Monday, August 12, 2013

Push, Practice and Progress

The other afternoon I watched my daughter teach her cousin to glide underwater. Macy is seven and Sara Ashley is almost twelve. They are like sisters. This means the world to me and my sister because they don't have sisters of their own. This closeness as cousins will be their "sister" relationship.

"Teach me how to swim fast under the water like you, Sara Ashley."

Starting at one end of the pool, Sara Ashley disappeared under the water, and propelled herself with her feet, pushing off the wall. She raced forward and popped up with a wide grin on her face.

"See Macy, it's all in the push. Practice that part and you can go fast across the pool," she instructed. 

As I witnessed this lesson, I was reminded of an event that happened earlier that same day. Sara Ashley had a horse back riding lesson. Although she has been with her new instructor for two months and has made steady progress, she is not progressing as fast as some of the other students. 

Sara Ashley's lack of  progress compared to her peers can partially be blamed on the inconsistency of her lessons. Due to vacations, we have not kept a regular lesson schedule. For kids with LDs, consistency is key to successful learning. But as I contemplate the situation and others in our past, I am also realizing that I don't push my daughter as hard as I push my son.

Why? Is it because I am aware of her anxiety? Quite honestly, I think my son has performance anxiety too. Doesn't stop me from expecting a lot from him.

Maybe it's because I don't know what to reasonably expect her to be able to accomplish? After all, this is unchartered territory for me. But hasn't God already shown me that Sara Ashley is capable of more than I can imagine?

For whatever reason, my "push" on her seems to be. . . well, not so pushy. And I'm thinking maybe I'm being too easy on her. Just like her swimming advice to her cousin, maybe with more push and more practice, she could make more progress.

I think the real trick in this scenario is understanding the progress. As a parent of a special needs child, I am coming to understand that there needs to be push, but there also needs to be acceptance of the rate of the progress that might be experienced. My child will need more practice. I've often told Sara Ashley's teachers, "She may not learn as quickly as other students, but it is highly likely that she CAN do it- in time." 

She may not read as fluently, sit as quietly, act as quickly, understand a new concept as readily, or listen as attentively, but she is capable of doing all of these things in her own time and in her own unique way.

Isn't this the way God has blessed each of us? We are unique, each bringing our own gifts to this world.

We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:6-8 NIV

It is my new resolution to strongly encourage (push) my daughter to persevere. I will give her the opportunity to practice her skills consistently. I will watch as she steadily makes progress in her own time, giving her the chance to grow in her gifts.  And I will love her for being His unique creation, just the way she is.

How do you encourage (push) your special needs child to persevere? 

Monday, August 5, 2013

God's Tapestry

Sheldon Tapestry

Several year ago I worked with a couple helping them decorate their Williamsburg style home. As an interior designer, I often have the opportunity to learn about many beautiful and historical decorative items and this job was no different. In my search to fill a wall in their sitting room, I found a very large oil painting on canvas. The painting was a pastoral scene and hung unframed. I learned that this piece was called a "tapestry cartoon."

Tapestry cartoons were created as models for a woven tapestry. They were huge full scale paintings and by the mid-17th century were done mostly in oil on canvas. The design of these cartoons was used to produce actual woven tapestries. A transfer process that was quite harmful to the cartoon itself allowed artisans to reproduce the cartoon image onto the tapestry. For that reason, tapestry cartoons are a rare commodity.

Although extremely beautiful, these cartoons are not dimensional. They are flat representations of what will soon be a multidimensional product. Only through the process of destroying the cartoon and weaving multiple threads together in a variety of colors and fibers, can a truly magnificent tapestry be created. 

We can look at our lives as the journey of a tapestry cartoon. 

When I married and thought about having children, I had a very distinct and rigid picture in my mind of what my life and my children would be like. Over-achievers, ballet dancers, football quarter backs, all A students, with impeccable manners, clear skin, straight white teeth and the ability to fly- just kidding, but you get my point! This version of my life is what I now refer to as a "tapestry cartoon." A flat and unrealistic view of what I thought our lives were supposed to be. 

Because when my children came along and brought with them no desire for hair bows, no interest in ballet, found more joy in playing in mud puddles than having tea parties, would rather design computer avatars than play football, and could never remember to say "Yes ma'am," I realized that the joke was on me. Like a cartoon, this life tapestry that I had created in my mind now evoked a humorous and sometimes confused and angry response on my part as I looked at what I thought life would be like versus God's plans for me and my family.

Thankfully, over time, I have realized that God has a beautiful sense of humor and that He knows much better than I do what is really important in life. Through the hands of this Master Weaver, my tapestry cartoon was destroyed. But in His infinite wisdom, I now have a tapestry that is much more intricate, beautiful, interesting, and meaningful than a cartoon imitation. Through His hands of grace, I have children who are developing character, perseverance, and a love of Jesus Christ. They are creative and intelligent. They are multidimensional in every way, from my daughter's ADHD and dyslexia, to her desire to own and operate a farm, and to be an artist and a teacher. From my son's shyness and lack of organizational skills, to his quest to research history, find treasures, experience new and exciting things, and follow his dream of becoming a pilot (maybe he'll fly after all!). The threads God has planned for my children are being continually woven into a tapestry of His divine making.

In my humanness, I could never have orchestrated or imagined this tapestry. If you had described it to me earlier in my life, I might have said I wanted no part of this weaving lesson. But I am slowly learning that only our Creator can take our lives, with our stands of fine silk and rough cord, and weave them into beauty. And although we may not realize the beauty initially, as we stand back and take a look at the bigger picture, changing our focus from the slubs of one thread to the glorious image of thousands of threads woven into a masterpiece designed by Him, we can see the glory of His creation.  

The even lovelier thing is that His weaving skills do not stop with one person and then start with the next. Instead, we are all woven together into a magnificent and colorful tapestry; each connected to the other, allowing us the opportunity to encourage and support one another through this journey we call life. 

We never know how our lives will turn out. Our plans have a way of becoming flat and meaningless when we compare them to the depth and texture of God's plans. We can't begin to understand how what we perceive as tragedy can turn into something meaningful, a true blessing. But God understands. This is the beauty of the Master Weaver and His divine tapestry.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 NLT