Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spiritual musing part 1: Grace

This month's Ensign article by Elder Bednar--The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality really made me think. In fact, I just keep thinking about it.

Here's parts of it (though you really should read it all!)

The grand objective of the Savior’s gospel was summarized succinctly by President David O. McKay (1873–1970): “The purpose of the gospel is…to make bad men good and good men better."

Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities...

The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature...

In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote enabling power:
“[Grace is] a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”2
Grace is the divine assistance or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity."

Which made me think of this great article on grace  a wonderful friend sent me a while back. Again here's some quotes, but really the whole thing is worth the read.

“Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”

"I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it . We are practicing for it.”

"The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—amazingly—we can feel at home there."
 Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during, and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], p. 155). So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Heb. 12:2).

Finally I loved when he quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell: 

"Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
 . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .
 . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, pp. 12, 14]

I loved in the article, when Brother Wilcox repeats the phrase "they don't understand grace."
For me I think I forget.

When I get bogged down and overwhelmed and give into the feeling that I'll never be enough.
I've forgotten grace.

When I decide I'm gonna succeed today no matter what, and not give into my impatience or anger and then feel so weak when I dont get past breakfast...
I've forgotten grace.

When I fall in to the temptation to compare and look around me instead of up for validation and a sense of worth...
I have forgotten grace.

When I fail to see my fellow brothers and sisters as precious sons and daughters of God, and thus fail to grasp the depths of compassion and understanding I ought to have for them...
I have forgotten grace.

When I expect myself to never falter or tire or mess-up  and when I berate myself when I do...
I have forgotten grace.

And I can't forget. Because it is the ONLY way. 
There is NO OTHER WAY. 
His grace is sufficient, even when I am not. Which is everyday.

Because "all I can do" was never meant to be enough. It was only meant to make me need. 
To search. And to find. Him. Waiting. Willing. Full of grace. My all, but a meager requirement to access the infiniteness of His all. 
Which together, finally is enough. 

I'm grateful for the doctrine of grace, and pray not only to understand it better, but to not forget to use it, because I need it, every moment. 

Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be 
Let thy goodness as a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. 
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave that God I love. 
Here's my heart of take and seal it, 
seal it for Thy courts above.

I pray that as I use the grace of Christ to not only change my bad to good but my good to better, that I will let Him change me, until I shall become someone who will feel at home in those courts above, with Him. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Some true heroines (aka a couple of my fav blogs)

This was another post I was saving for Autism Awareness month, OR as I've heard it termed "Autism Acceptance Month".  Today I realized April somehow evaporated. So here it is.

One of my heros in this quest of learning to fully accept even embrace Aaron's "specialness" is Kelle Hampton. I'm sorta addicted. I follow her on instagram and some days I feel like I know what's going on at Kelle's house more than my own! 

If you've not read her fabulous blog, or heard of her new bestselling book here's a
 Beautiful video recapping her story

Personally, I'd love to crown Kelle queen of special needs moms (and if that happened to "dethrone" Jenny MaCarthy...oh well;)

Kelle is all about process and the healing of acceptance --not a lie-down acceptance but a peace filled existence of choosing to see the joy!

 I admit, early on in our own journey, I had, a little, what I termed in my head "downs-envy". 
( I almost didn't right this is fear it would offend here's hoping the spirit of intent shines through)

I'm sure the visibility of downs syndrome gets old fast, but I almost longed for some indicator of Aaron's diagnosis to give his some context to his behaviours, other than people assuming he was "misbehaving". With autism there's no identifying trait that inform people to reach into the kinder gentler part of them, to be more understanding and tolerant. I understand a lot of people have worked VERY hard to help shape that reaction to other more visible disabilities and that even still, those who look different can, sadly, be as mistreated as those who act different. 

I think it was just my own adjustments to who we now were as a family. Learning how to shrug things off a bit better (still working on that), as well as growing past an insecure need for everyone around me to "get it"--which meant not having my soap box quite as handy, and my feelings a bit more tucked under my sleeves. I've had to let go of an image of what I thought "well-behaved" families looked like and try and be more at home with who we all were (one of many lessons Aaron continues to try and teach us).

The other aspect I envied in individuals with down syndrome was there was no notion that they were going to some how shed that extra chromosome.

I remember a chat I had with my brother in law once, while he lived with us and was working as a community aid for a few older autistic kids. 
"Nobody looks at a downs kid and says stop having downs syndrome!" he said with some genuine frustration.
But we do expect and ask autistic kids to change. We do it all the time. Because we believe behaviour is changeable. And we've decided what behaviour's are acceptable and what are not. A person with downs syndrome looks different, can you imagine someone suggesting they surgically "fix" that difference? But because Autistic kids behave differently, we have decided we can "fix" it. 

Now don't get me wrong-- there's a big distinction between helping someone reach their potential and trying to change things inherent to who they are. 

Kelle's daughter Nella, is BEAUTIFUL! Partially because her mamma sees her that way and because shows the world that she is. 

How can I show the world Aaron's behaviours are in a way beautiful? That they are unique and at times bewildering, but kind of fascinating in their own, often brillant way?

Kelle's such a strong, hope-filled voice. And I'm grateful for her bright example.

This post was the one that made me want to write about her:

 The part about her husband reminded me sooooo much of Ben and I (other than the fat that we've NEVER been able to call each other "babe" with a straight face). Here's an excerpt:

A few months ago, out of the blue, Brett asked me "Hey babe, will Nella be smart?"

These questions always catch me off guard. Brett's so very go-with-the-flow and doesn't really have a lot to say about Down syndrome. He's always said "Let her show us who she is" and he's pretty unphased by any information I present. Between the two of us, I'm definitely more the research girl. He says Nella's a better teacher than books, and he's right. But I wanted to address the situation appropriately.

He must have sensed my confusion as he quickly followed with, "I'm totally okay if she isn't smart. I just want to know...could she be smart?"

I formulated my response thoughtfully. "Babe, I will never say what the future holds because I will never put limits on my child. I think she's brilliant, but she might not be able to show it quite like Lainey does." Feeling the need to maybe soften the blow or prepare him a little more, I continued. "Adults with Down syndrome generally have a child-like mentality, Brett. You know that, right?"

He stopped and thought for a moment. "You mean, when she's older, it will be like we still have a kid, right?"

I braced myself for sorrow. "Well, kind of," I answered.

And I waited.

He raised his head and his eyes met mine. He was beaming, smiling, excited.

And, with tears, he finally said, "That is so awesome."

So grateful for those in this world that instead of seeing the difference, 
see the awesomeness!

Herione #2:  Shawni from 71toes

Early in my motherhood journal (thanks to my mother-in-law) I read a lot by the Linda and Richard Eyre... especially "Sister" Eyre's books. They remain some of my favorite parenting books.

obviously I've read this one
 a few times
So when I friend told me their daughter Shawni had a blog, well I was all over that. It was so neat to see the little girl I'd seen in grainy 70's pictures in her parents books, be "all grown up."

You see, Shanwi, aside from being an amazing, inspiring, empowering mother of five, who seems to just do everything but photograph it amazingly too, she's a special needs mom too. Her youngest Lucy was diagnosed with a very rare genetic syndrome called Bardet-Biedlwhich, which unless remedies and treatments are found, is almost certain to cause blindness.
I'd already doen a draft on Kelle but then when I read Shawni's latest, it made me want to make my heroine post a duo. 

She described all waves of emotions that slosh through a parents heart during an IEP/IPP meeting. One moment your heart drops with the realities of what your child faces constantly and then the next it swells with gratitude for those who, in kind amazing ways help so much, and then surges even higher with awe as you get a small sense your child's incredible strength. I love how she describes her final "swell":
My heart swells up, the room comes into view again and I know everything is ok.Perhaps not the kind of "ok" I had always anticipated, but maybe it's an even better "ok" than I knew to expect. Because I never knew that hard things could bring so much good.

I cried through this post, mostly because it was so familiar. 
But also because "hard things" are so important. (Even "the hardest"!)
It made me realize I'm glad Aaron is my oldest; that we didn't have to wait for the lessons and unique perspective he offers our family, so that they can impact our parenting and our younger kids all along the way. I'm sure Shawni's big kids learn from Lucy too---I just got this feeling as I read HER experience that OUR experience is so tailored specifically for our family, as is hers. So while we learn and are touched by others determination and courage, it is our story that makes or breaks us. 
I'm so grateful for a life that's meant for me, challenges and all. 

Mostly, I am so so so very glad for other's who share their stories and help me want to face my own story with even a fragment of the grace and light that shines through them.

For these light-filled examples, and many others, I am thankful, everyday.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Insta friends ie personal space is over-rated

I had an old roommate of mine drop in the other day. Her oldest, known as "G" on her blog, stole my heart the last time they visited. (I may have bribed him into liking me back by letting him keep some batman jammies, complete with a velcro cape). He's seriously the most polite little guy ever. Her daughter's spunk, makes me consider her a kindred spirit in the making for sure. And her new little baby makes me want to cave in on our "operation wait a bit longer than 2 years this time"  baby plan (almost). I think, when you love people, their kids just get a little spot in your heart too. Automatically.

Our two trampoline back yard, re-won G over pretty quick and him and McKye started jumping like old pals (by which I mean minimal McKye out-of-control-ness).

After a nice visit, McKye wanted to show G something on the iPhone, while G's mom loaded up his sister and baby brother into the van.

They were so cute I ran for my camera.

Their little foreheads touching just made me think, awwww to be a kid and be able to feel that comfortable with someone so quickly! To not be held hostage by reservations born of insecurities and deep-seated fear of rejection. Adults just take so long---
to open up, to share and to trust.

Then not too long after McKye wanted to make sure I got the message and again snuggled up to a little friend. Once again sending me running for the camera.

This time he pushed it a little far. She was sweet about it.

I guess personal space does have it place.

Although, I'm pretty sure we all could use a few more hugs, and shoulders to lean on, too.

So often when my kids are upset,
they just need a hug. 
I'm gonna try it next time.

Made me think of this talk:

Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.

Second Annual Bretzke-Leaviitt Bowling Extravaganza

"Extravaganza" as in, we went bowling once and then it took us a year before we went again.

Not because we didn't have fun, but just because apparently that how fast a year flies by.
A year ago I didn't even have a blog.

I looked up the pictures from last year and was blown away by 
how much all the kiddos had grown.

Aaron LOVES watching the pins topple over.

These two little cuties, just slept in their carseats last time.
Now look at them!
I seriously think Levi is just getting more handsome everyday! 

Um, in case you were wondering Levi sure did manage to lift that 6 lb ball!!!!!
Just once and briefly, but he did it.
He alo managed to go running down the lane a few times too.

McKye was super serious about what he calls "real bowling"(as opposed to on the Xbox.) He'd back up and chant "Gotta score, gotta score". 
He's asked everyday to go "real bowling"...he actually just saw this picture and said he wants to go.

Aw, to have a little poser

Levi was going nuts: "Ball! Ball!"

Til next year. 

Only in Alberta....

Could you do this...

...and this... the same month! 

Personally, I'm hoping for more of the later.

Becka's Buckin' Broncos Bridal Shower

In less than two weeks my little brother will be marrying, to quote him directly, 
"Thee perfect woman."

My soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Becka,  truly is wonderful. 

I sometimes wonder how Sam found such a great girl, then I remember ...I set them up!

Poor Sammy, I'm afraid, is terrified that I'm gonna hold him forever in my debt, when in reality I just wanted to insure that I got a wicked awesome sister-in-law. And I did.

Last weekend was her cowgirl themed Bridal shower. 
Fun decorations, yummy food, and cute games like:

Pin the hat on the cowboy. (Does he look familiar?)

And the classic toilet paper wedding dress, which the Bowen sisters kicked at.

What a treat to have another sister joining us! 
Welcome Becka.

Sam couldn't have picked a better girl in the whole wide world!
(even with his nosey big sister helpin' him out ;)