I do something rather unglamorous.

I do something unglamorous.

And honestly, I love every minute of it.

At my church, I am part of a program that works to provides aide and help for kids with disabilities, while also creating a safe and inclusive space for them to learn and grow.  I have been a part of this group for at least three years.  And for the duration of those years, I have been a one-on-one to a little girl with Down Syndrome.  (I will be calling her PG throughout this post, as PG stands for “pretty girl”, which is my nickname for her.)

When I started with her, I had little to no experience working with kids with special needs.  I had babysat a group of kids several times prior, with one of the children being on the Autism Spectrum, but that was it.  PG used mostly ASL, had poor use of words,  used braces on her feet, and was honestly a challenge for me when I started.  She will be in first grade this coming school year, and my goodness, how she was grown.  She uses little to no sign, her word usage is incredible, she can write her name and her hand writing is beautiful, and her manners are improving everyday.

Working with kids with special needs is a very unglamorous job.  My hands, arms, and sometimes my legs, have been covered in marker.  My clothes sometimes get covered in drool and bits of chewed food.  Most recently, I had a white shirt get covered in Oreo slobber.  I have had my hair pulled, my fingers bent back the wrong way, and I’ve been pinched and kicked.  I have even had things thrown at me, or I’ve had to block things that were thrown. I have been (very unintentionally) choked, and at times I become a human jungle gym.  There was a period of time where PG liked to bang her head against my chest, if she was sitting in my lap.  And more often than not, working with kids with special needs is a full contact sport.  There are a few kids at my church that don’t like touch, but the vast majority of kids in the program do.  And more often than not, physical touch is used help restrain.  PG is a runner, so I spend time running after her, restraining her, and physically bringing her back to the task at hand.

The past three days were VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church.  On one of the evenings, PG had diarrhea very early on in the evening.  (It was due to something she ate, and her parents were fine that she stay for the rest of the evening.). However, she got a little in her underpants, and for the rest of the evening, she kept trying to put her hands in her pants.  And though I washed my hands many times with soap and water, by the end of the evening, I smelled like diarrhea.

And all of the parents of the kids in this program, and all of the volunteers who work with the kids, undoubtedly have similar stories to tell.

I want it to be noted, though, that a lot, if not all, of the unglamorous traits of helping kids with disabilities, are simply traits of working with kids.  Working with kids really, of any age group and in any capacity, is beautifully messy.  Working with kids with special needs simply adds another layer of messy beauty.  Kids with special needs are still kids, dealing with the normal issues and challenges of being a kid, but with additional (and oftentimes individualized) traits that come with their diagnosis.

Working with kids with special needs is so unglamorous and frustrating and exhausting and messy and challenging and at times, exceedingly overwhelming.  It is even often a thankless job.  But.  It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and could ever do.

I love my PG.  She may not quite know my name, but she knows she is safe with me.  She knows my face and my voice, and she knows I am here to help her.  She knows she can have fun with me.  In fact, one of my most favorite things is when I can get her to belly laugh.  I love when she hears what I ask her to do and she does it.  I love when she can say “sorry” or “thank you” or “please” without prompting.  She loves to sing and dance, and I love when she sings along, or does the accompanying motions.  I love when she grabs my hand or sits in my lap spontaneously.  She loves to read, and will often “read” me a story, which I simply love. She loves big, gives great hugs, and will walk up to complete strangers and say “hi”.  She knows Jesus, and that makes me so happy.

In the hallway in the lower level of our church, we have a painting of Jesus, surrounded by the kids from our congregation that have passed away.  It’s a beautiful painting, and last night at VBS, PG stopped to look at it.  She pointed to Jesus, and said, “That’s Jesus.  He died.”. I was a bit taken back, but I said “Yes, you’re right.  But He’s not dead anymore, right?  He’s in Heaven.”.  She continued to look at the painting, nodded her head, and said “Yes.  That’s Jesus.”.  Then she grabbed my hand, and walked away.  That moment made my heart all kinds of happy.

And my most favorite story to tell about PG happened when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and stressed.  It was before she was in Kindergarten, so she was part of a class that had kids ages 3 to 5.  On this particular Sunday, there were four kids with disabilities; PG, her younger brother with intellectual disabilities, and identical twins with Autism, but with complete opposite preferences in terms of physical touch.  I was the only trained volunteer (for kids with disabilities) in the room at the time, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There was another helper, who is absolutely incredible.  In a moment when the twins got angry and upset, this amazing helper was right beside me, trying to figure out which twin needed physical touch to calm down, and which didn’t.  It was also in this moment that PG‘s younger brother was stepping on kids and taking toys.  I began to get worried that PG would have a issue, and thus causing this helper and I to put a child under each arm, and get out of the room.  But as I stood up to make sure there weren’t any more issues, PG caught my eye, smiled really big, and started to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.  My heart pretty much overflowed.

Working with kids with special needs is hard. There are times I find myself frustrated and exasperated.  There are times I look for help, and I am learning it is totally okay to say “I need help right now; I can’t do this by myself”.  I make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes I make them a lot.  But I learn something new about PG everyday, and I learn new ways of helping her.  I have loved watching her grow and learn and blossom into the beautiful soul she is.

I do something unglamorous.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Special-Needs-logo

Look what God has done!

I am a firm believer in the idea that if you aren’t bursting at the seams to talk about what God is doing in your life, there’s a problem.  And let me say, I just want to tell everyone what God has been doing in my life.  I’m in a constant state of overwhelming joy, because the person I was at the beginning of the year isn’t who I am today, all because of God.

Come see what God has done!

1. He has broken down my walls. The first post I ever made public was titled When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned.  I wrote that coming out of a rough patch in my life.  I wrote it at the beginning of June, with plans of attending a conference with the junior high youth at my church later in the month.  Let me tell you what: I was supposed to be at that conference. One night, in the middle of the week, the leader of our group gave us time to just be with, and talk to, God.  That entry in my prayer journal is probably one of my favorites, because I got so real and raw with God.  My hurt and anger about my plans not going through came out in such beautifully painful way.  I was *internally* yelling, and physically sobbing.  The very last thing I wrote in that entry was “How can I trust you now? You know that’s what I wanted!”. Right after I wrote that, I kid you not, I felt such an indescribable peace.  I can’t explain it, but it’s almost like God used that moment to knockscreenshot_2016-10-23-13-51-12 down the walls I had made against Him, in the time since my application was rejected.  Looking back, it’s very clear to me that I was afraid to trust God with my future.  And since that moment, which will be forever etched in my mind, my relationship with God has been totally different.

2. He has redeemed a part of my story.  On the last night of the conference, the leader of the group had us all sit in a circle and gave us the opportunity to stand in front of each other, resubmitting our lives to God.  At one point, a girl stood up and told us she was giving her life back to God, and that her girlfriend didn’t want her to.  Now, this girl was someone I was having trouble loving because of different rumors and stories and whatnot.  A couple of minutes later, this girl stood back up and said her girlfriend just broke up with her.  This girl also said she wasn’t going to go back on her decision.  I applauded her, because I know what it’s like to leave a relationship for God.  (That’s my favorite story to tell, but one for a much later time.). Fast forward a couple of minutes to when everyone was heading back into the hotel.  I happened to walk past this girl hugging with some of her friends, and without even thinking of my past, something compelled me to turn around.  The words just came tumbling out if my mouth, “Hey, I have something to tell you, and I don’t know if it’s something you want to hear or not.  But I left a relationship for God too, so I know what you’re going through.  If you need to talk or anything, I’m here.”. I thought that was all I needed to do, but then the girl hugged me and said “thank you”.  And then, when we returned from the trip and were unpacking the vans, this girl came and found me, and said she wanted to hug me again. I was, and still am, amazed by God, and how He used that moment.

3. He has restored a broken relationship. This part is also becoming one of my favorite parts to talk about.  So, the end of my sophomore year of high school, I tried out for the flute and clarinet section leader position for my high school’s marching band.  My best friend of 10+ years also tried out.  From my perspective, our relationship had been falling apart prior to the try-outs, but after the results were posted, the relationship came crashing down in a tremendous display.  I was given the position, and it was a bittersweet 20160906_222934thing.  We didn’t really talk to each other for years after that.  In fact, I was even afraid to go to things where I knew she would be, because I was still hurting and afraid.  That is, until this summer.  God kinda blows me away, because the similarities between trying out for section leader, and applying for the position at the church camp were incredibly striking.  When I eventually had the courage to talk about my disappointment of not being accepted at the camp with those in my young adult group, it opened the door for the four-years coming conversation with my friend, who goes to the same church.  Since that moment, our relationship has been getting better and better by the day.  We’ve car-pulled together, worship together, gone to lunch together, planned a party together, given advice to each other, texted each other (which we haven’t done in years!).  Heck, I even asked her to write a post for my blog.  Now, our relationship isn’t perfect, but God is good.  And what I think is so beautiful about this, is that her and I had the time to grow and learn about ourselves separately, and then have a second chance at the friendship, continuing to learn and grown.

4. He has met fear with love, and redeemed another part of my story.  Okay, this one is a bit harder to talk about, as it is more recent.  Last year, I was involved in something I’m really ashamed of.  It’s not who I am, and if I could go back in time, I would change it in a heartbeat.  However, I didn’t tell my parents about it, because I was afraid of disappointing them.  I  put off telling them for over a year, and it really began to affect me. I had confessed it all to God prior, so I thought I was forgiven, and that was the end of that.  But just a couple of weeks ago, I was at the weekly young adult worship I go to, and I began to feel really convicted to tell my parents.  You guys, I was so scared and so afraid, because one of my biggest fears is disappointing those I love.  It’s rather petrifying sometimes.  When I got home, I told my parents.  I was expecting anger and disappointment, but they showed me love.  Love; pure unjudging love.  And if that’s how my parents respond when I’ve screwed up, just think how much greater our Father’s love is.  Since that moment, since experiencing that love, I’ve felt so free.  It’s such a beautiful thing.

5. He has provided financial help for college.  The end of my freshman year of college, my grades could have either fallen three B’s and two A’s, or four A’s and one B for the spring semester.  It all depended on how well I did for the finals.  I was stressing out and studying like crazy.  See, I’m currently at a community college, planning to transfer to a private college to complete my Bachelor’s degree.  If I maintained a high enough GPA, I would be invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society for community college students.  If I joined, my transfer school would recognize that achievement and cover half of my tuition.  The college I’ll be transferring to is just around $50,000/yr.  It’s a tad overwhelming.  However, my dad is an alumni, so I’ll get a small discount from that.  And my mom is a professor at the college I’m currently attending, so the college recognizes that relationship and covers my tuition.  I was really stressing during finals week, and while waiting for the final grades, because if I didn’t get invited to join PTK, I’d be looking at paying $100,0o0.  God is good, because I ended the spring semester with four A’s and one B, increasing my GPA.  I took classes over the summer, too, which further increased GPA.  Around the beginning of this school year, I got my invitation to join PTK.  I’ve joined, and am currently waiting to hear back from my transfer college about my application.  God is so good.

6. He is rebuilding my ideas and expectations of romantic relationships. This I could talk about forever.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I was testing someone.  I still am, and we went on our first date a couple of weeks ago.  We started talking in August, and have been texting since.  Whatever this is, it’s moving really slow, and I love it.  I’ve beenScreenshot_2016-10-16-17-00-31.png single for over two years.  My first relationship moved really quite fast, and it was an emotionally hard relationship.  Since it ended, I’ve been hurt by potential relationships, and I’ve hurt guys who have gotten close to me.  I was a bit of a mess there for a bit ….. but I’ve gotten to the point where I know my worth is not based on a relationship.  I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need a guy, or a relationship, to validate me.  I’ve taken control of my life and have embraced who I am as a person, and I think that’s why I’m so excited about getting to know this guy.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can stand in my own power.  Having been single for so long has given me the chance to re-evaluate my expectations of a relationship, and give my romantic heart back to God.  And this guy is treating me like I have never been treated before.  I could go on and on about why, but know that I am very happy, and I feel safe.  Because we met at the weekly young adult worship, I know God is a part of his life  Whether or not this texting (and occasional dates) turns into anything else is beside the point.   My heart has been beautifully reset, and I couldn’t be happier.

I could really go on and on about the things God is doing in my life.  I am beyond happy and overjoyed for the things God has done in my life, and I can’t wait to see what He’ll do in the future.

What is God doing in your life?  Are you bursting at the seams to tell people, “Look what God has done!”?

Ciao for now,

Julia

What not to say to someone who’s single

Recently, a single friend of mine posted a status on Facebook detailing the things she wished well-intentioned people wouldn’t say.  She’s been single for much longer than I have, but I couldn’t agree with her points more.

I’ve been single for a bit over two years.  It’s taken me quite a long time, but I’m totally okay with being single.  I think I’m doing some pretty awesome things over here in my own little corner, and I’m more in love with God than I ever have been.  I’m growing into the person God wants me to be, independent from a relationship, and I’m loving every minute.  Now, that’s not to say I’m not interested in beginning a relationship with a Godly man.  Heck, I’m very interested, but I no longer base my happiness or self-worth on whether or not a guy likes me, or I’m in a relationship.  And I’ve gotten to the point in my relationship with God, that I will not begin a relationship until He gives me the all clear.

That being said, here’s my list of things not to say to someone who is single, regardless of how long they’ve been single.

1. I want to introduce you to someone.  I’m totally for making friends.  Seriously, the more the merrier.  And I will totally act like I want to meet this person for romantic reasons, because I like to joke that I’m *desperate* for a relationship.  But please don’t misunderstand, I appreciate the gesture, but it adds unnecessary pressure for things to work out.

2. You would look really good with so-and-so. My friends at church recently said this to me along with What if we try to set you up?.  Initially, I loved the idea.  But when I really stopped and thought about it, I begin to feel uncomfortable around said person, when I should just be enjoying their company.  Again, this puts pressure (even if it’s unintentional) on a relationship that doesn’t exist.

3. Are you texting anyone?  Imma tell you a secret: I am texting somebody.  BUT. We met at a worship event, and are simply getting to know each other.  The group of people I was with is becoming friends with the group he was with.  I have no idea what God intends to do with this.  With that, I ask, friends, instead of making things weird, pray for us.  Pray for guidance and patience, and for complete and utter reliance on God.  I know what it’s like to rush into things, thinking God is saying one thing when He’s actually saying something entirely different.  So, if you ask me this and I give you an honest ‘yes’, instead of asking for details, pray over our conversations.  And if you ask, and I say no, pray anyway, both for me and the future God has for me.

4. Is there anybody special in your life? Does God count?  How about friends, or family?  Because they’re all pretty special to me.  But if you ask me, chances are I’ll just laugh and give a playful answer (like “I wish”).  I have many special people in my life, and I meet more all the time.  Please don’t assume that there’s no special person in my life just because I’m single.

5. You know, you could be married in five years. I am totally aware of this.  This is quite a real possibility.  But, I am totally content in the fact that I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  It’s like an adventure, and what’s more fun with that?  I may have to wait until I transfer to my next college to meet the man I’m supposed to be with.  Or maybe, when I start my career.  I may already know the guy, but have to wait until the time is right for the ball to start rolling.  Either way, there’s no point in putting a time restraint on God.  I’m no longer impatient, and I don’t think you should be either.

6. Where are you going?  Are there going to be guys there? Chances are, I’ve already thought of that. And chances are, if I’m going somewhere that poses this question, I’m going with a group of friends and am more interested in spending time with them than looking for a guy.  Yes, I’m looking for a Godly man, but I’m not actively and desperately looking.  I know that when the time is right, God will lead me to him.  And I’m more than content with that.

7. God has somebody for you, don’t worry.  I wasn’t worrying, thanks.  And God may have somebody for me, or He may not.  I am very aware that God may call me to a life of single-ness.  And if that is the case, that’s something I’ll really have to wrestle with God about.  I know many fabulous men and women who are a lot older than me who aren’t married, and let me say, they kick butt.  I pray over the man God wants me with constantly, and I also pray over my future, romantic desires aside.  I’m a pretty hopeless romantic who wants her Prince Charming (or a Mr. Darcy or Mr. Rochester would be pretty cool too).  But right now, God is all I need, and so I’m not worrying about the man God has for me, or when I’ll meet him.

Before you read any further, please watch this video.  It’s one of my most favorite things, and I instantly get goose bumps.  And I totally agree with everything.

I will wait, no matter how long, because ‘I serve the Author of Time’. His timing is perfect, and I don’t want to screw something up because I was impatient.  Besides, there is nothing more beautiful than when God’s plan for us comes to fruition.  And, just because I may not get married when society thinks I should, or even at all, doesn’t mean God isn’t working.  He’s always working, and His plan is always beautiful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I trust God completely with my future.  He has time and time again amazed me by what He does.

So friends, I love your enthusiasm for me to find love.  But I ask that you turn that enthusiasm towards prayer.  I see a relationship as a serious thing, and I do not take it lightly.  Pray for guidance as I meet new people, and form new relationships.  If you feel so inclined, pray over my future.  Being single does not mean I can’t be covering my future in prayer.

If you feel the need to ask me any of these questions, I’ll smile and play along.  But I’d much prefer if you simply support me in where I am in my life right now.  Support me in my schooling, in any writing pursuits (like my blog or any other projects), in my spiritual life, and if I decide to follow God into missions.  Support and love and prayer and friends and good times are all I want right now.  And if God gives the okay, a relationship would be an added bonus.

Ciao for now,

Julia