allergy medication I was taking, which has recently been resolved. (Bah Zyrtec. Long live Allegra!!)

Other than it being the summer of pollen for me, this was actually quite a successful season for Michael (my ten-year son, who has autism, for those of you who may not be familiar with him). Instead of private babysitting with the special ed teacher who has had him the last two years – and was amazing with him! – I chose to enroll him in a summer day camp at a daycare near our new apartment.

The daycare also has after school care with a van that can pick him up from his new school in the fall, so I was hopeful that things would work out well enough for him to continue there this fall. And they have! He has enjoyed it so much, and on top of that had mostly good behavior (that’s with a full time TSS and his own reinforcement schedule, but still, it’s great progress for him). His TSS says that not only is it clear he was ready for this challenge, but that the environment is compassionate and caring in a way that has worked out perfectly for him.

We do have lots of anxiety going on right now with Michael gearing up for 4th grade at a new school, and me waiting for the results of a 24-hour urine test that will tell us if we are one step closer to him being diagnosed with Wilson’s disease. The doctor said that it is rare and that he ordered the tests simply based on a couple of odd results from some other bloodwork, but what’s a mom to do but worry until an answer comes back?? Pray, I guess, which I am certainly doing a lot of these days.

The video at the top of the post is from a trip we took to Hersheypark with some friends earlier this month. He was thrilled to be able to try out this ride and loved it, despite his swimming trunks sliding down a few inches too far from the force of the water, thankfully after this video was shot!

So, how has your summer gone?

This was a very strange, but good, Easter weekend for me. It was the first weekend after I moved into my apartment, and also the first weekend that Michael went with Bob for two nights. I got an email on Thursday about a Good Friday service at the church and ended up working late and going straight there, and I am so glad I did. It was an amazing service – extremely moving and heartfelt. It also gave me a chance to grieve my own loss a bit while also reflecting on the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.

They opened the service with a great video that featured the disciples as modern day guys talking about the events of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. I cannot find it online so far, but I will keep looking – it was so good!

One thing that jumped out at me was a part where Barrabas was talking about how it should have been him on the cross, and how one minute he was condemned and the next he was free – I don’t know why, but that parallel had never really occurred to me before.

I slept in on Saturday and lounged around all morning, finally stirring myself to put together the second bookshelf I had purchased and hang a mirror on the wall – even making a trip to Target for a hammer and screwdriver that I neglected to bring from the house. Then I spent a peaceful hour preparing for my book study at church and went to that as well as the Saturday evening service.

It was so neat to compare the Friday service to the Saturday, as we moved from mourning to rejoicing. I am so thankful that I gave this church a try – I wasn’t sure how I would feel at an evangelical church after being raised Pentecostal and attending a charismatic church for so long as well, but I have found a place where everyone is truly seeking God’s heart and wanting to minister to Him as well as to each other. I am really starting to feel at home there, which I never really did at my last church (no criticism intended, I still love CCC and think it’s more a reflection on my own growth).

On Sunday, I unpacked the rest of my books and a couple of other boxes. I had gotten a desk from my friend L., but I haven’t really tackled the office stuff yet. It was so nice to just putter around the apartment, doing a bit of laundry, retting up Michael’s room and making some brownies to take to my friend’s house for supper that night.

BTW, everyone went crazy over the brownies I made – who knew? They are Betty Crocker Supreme Bars – Cookie Brownie, and they are supremely good! My friend’s husband even bought and installed training wheels on Michael’s bike, since he is still fearful of riding on his own, and they spent some time practicing his balance and gliding in front of the house.

All in all, a good weekend, with much to be thankful for!

I often find my mind drifting when I am supposed to be listening to what other people are saying. Sometimes it’s because something that was said sparks an idea that takes my thoughts in another direction, or it might because I am too tired or preoccupied with my own troubles to focus on someone else’s needs.

While this is a topic we may have heard a lot about, I really like the way Karen Jordan approaches it in the brief article below (shared with permission). No matter what our natural tendencies in this area, I believe we can connect with others in a more meaningful way when we are intentional about how we listen and interact.

I encourage you to take a minute right now (or bookmark it for later when you have time) to read her advice and reflect on how well you are implementing these in your own life.

Four Tips To Improve Your Listening Skills
By Karen Jordan

“Are you listening to me?” Has someone ever asked you that question? Or maybe that thought pierced your heart and mind, as you felt the sting of someone else ignoring or rejecting you?

Consider these four ways to improve your listening skills.

  1. Resolve to be quick to listen. Many times, people who come to us for help, just need for us to listen. James 1:19 offers this advice, “Understand this – You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT).
  2. Decide to be available. Jesus gives us an example of a wise counselor who made Himself available to listen. “The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught” (Matt. 6:30).
  3. Desire a discerning heart. Not only does Jesus listen, He discerned the needs of others. When His disciples came to Him after their ministry tour, Jesus observes their need for solitude and rest: “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (ibid.).
  4. Choose to be quiet. Jesus also taught His disciples the importance of being quiet. In Matthew 11:15, Jesus asks his disciples, “Are you listening to me? Really listening? (MSG)

At times our failure to listen before responding can provoke a negative, emotional response from our loved ones or friends, who may need our help. In fact, Proverbs 18:13 warns us, “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude” (MSG).

What can we offer others with our response, after we listen to their needs?

  • Grace, not criticism or judgment. Romans 2:4 reminds us, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT)
  • Companionship. We must encourage others to be dependent upon Jesus, not co-dependent upon us. Jesus promised His followers, “I’ll be with you – day after day after day, right up to the end of this age” (Matt. 28:20 MSG).

So, the next time someone comes to you for help, I hope you ask yourself this question first: “Are you listening – Really listening?” (Matt. 11:15)

Karen Jordan is best known for telling the stories that matter most. She has multiple writing credits and trains other writers as well. Contact her for speaking events, writing assignments, and interviews at kj@karenjordan.net or visit www.karenjordan.net.