Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Waiting for Spring

It was 35 days ago that our calendars told us it was the first day of spring. In North Dakota, we usually can't depend on the calendar to determine when spring will actually come. We know this, but every year, we still wait expectantly for spring to come - for the weather to turn warmer, for all the snow to finally be gone and for the grass to start turning green again. And for every one's favorite part - putting away all of our winter garb and donning our spring jackets. None of that has happened so far. Thirty five days later, we are still waiting.
Faith not looking too thrilled about still having to wear her winter coat and mittens
Just last week Bismarck broke their one-day snow fall record when we got over 17 inches of fresh white stuff. Church services were canceled on Sunday and on Monday the whole city shut down. Faith got a snow day from school and I did as well from work. Thanks to a few days that the temperatures climbed to above freezing, most of the snow has melted but there are still mounds of snow wherever you go.

Every morning, I look at the temperature and every morning I am somewhat disheartened. This morning it was only 18 degrees (that's Fahrenheit for my Canadian family and friends!) Rob is still getting up to start the van and scrape off the windshield. I am still wearing my winter coat and we are still bundling Faith up to go outside. I know I shouldn't complain but I am really, really looking forward to warmer weather! Rumor has it, the temperature is supposed to reach 80 degrees this weekend - I will not believe it until I see it!
Faith's schoolyard one week after our big blizzard
All this waiting for spring has got me thinking though. Sometimes we go through seasons in life that are more difficult than others. We start getting impatient and we find we are complaining more than usual - all we want is for our next season to come. Challenging seasons in life are not something that even we as Christians can escape. The Bible promises us there will be trials and tribulations. But the Bible also promises something else - that God will be with us every step of the way, he will never leave us nor forsake us. He will also never waste the hard times that we go through - He promises to use them for our good.

We will find that after making it through our dark season we will find the light that has been awaiting on the other side. All we have to do is keep pressing on, keep moving forward, keep praying and having others pray for us. Then the next time another tough season comes along, we will have an even stronger confidence that we will make it through this one too.

So it is with winter and spring. Soon winter will be behind us and there will be lots of bright, warm, sunny days ahead. Winter will eventually come around again but it is wonderful to know there is always the promise of spring!
A sign of Spring!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Perfect Church Service for Faith

Our church service (along with many other services throughout the area) was canceled today because of our spring blizzard. So while I didn't get to go to church, I was still thinking about it! The photos from this post were actually taken from last week's church service. 

Finding “the perfect” church is not an easy thing to do. Especially when you are trying to find one that works well for each member of the family, one of which has special needs. For me the perfect service consists of charismatic praise and worship, an inspiring, truthful message followed by fellowship with other church attendees. For Rob it is different though. He could give or take the praise and worship and get right down to the sermon – the more intellectual the better. Rob likes to take a message he hears and chew on it for days thinking, pondering and mulling it over.

And then there is Faith. She does not like loud and she does not like microphones, sudden clapping or spontaneous "Amens". It has been because of Faith’s special needs and hypersensitivity to loudness that we have searched and searched for a church service that she would be able to tolerate and feel comfortable. 
Faith with Pastor Marc at New Life's Redefinition Cafe Service
In our search for a church, we have gone to many wonderful services in Bismarck and Mandan – including all different denominations such as Lutheran, Catholic, Four Square Gospel, Methodist, and several nondenominational churches. We experienced something positive in each church but none of them seemed like the perfect fit for all three of us. And more times than not, attending church at these services often required sitting way in the back, where it wasn’t so loud and sometimes even sitting in the fellowship hall while watching the service on a big-screen TV. It wasn’t exactly the type of fellowship I personally was looking for.

Finally, last spring some friends of ours invited us to NewLife’s redefinition café service which took place in their office building not far from our home. They assured us the worship music was not very loud and that it was a quiet little service that might work well for Faith. 
New Life's redefinition service - praise and worship
They were right. It is not loud at all. It is perfect. The praise and worship team is often a one-man band with either someone on the piano or someone playing the guitar leading the worship. Instead of being tense, Faith is more relaxed and comfortable with the quieter music and she can now actually enjoy it. Another bonus for her is that there is no microphone required for the little group of people that come to this service. The pastor’s message is conversational and even invites participation. Sometimes there are guest speakers who share their knowledge and gifts on evangelism, healing, art and other topics.

In going to the redefinition service, we have reconnected with some friends from our past and have made new friends as well. At one time, they had a children's service which Faith started going to along with the three or four other kids who came to the service. What makes redefinition cafe at New Life even more perfect – especially for Rob – is they offer coffee (with creamer) and baked goods. What more could we ask for?
Faith makes friends wherever she goes
Since first attending the redefinition service, it has evolved and changed somewhat. The time has changed to take place earlier in the morning and it has even more of a “café” feel to it as we sit at tables instead of rows of chairs. (This makes it easier to enjoy our coffee and goodies!) The worship is the same – just one or two people leading worship – no sound system, just a guitar and amazing music. Unfortunately they don't have the children's service anymore but Faith is just as content to stay with her mom and dad and listen to the message. 

Besides the redefinition cafe service, there is a celebration service later in the morning up north in a larger building. This service includes all of the excitement of a charismatic church service – which I totally love but is a little too much for Faith. It is my hope and desire for all three of us to attend both church services but until that day, we are happy with the redefinition service and feel it is the perfect fit for our little family.
Faith and her dad looking over some church notes

Saturday, April 6, 2013

North Dakota Becomes First State to Protect Special Needs Babies in the Womb

The state of North Dakota has been making a lot of headlines lately. In 2012 we became the second top oil-producing state in the nation and this year we were dubbed "the freest state in the U.S."

At one time, North Dakota was known for it desolation, its frigid winters and low population. Most people probably had a hard time finding North Dakota on a map. I don't think that's quite the case anymore. People are flocking to North Dakota for jobs. Our state has one of the soundest economies in the country. But even before all of our new-found popularity, I was a proud North Dakotan when it wasn't cool to be one.
Faith enjoying the sights of the Missouri River in Bismarck, North Dakota
And now, in light of recent events in our legislature, I am even more proud to be from this great state! The senate and house passed some of the most pro-life bills ever and Governor Jack Dalrymple signed them into law!

You might wonder why I'm talking about this on my blog, a place I usually write about what's going on with Faith and our world of special-needs parenting. But one of the bills passed and signed by Governor Jack Dalrymple is very near and dear to my heart - not because it protects unborn babies but it goes further than that. This bill prevents the discrimination of a baby in the womb due to their sex or a genetic abnormality. In other words, it helps protect special needs babies still in the womb.

HB1305: Bans abortions that are done only to eliminate a fetus with genetic abnormalities, or because the fetus is of a different sex than the parent desires. A doctor who does an abortion for either of those reasons could be guilty of a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Approved in House, 64-27, on Feb. 8; approved in Senate, 27-15, on March 15.

There are so many arguments that are for terminating a pregnancy when the baby is known to have some sort of defect. And with modern technology and the testing that can be done, ending the life of a baby who would be born with special needs is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, 90 percent of babies who test positive for Down Syndrome are aborted. That is 9 out of 10 babies. Other abnormalities that can be found while the baby is in utero include congenital heart defects, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, and trisomy 18. And many times, these babies are aborted as well.

I often wonder if disorders such as autism, depression, anxiety, asthma, allergies, sensory processing disorder and other issues could be detected in the womb, would these babies also be in danger of being killed before getting a shot at life?

Can you imagine what we as Americans would say if a parent killed their two-year-old child because they were just diagnosed with autism? Or their two-day old baby who was found to have hypoplastic left heart syndrome? We would cry out for justice. We would demand that the parent who just killed their child be sentenced to prison. We would hate that parent and be completely befuddled by their actions. "How could a parent kill their own child," we would ask.

Most Americans in this day and age recognize that it is wrong and even unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities. Did you hear the story of the young boy with Down Syndrome who was at a restaurant with his family and a customer at another table was saying mean things about the little boy? The waiter refused to wait on that customer because of his derogatory remarks towards the little boy. The waiter was hailed a hero for his actions.

How can this be, I wonder? That it is heroic to stand up for a child with special needs when they are out of the womb but it is perfectly acceptable to kill a special needs baby in the womb?

I know it is because people think a woman has a right to do so because it is her body. But it is also because of this type of mentality:

"I had CVS done with both my children. It was the most horrifying procedure I have ever undergone, and I am thankful beyond belief that each time the test revealed a healthy child. But there is no doubt in my mind that, had the test revealed otherwise, it would have been my duty as a parent to terminate the pregnancy and I would have done so immediately."

This mother of two said it would be "her duty as a parent to terminate the pregnancy" had the baby been found to have some sort of abnormality. Funny because I thought that the duty of a parent was to protect the life of their baby at all costs. And that's why we have the mentality we have in society today. It is no longer our duty to protect our children, instead it has become our duty to have the least complicated, most pain-free lives possible - a life that ensures the highest quality of living. We have become the judges who determine which lives are deemed worthy of living.

But here in North Dakota, we along with our legislators and our governor have taken a stand for life. A stand that includes protecting the most vulnerable of vulnerable - babies in the womb with disabilities and genetic abnormalities. I am thankful that our lawmakers have realized that discrimination can and does start in the womb and that we are putting a stop to that. It's just another great reason to be proud of North Dakota!
Sunset in Western North Dakota
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