Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Major Change

It's finals week. Two days and I'll be on my way home for a month. Done with my first semester of college.

It seems almost surreal. I look back at my writings from August and September and I see so many answered prayers. I see so much growth.

I've been learning at an exponential rate. Learning how to pray, learning how to hear God's voice, learning about knowledge vs. spiritual maturity, discernment, the duty of the church to judge, how to trust people, how to look for the areas in my heart that I need God's light in because they're shrouded in darkness.

I've been soaking up so much information and wisdom that I'm actually excited to get away for Christmas and mull it all over.

I came into college a scared little girl with an anxiety disorder. Maybe I still have an anxiety disorder, but I'm no longer letting it control my life. I'm starting to see my relationship with God outweigh my fear, so that when He asks me to do something, I do it. Regardless of how scary it is.

I've moved into adulthood, into making my own decisions and taking my life into my own hands. For instance, adding a double major.

Pre-Seminary Bible-Theology.

I've been told time and time again that it's impractical. I know this. No, I don't know that I'll go to seminary. No, I don't know what on earth I'll do with the major. I want to go into orphan care in Russia. Not very applicable.

But I do know that this is what God's asked me to do. And that I'm going to love it. I'll take classes on Psalms, the Pentateuch, the Growth of the New Testament Church, and the Epistles of John. Christian Theology, Philosophy, Biblical Interpretation. I will love it.

It was scary walking into that office and signing the paper (albeit, kind of anticlimactic). It was scary planning my 18-credit-hour semester for the Spring. It was scary to tell everyone that I was doing Pre-Seminary Bible-Theology and had absolutely no reason except that it was what God had told me to do.

But I did it.

And it is in those four words that you can see how much I've grown in just this one semester at Asbury.

And I am loving pressing my heart ever closer and closer to the One who created it. Listening. Waiting. Obeying. Being transformed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Humble

I hate needing people.

I would so prefer to remain independent and aloof. It's easier. People can't hurt you if you don't let yourself open up to them.

Already this year at Asbury, God has been teaching me lessons of dependance and trust. I'm learning to trust my friends. To trust that they really are friends, in the truest sense. To trust that when they say they'd do something for me, they really mean it. To trust that they really do love me.

But a leg scooter is a whole new level of dependance.

I knew something was wrong when after two and a half months in a boot, my foot still had not healed enough for me to walk on it. When I went home for Fall Break, I saw an orthopedist and got an MRI. The results: my foot is fractured and a ligament is partially torn.

The doctor suggested a leg scooter, insisting that I need to be completely off my foot for at least a month in order for it to heal.

Sure, the leg scooter would be embarrassing, but it wouldn't be that bad, right? Everyone would get a laugh, including me; I'd get some new nicknames. Fun and games, scooting around campus for a month.

Two days on the scooter and my dream vision is already shattered.

The realization sunk in yesterday morning. I want to cry when I go up the hill to get from my dorm to the rest of campus every morning. The muscles in my left leg have been worked more in the last two days  than they have been all year, and I can feel it. My right knee is bruised and battered from all the new pressure from the scooter. Walking is slow and arduous.

But the worst part?

I can't open doors for myself. I can't carry my own plate in the cafeteria. My friends walk almost at a standstill when they walk next to me. I can see people's eyes on me. Glancing quickly up and away. They feel sorry for me.

And I hate it. I hate that I'm reliant upon other people's kindness to get into my dorm building because I can't open the door. I hate the someone else has to take my dirty dishes to trash line. I hate that when I sit with friends at dinner in the cafeteria, we have to think about where my scooter can and cannot go. I hate that when I go visit my friends at their dorm, I have to call them to open the door for me.

But it's not humiliating.

It's humbling.

How often after this will I see someone struggling to get through the door? How often will I see someone who's having a hard day and trying to mask it with a good attitude? How often will I extend a hand of kindness to someone who needs it, but doesn't want to ask for it?

And so, while I am still adjusting to life on a scooter, I am learning to be thankful for it.

I am thankful that my foot was injured.

I'm thankful I have to be dependent on others in this new and terrifyingly beautiful way.

I'm thankful that God is teaching me to be humble.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life or Death

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

I've stood in a room with a thousand other students singing this song. I see a sea of arms raised around me, eyes closed, hands open wide in surrender.

To the casual onlooker, chapel at Asbury University would look like a little piece of heaven. A body of young people seeking after the Lord with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

But that onlooker wouldn't hear the conversations that occur afterward.

Obsessively worrying about a test the next period. Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.

Freaking out about a relationship they're being convicted to leave. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.

Complaining about the inconvenience of going to chapel three times a week. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

Talking about how ridiculous the expectation is that they spend time in prayer and in the Word every day. And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

How can they go from such spiritual highs to such spiritual lows in the course of mere minutes?

It's because they're looking for a feeling instead of a person.

The church today has so watered down Christianity that its become nothing more than a moment in time when you get a Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card and move on with your life, with a Christian facade painted over your sin-saturated heart.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ calls us out of our past lives. Completely out. Not one foot out. Or one finger out. Completely out.

He calls us into holiness, so that He can indwell us and be Himself in us. A relationship with God is so much more than a two-second prayer before you eat dinner, than flipping your Bible open once a week at church, than praying when you want to do well on a test.

Christianity, true Christianity, is hard. It demands allegiance. Loyalty. Your very life. It demands that you take up your cross just as Christ did. It demands that you die to yourself. Not just once. But every day. Until there is nothing left of me and everything left of Him.

And for the first time, I am seeing the spiritual death around me. So many are hanging on by a thread, acting like they're fine, but wondering inside, Is this all? Is this all the Christian life is?

And, no, it's not. They need more. They know there's more. But the more is uncomfortable. It's hard. Oh, it's beautiful, it's rewarding, it's fulfilling too. But it's not easy.

And there comes a time when you have to decide, "Do I want to be comfortable or do I want to live?"

Life or death?

It's your choice.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Growing Down

Sometimes, people grow up too fast.

It's not their fault, it's no one's really, but circumstances force them to become adults before their time.

I love Levi and Evan. I love being their big sister. But something happens to you when you are often responsible for two young children with special needs. You grow up. You have to.

Since coming to Asbury, I've grown up in many ways. I've learned to lean more on the Lord instead of on my own strength. I can't get through my day without prayer and Bible study. I can feel myself growing closer to God and inclining my ear to hear His voice.

But in many ways, I've grown down.  My natural dreaminess that I possessed as a child, where I would stare into space and imagine things, think about things. Where I would spend whole hours thinking about one impossible idea, and wonder about wonderfully unbelievable things. It's coming back. My dreaminess is coming back.

My anxiety has diminished greatly, and I reach the end of every day excited and happy about what a great day it was. I'm surrounded, in the prayer group, by older girls. More mature girls. Girls who are farther along in their walks of faith.

And for the first time in my life, I am taking on the role of little sister. Little sister instead of big sister. It is such a relief not to have to lead. No one's looking to me to make decisions or to take care of anyone else or to protect anyone else. I'm not in charge. I'm not the leader.

I'm the little one. The one who has much to learn. The one who's job is to learn and not to lead.

And I couldn't be more excited about growing down.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Pipe Organ Prayer

This morning started out like any other morning.

Get up before the sun, shower, swallow medicine, heave my backpack over my shoulders and set out into the chill morning to go to prayer.

There were only four girls today. Almost all of us are sick in some form or fashion. Some more sick than others, but all of us struggling.

Our prayers of late have seemed heavy. What with revival last week and sickness rampant for almost a month, our prayer has been serious and solemn (as it should be).

We bowed our heads to the altar this morning, lifting our hands and hearts to God before our day started.

I heard some movement on the stage, but ignored it. It's not like the chapel is off-limits when we're praying in there.

But suddenly the loudest, most high-pitched noise sounded from the organ. It took all my willpower not to shoot up and see what was going on. I dutifully kept my head bowed, though, and tried to refocus my thoughts. Suddenly a plethora of scales exploded into the chapel. They didn't stop for the next fifteen minutes.

Someone was tuning the organ. During our morning prayer.

A smile played at the corners of my lips; I tried not to laugh. My shoulders were shaking, and finally I burst out laughing. I looked at the other girls, and they were laughing as well.

We stood and went to breakfast, finally remembering that there was supposed to be an organ concert today.

And I was reminded that God has a sense of humor.

In the midst of our deep, heavy prayer, God gave us something to laugh about. It was as if he was saying, "I hear you. I see you. I know your heart, and how it longs to follow Me. Now laugh. Be happy. Have joy!"

No, it was not my deepest, most emotional prayer ever, but it is one that I'll remember for quite a while.

The pipe organ prayer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Out of the Grave: A Redemption Story

It started with a faint scratching sound, then her senses were flooded. She felt the moist earth packed against her skin and the bile rising in her throat as the smell of decay overwhelmed her. She gasped for breath only to choke on the dirt that surrounded her. Fear seized her as she found she couldn't move, and her body writhed and thrashed in the oppressive soil. A whiff of sweet air brushed past her and she grabbed frantically at it, but it escaped her. Just when she had struggled for one last breath, she felt a hand brush up against her face. The hand quickly shoved the dirt away from her mouth and eyes and she gulped in great lungfuls of clean air. She blinked rapidly in the harsh light, and moved to sit as the hand scooped away the earth that had held her down. A wave of nausea swept over her and bits of soil and waste came spewing out of her stomach. The hand held her hair back from her sweaty, grimy face and wiped her mouth. The girl looked around and saw walls of earth. She turned to get a better look at the hand and followed it up to the face. It was an unremarkable face, and yet to the girl it seemed infinitely familiar, though she could not say where she had seen it before.

"Who are you?" she ventured.

"Jesus," he replied, brushing the last of the dirt off of her.

She looked again ant his hands and noticed how dirty they were, caked with mud and brown under the fingernails. "What happened to me?" she asked, still balking at the sunlight.

"You buried yourself."

"Did you dig me out?" she said, searching his eyes.

He nodded.

"Why?"

"I love you," he said simply.

"I don't love me," she whispered, turning her face away.

"But I do," he urged.

He stood, and the girl was mortified at his muddy, vomit-stained clothes. "Jesus, I'm sorry," she said timidly, her cheeks burning.

"It doesn't matter," he replied. "You were worth it." With that, Jesus lifted his hands to press on the outside of the hole and hoisted himself out. "Come on!" he beckoned.

The girl stayed firmly seated. "Where are we going?"

"My father's house," he explained. "Everything's prepared - he's been waiting so long for you to come home."

The girl tried in vain to move. "I can't do it," she finally admitted. "I can't get up."

"That's alright," he assured her, reaching down his hands. "I'll lift you."

The girl looked at Jesus's outstretched hands, then looked at the sides of the hole. She craned her neck, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't see what was outside. "Thanks, Jesus," she said, "but I think I'll just stay here."

"I'll help you," he pleaded. "You don't have to be afraid. It's so much better out here."

The girl shook her head.

"Well, I'm not leaving unless you're with me," Jesus insisted.

"Just go home without me," she offered. "Tell your father I didn't want to come."

A profoundly sad look crossed his eyes and for a sliver of a moment his countenance fell. "It would break his heart," he said quietly. "I will wait a thousand years if I must, but I am not leavin ghere without you."

The girl threw up her hands in exasperation, and leaned her back against the dirt wall. Days passed and nights too. Months, years. The girl lost count. She grew lonely and tired and confused. Maybe she should have gone with Jesus. Surely, he had left by now?

Her voice was hoarse from disuse, and it took a moment for the words to croak out. "Jesus? Are you there?"

For a brief moment, the girl was terrified. He had left her, and she would be stuck in this rancid hole forever! Slowly, though, two dirty hands reached down toward her, and a pair of heavy-lidded eyes peeped over the ledge. "Are you ready now?" he asked, expectant.

"I think so," she said shakily.

He put his strong arms under hers, and lifted her out of the pit. She had been sitting still for so long that the sudden movement sent a rush of pain through her body. She let out a scream and squeezed her eyes shut.

When she opened them, she saw stalks of sweet green grass with yellow dandelions poking their heads up every so often. Jesus helped her to her feet. She leaned heavily on him, her legs shaking. "I hope your father's house isn't far," she said. "I don't think I can walk."

"It is far," Jesus admitted, "but I will carry you."

"Where is it?" she asked.

He pointed toward a distant line of blue-gray mountains, their tips brushing the clouds. "Beyond the horizon."

Her heart dropped. "I'll never make it."

"Do not fear," he said, squeezing her hand. "For I know the way."

And with that, he lifted her in his arms and started sprinting into the purple dusk toward the mountains and his father's house. He lifted his head to the sky and shouted, "We're coming home, Father! We're coming home!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Approval of God


This week marks the end of my first month at Asbury.

It's amazing to think that I am not the same person I was a month ago.

A month ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of getting up at 6:00 to pray every morning.

I would never have asked someone I'd just met how I could pray for them.

I would never have found myself yearning for the end of the day so that I could crawl into bed and talk to God. Just talk with Him.

I'd like to say that its the environment or the people, but its not. It's the Lord.

For the first time in my life I'm finding myself longing for God. Wanting to want Him. Desiring to desire Him.

At my new church in Wilmore, we're studying the book of John. We read these verses on Sunday:

"Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God."
      - John 12:42-43

I'd like to think that I'm not like those rulers. That I am far more concerned about what God thinks that about what men think, but it's just not true.

Even here at school, I find myself obsessed with what other people think of me. Peers, friends, teachers, even the girls in my prayer group. Sometimes when we pray I think more about what they think of my prayer than about what God does.

I am sickened by my own desire for the approval of others.

It's disgusting to me. And I've realized that God is making me more and more aware of how dirty I am. How much I need Him. How weak and empty and helplessly sinful I am without Him.

But that's just where I should be. Because His power is perfected in my weakness.

I can only hope that one day I will love the approval of God rather than the approval of men.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

He Answers

It's 8:30 in the morning here at Asbury University.

My first class isn't until 9:25. Why am I awake, you ask?

It's a good question. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't roll out of bed until 9:00.

But, lately, I've been waking up at 6:20. Almost three hours before my first class.

To pray.

You see, my new friends meet in the mornings to pray before classes start.

I feel like groaning every time my alarm goes off, but throughout my day, I couldn't be happier that I woke up to pray. It focuses my day on what every day should be focused on: the Lord.

I've missed one day since school started. Yesterday. And that's because I slept through my alarm. I brushed it off, thinking that it wasn't a big deal. But it was.

I was anxious all day. I hadn't realized it before, but praying in the morning helped me tremendously with my anxiety.

There are still days when I feel lonely, when I miss home. Slowly, though, it's getting better.

You see, I feel I've grown more in my faith during these three weeks at Asbury than I have in months. God has shown up for me in real, tangible ways. In answer to specific prayers. How could I possibly doubt Him when He's provided for my every waking moment since I've been here?

One night last week, I was praying before bed, and I simply asked God for someone to give me a hug. Most of the freshman don't give hugs yet since we don't really know each other. I hadn't had someone touch me in over two weeks. I'm not a touchy-feely person, but I wanted a hug so badly.

The very next morning, I went to breakfast with an upperclassman friend. As we were leaving, she gave me a big hug. "I always wished people would hug me when I was a freshman."

He answers my prayers. He gives me the desires of my heart.

He is directing my steps. He is leading me toward people who are helping me grow in my faith and grow toward Him.

At Asbury University, each class has a verse, a name, and a hymn that identify them.

Our verse is Hebrews 6:19. "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil..."

We are the Anchored Class of 2017. And I hope that in my years here at Asbury, I truly will become anchored in Him.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Alone

My very first week about college classes.

For most people, the college stress starts with school. Most freshman are struggling with hard classes and a college-level workload.

Not me. I love school. I love my classes and professors. I love having something to work on.

My struggle is friends.

It seems that everyone is pairing off and hanging out and creating friend groups. Except me.

There are people that I see as potential friends and people that I eat meals with, but it will take time.

It seems that everyone else jumped straight to being best friends and it's just taking me longer.

I want best friends. I want people I can hang out with and watch movies.

I just don't have it yet.

There are times when I'm walking around campus, surrounded by people, but feeling more alone than ever. Sometimes I sit in the cafeteria, surrounded by people I know only slightly and using every small-talk topic I can think of, feeling more friendless than I ever have.

I've been in lots of new places, but very rarely have I been in a new place where I don't have anyone "old" to go back to.

It's lonely. There are days when I really like it here, and days when I just want to give up and go home.

Somehow, in all my years of living, I never learned how to have just friends. I've had best friends (i.e. kindred spirits). I've had people I say "hey" to in the halls. But I've never had people that I hang out with, but am not best friends with.

This is something the Lord is trying to teach me. It is a hard lesson to learn, especially when you don't have any kindred spirits to fall back on.

I am certain of one thing though. I am never alone.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Not My Plan

New student orientation at Asbury has not gone according to plan.

My plan, anyway.

I arrived at Asbury sick with a bad cough. Loaded up with enough cough meds to last me through the apocalypse, I decided a little cough wasn't going to hold me back this week.

Things were awkward for everyone. Some people knew each other, but most of us didn't. It was uncomfortable. Usually you know someone before living with them - not the case in college.

By the third day at orientation, many people had "paired off" and found friends. Not me. Sure, there were plenty of people that I said "hey" to while walking through campus, but I didn't have any best friends for life yet. Maybe no one did.

Either way, I was not looking forward to the hiking expedition my T.A.G. (Transition and Guidance) group was taking. Okay, so it wasn't really an expedition - it was an hour and a half walk through the woods (or so I thought).

No one expected the trails to be so muddy, though, the rain having stopped the day before. Halfway through the hike, I was already exhausted. We'd climbed hills and walked through (smallish) waterfalls.

Just when I thought it couldn't get much worse, my foot slipped in the mud, and twisted under me as I fell. I don't cry a whole lot from injuries - I have a very high pain tolerance. But I wanted to cry.

My group went on, with one of the leaders staying with me. A student trained in wilderness medicine (okay, so it wasn't called wilderness medicine, but it was something like that) came and checked out my foot, declaring that she didn't think it was broken.

"Do you think you can walk?" she asked me.

I looked around at the trees and ledges and the river flowing down below me. "Well," I replied. "I don't want to be stranded in the forest so, yes, I can walk."

The way back to a road was an uphill climb. I was winded, exhausted, sick, and in a whole lot of pain. It was awful.

When we finally got to a gravel road, the Associate Dean came and picked me up and drove me to the clinic. They wrapped my foot in an ace bandage, gave me an ice pack, and told me to pop ibuprofen four times a day to help with the swelling. They also gave me crutches to help take the weight off my foot.

Later that day as I sat on a bench, wistfully watching the other students playing volleyball on the green and mingling and making friends, I threw a little pity party for myself. This week had not gone as I planned at all. I was sick and now injured, and I still didn't feel that I had any friends.

Just then, an upperclassman girl I'd never seen before in my life came and sat down next to me. We talked and talked, and she introduced me to her friends. She even wanted to keep in contact.

Suddenly, things became clear to me. I felt I'd made a connection for the first time on Asbury grounds.

All because I'd messed up my foot.

I wouldn't have been sitting there, feeling (and probably looking) dejected and lonely without my foot being hurt.

And then I never would have met those girls.

I am confident that this was God, revealing a tiny bit of His plan to me.

And so, in a way, I'm glad I hurt my foot. I'm glad I'm on crutches.

It wasn't my plan.

But His are better anyway.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Last

These past few days have been filled with so many lasts.

Last lunches.

Last coffee dates.

Last books with Evan.

Last Les Mis with Levi.

Last Sonic run with Jace.

Last TV show together.

Last night sleeping in my own bed.

Last hugs from my brothers and sisters and mom.

None of the "getting ready for college" lists and blogs ever say anything about how hard it is to leave your family. Maybe because there is no advice for that. No way to make it any better. It just sucks.

My brain knows that to choose to stay with them now would be to choose a life where I didn't make myself do hard things. Illogical. But my heart hasn't gotten the memo yet.

I hate to think of my family moving on without me. Watching our shows without me. Reading new books without me. Seeing Jace's first marching band show without me. Becoming a new family unit without me.

I expect them to stay still while I keep moving.

But that's not realistic.

We will both move in different directions, but our hearts are twined together no matter where we are.

So while I had to experience so many lasts today, it also opened the door for many firsts.

First time living with a roommate.

First time being able to set my laptop on a table and not worry about a six-year-old messing it up.

First time coming home for fall break.

First time being on my own (sort of).

First time being a college freshman.

First time at new student orientation.

Tomorrow.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Planting Seeds


My little brother, Jace, is almost a full foot taller than me. He has a voice like James Earl Jones. He smells like a dumpster if he forgets to wear deodorant, and his resolution to forgo shaving for the summer has resulted in the world's smallest, scraggliest beard.

As far as brother/sister relationships go, ours is pretty good. We went to see Star Trek. We know all the words to Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" (the clean version). He farts; I hit him.

Pretty standard. Nothing to complain about.

We weren't always so peaceable, though. Well, he was. I was conniving and manipulative.



Not only was I a mean sister, but I was a smart mean sister. That's a disastrous combination.

I would plot ways to get him in trouble that no one could trace back to me.

One Halloween, I even stole his Halloween candy while he slept, then sold it back to him for cash.

Horrible, I know.

Something changed when we adopted Levi. I realized that I was a saint to Levi and treated Jace like dirt. I'm not sure that at thirteen I quite knew what inconsistency was, but I comprehended enough to try and mend my behavior.

Over the years, we've grown closer (now that I'm no longer trying to torture him). But there's still a gap. This could just be the natural maturity-difference between a 19-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.

My small group at church is reading a book about how Christian girls should interact with Christian guys called It's (Not That) Complicated. I was the first to make fun of this book.

I thought that the last thing I needed was guy advice. Imagine my surprise when one of the first areas of focus in the book was brothers. The authors were introducing revolutionary ideas like respecting your brother, caring about the things your brother cares about (Minecraft? Modern Warfare?!), and allowing him to be a leader in your relationship.

How can our brothers grow into godly men like the ones we'd want to marry if we never let them be the leaders God intended them to be?

Needless to say, I'm no longer cracking jokes about "the book."

I've tried some of the suggestions. I asked him to teach me to play Minecraft (UGH), and talked to him about church camp. I let him choose where we eat lunch. We discuss how his first year in marching band is going.

I still don't have that unbelievably close, thick-as-thieves relationships with my brother yet.

But I'm hoping that these seeds I'm planting now will grow into a beautiful relationship later.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Losing Control


On the Asbury University Freshman Class Facebook group, someone has posted a new update every day saying, "63 days until orientation!", "62 days until orientation!" and so on and so forth.

At first it was amusing and exciting. Now it's just plain stressful. Because it's impossible to ignore. Oh, there are small distractions, like discovering the world's greatest banana bread recipe or watching The Great Gatsby. Thanks to social media, though, there's no ignoring what's coming:

"27 days until orientation!" 

That was today's post. My stomach ties up in knots just thinking about it.

Everything is becoming real. Undeniably real, a little too real.

I got my roommate and dorm assignments.

A schedule for orientation dropped into my inbox the other day.

I've made a list (at mom's urging) of things I need for my dorm.

Most people are excited to go to college. I got a tremendous scholarship, and it was the providence of God that I was able to go to the school I wanted to. And yet I'm almost in tears thinking about moving in next month.

All I can think of is orientation and the "activities" that are planned.

What if it's relay races or something? Everyone's first impression of me will be that I'm out-of-shape and self-conscious about it.

What if nobody likes me?

What if I try my very hardest to be social and outgoing and to make friends and it just doesn't work?

Everything's going to change. And I have no control over it.

That's the real problem. I'm a control freak walking into a situation where the biggest thing I control is the color of my comforter.

It makes me want to scream and cry and lock myself in my dorm room with a collection of Jane Austen novels and a subscription to Netflix.

Which I have done plenty of times at home.

I have avoided people, resisted intimacy, and shied away from vulnerability, content to sit at home watching Little Women and Sherlock and dreaming about the friendships I was too afraid to form.

This will not do in college.

Asbury is a chance for me to be someone different. Someone brave and trusting and able to lose control.

Because when I lose control, He takes control.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

With His Love


In my family, June is like a second Christmas.

We have Mom's birthday, Levi's birthday, my birthday, Evan's birthday, not to mention Mom and Dad's anniversary all within the span of about two weeks.

It makes for quite a crazy time.

Levi turned six last week.

It's hard to believe he's six years old when I can remember holding his very light, fragile body in my arms for the first time when he was three months old.


And it's hard to think how he's changed. I could never have imagined that the precious little boy I held then would one day have Autism. That he would throw things and hit and spit because he had no other way to communicate anger and frustration. That he would both challenge and bless our family more than anything or anyone else ever had.

Once upon a time, I thought that by the time I went to college, Levi would be "better." That he would be "fixed."

And sometimes I still wonder if Levi can be fixed. If he needs to be fixed. Is this the way God intended him to be or is it the result of living in a fallen world?

These are questions for which I have no answers. I may never have answers.

But regardless of the question or the answer, my job remains the same.

Love Levi.

Love him when he throws a Matchbox car at me.

Love him when I get kicked in the face because he hates having his diaper changed.

Love him when we sit on the couch and read The Snowy Day together and he points out Peter in every picture.

Love him when we dress up as Rooster and Miss Hannigan and sing-along to Annie.

This is an impossible task.

There is no way that I can love Levi perfectly because I am an imperfect person.

I wake up every day with a promise in my heart to love Levi and to love my family well.

And usually by about 10:00 in the morning, it's been broken into a million pieces.

There's not enough of my love to go around. Not enough for Levi. Not enough for Evan. Not enough for anyone, really.

But there is enough of His love.

And that is my new prayer. My prayer every morning when I wake up.

Help me to love people with His love.

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I'm tired of loving people with God's love and really don't want to show  any kind of love at all. Sometimes I want to think that I can love everyone with my own magnanimous heart.

But I can't. Not with my love.

But with His love - there's always enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In Time


It's been almost two years since I set foot out of this country.

Two years since I've had to spend every waking moment counting quarters and selling pies to make sure I have enough money to buy a plane ticket.

And almost two months since I decided not to go to Russia this summer.

I don't regret it. I would have come home from Russia less than two weeks before my orientation at Asbury University. The physical jet lag, alone, would have been impossible to get over in such a short time. Not to mention the emotional lag I'd have from spending a month investing my time and heart in special needs orphans and then leaving.

I would have been a wreck. And that's no way to start college.

I felt an inexplicable peace when I sent off the email saying that I'd come to the hard decision to stay in the United States this year.

But now, months later, when my Facebook feed is flooded with pictures of other students on mission trips, I'm starting to fully realize my decision.

There are no second thoughts; I know I made the right decision. But I cannot help the longing in my heart. The longing to do what God created me to do: care for special needs orphans.

After watching the phenomenal documentary, The Human Experience, I retreated to my room and simply sat with God. I'd watched a half hour of precious children with special needs getting love and care in Peru. I saw the streets I'd traveled down, the rickety mountain homes I'd seen with my very own eyes just a few years earlier.

And I told Him that I missed it. I missed coaxing smiles out of those sweet little faces. Holding close the children who were so often passed over and forgotten, and whispering that they were loved, they were special, they were worth more than they could ever imagine. I missed changing diapers and helping nannies. I missed the feeling I got when I was with special needs orphans, the feeling that I was exactly where I was meant to be, that I was doing something truly worthwhile, something that had meaning.

I've been told many times that I have an idyllic image of orphanage life. That no matter how wonderful the care and environment, there will be death, there will be sadness, there will be days when I would rather do anything than change another dirty diaper. And I don't deny it.

But I truly believe that no number of hard days, or mournful questioning, or mic-key button feedings could take away my conviction that I'd be doing what the Lord had called me to do.

And as I poured all this out to the Lord, He pressed a simple phrase on my heart.

In time.

In time His purpose will be revealed. In time He will lead me to where I am to live out this calling on my life. In time, but not now.

And until that time, my job is to wait and watch and listen.

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
          -- Isaiah 40:31, NASB

**I'm a bit (i.e. half a month) late in posting about it, but PLEASE check out Silas, the 'child of the month', and keep him in your prayers!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why I Write

Words have infinite power.

It was with words that the world was created.

It was through words that we now remember ages long past from vision or memory.

It's with words that we convey thoughts and emotions.

I've always loved words.

Reading them. Writing them. Spelling them. Studying them.

I was the kid who made her own spelling list in first grade because she liked to spell.

I was the student who chose to read Emma for her sixth grade book report, and had to ask the teacher what a barouche-landau was because it wasn't in the dictionary.

I was the one who turned in an eight page research paper because she couldn't stop writing at the required five.

It was in high school that I started to realize that my affinity for writing could evolve into a career.

I started to write with an idea that perhaps I wasn't the only one who'd read what I had to say.

In some ways, this was a good thing. It made me more critical of myself and my work.

In others, though, it was a curse. Until then I had written to please myself. The occasional teacher held sway over my musings, but all in all I wrote what I wanted to because I loved to write.

But I became more and more concerned about what other people thought of my writing. There is great value in feedback from those who can help you sharpen your skill, but you don't write for an editor.

I had become so focused on how many comments I could get or how a certain audience would respond to something I wrote that writing was no longer enjoyable.

I had a specific style I had to stick to. Certain topics. A consistent tone.

And I questioned my identity as a writer.

I didn't like writing anymore.

And it was because I was restricting myself to fit the preferences of others.

Finally, I was fed up with it.

If I wanted to write a poem, I'd write a poem.

I could write a short story as a villain if I wanted to.

My ramblings didn't have to have a point.

The writing of them was the point.

When I started treating words like friends again, free to be themselves, and not a slave to extraneous wishes, they flowed from my fingertips like water.

Finally, I'd found the purpose of writing.

I'd found my reason.

I write because writing is in me. I write because words pile up in my head and it feels fit to burst if I don't get them out.

I write because I want to write.

Simple as that.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tori's Top 10 Books of Senior Year

I love to read.

I'd rather read than watch TV. I'd rather read than go to a party. I'd rather read than do most anything.

Between the end of my junior and senior year, I read a total of ninety books. Some were great; others, dismal. But with pleasure, I'd like to present my Top 10 Books of Senior Year.

Even if you don't love reading as much as I do, these books are worth picking up this summer!


1. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
          While this memoir of a family who hides Jews in their home during the Holocaust is anything but light, it is a book that everyone should read at least once. The faith of the ten Boom's and their perseverance in the most degrading and inhumane of circumstances is an example to all. Both sickening and inspiring, this book redefined faith for me.






2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
          Many will groan at the size of this book and its proper Victorian English, but the story is worth pushing through the more difficult pages. Orphaned Jane Eyre has almost nothing going for her - no fortune, no beauty, and a horrid childhood to boot. But her fortune seems to change when she takes a position as a governess at the formidable and haunting Thornfield Hall, owned by the equally mysterious Mr. Rochester. It soon becomes obvious, though, that the old house contains a dark secret, and Jane must be careful not to get tangled up in it. Romantic and exciting, I read into the wee hours of the morning finishing this book.



3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
          Mitchell's tale of the old South is as polarizing a novel as ever there was. Set in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, Gone with the Wind takes many forms - a romance, a social commentary, a war story. The fact that it has stood the test of time vouches for its status as a classic. With spunky, bratty, determined Scarlett O'Hara taking the lead, and the sassy, sardonic Rhett Butler adding his special flavor of wit; lazy, aristocratic Ashley and selfless, noble Melanie, Gone with the Wind personifies the old South in an unforgettable way.




4. A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
           The third book in Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman Cycle, A Solitary Blue tells the story of young Jeff Greene, whose life is changed forever when his smothering, flighty mother takes off, leaving him with his distant father. Jeff struggles with separating himself from his mother, and learning to see the good and bad in both of his parents; he must become his own person, separate from his parents' decisions and learn to trust again. Poignant, poetic, and moving, A Solitary Blue is a true masterpiece.





5. The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson
          Fin Button was orphaned as a baby, her parents having no use for a girl. Raised in a small town orphanage, Fin grew up rough, fighting and playing with the boys. But her restless and fiery disposition soon finds her an unexpected friend of the old and mysterious cook, Bartimaeus. After an unexpected run-in with the invading British, Fin must flee to the high seas with nothing but an old gun and a banged-up fiddle, but danger lurks there as well. Mutiny, hidden treasure, and the American Revolution make this story as exciting as it is well-written.




6. Rules by Cynthia Lord
          Twelve-year-old Catherine wants nothing more than to live a normal life - which is impossible with her little brother David, who has Autism. She makes it her goal to teach David all the "rules" of being normal from "Keep your pants on in public" to "Sometimes people laugh because they think you're funny - other times they're laughing at you." Over the summer, though, her growing friendship with Jason, who is in a wheelchair and speaks with a communication device, causes her to question what normal really is. A wonderful narrative from the perspective of a child who has a sibling with special needs, an unusual and refreshing point of view.



7. There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
          A shocking and disturbing glimpse into America's inner cities, There Are No Children Here follows two young boys, Lafayette and Pharaoh Rivers, for two years in a Chicago public housing complex. The world in which these two boys grow up is so disgustingly different from the one I grew up in. When reading about the shootings, gang violence, and drug abuse, its unbelievable to think that this strange world is not in another country, but right here in America. An eye-opening work of journalism, and a must-read for all.





8. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
          Set in Israel at the time of Roman occupation, The Bronze Bow tells one Jewish boy's story of revenge and redemption. Fighting for the independence of his country and his people, as well as freedom from paralyzing fear for his sister, Daniel finds himself more and more intrigued by the traveling teacher, Jesus, who believes that overthrowing the Romans is not the way to victory. Some say that he is the Messiah, while others say he's crazy. An interesting and insightful look into the world Jesus lived in, and how others viewed him.





9. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
          Caitlin has Asperger's, and her world of perfect order has just collapsed. Her older brother's tragic death has caused her to question everything. As she grows older, too, she starts to realize the differences between herself and others. She finds herself constantly misunderstood and sometimes mocked. A beautiful insight into the life and thoughts of someone with Asperger's or Autism. Erskine skillfully explores hard topics through the eyes of a child, helping us all to better understand and appreciate people like Caitlin.




10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
          Something awful happened to Melinda over the summer. Something unspeakable. And as she goes into high school, her awful secret takes its toll on her. Misunderstood, a social outcast, blamed for something she couldn't help but do, the truth Melinda is keeping to herself is eating her alive. A book about courage, friendship, and speaking up for yourself, this book was profound and touching.





Honorable Mentions
Worst Books of the Year

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Freshman Group

My stomach did somersaults as I shuffled timidly to the door of a house I had never been in before.

I was meeting with people I'd never met before.

I was terrified. But I sucked in a deep breath and rang the doorbell.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

A year ago this month, I agreed to be a mentor to a group of rising freshman girls at church during their summer study.

I realized on my very first day with them that there was something very different about these girls and their leaders. They were strangely mature for having just graduated middle school. And their leaders truly lead them in biblical truth. They didn't shy away from what the Word said, or how important it is to study it.

I quickly found myself fitting in more than I had in any other youth group - and that's saying a lot. I'd been in various groups with various leaders throughout my high school years, and I had never felt so at home.

I wanted desperately to ask the leaders to let me be a part of the group during the year, but knew that it wouldn't be an appropriate request. I would have to be invited.

And, praise be to God, I was. Everything fell together for me to be a part of this group of freshman girls throughout my senior year.

Many of the other seniors were confused at my leaving my current group to join a freshman one.

"You want to be in a freshman group?" I was asked over and over again.

My answer then was a resounding yes.

And my answer now would be the same, but with a few added remarks.

Yes, because I love them dearly.

Yes, because they made me feel more loved and more welcomed than any of my previous groups.

Yes, because I've grown in my faith and in the Word more this year than in any other.

Yes, because I love being a big sister to them.

Yes, because I belong with them.

I'm sad that the year is coming to an end, and that I'll be in another state after this year's summer study.

As my girls move into their sophomore year of high school and I move into my freshman year of college, I hope they know that I won't forget them when I go to college.

In fact, it will be quite the opposite. I will miss them immensely.

I hope they know that I always want to hear from them. I always want to be there for them.

I hope they know that I will love them just as dearly from afar as I do from up close.

True friendship transcends state lines and grades.

And I am proud to call each of these beautiful, wonderful sophomore girls is a true friend.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mothers Got a Hard Road

It's career day at school.

There's a mom who is a lawyer.
A dad who's a fireman.
A contractor.
A chef.

There is hardly ever a mom who is simply a mom at career day.

Unfortunately, our culture has defamed the name of mother into a side-job, an unimportant, unappealing choice.

Lawyer moms are seen as heroes while mom moms are seen as burdens on society.

There is no hero like a mother, though.

My mom gets up before five some mornings with Levi. She makes him homemade smoothies for the day - spinach, carrots, fruits, juices, coconut water, almond milk, proteins, vitamins.

She changes his diaper (a much more arduous process than you would think), gives him his medicine through his mic-key button, and gets him ready for school.

She makes sure Jace has all his homework before he heads out the door at 6:56.

Then she gets Evan up, changes her diaper, gets her dressed, and feeds her breakfast.

Sometimes Levi throws things at people. Sometimes he takes something from Evan, and she starts sobbing. Mom has to fix it.

It takes a good ten minutes sometimes to get the kicking, screaming Levi out of the car at school at 8:30.

Then she does things like running errands, going to IEPs, scheduling therapies, and learning how to help Levi talk with a communication device.

After a three-hour hiatus from motherhood while the kids are at school, she goes to pick them up, taking them to two different places to get fries. McDonald's because they're the only ones that are gluten-free for Evan. Then Zaxby's because Levi asked for them, and she wants to instill in him that his voice has value.

Sometimes they come home and do bubbles. Sometimes they paint or color. Sometimes they play outside and draw with chalk. Sometimes they have a dance party.

During the dance party, Evan will annoy Levi. He'll throw something at her head. Evan will start crying. Levi will dart under the table to avoid his impending punishment. Mom will have to fish him out, and hold him in a "time-in", while trying to calm Evan down at the same time.

Three hours later, she'll lift Evan over the gate that blocks off our stairs, and send her up to bed with an iPad. She'll sit in Levi's dark bedroom for an hour, waiting for him to fall asleep, since he cries when no one's in his room with him.

When they wake up, Levi will want cheese puffs. They'll sit out for a few minutes while he's distracted by his trains, and by then he'll want new ones. Some days Evan will have reached into her diaper and smeared poop all over herself and her sheets. Another load of laundry, a washcloth-bath.

Then she'll fix dinner, waiting for Dad to get home. Sometimes Dad has to work late, though, and she'll be alone with the kids for the rest of the night. Jace will need a ride to church, so she'll pile all three kids in the car and drive them to Brentwood.

After dinner comes diaper-changing and pajamas. Levi spills his medicine and it has to be made again. Evan is crying because she can't get over the gate to go to bed.

Then she sings with both of them, says a prayer and kisses them goodnight. Exhausted, she still finds time to ask how my day was, or watch an episode of the The Voice.

She goes to sleep, knowing that the same thing will happen again tomorrow.

That is a job.

That is a career.

And that is why moms are heroes.

Especially mine.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer, College, and Other Life-Changing Events



I despise the spring.

I know that normal people love it - minus the allergies. Everything is new and fresh and beautiful. The sun comes out and its warm enough for t-shirts and iced coffee again.

I love all of that. But I hate bugs.

And the bugs come out in droves in the spring.

We always have at least one wasp nest lurking in or around our garage. Every day before stepping out the door, I have to take deep breaths and prepare myself for the wasp war zone that is my twenty-foot walk to my car.

I have to sit with the fact that I probably look like I'm insane when I sprint to my car every day, too afraid of the wasp horde to stop.

This is spring with a bug phobia.

So, naturally, during the spring my anxiety levels are high. Anything and everything makes me more nervous than I would usually be.

Only this spring is worse.

This spring I'm preparing to go both to Russia for a month with ROOF and to college this fall.

Yesterday, I decided (finally) to go to Asbury University in the fall. I couldn't be more thrilled or more terrified.

I assumed that once I made this decision, my worries would simply evaporate and fly off into the cool, spring air (hopefully with the wasps). But I had no such luck.

My stomach twisted into knots, and I found that I was more anxious than ever. Because now that the limbo of choosing colleges was gone, I was faced with the reality that in three or four months, I'll be living in a new state. In a new place. At a new school. With new people. All of whom I have never met.

And a month before that, I'll be going to a new country with new people to do new things with orphans.

As a person who can't stand change, that's a whole lot of newness for less than a year.

My life is changing. I'm changing. And it scares me.

And the only thing that I can do is give it to God. Give Him all my concerns and worries and doubts that I selfishly want to harbor and handle myself. It's like trying to carry all the grocery bags to the cars yourself instead of letting the bag boy help you carry them - and then they're too much, too heavy and you end up dropping them all over the road.

I always end up thinking, if only I'd swallowed that pride. If only I'd loosened my grip just a little. So maybe I can give a couple of bags to God. A preemptive move. Maybe, just maybe, if I let them go, they won't end up spilled on the street.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Adventure

I love stories. Always have, always will.

But my favorite stories are those about family. I love Little Women, the Little House books, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While these stories have so much happening in them, the underlying importance of family is so evident.

Sometimes, though, I get a little too caught up in the families of literature, and find myself wishing that I had a sister like Beth. Or a big brother like Peter. I wish that my family put on plays together like the Marches. Or went on wonderful wardrobe adventures with the Pevensies. I wish that I was doing something momentous, something memorable, something worthwhile. I wish I was a hero.

That's the problem with wishing, though. As much as I want it, there simply is no wardrobe for me to go through and get to Narnia. I don't have a big brother named Peter. And my family isn't living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. And I don't even have a trusty steed to ride into battle on (and that's ignoring the fact that I'm petrified of horses).

Deep down inside, though, I want an adventure. I want a sweeping, romantic, epic adventure that takes me far away from the humdrum of real life.

But the reality is that I'm living an adventure. Every day I wake up and never know what the next one holds. When I really think about it, I've had as many adventures as Lucy or Laura or Jo ever did.

We're not so different after all.

I didn't have to rescue my sister from falling through ice like Jo did Amy, but I have jumped into a slimy pond to save Evan.

I didn't have to watch at the door for wolves like Pa and Laura, but I have stood at the door to watch for floodwaters and tornados.

I haven't gone through a magical wardrobe to an enchanted world, but my world is already full of magic.

There's magic in the way Evan and I will joke back and forth. "Evan is so silly!" "NO! Tori silly!"

There's adventure in getting ready to go to college, in being a big sister, in getting up every morning.

I am the heroine of my own story.

The best part? Thanks to the dashing Prince, I already know there's a happy ending.






Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Perfectly


I could never understand why people wouldn't want a child with special needs.

Somewhere inside me, I always bore some resentment toward people who learned that their children had Down syndrome or other disabilities before they were born, and had a hard time still seeing that child as a gift.

It simply didn't make sense to me. As a family, we chose Levi and Evan. And I didn't understand why other people wouldn't choose children like them.

All of that changed when Levi was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There had been signs, of course, but I had never explored the possibility of Levi having another diagnosis besides Down syndrome.

When I found out he had Autism, it sunk in quickly. It just felt right. I didn't deny it. How could I? It made sense.

But Autism is different from Down syndrome. I had come to terms with Down syndrome years before, and I truly believed with all of my heart that it was a blessing.

And I was an avid fighter for the perfection of kids with special needs.

God doesn't make mistakes, I argued. And if you truly believe that, then God didn't make a mistake creating a child with Down syndrome. Or Cerebral palsy. Or even Autism.

And I championed that wholeheartedly. I believed it. I owned it.

Until Levi was diagnosed with Autism.

Suddenly, special needs didn't seem so rosy and wonderful. Sometimes I got hit. Sometimes my hair got pulled. I got spit at almost every day. When I asked Levi a question, sometimes he wouldn't respond. And even when he did, he didn't often look me in the eyes.

Every day was a battle. Every day, a struggle. And I wondered to myself, Is Autism really a blessing?

Do I really believe that?

And for a while the answer was, No. It's hard to see the good side of Autism when you've got saliva in your hair, and your hand has teeth marks on it and your shirt is covered in cheese puff dust.

But I was focusing too much on the negative. About the things that Autism prevented Levi from doing. Or the things that made my life harder.

But there are things about Levi's Autism that I love.

For instance, the boy loves musicals. Especially Les Misérables. He knows every second of the three-hour 25th anniversary concert by heart because he's watched it so many times. Would he love Les Mis so much if he didn't have Autism?

I don't know.

I love taking walks outside with Levi, hearing him listen to the wind, and stop to examine sticks, and wave at all the dogs we pass. Would he be so meticulous about enjoying every little thing if he didn't have Autism?

I don't know.

Would his laugh be so contagious if he didn't have Down syndrome?

I don't know.

Would he still love to dance if he didn't have Down syndrome?

I don't know.

What I do know is that God formed him perfectly. Formed him in his mother's womb. Formed him with a plan to be in our family. A plan where he had Down syndrome. And Autism.

Levi is many things: sweet, musical, stubborn, silly...

A mistake is not one of them.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This blog post is so retarded.

Does my title make you uncomfortable? Does it offend you?

Perhaps not.

How about this one?

This blog post is so gay.

That one makes you bristle a little bit, doesn't it? I'll be the first to say that it's offensive, derogatory, and rude.

But why is it so disgusting, so blatantly offensive? Because it pokes fun at a people group. Because it uses their identity as something negative. As slang.

While everyone understands that throwing out the word "f-g" or "n-gg-r" is wholly and unarguably offensive, everyone from business professionals to sixth graders have no qualms about using the word retard.

This is biased. Rude. Bigoted.

Let me give you a brief history lesson on the word retard. Up until the 1960's, it was a legitimate medical diagnosis for unspecified intellectual disabilities. Since the sixties, the word has been used more and more as a slur or an insult, a way to call a situation or a person stupid. Nowadays, the terms "intellectually disabled" or "developmentally delayed" are more commonly used in the medical world. In fact, you hardly ever see someone with a diagnosis of "retarded" anymore. Why?

Because it's become offensive. Because the world has taken a word that was used politely and innocently as a diagnosis, and turned it into a slur. We've turned the diagnosis of someone who is intellectually disabled into a slur, into a way to make fun of others.

Do you know what words were used to diagnose people with special needs before "mentally retarded"?

Cretin.

Idiot.

Imbecile.

Moron.

And now retarded.

Every word that has been used to describe people with special needs, we've turned into an insult. Into another way to say stupid.

From this, we can discern that the words themselves are somewhat irrelevant. It's the attitude of society that's wrong. It won't matter what terms doctors come up with for diagnoses if the world continues to turn them into slurs.

If you look at someone with special needs, and all you think is stupid, then you are missing the mark. People with special needs are more than their diagnoses.

When I look at my brother and sister, I don't think stupid. I don't think retarded. I don't even think intellectually disabled. I think special. I think beautiful. I think full of life.

That's what "retarded" should mean. Not stupid.

The truth of the matter is that I can't tell people to stop thinking "stupid" when they think of the word "retarded." It's a cultural norm. And it is not likely to change.

What I can ask people to do is to stop using it, though. You know that old saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"? I like to say, "If you can't use a word nicely, don't use it at all."

The world no longer has the choice or the ability to use the world "retard" nicely. Or "idiot". Or "moron." Or "cretin." They've simply taken on new meaning. But you can stop using them.

And you can still use words like "intellectually disabled," "developmentally delayed," or even "autistic" nicely.

Every word that comes out of your mouth is a decision. A decision to speak life or death. To speak nicely or rudely. To spread light or darkness.

Choose to speak light. To everyone.

And that means no more "r-word."

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue."
          - Proverbs 18:21a