Monday, September 12, 2016

A Letter to Those Who Are Growing Weary

Dear Friend,

Often the weight of the situation becomes too heavy to bear and it becomes easy to lose hope. It feels like an never ending up hill battle. Soon it feels like the mind, body, and spirit are all worn down.

If you are in this place right now, know that you are not alone. My heart is heavy for those who feel like they are just trudging along.

Your situation might be health, finances, children, homeschooling, work, classes, frustration with the government, family, depression, or so much more. Often it is even a combination of many things.

My friend, don't lose hope. Even if it feels like you are making very little progress, keep pushing forward. You are not alone and you do not have to share your burden alone.

Perseverance... I love that word. It do not require me to be strong, smart, or talented. Perseverance is like the wind. While mountains are solid and strong, the wind breaks them down. Not by the mighty forces of the wind but rather by persistence. It might not look like anything is happening, but after time the shape of the mountains and rocks can be seen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why are God's People Afraid to be Real?

In the past I thought being a good Christian meant wearing a mask. Projecting an image of happiness and wholeness to all those around me. I thought the mask would help others to see Jesus through me. It would keep my brokenness from becoming a distraction to others. I would wear this mask that I created and when the mask would slip, I would become overcome with guilt for failing as a Christian.

Through the last several years, I have found that sometimes people can see God most shining through the cracks of my brokenness. I was doing God no favors by being artificial. God wanted to use my brokenness. He wanted to heal my brokenness. He wanted to love me in my brokenness.

As a society we have things that are stigmatized. Things that go unspoken for fear of rejection and judgement. Sadly, this is not much more different in our Christian walk.There are some subjects that are uncomfortable and can make us feel vulnerable.

Top Three Things Christians Hide: (Some of these overlap)

1. Mental Illness- Depression, Anxiety, Postpartum, Bipolar, PTSD, Schizophrenia, ect.

As I struggle with depression I find times when I feel the need to fake a smile, even when I am feeling shattered. Sometimes it is to hide my struggle. Sometimes it is to not make someone else uncomfortable. Also, sometimes it is because it makes me feel like I can just make it through. I am one of those personalities where if I am on the verge of crying and a friend tries to comfort me through kind words or through even just a touch, I fall apart and have a hard time gaining composure again.

In our society, mental illnesses are seen as weakness. They are often misunderstood. As Christians we are one body. So why can't we be vulnerable with our brothers and sisters in Christ? How is our pride getting in the way of allowing us to seek support and prayer? Are our expectations of others and attitudes keeping others from reaching out to us?

2. Addictions- Drugs, Alcohol, Food, Pornography, ect.

As I struggle with overeating I feel a deep sense of shame and guilt. I will have a nagging thought that seems to get louder and louder as I entertain it. I seek it for comfort. It makes me feel better, but the feeling is so short lived and I end up feeling defeated and worse than before. It is an idol that I have given myself to and that I felt could take away the pain. Food is not the only addiction I have had in my life, but at this time it is the one that I struggle with day by day, hour by hour, sometimes moment by moment.

If so many with addictions find help with support groups, how many more Christians could if we could be open about our struggles? If we could listen, support, and pray for them? Unfortunately, judgmental attitudes get in the way of showing love to each other. Imagine a brother or sister in Christ came to you and said, "Please pray for me. I am addicted to pain pills." How easy would it be to judge that person? It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others, when really we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus.

3. Sexual Immorality- Lust, Adultery, Pornography, ect.

A little over ten years ago, I had an emotional affair that turned into physical affair. It had started as a friendship. Someone who I felt understood me and who made me feel better about myself, when at the time I felt I was in a loveless marriage. I quickly became emotionally attached to the person. My heart would start racing when I saw their number on the caller id. I would find reasons to go and talk. After having a fight with my husband, I went to my friend for comfort. The emotional affair became physical and I had committed adultery. I was so attached to this person that I was willing to break apart my family. My life quickly fell apart. It was soon after that I allowed Jesus to be the Lord of my life.Thankfully, God has worked so many miracles in my life and has brought healing and restoration into my marriage.

In the church sex and sexual immorality is often a topic that is brushed aside. We feel uncomfortable talking about it and it has become faux pas. So many families are or have been impacted by sexual sins. It seems almost like we believe if we ignore it, it will go away. Sexual sins are embarrassing, but they wont just go away. Jesus was a great example with the Samaritan woman at the well. 

John 4:15-19 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
John 4:39-41 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

Why should we get real?

*Not only are mental illnesses, addictions, and sexual immorality similar in the way they are stigmatized, they are all very isolating struggles. They lead to others withdrawing and trying to handle it on their own. If we as a body can start communicating about them, it will remove some of the power of them. We can then lift each other up and encourage each other. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

*We are a light, even in our brokenness. The world is filled with fallen broken people. If we can be real with others, they can see that God loves us in our brokenness. We are unable to do good on our own, but God still uses us to bring Him glory. How cool to have a God that can use the very things that we struggle with, to help others. 

1 Timothy 1:15-17 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Brothers and Sisters, 
If you are struggling and you feel all alone, you are not! It may feel like the world is caving in on you and like you are just trying to survive. Even then, God is still there. He loves you so much and you are precious to Him. Please reach out to a friend, family member, a doctor, or a pastor. We are stronger with others at our side. Please let me know if there is any way I can pray for you! 
God Bless, 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spiritual Object Permanence

Why is playing peek-a-boo with a little baby so much fun? 

It would have to be the true look of shock and joy when your face is no longer hidden. 

When babies are little they will think that something that they can not see, touch, or sense is gone. For example placing a toy behind their back. Suddenly the toy has vanished and is gone. I have heard this is true also to why many babies begin to cry when their parent is out of view. The baby seeks their mother or father for comfort but since they can not see or hear them, the parent must be gone. 

As babies get a little older and grow cognitively, they begin to develop object permanence.  They start to look for the toy behind their back instead of thinking it has disappeared forever. 

I struggle with my spiritual object permanence (s.o.p). There will be times when I see God clearly moving and working in my life to protect and provide for me. I feel His love and I do not feel afraid or alone. God has proven Himself to be faithful and true. Yet, when something suddenly happens I seem to feel as if He has disappeared and that I am alone. I become like that frightened baby that thinks her Heavenly Father has vanished. 

I often then try to handle the situation out of my own flesh, which usually gets me into more trouble. I assume that I have to fix it. I have to act in some way. Sure, I might call out to my Father, but I will not be patient in waiting or I will be overcome with anxiety. 

This often makes me so frustrated with myself. It is a battle of flesh and spirit. In my spirit I know that God is good. God is in control. God loves me and provides for me. God protects me. ...

Then my flesh says something so different. Oh, no what am I going to do? How can we afford this? I can't handle this right now. I feel so alone. Will this darkness go away? 

Not only am I left feeling torn and overwhelmed, I usually feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. I should know better. Why do I doubt so quickly? I am a bad daughter. I have no faith. 

What to do when you struggle with spiritual object permanence:

1. Cry out to your Heavenly Father

2. Put His word in your heart

3. Thank God for all the times He provided and protected

4. Remember that faith isn't the lack of doubt, it is choosing to believe even in doubt. 

5. Pray that God would increase your faith

6. Remember that God loves you

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? 
        By living according to your word. 
I seek you with all my heart;
        do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
        that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:9-11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. - Philippians 4:6-7

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" - Mark 9:24

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unsolicited Parental Advice

Can we be real for a moment? Being a parent is tough. It seems like there are never ending choices each day and many of the choices lead to more choices... all of which someone else will end up judging my ability to parent over. 

Do I let her pick out her own socks or do I do it for her? Am I taking away her independence and individuality to get them for her? ... OK I will let her pick them out. 

{Five minutes later}

Why is she wearing two different socks? Is that one her sisters sock? Do I make her go change them? Is it worth the fight? ..... At least they are clean, I hope. I will just have her roll that one down and maybe no one will notice. 

It is a constant balancing act and a draining one at that... and this was just over socks. 

I have found that while I can't even manage to handle the stress of socks on my own child, I still go an offer unsolicited advice to other parents. Even worse sometimes I judge their parenting skills based on what I see in a glance. 

While I am very thankful for technology and for the wealth of information at my fingertips, it has one big downfall. Information overload. It seems that each person can be an expert and have advice an information that they believe I should follow, and most of them don't agree. This leads to so many feeling they have a better way, a right way, and they feel the need to tell each person who does not comply. 

Common areas of unsolicited parental advice: 
cloth/disposable diapers
nap schedules
car seat arrangements
cell phones
family diet
clothing choices
behavior in public
hair styles
roles of a step parent
homeschooling/public/private school
access to vehicle
Whether you are a parent of a small one or a parent of a teen, we have all been offered unsolicited parental advice. Some of it might have changed your view on a subject and some may have made you feel uncomfortable. 

Which is more important, the message or the delivery? 

While the message is the heart of the issue and the thing being conveyed, it is the delivery of the message that make all the difference to me. One thing that drives my hubby crazy is that I will end up stopping and having an extended chat with strangers in Target. I love sharing the information I have, whether it is on free kids activities, an amazing product, or on what God has done in my life. I love sharing with others. I am not against sharing unsolicited advice, in the right circumstance and in the right way. 

So here is my unsolicited advice on giving unsolicited advice. 

1. Speak/Write in "I" and "my", not in "You" and "your"s. 

Often a person can hear advice better when it is spoken in a specific way. I have found that when people say "you" or "your" it automatically makes me feel defensive. I feel like I need to defend my choice and my family. Not only do I feel judged, I also feel self conscious. I begin to doubt myself and my choices as a parent and that makes me disconnect even more from the person offering the advice. 

Good: Did you know that you should spend at least an hour a day reading to your child? 

Better: Even though time gets really tight, I try to spend at least an hour a day reading to my child. I heard it was really important for her reading skills. 

2. Speak from inexperience more than experience. 

While I appreciate the experience someone may have in a topic/situation, speaking from their inexperience also brings a mutual understanding. I am more likely to listen to a friend who understands my struggles and does not expect perfection from me because she herself is imperfect. 

Good: I have done so much research and find that it is best for children to have no artificial preservatives in their food. 

Better: Some nights I am so exhausted from all the running around that I just run through McDonald's for dinner, but in general I am trying to cut out all of the artificial preservatives in my kids diets. 

3. Ask if the person would like advice. 

This might sound simple, but it makes all the difference. Asking if someone would like advice is a great way to build the trust and respect that will make the person receive the advice better. If the person says no then let it go. 

Good: Why isn't your baby wearing any socks? You should have socks on her or she will get cold. 

Better: I hated when my baby would pull off her socks each time we got in the car. Can I tell you what helped us? 

4. Take a moment to evaluate and empathize.

Instead of jumping in with advice, it is important to evaluate the situation. Maybe it is not a good moment to be offering advice. Maybe the person usually does what I am suggesting but there are things I might not know playing a role at the moment. Maybe she needs support and encouragement instead. If my children are acting up in a store, I have had a long day of toddler tantrums, my a/c unit is out in my van, our paycheck was short this week; the last thing I need is a person coming up to offer me advice. If a juggler is juggling five sticks that are on fire, it is not the time to interrupt and offer my advice on how he/she could be doing it better or more effectively. Sometimes I need to remember when approaching a situation to (pardon the language) back the hell up and keep my mouth shut. If anything I can offer a kind word, a compliment, or encouragement. 

I have actually seen my friend Jennifer do this. When we see a child in a store throwing a tantrum and a parent disciplining or correcting the child, my reaction is to look away and to mind my own business. In certain circumstances my friend will acknowledge the parent and tell them that they are doing a great job. 

Good: {silence  and no judgmental glance}

Better: Keep it up! You are doing great! I love your (blank).

5. Don't use fear as a way to get the message across. 

While I do try to protect my children and do what is best for them, I do not like to live in fear. I do not want to be unaware of risks, but when a person leads with risks and dangers I automatically shut down. I am going to make a lot of mistakes. The world is a scary and dangerous place. I do my best to protect my children, but then I rely on God for protection and strength. 

Good:Little children should not be around magnets. If they accidentally swallow some they can choke, or worse they can perforate through their intestines. They can end up with internal bleeding, infection, and death. 

Better: Little children shouldn't have access to magnets because they are a chocking hazard and can hurt them if swallowed. 

6. Be aware how things are perceived.

Sometimes when someone is very passionate about the advice they are trying to give, it comes off as if they think they love their child more than I love mine. The person is just trying to help and is acting out of love, but instead it reads as something very hurtful. Phrases such as, "I love my baby, so I..." make it sounds as if the person who does not do whatever it is doesn't love their child. It is assumed that the majority of choices a person makes is in their child's best interest and out of love. 

As parents we have enough pressure on us in general, without adding the judgment of other parents. While sharing advice is a wonderful and helpful thing, it is important to make sure we are doing it in a supportive loving way. 

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Romans 12:18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Prayer of the Doubter

God, You are good. You are have always had your hand of protection and provision upon me and my family. I have seen You do miracles that would be considered great to many and in some that would be considered tiny. You have shown me great mercy and love, even in times when I was least deserving. You reign Most High over all. 

Yet God, I still struggle to see You at time. I struggle to remember Your goodness and faithfulness. I struggle to understand that You are bigger than my circumstances. I struggle to know that You love me in my weaknesses. I struggle to look to You first, instead of trying to carry the burden alone. 

God, I am sorry for my lack of faith. I am sorry for taking my eyes off of You. I am sorry for allowing the things around me to consume me with anxiety. I am sorry for failing to give You the glory and honor You always deserve. 

God, my God, I need Your help. Help me to set my eyes on You, Lord. Help me narrow the gap between my head and my heart. Help me to rest in Your promises. Help me to have more self control when it comes to my emotions. Help me to hide Your word in my heart. Help me to set aside the things in this world and of my flesh and become more like Jesus. Help me to remember to place my concerns at the foot of the cross and to leave them there. Most of all, Lord, help me in my unbelief. 


There is a great sermon from Pastor Rob Schneider titled The Struggle of Faith on 9/7/2014 on the website

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I remember staring at the ultrasound pictures trying to see if she had my nose. I wanted to see in what way she resembled me. When she was little I would stare into her big brown eyes and wonder who she would grow up to be. Once she laughed so hard she snorted a little... just like her mommy. We use terms such as "carbon copy", "mini me", and "Faith Jr." 

Over the last eleven years we have expanded from one baby girl to three. Each one so different from each other and yet so much like us in their own ways. Abbie has my goofy sense of humor. Our Elizabeth is strong willed and fiercely independent. Last but definitely not least, Charlie is affectionate and a social butterfly. Each one is so precious and fits perfectly into our family. When I would look at my daughters I would think of how each one is like me, but tonight I realized that while they take on the good characteristics they might also take on the tough ones. 

While there are a lot of traits that I love about myself, some of my traits are a little more difficult. The most difficult trait would be that I am an over-eater. I have an addiction to food and I use it in unhealthy ways. I'm bored... I need something to eat. I'm angry... I need something to eat. I'm happy ... I need something to eat. I sad... I need a lot to eat. I use food to pacify myself and it is an addiction I have had for a very long time. Thankfully the last year and a half I have gotten a lot of help and am beginning to find ways to let God change me. I am still not where I need to be, but I have more control over food now than I have ever had before. I knew food had become a problem when I was willing to lie, steal, and hide my behavior. I felt an unquenchable hunger literally and figuratively. 

I know my daughters will each have their trials and temptations. I know that they will sin and only God will be able to help them. I know these things, but seeing them struggle still hurts. It especially hurts when I see the same struggle and behavior that I struggle with. Part of me feels guilty... is she doing this because of my bad example. Has my sins and struggles passed down to her? How can I teach her how to do something that I am still not able to do? 

Tonight I discovered that one of my precious girls has a problem with food. Her every thought seems to be around food. She is constantly seeking food. Tonight we discovered that she had been stealing food and eating it secretly in her room and had made holes in her mattress and in her sisters to hide the evidence. The amount of evidence we found was shocking and disheartening. I so wish I could take this away from her. 

What to do when children are sinning... 
To be honest, I have no idea. 

I am going to seek God's wisdom in this situation. We are going to try as a family to take the focus away from food by having scheduled eating times and no sweets, limiting temptation. I am going to be transparent about my own struggles and try to help her as much as I can. 

I can't change her heart and I can't keep her from sinning. I can keep pointing the way back to God and help her seek her identity and comfort in Him alone. 

Please pray for us as we seek out God's wisdom in all the aspects of parenting. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Family and Funerals

This morning my husband asked me if I had ever been to a "black funeral". At first, I was confused by the question. I began to quietly ponder on what might be different between funerals I had been to before with my family and a funeral with his family. 

A week ago my husband had lost a beloved cousin, Glenn Strong, to violence. The news was shocking and devastating. I saw my news feed fill up with the outcry of his family and friends. Part of me thinks the violence aspect caused even more pain and confusion than other situations. As the week progressed, I watched as my strong loving husband went from shock to brokenness masked only by keeping busy. Even in the midst of everything he remained strong and steadfast for his girls. My heart ached in empathy for him and his family and I felt completely helpless and unable to comfort. The only thing I could do was to follow his lead and stand by him to support and love him. 

So this morning we were planning the events of the day and the timeline,when he asked if I had ever been to a "black funeral". 

While we were at the funeral there were some minor differences, but that might even be just differences in churches. Most all of what I experienced was exactly the same. 

We heard the mournful wails of the brokenhearted sister. We saw the husband holding up his wife as she said goodbye to her baby boy. We saw the cousins who were both broken-hearted at the loss of someone so dear, while also so thankful to be reunited with other family members. We heard the gentle crinkle of the candy wrappers from the elderly lady who passed them out to restless children. We smelled the food that had been lovingly prepared for the family. We heard the lyrics to "His Eye On The Sparrow". We saw the room overfilled with all those whose lives were touched by Glenn. We heard the words of the pastors who pointed the glory back to God. The thing that was exactly the same was the feeling of love that poured from the family. 

From the first time I met my husband's family, I have felt loved and welcome and the very first person I met was Glenn. It is one of my favorite stories and I even told it less than a week before Glenn's passing. 

When I first met my husbands family, they were having a reunion in a park and we had arrived after it was already dark. There was very little lighting and I only knew his dad and brothers who had arrived with us. When the hubby was speaking to some family members I went to walk around and introduce myself. I walked up to the first picnic table and introduced myself to a kind man. He said, "It's nice to meet you. I'm Little Glenn." We spoke briefly and then I went to another table. Again I introduced myself, or reintroduced myself. He said, "Hi Faith, I just met you. I'm Glenn." I was slightly embarrassed but it could have happened to anyone. I went to another group and yet again reintroduced myself. (Now remember it is very dark and they are all family..) Again he kindly responded, "Hi Faith. I am Glenn. Why don't I walk you around and introduce you to everyone?" He walked and talked with me as I got to meet all of my husband's family. 

Through the funeral and the reception Abbie, our oldest, kept mentioning that she loved her daddy's family. She also mentioned how loving his family was. I reminded her several times that they are all her family not just her dad's. She was a part of this amazing loving family. 

After spending more time with his family I came to a realization. Just like Abbie, I had continued to refer to them as his family. The reality is they are MY family. Eleven years ago they welcomed me in and have made me feel so incredibly loved. We see them far too little and I hope to change that. I love my family and will be lifting them up as they face the loss of Glenn, the first one to welcome me again and again and again. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Preparing for the Turbulence

The plane arrived at its gate with no delay. All the passengers quickly and quietly boarded the plane, placed their bags in the overhead compartment, and buckled themselves into their seats. I looked out the window looking at the fluffy white clouds. The clouds seemed so soft and the blue sky extended into the horizon. Looking about the plane I could see people playing on their devices, chatting, and even napping. Then I heard the voice of the pilot saying, "We are going to be flying into some turbulence. Please remain seated and buckle up." The stewardesses walked back to their seats, checking each row they passed. The skies still looked peaceful, but I knew that I didn't have a good view of the upcoming storm. As we continued to fly the sky became dark and the clouds became thick and grey. The once bustling and energized passengers were  now silent and stiff. It was just a matter of time before we would feel the turbulence. 

There are times in life when you can see the storm as it approaches and all you can do is prepare for the turbulence. Life can feel overwhelming and chaotic. Anxieties can build and often it feels like you should be doing something to help the circumstances, when there is actually nothing you can do but to take your seat, put on your seat buckle, and trust the pilot. 

Right now, my family is in this very spot. God is taking us in a new direction and we are just trying to seek His will in all we do. In a couple months I will be transferring to UMSL and at the same time the hubby will be doing a training for eight weeks, in which his income will almost become obsolete. The training has the possibility of giving us more financial stability for the long run. While we are trying to walk in faith, it is tough. Sometimes I wish I could just have a glimpse of the outcome, just to know if we are going in the right direction. We are following His voice, but it seems so many things are trying to distract us. While at moments it can be difficult, we KNOW that God is good. We know that if we walk in His will, He will provide a way. We know that God has never left us or forsaken us. We know that God is in control and knows the plans He has for us. 

I place my anxieties and fears down at His feet, but then keep picking them back up. When I try to carry the load on my own, it is so heavy and I feel the crushing weight of it all. Thankfully, I just have to cry out to Him and place it back down at His feet and He takes it and carries me through it. 

I have so many questions. Will I get the scholarship? Will we find financial stability? Will we be homeschooling next year? Will we be able to get her into the private school? 

While they are good questions, I cannot choose to be obedient in my timing. I have to walk in faith, knowing that in time all the questions will be answered. 

God is my pilot. He is in control of where this plane will go. I have to trust Him to protect and provide for us. I have to stop trying to do things on my own terms because instead of helping, it only makes things more difficult. I need to be obedient and I need to prepare my heart and mind for the turbulence that is to come over the next several months. 

I will keep trusting in my pilot. I will keep giving Him the control. I will also praise Him for all He has done and all He is about to do. I will praise Him for the places He is directing us toward and I will praise Him for the turbulence. 

Jeremiah 29:1 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

1 Peter 5:7-11

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

John 10:27-30

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Exposing the Secrets- My Dyslexia Research Paper

Exposing the Secret

     Growing up I lived a life filled with fear and shame. For eight years I hid my deep dark secret from my parents, siblings, friends, and teachers. My secret came with self-hate. The self-hate began to fester and infect other areas of my life, leading me to fall into a deep depression. I sought relief from pain through drinking, promiscuity, and self-mutilation. What was my secret? I could not read.

     Dyslexia is a disability that impacts a large portion of young students. Robin Boda, the Director of Education at Hope Education, describes dyslexia by saying that “it is a brain difference, neurological brain difference. Often going hand in hand with that, are gifts and strengths” (Boda). Yale’s MDAI, Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative, posted “20% of the population is struggling with this hidden disability” (MDAI). Goldish, author of Everything You Need to Know About Dyslexia, wrote “It is further estimated that 10 to 15 percent of school-age children have dyslexia. Yet despite the large number of people with dyslexia, it is estimated that only 5 percent of dyslexics are ever properly diagnosed and given appropriate help” (Goldish, pg. 20).

      A Huffington Post article said, 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read” (Crum). When Boda was asked for her view of Huffington Post’s statistic, she was not surprised. She described how the majority of her adult dyslexic students made it to very high levels in their high schools, many even graduating. Dr. Greene and Dr. Forster did a study on high school graduates readiness to enter college. They found that “only 32% of all students—fewer than half of those who graduate and about one-third of all students who enter high school—leave high school with the bare minimum qualifications necessary to apply to college” (Greene). Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed.

The Stigma:
     When I was in third grade, I asked my dad to have me tested so I could be in the resource room like a couple of my friends. He responded by telling me that I was not retarded, because no kid of his was retarded. Then he told me that I was just being stupid and lazy to slack off with my friends. That is the moment I realized how disappointed my family would be if they found out just how stupid I was. It was my job to keep my struggle a secret.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed due to the stigma attached with the term dyslexia. People with dyslexia are often seen as lazy and stupid. “Sometimes because dyslexic children are so bright and seem to have all the cognitive "equipment" necessary to read, their continuing struggles are blamed on lack of motivation or not trying hard enough” (MDAI). The MDAI also found that students, thinking that they are not intelligent, often give up on themselves and have no hopes for success or happiness. These false beliefs, lead many dyslexic children to keep their struggles a secret.

     John Corcoran is a dyslexic teacher and an advocate for education reform. When he was young, his teachers told his parents that “he was simply ‘unmotivated’ and ‘immature’ and would learn to read at some point” (Feeney). Corcoran went through life pretending that he could read and even got through college and became a teacher. “Still, he maintained the illusion of literacy, carrying a newspaper or book under one arm and listening carefully to conversations in the teachers' room” (Feeney). When a student does reach out for help, the parent does not believe the student. The reaction of those parent’s and my father was described by Boda, “The parent doesn’t know how to deal with it so they don’t exactly believe the kid. They say try harder and you’re not focusing.”

     While the common belief is that dyslexics are stupid, this belief is completely false. “Dyslexics are not stupid. Most have average intelligence. Many are above average” (Goldish, pg. 20). MDAI describes the talents of dyslexic students saying that they “usually excel at problem solving, reasoning, seeing the big picture, and thinking out of the box” (MDAI). Many teachers, parents, and even students believe the negative stigma on dyslexic students.

The Signs:
     When I would sit down and read, I would spend an hour trying to read the first few words. The letters on the page would begin to dance around and blur into and out of focus, often giving me headaches. I felt stupid and I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. All the members of my family are geniuses, and I could not even read a couple words. I kept my secret until I was seventeen years old. My Spanish teacher was the first person I felt I could tell without a fear of judgement. She supported me and inspired me to be an advocate for myself. She helped me tell my parents and fought for me to get tested.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed because people are unaware of the signs of dyslexia. Dyslexia has many signs including: Speech problems when young, problems with handwriting, bad spelling, difficultly reading out loud, low reading comprehension, thinking out of the box, does not test well, headaches when reading, and even ADD/ADHD. Students often do not have the same signs. “[Dyslexia] appears as spelling errors, but it is far more complex than just switching letters like b and d. There is a huge range of dyslexia and it is on a spectrum” (Boda). Goldish describes the spectrum saying, “dyslexia can range from minor problems with spelling to complete illiteracy” (Goldish, pg. 19). It is important for teachers and parents to be educated on the signs in order to help students.

The Shame:
     Exposing my secret to my parents was one of my most terrifying experiences. To my surprise, my parents did not react as I had assumed they would. They were supportive and immediately got me tested. My parents were shocked to discover that I tested at a third grade level. They sacrificed their time and money to get me specialized tutoring. After a year and a half of intensive tutoring, my reading level went from third grade to high school, it gave me the coping skills I will use for the rest of my life.

     Dyslexic children are going undiagnosed due to their deep seeded shame. Clinical Psychologist, Gershen Kaufman, studied shame in adults and found that “adults who have not learned how to read and write feel acute shame over their deficiency” (Kaufman, 1992, 199). Boda found that fear and shame were so common that they were the two things she had to overcome with every student she has. She said, “They try to hide it, cover it up, don’t seek your help” (Boda). When John Corcoran exposed that he could not read it “marked the end of shame, anxiety, and ingenious evasions and the beginning of a crusade on behalf of literacy and education reform” (Feeney). 

     Sonya Bridges is another inspirational person. She is also a teacher and she also discovered that she had dyslexia when she was an adult. Even though she had to work harder than most of the kids in her class, she persevered and did well in school. Bridges was tested when she was an adult, after years of wondering if she was dyslexic and “when the results finally came in, Bridges was relieved, but embarrassed. She kept her findings secret for a while” (Graham). Shame is a powerful force that is very common in the life of a person with dyslexia.

The Solution:
      Five years ago when my oldest daughter was in first grade, I discovered she is dyslexic like me. I refused to have her live a life of shame, low self-confidence, and hating school. When her teacher and counselor at school said she was too young to test, we pulled her from public school and began homeschooling her. She goes to a tutor once a week and we work with her throughout the week. Over the few years, she has caught up to grade level reading, a passion for learning, and a high self-confidence.

      Dyslexic children do not have to go undiagnosed. While there is no cure for dyslexia, fortunately, there are ways to greatly improve the life of dyslexic people and to empower them to reach their full potentials. The first step is to educate parents on dyslexia. About thirteen years ago Mary Buchanan discovered that her teenage daughter could not read. Parents often do not realize that their child has dyslexia. “Unfortunately, teachers and parents do not always notice that a child has a language disability” (Goldish, pg. 9). Boda describes the reason parents don’t catch their child’s learning disability, “A lot of parents trust the school to take care of all of that. Parents go many years without listening to them read, or if they do listen to them read they will listen to them read stories that have been read to them many times that the student has it memorized.” (Boda).  I was able to catch my daughter’s dyslexia and get her help, because I was educated on the signs of dyslexia.

     Mary Buchanan described her feelings as shocked and saddened. She was shocked at how she could not have known and was sad to think of all the years and the lost opportunities. When asked about what steps her husband and she made to help their daughter, she said, “We went and got her tested and paid over $9,000 to get her tutoring.” She also said that it “would have been helpful to get info out to parents to know what to look for, signs to watch for” (Buchanan). The sacrifice she and her husband made have had a huge impact on her daughter. I know this impact because she is my mother. If it wasn’t for the way they responded and fought to help me, I would not be about to graduate from college and the cycle would not have been broken for her granddaughter. A parents love and support are key to a child’s success. “Because of the love, encouragement and academic help from her mother, Bridges endured the bullying and laughter of classmates, and worked hard to become an achiever” (Graham).

      The second step to helping dyslexic children, is to adjust their education to encourage their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses. In order to find the student’s strengths and weaknesses, it is important to test them young with a non-standardized test. Since dyslexia is inherited, it is especially important to test if any other family members are dyslexic. If a student is diagnosed with dyslexia, the school needs to find ways to educate within that child’s learning style. Many schools are trying to fit students into a box, and dyslexic students often don’t fit. For example, standardized tests might reflect the knowledge and understanding of many, but dyslexic students do not test well. Dyslexic students also need more time in getting the foundations of phonics and reading. To push the student along in hopes that he or she might catch up, will actually hinder the student. “The existence of other social problems does not excuse the public school system’s inadequate performance” (Greene). Boda believes that we have to do school differently. She describes the importance of having a high standard but a different standard for each student.

     While the tutoring helped me read, it was not a cure. When I became a student in college, I assumed that I would hate school and would get bad grades just as I had done growing up. I was shocked to discover that I was able to get onto the honor roll and even ended up being honored as an Emerging Scholar at a banquet. I will always struggle with my dyslexia, but I am now empowered to succeed. I am finally starting to break from the chains of self-hate as I am discovering that I am a strong, talented, and highly intelligent woman.

Work Cited
Boda, Robin. Interview. 21 July 2015.
Buchanan, Mary. Interview. 21 July 2015.
Crum, Maddie. "The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn't Changed In 10 Years." The Huffington Post., 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 July 2015.
Feeney. "The Teacher Who Couldn't Read: John Corcoran." Biography 3.10 (1999): 82. Middle Search Plus. Web. 25 July 2015.
Goldish, Meish. Everything You Need to Know about Dyslexia. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1998. Print.
Graham, Charlotte. "Dyslexia hits home for former local teacher." Laurel Leader-Call (Mississippi). (September 19, 2011 Monday ): 1305 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/07/25.
Greene, Jay P., and Greg Forster. "Public High School Graduation and College Readiness Rates in the United States. Education Working Paper No. 3." Center for Civic Innovation (2003).
"Illiteracy Statistics." Statistic Brain RSS. 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 July 2015.
Kaufman, Gershen. Shame, the Power of Caring. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Pub., 1985. Print.
"MDAI: Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative * The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity." Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative * The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Web. 29 July 2015.