Rebirth

I remember reading a story some years ago in the book Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal. This is a collection of autobiographical letters from people who were once premature babies in the university hospital NICU Saigal worked for. I, like the contributors, was a preemie.

In this particular story, the author shared how she felt she has three birthdays: one, her actual birthday, the second, her original due date, and the third, the day of her rebirth. In this author’s case, her rebirth meant being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (her choice of words).

I haven’t experienced one such pivotal moment in my life. I mean, I too could choose the day I was diagnosed as autistic (March 16, 2007). Then again, my diagnosis has been removed and reaffirmed so many times that I could just as easily choose the last time I was diagnosed (May 1, 2017). Besides, self-diagnosis is valid too.

I could choose the day I was given long-term care funding (June 4, 2019). Maybe that is the most pivotal moment in my life, but it didn’t exactly mean I was reborn.

I could, of course, choose the day I became a Christ follower (December 7, 2020). Many people in the Evangelical Christian community say they are Born Again and indeed, rebirth in Christ is a common Biblical concept. However, I am more of the opinion that, as Christians, we are on a continuous path towards God. I believe that, each time I consciously pick up my Bible, or the cross my husband gifted me and which I use for prayer, or each time a message from God truly enters me, I am transformed a little bit. I don’t believe that I will be made fully new until the day of Jesus’ return.

All that being said, I do believe I am not the exact same I was a year ago. I am not even the same I was yesterday. Or when I started writing this post. In my view, every single moment is an opportunity for rebirth. Every second we are given is another second chance.

This post was written for Reena’s Xploration Challenge, for which the prompt this week is a theme: rebirth.

Being God’s Beloved Child As an Enneagram Type Four

Today, I read some about the Enneagram again. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a type Four. Type Fours’ core motivation is to be fully understood as their unique and authentic selves. As such, Fours often focus on their being different from other people in some fundamental way. I am no different (pun intended) in this respect.

When I was in the early days of my psych hospital stay, my parents came to talk to the psychiatrist. They told him that, ever since I’d realized I am different because of my blindness at roughly age seven, I had tried to make it look like I was different in a ton of other ways. For instance, I identified as autistic (with which I was eventually diagnosed), thought as a teen that I was a lesbian (I am not), etc. Indeed, identity confusion was quite a common experience for me. According to my parents, this was all because I refused to accept the fact that I am blind, rather than because, well, I felt different in some rather interesting, somewhat impalpable ways.

Today, as I read the Day 1 section of The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord, I realized I’ve always focused my attention on how I am not just essentially different from everyone else, but in some fundamental way more defective than everyone else. In reality, this is not true.

I am reminded in this respect of a sermon or something I once heard about a king having two daughters who both got lost in a shipwreck and stranded with farmers or something. Years later, the king found out that his daughters were still alive and he sent out some men to track them down. One daughter believed she was the king’s daughter, while the other didn’t. To whom does it matter? Of course, to the one who believes. This is probably what it is like to be a child of God: we are all children of God, but only those who believe it will delight in His kingdom. I find this comforting to my non-believer friends, realizing that God does not somehow condemn those people or something. Of course, there is the difference that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, so He could’ve made everyone believe.

However, my point is that there is nothing that makes me less of a child of God because of who I am or what I do. I am also not more defective than anyone else based on any of my differences, be it my autism or my blindness or whatever. Neurodiversity and disability rights are clear on that. No matter how fundamentally different I feel as an enneagram type Four, or as an autistic, multiply-disabled trauma survivor, or as just plain ol’ me, I am still God’s beloved child and I do not need to – cannot even – attempt to earn that status any more. After all, Jesus Christ purchased that status for me on the cross.

I am linking this post up with Inspire Me Monday.

Accepting My Ordinary Identity in Christ #Write28Days

Welcome to day two in #Write28Days. Today’s optional prompt is “Ordinary”. Immediately, I thought: what a dull prompt! I don’t want to be ordinary. I don’t even want to write about it!

Like I said yesterday, I am an Enneagram type Four. One of the descriptors for type Fours is “The Individualist”. Another, less kind one, is “Specials”. As these denominators say, we don’t want to be boring, like everyone else, ordinary.

When I had just been admitted to the psychiatric hospital in 2007, my parents came to talk to my doctor. They said that, in order to avoid accepting the fact that I am blind, I sought out to be different in every other way possible. For example, as a teen I thought I was a lesbian. I had just gotten acquainted with my now husband at the time that my parents used this against me, but we were by no means dating yet. Besides, in my mental state at the time, my sexual orientation was about the last thing on my mind. That being said, at the core, my parents were probably right: I saw myself as a complicated, unique, special person. Extraordinary.

Now we’re nearly fifteen years on. In a way, I still see myself as different from “ordinary” people in many ways. For instance, I am multiply-disabled, including blind and autistic. I am a trauma survivor and identify as a plural system (dissociative identity disorder). I, however, also now see that I am loved by God and by others as I am. And that is what matters most: my ordinary identity in Christ.

I still sometimes focus on the aspects of my identity that make me different from most other human beings. That’s okay though, as long as my “otherness” doesn’t become all-encompassing. Ultimately, my main identity is as a person loved by God.

Joy Comes in the Morning?

Today’s verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app really speaks to me in a kind of interesting way. It reads: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5 NIV) I particularly loved this verse because certain translations use “joy” instead of “rejoicing”.

Obviously, it is easy for me as a Christian to draw the comparison between the short-lived anger mentioned here and our life on Earth, and the rejoicing to our eternal life in Christ. After all, we all know our life on Earth is temporary. No-one, until the time of Jesus’ return, will live forever.

God also doesn’t promise us a hardship-free life. No, not even if we are as faithful as we can be. Ultimately, suffering is part of our life on Earth. God never promised us a rose garden, so to speak. That is, not yet. However, He does promise us that, ultimately, in Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life.

In addition, however, the verse shows us that God is quick to forgive us. In the story accompanying this verse on YouVersion, the pastor compared God’s attitude towards us to her own attitude towards her children: when they misbehave, she may get angry, but nothing can prevent her from loving her children exactly as they are. This is so touching! Similarly, God may show anger towards us in a moment, but His love will always shine through.

Lastly, the last part of the verse may also refer to Jesus’ resurrection. For me, this is hard to grasp, as this psalm was written by David, centuries before Jesus’ time on Earth. However, believing that all of Scripture is God-breathed, it is very possible that David was, at least on some subconscious level, aware of what would be coming.

During the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was intense weeping, but in the morning three days later, Mary shouted with joy when she met Jesus again.

When originally reading this verse on its own, I was like, I can see where this is coming from, but this is an Old Testament passage, so…? Now that I’ve dug a little deeper into its meaning and listened to the YouVersion story, my takeway is not just that life may be hard, but that ultimately everything will be okay. It is also that God’s love is, will always be and has always been, even in the time of David, far greater than His anger.

Linking up with Sunday Scripture Blessings.

Abstinence

I bought yet another collection of journaling prompts, this one faith-based. It is called Journal-a-Day the Titus 2 Way and is about growing in Godly womanhood. Not all prompts apply to me. For instance, the ones that center on life as a wife or mother, for the most part, don’t. I mean, of course I am married, but I don’t live with my husband. However, Paul also instructs Titus to teach the women to stay away from addictive substances or practices. As such, one of the prompts in the book is a one-word prompt: sober.

I don’t drink alcohol. In this sense, the prompt does not apply to me either. However, sobriety can refer to other addictions too. In Overeaters Anonymous, it is called abstinence.

I have never liked abstinence-based eating disorder recovery programs like OA. I like to blame the fact that I struggle not just with overeating, but with purging and occasional restricting too. The real reason is though that I don’t want to give up foods I’m addicted to altogether. And, taking Paul’s letter to Titus literally, I don’t have to. After all, the Bible verse states: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” (Titus 2:3 NIV)

For this reason, I wonder, is it really God’s plan, as OA seems to think, that we abstain from addictive foods altogether? Doesn’t Paul write “much wine” for a reason?

I have a problem with the idea that, if you just admit that you’re powerless over your substance, you will – no, should – become sober through submitting to God. Not with the submitting to God part, but with the requirement of complete sobriety, which is human-made. Jesus as far as I’m concerned didn’t abstain completely from alcohol and if refined sugar had existed in His time, He’d probably consumed it too. Shouldn’t the goal be self-control instead?

I pray that God provides me with direction as I navigate my journey towards recovery from disordered eating. I pray that He will help me submit to His will, whatever this may be. Yes, even if this is complete abstinence from sugar, snacks inbetween meals and all other things OA says we need to abstain from. Amen!

I’m linking up with Let’s Have Coffee.

Generosity

Today’s prompt for #JusJoJan is “Generosity”. I don’t tend to think of myself as a particularly generous person. That would not only be arrogant, but it would be incorrect as well. Particularly as a child, I liked receiving more than I liked giving. I was a very jealous child, often envying my sister for what she got and I didn’t.

I remember one day, when my sister and her friends had been participating in the four-day walking event in my city. It was the last day of the event and I was allowed to walk with them for this occasion. At the finish line, a parent of one of my sister’s friends had lots of candy for my sister and her friends, but he had none for me. I had a full-on tantrum in the car home even though my sister and her friends ended up giving me more candy than they kept for themselves. It caused the oldest friend, a girl my age, to cry. I was ten at the time, so far too old for toddler tantrums like this. I feel intense shame about this incident as I look back, seeing that I should have known it wasn’t fair of me to expect candy since I hadn’t walked the entire event. Much less should I have tantrummed about it in the car.

Now that I’m an adult, I am a little less worried about material goods and a lot less jealous of others, but it still doesn’t come natural to me to give material things away. Thankfully, generosity comes in different ways and I do love expressing it in other ways. I love to create my own gifts for people. Yes, of course they are material too, but that feels different.

Still, I am often reminded of the Sesame Street episode in which Bert and Ernie have a cake and Ernie gives Bert the smaller slice. Bert teaches him that he’s supposed to offer Bert the larger slice first. Then Ernie asks: “So what would you do if you were to offer me the cake?” Then he replied he’d take the smaller slice and offer Ernie the larger slice. “But you have the smaller slice now, like you wanted!” Ernie objects. This is child logic and it is incorrect. It is not how we’re supposed to be generous. We are supposed to love others like ourselves. Others before ourselves, even.

I pray God leads me to a life of greater generosity. I know I am supposed to love others as myself and that includes giving generously of myself to others. Like I said yesterday, when I trust that God will provide for my needs, He will. As a follower of Christ, I have no need to worry. In the end, everything will work out okay.

Grateful for a Life of Abundance

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

The above Bible verse was the verse of the day for today on YouVersion. It immediately spoke to me. Today also, the prompt word for #JusJoJan is “Abundance”.

a thing I realized when I read up on abundance, was how fortunate I am. I don’t have to worry about not having something to eat tomorrow. I don’t have to worry about not having clothes on my back. I have a roof over my head – two, in fact, in a way, in that I have both my room in the care facility and my and my husband’s house. Though I do worry slightly about my financial security now that it’s time for my new long-term care copay to be determined, I really don’t have to worry. I have enough money to afford my necessities and most non-necessities I want too. Even if (most likely) I do get a higher copay, I still don’t have to worry about going into debt. All this means I am far more well off than the vast majority of people.

I also live a life of abundance because I am in reasonably good health both physically and mentally. Though I endured trauma in both childhood and my adult life, I am currently safe – even though PTSD sometimes tells me otherwise. I know there are a lot of people who feel happier or more stable mentally than me, but I have been in psychiatric hospitals long enough to know there are also many people who are a lot sicker than me.

I know that comparisons don’t always work. Telling yourself others have it worse isn’t a magical cure for misery or depression. However, gratitude definitely helps cultivate happiness.

I have an abundance of reasons to be grateful. Last Saturday, I listed ten gratefuls for the past 24 hours alone. Today, I could list a number of things too. I am grateful for my favorite Christmas cookies, called cinnamon stars. I finished the first packet out of four I got for Christmas. I am grateful for Senseo coffee. I am grateful the web store accepted my returned Fitbit charger (it wasn’t working). I am grateful elementary and secondary schools are reopening next week. Although I don’t have kids, this does feel like a small glimmer of hope for a way out of lockdown.

I trust that I will be able to live a life of abundance in spite of the hardships I may endure. I cannot do it alone, but through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I will get there. He does not always give me what I want. I mean, I may actually have to pay a much higher long-term care copay than I expect now (I won’t find out until the 12th or so). Then again, He will take care of me as long as I put my trust in Him. Isn’t that awesome?

Linking up with InstaEncouragements.

Am I Good Enough for Jesus?

It’s the day after Christmas. Boxing day in the UK. Second Christmas in the Netherlands. I spent Christmas with my in-laws having a good time, then went to my and my husband’s house in Lobith. On our way from my in-laws to our house, my husband and I talked about faith. I noticed while talking with him that I’m still struggling with my faith. It isn’t so much that I don’t believe in God or that I, personally, don’t believe Jesus is my savior, but how can I be sure I’m saved if we’re saved by grace alone? How can anyone be sure?

Today, I decided to look up some Christian journaling prompts to get me started on my reflections on faith. The first one I came across asked us to write about our relationship with God. Is He a friend, a coach, a father or perhaps merely an acquaintance? I’d say, He’s a Father, but I’m not sure he’s the loving, caring father most children hopefully have.

It doesn’t help that I didn’t really grow up in a nurturing earthly family. I have hardly known love. Of course, I know rationally that my husband loves me, but when it comes to faith, I still sometimes believe that if he truly knew me, he’d believe I’d go to hell.

And God truly knows me. He knows I bought The Artist’s Way, which turns out to be pretty New Age’ish. He knows I used a censored swear word this afternoon, which no-one else knows because no-one was around. He knows I worried last Friday about the holiday money I usually get from my parents each year. God knows my heart, mind and soul. And I’m pretty sure that, like my earthly father, He’s going to judge me pretty harshly for it. And, whereas my earthly father could give me a beating and send me to my room for an hour or two, God could send me to hell for all of eternity.

And of course I do believe in Jesus. I admit I need him more than I need anything. But if faith doesn’t change me – and I’ve believed in Jesus for a year now -, isn’t it completely invalid? I do see a change in myself over the past year, but it’s so small I’m not sure it’s enough. Am I good enough for Jesus yet? I pray that I will be.

God, please show me Your will and help me be obedient to it. Help me let go of those things which are undesirable in Your view and to embrace those things that are desirable. Please help me move closer to You. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.

My Plans for This Christmas

Hi everyone on this rainy Thursday evening, two days before Christmas. One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week is to share your plans for this holiday season. For the first time ever, I’m not just dreading the fuss. I mean, last year, I’d just become a Christian and was kind of looking forward to the spiritual aspect of Christmas, but not really either, as I knew I still had a long walk to go in my faith. I’m about the same this year. That being said, with respect to the celebrations with family, I was still dreading those last year. This year, I’m more neutral about them, even slightly positive. Let me share my plans.

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to have day activities like normal. We had our Christmas lunch today and I got half of my Christmas hamper. The other half, my staff will bring tomorrow, as it hadn’t arrived when she left to bring the first half to me yet. The half that arrived today contained mostly treats. The other half, she said, are two silicone molds for my polymer clay. I’m really looking forward to receiving those.

Tomorrow evening, I initially thought we were going to get food delivered. Thankfully, though we entered full lockdown last week, restaurants are open for takeaway or delivery. I was not yet sure which restaurant or snack corner we would be ordering from. Then this evening I found out my staff had planned to prepare a cassrole. Not something I enjoy. I contemplated ordering delivery just for myself. Then after some texting between several staff, it was decided to change the dinner plans for Friday, Saturday and Sunday around and we’re going to have fries and chicken legs.

On Saturday at around 2PM, a ParaTransit taxi is going to arrive to take me to my in-laws. There, I, my husband and my oldest sister-in-law will have dinner. My husband teased me about the food we’d have, because I’m quite a picky eater. Really though, we’re going to have chicken roulade, which I love.

My husband is likely going to read from the Bible at dinnertime. Neither his parents nor his sister are religious, but they tolerate him reading the Bible. I loved him reading Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’ coming, as well as the Christmas story, last year.

I may stay at my in-laws for a while after dinner and then leave for my and my husband’s house in Lobith, where we will stay for the night.

Sunday morning, which is called Second Christmas here in the Netherlands, we may watch Hour of Power together. Thinking of which, I remember now there’ll be a show on Saturday too, but I don’t know whether it’ll be in the morning or evening.

I will go back to the care facility sometime Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening, we’re going to have Chinese takeaway. This was originally planned for Saturday, but it was my favorite out of the three Christmas meals for the weekend, so I’m so happy the meal plan got shifted.

We’ll likely have more than enough treats to last us through to February, honestly. At least, I got three packages of my favorite Christmas cookies from one of my staff yesterday and another one in my Christmas hamper. That plus chocolate, winegums and Pringles. Yum, but if I’m not careful, I’m going to weigh 200 pounds by the time I’m done with them. Then again, as they say, you don’t become fat between Christmas and New Year’s but between New Year’s and Christmas. In other words, it’s snacking all year round that really leads to lasting weight gain. This being the case, I am happy this holiday season, though it is indeed part about the food, is also about faith and family.

As for my own family, both my sister and her family and my parents sent me a Christmas card. However, I haven’t been at my parents’ house in years and they didn’t invite me. If they do want to see me, I think the spring is a more appropriate time.

What are your plans for the upcoming holidays?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Grateful For the Right Care

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday (#FMF) is “Care”. Most writers, I’m assuming, are writing about how God takes care of them, how they should not be distracted by the cares of this world, how important it is to care for others and other spiritual meanings of the word “care”. I do find these important too, of course, but was particularly impressed with the timing of this prompt. After all, yesterday marked my two years being in the long-term care facility.

I cannot keep from thinking that God put the people and circumstances in my life that led to me being here now. He did, as He has a plan for all of us. However, since I didn’t become a Christian till late last year, before then it was easy to consider these circumstances, these people, all working together to get me the right care, just chance.

I want to use this space to give thanks for the blessing that is my being in long-term care, with my current support team and my current care plan. I also want to give thanks to all the people God put into my life who worked and in many cases continue to work so tirelessly to keep it this way. My support coordinator and support workers from when I lived with my husband. My psychiatric nurse practitioner at the time. The Center for Consultation and Expertise coordinator and the consultant she hired to help get me the right care. My staff at my old day center. My staff, the manager and behavior specialist here at the long-term care facility. The people in authority who decided whether to grant me long-term care funding at all and eventually decided to grant me the one-on-one I get now. Last but not least, my husband, who sticks by me through it all.

Looking back at all the time I’ve been busy fighting for the care I get now, I realize some of the events are nothing short of miraculous. I am so intensely grateful for this!