Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Ben W.

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When Emily asked me if I would share my testimony I wondered, “Which one?”  I’ve got the foundational one (which I presumed she was asking for,) the one about falling into alcoholism in college, running away from God, and then finding sobriety, a wife, and a new calling to be a pastor.  That’s definitely a big one for me, but I’m pretty bored with it.  Can I say that?  It’s not that I’m not grateful.  God saved me there and I would have drowned alone in my own sin and disease without him stepping in.  But God was active in my life before that happened.  And he’s been active in my life since.  In fact, that’s always what I find if I care to open my eyes at all.  He’s challenging and changing me because my old sinful self needs challenging and changing.

So, I’m going to share about fatherhood instead. 

I’m a bit of an odd duck in my birth family.  I’m more conservative than they are; and I trust our culture less, especially the way it has been changing in the past few generations.  So, for example, I used to be a high school teacher, but my wife, Faith, and I homeschool.  We try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and buy our meat from local people.  We don’t watch TV (aside from some Netflix and This Old House) and, speaking for myself at least, it has more to do with avoiding the commercials that try to shape our kids rather than the programs themselves.  What I’m saying is that we both had some strong ideas about avoiding some cultural pitfalls in our parenting.  Back in the days before fatherhood I remember seeing parents in public places and I just cringed.  They talked to their children like the kids were the boss; they gave in to tantrums; they talked about “timeouts.”  Ugh.  “We’re not going to be like that,” I said to my wife.  Or maybe she said it to me.  Either way, we were in agreement on the matter.  We were going to be consistent; we were going to do the hard work when they were little to insist on first-time obedience.  We were going swat and spank, not to punish, but to correct.  We were going to be awesome parents and our kids would be shining examples of how smart we were.  I’ve intentionally put this in language that tips my hand.  You know what’s coming.

God is active in our lives.  He did not delay.  His goal is to grow us up into the fullness of Christ, so he sent us our son Benjamin.  We thought we were going to mold him.  Instead, God was going to use him (and reinforcements) to mold us. 

Benjamin was a pretty straightforward kid from the start.  He liked to be in charge.  My job, as I perceived it, was to correct him so that he would learn what was right.  This correction took the forms of flicks when he was a toddler (whenever he was touching something he wasn’t supposed to) and spankings later on.  The idea was to have the rules and to be consistent in following them.  This negative feedback would naturally lead him to obedience and good behavior.  Woo-hoo!  I would do the hard work at the start, because I loved him, and we would all reap the benefits later on. 

Fast-forward a couple of years.  Benjamin was exerting his will constantly.  Following our theory of parenting, I was spanking him multiple times a day.  And he had become defiant about it.  Without realizing it, our relationship was mostly about that dynamic of fault-finding and correction.  Did I love him?  Absolutely!  And I thought I was showing it.  But I was spending an awful lot of time spanking him, sometimes several times in a row because he wouldn’t knuckle under and change like he was supposed to.  And I was getting frustrated.  If I was acting in good faith and trying to be a godly parent, and if what I was doing was the godly thing to do, then the problem was clearly Benjamin.  (I don’t know that I ever put it that straightforwardly, but I think I began to feel that.)

Fast-forward a bit more.  As we had more kids, we began to understand that our theory wasn’t working very well for them either.  And so we mostly moved away from spanking.    But our third child John began struggling with weird outbursts and physical tics and we, eventually, came up with a plan to try to meet his needs.  We spent way more cuddle time with him.  When he had melt-downs I would remove him from the situation so that he could get some one-on-one time.  These things seemed to help some. But parenting was still more than we can handle.  Our original theory didn’t work, but everything else we tried was disappointing as well.  It was just hard all the time.

Several more years pass and, though we had made some progress, life was still really hard and Benjamin was still getting under my skin.  So many of the things he did are things that drive me up the wall.  He was bossy to his siblings.  He did stuff without asking.  He never seemed sorry about anything he did wrong.  I was critical of him all the time.  One day I noticed this, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. 

And now we’ve arrived to the recent past.  Benjamin is grouchy about stuff.  He seems like what I imagine a teenager to be, surly with a bad attitude for every occasion.  He’s critical of his siblings and often yells at them instead of encouraging them.  It begins to sink in, “This isn’t his fault.” 

One of the things I know from systems theory in psychology is that we can’t change other people; we can only change ourselves.  But for some reason that understanding had trouble sinking in when it related to the kids, especially Benjamin.  It’s not that we didn’t think of it sometimes, but it never became the real framework for how I could relate better to the kids.

Another thing that I should note.  It’s not that God was absent from all of our efforts.  I was praying for the kids.  We were trusting that even though we were struggling, that they were his kids and that somehow, someway he would shepherd them through okay, in spite of us if necessary.

Here is the insight that finally came arrived.  I began to think of this as more of a 12-Step problem.  The first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.”  What if I’m the problem?  And what if I can’t fix myself?  The next two steps are these: 2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

And now to take a big step back.  This testimony is almost entirely about failure.  And it hardly points to God.  There is no victory, no change that I can point to and say, “The problem is taken care of.”  I suppose my testimony is this: I am incapable of engineering things so that they’re awesome.  I struggle mightily.  My very best intentions seem to make things worse.  I think you could say that I have a Romans 7 testimony. 

“So I find it be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin…  Wretched man that I am.

This has been so much of my life as a father.  I’ve been so full of good intentions and I have worked myself to weariness in trying to do right.  And evil has been at hand.  Thank God that Paul continues,

“Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul is teaching in Romans about a complete change in paradigm from one that focuses on the right that we must do and on the wrong we must avoid (a paradigm of good intentions that relies on myself), to a complete trust that God is accomplishing that which he desires in us and that he will not be thwarted (a paradigm of desperate faith that knows that only God can accomplish what is needful.)   Looking forward, in my relationship to Benjamin especially, I cling to Romans chapter 8.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.”

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In so many ways I am a failure as a father.  I am a Romans 7 father.  But I trust a Romans 8 God.  And I trust that he will change me.  I trust that he will change Benjamin.  I trust that he will not be stopped, but will be at work in us producing good things for his glory.  And I give thanks that I haven’t messed it all up beyond repair.

Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Caleb W

I remember exactly what happened and how I felt when it happened. The day I gave my life to Christ was one I will never forget. But before I tell you about it, I’m guessing most of you don’t know who I am. So, let me introduce myself and give you a shortened version of my testimony. 

My name is Caleb Wubben and I am currently a JH teacher and a JH football, HS boys basketball, and HS boys track coach at Manson Northwest Webster. I grew up in Manson my whole life. I graduated from ICCC with my A/A degree in December 2014 and then graduated UNI in December 2017 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary/Middle-Level Education and started teaching at Manson. 

Throughout my whole life, my family has attended church. When I was 5, my family started going to a Baptist church in Fort Dodge and my parents sent me to the Christian school. Going to a Christian school, I heard anywhere from 5-7 messages a week from church to Sunday School, to chapel, etc. So I had been instructed in God’s Word and received a Christian education. When I was in JH, I lived somewhat of a double life. Around my parents, the adults at church, and in public, I was this great young man that everyone liked. However, around some of my classmates I acted like I didn’t care about God and that being a Christian was boring and wasn’t for me. It took about two years, but I finally realized I was wrong and admitted it to my parents. In high school, I made a profession of faith, but it was more like a fire insurance policy. I treated God as an on/off switch that I ran to when things were bad but when things were good, who needs Him right? Outwardly, I was still this amazing young man that everyone liked and thought highly of because of what I knew about God and I didn’t party, smoke, drink, do drugs, etc. It made me feel weird knowing how I was using God and so when I went to college I thought I’ll get my life on track there.

In college, I really dove into figuring out what I believed. I thought I had given my life to Christ and I can honestly say my knowledge of God and the Bible grew. However, that’s what it was. It was just knowledge. When I got my first teaching job, I started going to my parent’s church again. At this time, my dad was one of the men teaching in Sunday School for the adults along with some other men of the church who were on staff. For two weeks my dad talked on salvation and then the next two weeks another man taught on something similar. Immediately after that, Billy Graham passed away and we discussed how he lived his life for Christ in our FCA. Throughout this whole time, I was convicted that I wasn’t actually saved and only had the knowledge of God, and that deep down in my heart I hadn’t given over my life especially some of the sins that I had hidden throughout my life. 

Finally, on Friday March 22, 2018, it all came to ahead. I couldn’t take the guilt and the weight of my sin anymore. I was sitting in the classroom I was teaching in at the time about 7:30 at night and called to tell my dad I was giving my life to Christ. I remember going to my apartment and asking Jesus to save me and forgive me for all the sins I had committed. I vividly remember after I prayed and accepted Christ that for the next half hour I listened to two songs on repeat and cried so much that I couldn’t cry anymore. I listened to ‘I stand Redeemed’ by Legacy Five and ‘I am Redeemed’ by the Dills. Both of the songs talked about being redeemed and how when God looks at me now He sees the nail-scarred hands that bought my liberty because I accepted Christ as my Savior. All I had to offer Christ was a broken life, and He forgave me and gave me hope. It felt like a weight had been lifted, and I didn’t have to carry my burdens anymore. From that moment on, I was determined to live my life for Christ!

However, as you can imagine, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Because I belong to the King now, Satan knows that when I die I’m going to Heaven so he has to try and get me to be a bad example here on Earth. I have had to rely on Christ to help me stand against the temptations of Satan pertaining to some of the sins in my past. I’ve also had physical obstacles to overcome. This last summer, I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer and underwent a couple of rounds of chemotherapy. At first, I was upset as to why me? But then I realized I didn’t have a right to be mad at God and that He would use my story for good. It has opened doors for me to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to and has given me opportunities to then share my faith! 

I know this life hasn’t been promised to be easy and it’s going to be full of struggle. However, I do know that when my time comes to pass on to the other side, after my last breath here I will take my first breath in Heaven. It’s an amazing feeling to have that assurance. I will continue to live my life for Christ relying on Him to guide me and get me through every step of the way! I’m thankful for Calvary and that God never gave up on me!

I hope this gives you encouragement to continue to live for Christ and to never give up on someone who may have walked away from Christ because tomorrow could be the day they say yes to Jesus!

Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Charlotte H

My sister Lynette fought cancer for 9 years. During those nine years, there were a lot of ups and downs. Times of sadness and times of joy. Things that I wish that I could change. I can’t go back in time and change those things. So I will focus on one thing that is always true, God’s faithfulness. He is always with us. The bible doesn’t say “if you have trials,” but when you have trials. We will have trials in our daily lives. We can have the assurance that he walks with us. We can always trust in him. My favorite bible verse is Phillippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” During hard times, it is easy to try to do things by ourselves. By giving it to God, we can have peace that can only come from Him. 

In 1997, at the age of 25, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. She was cancer-free for about six years. During this time, she started classes to receive her nurse’s degree. However, cancer came back in her bones and lungs. For the next three years, she fought and endured chemotherapy again. She worked as a CNA on the mother and baby floor. She loved her job! However, she was slowly losing mobility in her left arm and hand due to radiation of the lymph nodes, so she had to quit her job. In May 2006, she was told that chemotherapy was no longer an option. Her body just had enough. 

She made a comment to a friend that one of her regrets was not taking her kids to Disneyworld. Her church learned of this, and a trip was quickly planned so she could fulfill her dream to take her kids to Florida! She really wanted the trip to fall over July 4th, but due to schedule conflicts, her flight was scheduled for July 6th. I saw her on Father’s Day and we talked about how excited she was! The plan was for her two children, Lynette, Charlene (my twin sister) and our mom to fly to Florida. Michelle, the coordinator of the trip, made all the arrangements. During the next several weeks, her health got worse. I received a phone call from Charlene to come to Omaha because mom needed a break to get ready for the trip. I decided to go and help my family. Even though Charlene had warned me, I was not prepared to see Lynette in the condition that she was in. When I arrived, mom was feeding Lynette and she was very weak and she fell asleep very easily. However, she still managed to make jokes and give me a hard time! She laughed with me when I had trouble getting her oxygen tubes inserted correctly. I wasn’t that great of a nurse!

I was so impressed by her children, Amanda (15 years) and Justin (9 years), and how well they interacted with their mom. They treated their mom with so much compassion, gentleness, and love! Early the next day we headed to the airport. Even though Lynette was nervous, she was determined to make this trip a reality for her kids! At the airport she needed a wheelchair, so they were first to board the plane. When it was time for her to board the plane, dad and I said our goodbyes. She was confused and got upset because she thought we were coming along. I told her that I was not going because I had to go back to Iowa. Dad told her that he had to work and take care of the houses. I later found out that it took several minutes for her to calm down once on the plane. As I left the airport, I couldn’t help but wish that this trip had been planned weeks earlier or even the summer before!

As I pulled into the gas station on the way out of town, I received a phone call from Charlene. She shared with me the events that were unfolding. As they were exiting the plane at their layover, a stewardess had come up to them and told them that a man wanted to talk to them. Of course, mom and Charlene were baffled! They walked down the terminal a bit and the man who sat next to mom had witnessed the exchange at the Omaha airport. He wanted to buy my dad and me a plane ticket to join them in Florida. Mom convinced him that I had to go back to Iowa to be with my family, but he insisted on buying my dad a plane ticket. He even asked to speak to him on the phone, but my dad still politely refused and told him that he had to work. However, the man went ahead and bought him a ticket anyway. He had it available at the Omaha airport. A complete stranger who “happened” to witness the exchange at the airport and “happened” to sit beside them, bought my dad a plane ticket!

My mom again called my dad and told him that this man was adamant and for some reason, he needed to join them. Finally, my dad talked to his boss and he decided to accept the man’s offer. The next morning was his flight to Florida. When he arrived at the airport, he had missed his flight. His flight was two hours earlier. So, he had to take a later flight with a different layover. During his layover, he “happened” to see his sister-in-law while walking to his gate. He had enough time to talk to her about the trip and about the man that bought him this ticket. The next two days they went to the Magic Kingdom, went swimming at the resort, went to a Disney character lunch, and went on some rides. On Sunday the kids told grandma and grandpa to take a break and get away by themselves. They could take care of their mom with Aunt Charlene. How sweet was that!

While they were gone, Lynette’s condition got worse and the hospice nurse came. Dad rode with the hospice nurse and mom rode along in the ambulance. Before leaving, Amanda told her mom that she had fun. Lynette replied, “me too.” This left Charlene and the kids 30 minutes away from the hospice center. So, my parents called Michelle so she could arrange a ride for them. She simply looked on the internet for a service to drive them to the care center. On the way, the driver asked who they were visiting. He asked if their mom would be fine, Charlene told him no. After dropping them off, he called Michelle and told her that he would pray for the family. On Monday, my parents decided that they needed a rental car. So again, they called Michelle. She called a car rental service and explained the situation. He picked up my dad at the hospice center and they drove back to the rental station. Before driving back, the man gave my dad a map so he could drive back to the hospice center without any problems! He then called Michelle and told him that he would pray for the family. Of all the companies that she could have called, she “happened” to call these companies with caring and compassionate employees! The next day, Lynette passed away with her family by her side. They flew back to Omaha later that day. 

Lynette and my parents wanted this service to be a celebration. It was bittersweet, but just what she wanted. I got to know Lynette a bit better that day. Several friends of hers spoke about how she helped them even though she was going through her own struggle with cancer. A friend talked about how she had been put on bed rest when she was pregnant and Lynette came over with a meal for her. Her pastor spoke about Lynette’s involvement with an annual Christmas pageant that the church puts on each year. Lynette had always wanted to be involved with this ministry but was always too busy with work to be able to attend all of the practices and performances. So, when she couldn’t work any longer, she applied to be in the performance. He read from her application on how she wanted to be an angel. She wanted to be a flying angel, but she knew that due to her arm she could not do this. She ended up being an angel that stood right behind the manager. She so wanted to be able to move both arms together, but she was only able to move one arm. She and a friend prayed that she would be able to move her whole left arm. During one performance, she was able to move her left arm! When she got to the backstage, Lynette and her friend teared up because they knew that they had just witnessed a miracle! Lynette wanted the song, “Come to Jesus” to be sung at her service. The words remind me that we can always go to Him. We can reach out to him in times of sadness and times of joy. He is always there for us. 

Even though this journey was incredibly hard, I know that God was with us every step of the way! The trip was not so much about the fact that a man purchased a plane ticket for dad, but about someone listening and following what God had placed on his heart. For without this man obeying, my dad would not have spent those last few days with Lynette. Through this journey, His power was made so evident that I know without a shadow of a doubt that he is the great director of our lives. I don’t believe in coincidences. We can only see now, but God can see what is ahead and orchestrates events for His glory. Some of the things he does for us may not be very obvious, but other times he makes his presence very known! We can have the assurance that God is with us and that he will never leave us! Without faith, there is no hope. But with faith, there is hope.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

I still miss her. I still wish that she was here with us. I can have peace knowing that she is with our risen Savior and that someday I will see her again!

Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday: Emily J

*Please hear my heart – not every woman has a birth story that she cherishes. Some have experienced real trauma or needed modern medicine for life saving purposes. I’m not devaluing these situations. Neither is my message that a certain way of doing things in the birthing room is right vs wrong. Rather my goal is to share a perspective of birth that perhaps you have not considered before.*     


Blood, sweat, tears, surrender, new life. With the recent celebration of Easter fresh in our hearts, these words make us think of our sweet Savior and what he has accomplished for us! His labor of love, his perfect life, his willing sacrifice, his ultimate victory and living presence with us!  I deeply believe that God designed an analogous process for mothers. This labor can ultimately give mothers a rich appreciation of the cost and reward of heaven.  

Blood, sweat, tears surrender, new LIFE! This is BIRTH! This is a woman, accepting each wave of pain, surrendering to God’s design, trusting that he is good. This is a woman, crying out at the intensity of sensation, taking deep breaths, so sure that she cannot humanly accomplish this feat. This is a woman sacrificing her comfort and security in order to bring new life into this world. And what beauty comes when indeed she realizes “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13), remembering that God divinely inspired the authors of the holy Scriptures to tell us that “For We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) and also “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) The pain of childbirth, bringing forth LIFE and JOY is meant to be a holy inspiration to mothers. The comparisons made here in Scripture contrast PAIN with JOY. And what a stark contrast they are. In fact, as we often see in life, the greater the struggle, the greater the victory! What difference would women find in their own hearts and lives if they ceased to listen to the world’s version of what motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth are, and instead embraced the process as a miracle and mystery – as a divine gift?  

New Life

All I ever wanted throughout my entire childhood was to be a mommy. The thought never occurred to me that I’d actually have to give BIRTH to these sweet babies I wanted so badly. It wasn’t until after I was married, and my husband and I were seriously contemplating starting our family that I realized what I might be in for. I watched TLC A Baby Story and bawled my eyes out. I didn’t bat an eye at the army of nurses, the bright lights, the tubes and machines, the sterile environment and highly controlled process portrayed on the television, accepting that this was what birth required. Out of the blue one day my husband asked me if I would ever consider an unmedicated birth – or even a homebirth. My initial response was to be mad at him. Ha! But because I love and respect my husband I prayed about what he had asked me and agreed to meet with a local midwife to just talk with her about childbirth. I left that appointment a changed woman. The vision she had for the sacred bond between mother and child, the beauty of allowing God’s design to work with little to no interventions, the glory of husband and wife bonding together through this birthing process –becoming even more ONE, as well as her idea that a midwife is guardian of a physiologically natural process, rather than a “do-er” or someone eager to intervene, really intrigued me and excited me. I had never thought these things through. I left with a stack of books and a new vision for what the process of pregnancy and childbirth – of becoming a mother – could look like.  

Those first low, gentle twinges came in the afternoon on May 1 2007. I couldn’t be sure it was anything, it was after all my first birth. But the twinges came every 20 minutes, then every 15, then every 10. Nothing painful. Just low and crampy. By bedtime they were consistent around 10 minutes apart. The midwife was alerted and my husband paced about the house nervously, getting the snacks and supplies out, setting out the candles, getting the cd’s ready. Telling me to sleep. I was far too excited and didn’t shut my eyes once. At midnight my water broke and we called the midwife to come. She arrived, checked on my sweet baby and me and once she knew we were ok, she went to take a little nap in an arm chair until I would need her again. 

I have never considered myself tough. Pain is not a thing I had ever handled well. But we had practiced for months, tensing muscles and relaxing muscles. Speaking a welcome to a contraction and letting it go completely once it was gone. This was reality and much more than I bargained for. It was hard. It was painful. I worked  to surrender. I cried. The pain came in great waves that engulfed me and left me shaking. Once transition came I started vomiting and trembling violently – so hard that my teeth were chattering. My precious husband never left my side or those 9 long hours after my water broke. He supported my body weight as I leaned on him for contraction after contraction. He prayed over me. He rubbed my back and told me what an amazing job I was doing. Of course the midwife and doula were a gentle, calming presence, even though I was so focused on what was happening inside me that I hardly noticed! I got in the birthing pool a few hours before the final stage of labor. As I floated there, lost in world of pain, it occurred to me that Jesus, for the joy that was set before him despised the shame and endured a suffering far greater than I could ever fathom. His joy was to bring new life to his creation. This act of childbirth was a tiny semblance here on earth of Christ’s great love for us. At 9:27 AM, darkness became light! What was once unimaginable became beauiful clarity, and pain became unspeakable JOY as our daughter was peacefully born and placed immediately in my arms. I can’t begin to explain the emotional high, the heart pounding adrenaline,  the laughter combined with tears of relief, my husband almost shouting with delight when he saw our baby girl for the first time. It was awesome and felt truly sacred. 

Each of the next 4 babies born to us have their own unique birth stories. But with each one, I learned to surrender a little more. To trust a little more. To rejoice a little more. What had at first been a theory of welcoming contractions, became a practice. With our fourth and fifth births, we played worship music in the background and actually sang together between contractions. When I paused to ride the wave, I purposely thanked God for his good design and for this contraction. And once it began to descend I thanked him that I was one wave closer to meeting our child. It was never easy. Birth was never pain free for me. But “for the joy set before me” I chose to embrace the process and each lesson that God would teach me through it. With our fifth I had an epiphany as I floated in the warm birthing pool, minutes away from meeting our son. I was no longer afraid of death. Not because I thought I was going to die in childbirth, but because the pain and the unknown of childbirth followed by an ecstacy of  joy had illustrated something to me. When it is my time to leave this world, how I will go is unknown to me. It may involve suffering. But I KNOW without a doubt that I will meet my Savior as I pass from this world to the next. Just as I met each of my babies as they passed from their life within my womb, to life outside my womb. So I will pass from this life to eternal life and be embraced by Christ. And no amount of mystery, fear or pain can take that from me. 

Embrace the Pain

What if every hard thing we walk through in life is meant for our good? What if each difficulty was intended to shape and mold us more into the image of Christ? To teach us more about HIM? More about our role in this world and possibly even our passing to the next. Now, what if I also told you that our sweet Lord doesn’t force these lessons upon us. Our hearts need to be soft toward Him. Willing to learn these lessons. Willing to see the supernatural in the mundane and gritty. I have found it to be true that for mothers specifically, God has revealed himself to us through BIRTH. Yes, the same scary, risky, bloody, “sensationalized by Hollywood as always an emergency” – birth. We do live in a broken world where interventions can be necessary and life-saving. But when a low-risk mother is allowed to birth on her own – to work WITH the design of her body, in an environment that she is most comfortable, with a supportive birthing team, ideally free from any medications that interfere with the natural hormone flow…this is an ideal time for the mother to lean-in to her trevail. To embrace the pain. To rejoice in the gift of life coming from her womb to her arms. To recognize that if Christ was willing to pay the ultimate cost to bring life to us, we can do our part to bring life to our children. Not because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because we are women with bodies capable of nothing short of a miracle – designed by God as such! And we have a vision for seeing God’s hand at work in our lives  – even in something as messy and misunderstood as childbirth. Because what if this “mess” is actually part of God’s glorious plan for shaping us more into the image of Christ…

Faith Testimony Tuesdays

Testimony Tuesday : Jula Joy

When I first knew my life was different I was around three, or four years old. I remember sitting  in my room and thinking if I could be anything that I wanted to be, what would it be? At the time, I really thought that it would be fun to be a boy because that was what my cousin was. And I loved my cousin. A boy. I could do anything as a boy and people seemed to mind less than when girls made mistakes. I was not experiencing any gender confusion, or transgender discoveries. I really just wanted to have the power that came with being one. I was beginning to know then what I know deeply now. And that is that being born a girl (and a biracial girl at that) would lead to an interesting, sometimes difficult life.

When I was four, my mother took us to a Thai cultural summer school. She wanted us to learn about our fathers Thai culture. It was a long, two hour drive in the car to outside Chicago in an old school.But it was important to her. So we spent a few hours fully submerged in the Thai language and observing the cultural practices of our teachers. Everyone else there was 100% Thai and were regularly speaking Thai at home with their families.

My father had wished for us to not be confused and had spoken English with us at home. When the other children in my class discovered that I could not understand, or even speak most of their language – the social ostracism began. Most of them ignored the “white girl” in the class and some were even mean. I was eventually assigned a tutor to help me to learn the Thai alphabet to catch up with my class. She pretended to teach me and explained to the teacher (who spoke little English) that I was a stubborn student and refused to learn the alphabet. She also whispered to me on the daily that she would only ever speak Thai to her for the rest of my life.

My only friend that I made in that class was a quiet, bookish boy who somehow convinced me to buy his homemade drawn mazes that would intricately wind around the page. My mother discovered me gathering quarters from our van’s toll money one afternoon and when she asked why I was doing it, I shamefully hung my head and described my situation. She wasn’t sure how to handle it, since she herself spoke little Thai and was trying to honor my father in preserving his culture with the classes.We eventually stopped going to the classes the next year, but the damage to my heart was done.

Back at our regular suburban school, I made friends easily and enjoyed a somewhat normal childhood. At home was a different story. With my parents having grown up on different sides of the world, there were several obstacles that pushed and pulled them in opposite directions. My father was a physician and he was stressed to the max when I was growing up. He was on call 24 hours a day and delivered babies at all hours. This made him on edge and he would regularly flare his raging temper at home, melting down over strange tiny details and setting us all on edge.

As I grew, he simmered and while he continued to flare out his anger occasionally in my teens, it was nothing compared to emotional torment that we lived through in my earliest years. He never physically attacked any of us, but the constant unpredictability of his anger made my startle reflex the triggered reaction that it is today.

My father was a kind man when he wasn’t full of anger. He was funny, charismatic and one of the most patient, zen like physicians around. He just lost it at home when things weren’t in a particular order that he preferred, or he wanted to control the schedule if things for himself. It never occurred to me that this was anything to be curious about.

I mostly stayed close to my mother at a young age, but as I grew I sought out my father’s approval. It came in the game of golf which was one of the few ways that my father could release his anger in an appropriate way and one that I excelled at which delighted him and he began to teach me his favorite game. It was through these moments that we formed a wonderful father daughter bond.

He still became angry on occasion, but I learned techniques to calm him and became much less afraid of him as I grew up. His bark was much more intense than his bite and as he proceeded through his sixties he calmed ever more.

When my son was born, I fell deeply in love the moment I was allowed by my doctor to help to pull him out of me and onto my chest. I adored him and my husband cried tears of joy to meet him. Later that evening, as I watched him sleep in his crib, an overwhelming sense of familiarity surrounded me and sent chills up my spine. He looked exactly like my father and I immediately knew that I would be raising the same personality that raised me.

At first, my son was a calm baby who loved to either fall asleep on our chests, or to sleep in a rocking cradle that hugged his sides as he deeply slumbered. He rolled over early and was such a delightful baby. Things didn’t appear to be different until he was around six months and began to eat solids. At first, he was super curious and tried anything that we put in front of him. Eventually, he began to reject certain textures and would not eat some items at all. 

By one years old, he was only eating two kinds of purées and refusing anything else except breast milk. He also struggled to crawl and almost entirely skipped the whole process except for a crab crawl before jumping into walking. He began talking, but then minimized the amount of words that he said. We saw a speech therapist who advised that we gave him assessed by early intervention.

It was here that we learned that he was developmentally delayed by at least thirty percent and that his speech was also delayed. We experienced three years of therapies, a blended preschool classroom and plenty of transitional meltdowns and issues with his ability to organize sensory information. It was determined that he had a sensory integration disorder and while not being fully diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, he was way to socially perceptive, emotionally engaged and imaginative, he did have some spectrum tendencies. 

We worked with an Occupational Therapist privately and my life changed. She gave me the tools and the tricks that I needed to schedule him in a routine, work through transitions and to help him to understand his emotions. They also tested his IQ and he is in the higher end of intelligence. His brain is busy determining how mechanical objects work and postulating the meaning of life. However, daily activities can be a challenge and transitions can be a nightmare.

He caught up developmentally and in speech with his peers and is now a vibrant five year old ready for mainstreamed kindergarten with some speech pull-out and an OT for a sensory diet. I’ve always known that we were in the more shallow end of the spectrum for disability with him. I have no right to complain over the struggles that we face with our amazing son daily compared to some other friends with children with higher medical needs and more intense disabilities.

However, that is what make our journey with him even harder sometimes. Because he is higher functioning, many of the battles that I face are invisible. He seems fine and can pass as “normal” so when he melts down, or is rude sometimes others judge us as not disciplining him enough, or that he’s being a spoiled brat. He can absolutely still be naughty and some kids with disabilities are spoiled; there is that potential in all child rearing. 

There are so many times where he looses his ability to calm himself, or his behavior down. There was the time that I had to chase him across two football fields at the park and carry him back to the playground. There were the meltdowns in Target because the store had run out of a certain item. Just like my father, there was mostly wonderful loving times and great intensity at life, then there were unexpected emotions and breakdowns.

So much of my experience with our son has been this incredible journey of being honed into this beautiful, humble and patient creatures that only God could create. Because we identified his struggles early, we have been able to help our son to develop the social and emotional strength that he needed extra support to gain.

I now look at my father and compassionately see an emotionally fragile street kid in Thailand whose brain and emotions were too big for his little body and who struggled. But he grew up to be a caring physician who occasionally had spectrum meltdowns at home where he threw Tupperware. God’s grace is incredible and if you had told this scared, first time mother three years ago that her son would grow to be the successful preschooler who was ready for kindergarten in three years time, I would have cried, buried my head in the hole that I was living in emotionally and thrown my own Tupperware at the wall.

 All these years, I knew about my external differences to the world like my gender or my race. However, I never knew that inside my genes and my husband’s genes lay the ever bewildering genes of Autism and sensorineural processing that while they create struggles with some very simple things, they create magic with the complicated ideas and tasks in life. God created both my father and my son with an incredible design purposes in mind. Some of my father ‘s patients have literally stopped our car in traffic to hug my kind, cool under pressure father for saving their lives. My sons teachers all want to take him home to raise.

 There is still hidden pain in the day to day struggle, but finally I have my answer as to why I am so different than everyone else. I am gifted with a treasure that only empathy from God can see. I am blessed with some of the most amazing minds in my family. I am cursed with trials that I fight invisibly daily in quite. Blessedly,  I am rewarded with growth and wonders that only the gift if neuro diversity like spectrum and sensory processing can offer.

If you come across a remarkably brilliant individual who is quirky and follows their own peculiar set of rules to face this unpredictable universe -remember that they are made by an all knowing God whose love for them is unending and whose purpose for their lives is an amazing gift that you can never hold down, or size up. You will behold treasures and struggles untold in these magnificent creatures of a benevolent and purposeful God.

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