Power and Glory

When we put our children to bed, we read and then we pray. Star likes to go first. She thanks God for the things she enjoys, her friends, her dinner, her cuddly toys and says a big “AMEN.”

This was until a couple of weeks ago.

Now her evening prayer goes like this.

Thank you God for good walking feet. Thank you God not afraid. Thank you God Mummy, Daddy, Hannah, Ben, Rusty (cuddly dog), Grace (school friend), ham sandwich, the power, and the glory all yours, now and forever AMEN.

 

Maybe like me you feel heavy hearted tonight at the election result. Maybe you feel uncertain for the future of our country. As you bring the events of your day and this week to our Heavenly Father, I pray that like our lovely Star, he would give you peace to say, here is my day Lord, thank you for it, I am not afraid, for the power and the glory are yours, now and FOREVER, Amen

Hope in the Valley

We have been walking through a valley.

Not the valley of the shadow of death, the valley of the shadow of trauma.
Star recognises the changing length of day and as all her big moves have occurred in spring, this is a season full of difficult memories for her.

Her body is telling her that Spring is the time to move again.

We have been trying everything we can think of to demonstrate that she is safe, that she is staying, that our family is forever family and that she stays here.

But like rain falling on impenetrable ground, the truth is not sinking in.
And so with her fear comes regression,

screaming in the evening – wide eyed and terrified,

Saying “NO” to everything

Running off in school, and outside of school.

The teachers, her one to one, the speech and language therapists are at a loss. I sat in an uncomfortable school meeting as they described her behaviour in school. And I could feel the tension in the room.

The staff don’t know what to do next.” I thought.

Eddie and I talked it over. We prayed, lots of people prayed, and a new plan was devised and agreed on for school.

Last week we seemed to be turning the corner.

At the end of our valley was a light. That light is a family Christian conference with members of our church. A few days where we can go away from normal life. Where there is space for bible teaching, for worship with hundreds of others, time to have tea and cakes with our good friends. Time to watch my children grow spiritually and in relationship with the young adults from church, who are family to them.

The man organising Star’s children’s program rang and has someone who is experienced with children with Down’s and they are looking forward to meeting her.

After an exceptionally busy week at work clearing my desk to go away and a 350 mile round trip to meet my new niece. We were nearly ready to go.

And then Star woke up with Chicken pox.

Infectious for the whole period of the holiday, so therefore not allowed on site.

Eddie will take our older two, I will stay home with Star, if she is well enough he and I may swap half way through the week.

I am gutted.

I have asked God how I can keep giving, without being filled?

How I can keeping going without resting?
Why had he allowed this to happen, today, to her. Didn’t he know how much I was doing, didn’t he owe me this one..?

And I cried a lot. Because I am tired, because I will miss my friends. Because I wonder if God is saying “she is not ready.”
And I realise that the bible is true when it says the heart is deceitful above all other things:
Deep down I still act like I can earn God’s favour.

Like God has a heavenly score board where I say “I do this for you, so you do this for me.”

In everyone else’s life I can see this is wrong, ludicrous even.

God has done everything so that I can have a relationship with him, all I bring to the transaction is my sin.

I know that life this side of eternity is not always fair.

I know there are much worse things than missing time and fellowship with my friends due to chicken pox.

Last week at the end of a thirteen hour work day, I went to visit a man, a believer, who had been promoted to glory. My job was to confirm he had died. As I stood listening for the heart beat that was no longer there, as I shone my torch into eyes that no longer responded to light, I thought about hope.

I hugged his wife and confirmed he had died. She asked me if I would disconnect the syringe driver with his pain medication in,
“because he does not need that anymore.” she said.
As I peeled away the dressing and carefully removed the syringe I silently agreed with her.

He does not need that anymore, where he has gone there is no need for morphine for pain, or midazolam, for distress for levomepromazine for nausea.
Because where he has gone there is no more pain, tears or sickness or death.
That is God’s great promise for me and for Star.

One day we will finally exit the valley and Star’s fear and pain will be washed away. She will see her Heavenly Father face to face and he will wipe away the tears from her eyes.

On that day, the longing to be with God and to be with his people, will be permanently fulfilled.

Nothing can prevent that day, the gathering of God’s great redeemed forever family.

Revelation 7:13-17 NIV
[13] Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” [14] I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them whites in the blood of the Lamb. [15] Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. [16] ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. [17] For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

Star starts Ballet

Last week did not begin well.

I was called into class after school, to say that Star had been more tricky than at any point so far this academic year.

The teacher and I chatted for a while and I am sure that Star is triggered. I believe she recognises the changing day length and as we are approaching a difficult anniversary for her, she is worried that she is going to be removed again.

The result is a child who oscillates between defiance and (usually in the evening) a child who is clearly very, very scared.

Someone described it to me as believing she is going to be removed so pushing us as hard as she can, so that we will reject her -to just get the pain over with.

Like taking a deep breath and holding it, before jumping into cold water.

It is very, very hard.

A month ago we decided Star could start ballet and Hannah volunteered and had been accepted as a helper in Star’s class.

The ballet teacher has been so welcoming, she knows that Star has Down syndrome and she invited her to start ballet almost as soon as Star joined our family through adoption. The girls have been so excited that it felt wrong to stop this plan despite the difficulties of the last few weeks.

Last week Star went in to her first ever ballet class and the teacher said she spent a lot of time looking at herself in the mirror !!! The teacher thought she was getting used to being in the room.

This week, after 10 minutes or so, I was called in, and my heart sank.

The kind ballet teacher was concerned that Star wasn’t joining in and invited me to sit in and watch. (Hannah told me later that Star had been asking for me.)

And yes she was right, there were times Star was not joining in – I quickly realised that it was often when she knew she could not do what the rest of the class were doing.

However, once I was in the room, there were lots of times she did.

And I find myself amazed at how children develop. At how one instruction might require 5 or 6 skills in order to complete it and how most children just manage this.

And I can see just how many hurdles Star has to overcome.

For example the instruction: “Girls, walk in Demi- point.”

This assumes that:
the girls can hear this instruction
that they understand the need to continue walking in a circle,
that they continue to hold our their skirts,
that they understand that “Demi-point” means “tip toes”
and that they are able to do this without falling over.

Before this morning did I know what Demi-point was? – Nope.
Did Star know? – No.

Did she do it?
Yes.
Brilliantly.

She copied the rest of the class and walked around the studio beaming!

Did she manage every instruction in the class? – no.
Did she attempt most? yes.

As I watched her sat with the class trying to listen and clap out a rhythm or join in with a series of steps, (which at the moment is too hard for her), I could feel sad.

But I don’t.

She was there, included and happy.

At one point the girls were practicing jumping from first position, pointing their toes and landing in first position again. The older girls were helping the younger ones.

Around the room there were twenty little girls springing in the air, trying to land nicely, sometimes succeeding, sometimes wobbling, faces concentrating hard on what they were attempting.

In the centre were two sisters, completely focused on each other. One, aged nearly 9 demonstrating the move with skill and patience, the younger watching and attempting to copy.

I can honestly tell you that in that moment I was so proud of my two girls.

As I watch I realise that Hannah is translating the instructions perfectly to Star’s ability to understand, she is praising Star’s every attempt to try. She gives her one simple instruction to try to improve next time.

And Star, looking intently up at Hannah with a rapturous admiration for her big sister. Trying so hard to copy her movements.

First position, jump, point toes, land.
And again.
First position, jump, point toes, land.

Then they joined hands, facing each other, feet in first position and jumped together, smiling.

I realised, that my girls had just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Star and the London Bus

Star was very excited to be visiting my brother and his wife in London.

Despite growing up in suburbia I have never driven through central London, we always use the train and tube instead.
So we set off one chilly December morning, with our warm coats, hat, gloves and a backpack full of Christmas presents. For the hour and a half long journey to “Uncle Robin’s.”

“Oh that will be so exciting for the children,” said lots of our friends.

And it was exciting.

Public transport is also fairly challenging if a you a child who struggles with transitions.

We spend a lot of our lives thinking about, planning for and dealing with transitions.

On some days, literally

every

single

one.

Going to the toilet, washing hands, clothes off, clothes on, slippers on, slippers off, shoes on. Eating breakfast, drinking juice, finishing breakfast.

On the days when I do the morning school run and then go straight into work I feel like I have done a full day by 9.15am!

We try to use lots of strategies: “now, next” boards, signing, encouragement, giving Star a choice where possible, but there are some days when nothing seems to work.
At school, they have similar issues. And it was strangely therapeutic for us to hear experienced teachers tell us how they had used all the strategies from the professionals (the Ed psych, the SALT, the SENCO) to no avail.

We were sat at parents evening to be told of a morning when Star would not stop playing with the mud kitchen.

For forty-five minutes she had been happily scooping mud from one ladle to other and she didn’t want to stop.

Her Teaching assistant tried everything.

The sand timer.

The now and next board.

Signing “finished.”

Then the teacher was called

And then, Headteacher was called out of a meeting.

She came in her high heels down to the reception playground, to tell our daughter it was time to stop playing with the mud.

And what do you think Star did ?

Completely ignored her.

Another day at school, another transition. She was asked to do something she didn’t want to. So she ran into the toilets, locked the door went under the cubicle to the next stall, locked it too, sat in the far corner and LAUGHED at the teacher.  [It is a mark of how much Star has changed me that instead of being completely mortified by this defiance, I thought – that is actually really clever. She had managed to get the only place in the reception classrooms where they could not reach her.]

So I think you can imagine why, with some trepidation, we set off on our journey of one overground train, two underground trains and half a mile walk.

On the whole Star did pretty well.

On our way home, we decided to board a double-decker bus for three stops to save the children’s legs from more walking. They were so excited to climb to the top and watch the hustle and bustle of Islington High Street below them.

We tried to prepare Star that we needed to get off soon.

But predictably, it was far too short a trip on the top deck for her.

Some of us had made it to the pavement, when the bus driver was about to pull off with an unhappy Star and Eddie still on the top deck. My sister-in-law alerted the driver to wait and Star was told us with some urgency

“We need to get off now, Star.”

At which point she turned around and addressed all the passengers of the top deck of the bus

Off NOW”

 

A Tale of Two Nativities

Two years ago, our son Ben was cast as Joseph for the reception class school nativity. The two weeks beforehand were incredibly nerve-racking. Little Ben would come home from school crying that he didn’t want to be Joseph.

He wanted to be a sheep. I spoke to his teacher and she assured me that he was really enjoying rehearsals and knew all of his lines.

But at home the tears continued. The lines were rehearsed the costume was bought, Ben agreed to be Joseph and then changed his mind, then agreed again.

He was so nervous on the morning of the dress rehearsal that they allowed me to come into to school to watch him.

He was fabulous.

Mary was played by a four-year-old who did a brilliant impression of a stroppy pregnant teenager, complaining, “But I am tired do we have to go?”

In came Ben right on cue:

“I’m sorry Mary but we do, our little donkey will carry you.”

On the night of the main performance I arrived a little distracted. I had checked my phone every five minutes all day, as I was desperately hoping to be called by a social worker, regarding a little girl with Down Syndrome who needed a forever family. Her name was Star, I had seen her picture and spoken to her social worker, who had seemed so enthusiastic, but then had not called back.

As I sat in the chair waiting for the performance to start, I wondered where Star was, who was looking after her and where she would be this time next year.

4 months later, Star came home to us.

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Nativities”