Whose language is it anyway? (Part 1)

I studied for an MA in Mission back in 2011, so ten years ago. I went full of anger, with a desire to “teach the church” a lesson. I wanted to speak out about what I perceived to be it’s appalling treatment of our children. All three of them are autistic, all three of them have additional “needs”, yet each and everyone if the bible is to be believed, is created in the image of God.

This is where my journey gets interesting, because the language of power, the language of theology, and the language even of liturgy fails to acknowledge disability as an image of God as seen through the eyes of fellow disabled children or teens. There are a few books by disabled writers that tackle this subject, yet neurodiversity by neurodiverse adults has a teenie tiny section in any theological library.

Ableism on the other hand has a larger section, in fact it has whole academic departments in universities devoted to the subject of disability studies within the field of theology. And herein lies a conundrum for those of us interested in this field of study and who later in life find ourselves diagnosed as neurodiverse. Should we acknowledge our disability, or continue to mask who we are, in order to move along the conversation of disability and theology?

When I started my MA I had no idea I would later be diagnosed autistic. Like Melanie Sykes of recent times, I too was diagnosed autistic in my fifties. What surprised me even more though, because by then I had cottoned on to that possibility, was being told I probably also had ADHD. I mean, where did that come from? Then slowly, while I waited for a diagnosis, all the puzzle pieces of my own life fell into place.

The anger I had felt on behalf of own children, was actually my anger. All those years of having communicated with ministers and priests, bishops and chairmen of the district, speaking about theology and faith, believing I was talking the same language: using the same words yet somehow talking through this glass wall that seemed impenetrable, leaving me frustrated and angry. All of this makes sense now. We spoke the same words yet somehow they had different meaning; a hidden meaning known only to them and which I was shut out from. I was often told I couldn’t say what I had said, yet I was sure I simply repeated what I had heard already, while missing out the subtext, using the shorthand I thought I had learnt so successfully.

Power does not like to be challenged. Ableism seeks to play down the voices of those disabled who dare to challenge their take on disability. The Church too is unwilling or unable to learn from those it historically has sought to defend. The power has shifted from equality in God, through the belief we are all made in the image of God, to that of being beholden to, and somehow inferior to our fellow able bodied Christians, and most especially our church leaders.

God, like a diamond, is multifaceted. Each face of a diamond is cut differently according to what the cutter sees within its shape, yet each face is a reflection of the beauty found within the stone. Until we learn to accept that each person is a reflection of God, each a facet of the whole, then we will continue to treat each other as unequally and not as the image of God.

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A modern day Job

I don’t know how to express what I’m going through verbally. I’m not even sure I can explain fully in writing what I’m going through at the moment, but I’ll try. Hopefully it will make sense should anyone decide to read this. I hope it’s cathartic for me anyway.

I’m ill. I have been for awhile I just haven’t really admitted it to myself. Instead I’ve pushed my body, trying to do what I’ve always done despite all the pain and tiredness. I don’t fully know what’s wrong with me, partly because I’m still having tests, and partly because I don’t know how to communicate what it’s like to live in this body to the Dr’s. They never seem to ask the right questions, the ones that will unlock the box that contains the answers that they need and that I want to share. So instead I do what I can and vote away frustrated that once again the dots as still not fully joined.

All my life I’ve fidgeted and struggled to sit still. It has physically hurt to try and sit still. Chairs are uncomfortable. Benches are hard and don’t get me started on church pews. I constantly have the urge to get up and move around. This is fine at home, I can do that and not even realise I’m doing it. The effort required to stay seated during a service, film, play or lecture is exhausting, leaving me to fall asleep. On top of that the sheer will power needed to concentrate on what someone is saying, to try and take notes without being distracted is an extra whammy. All these years of berating myself, telling myself I’m stupid or lazy and that all I have to do is get more sleep, be more organised and stop daydreaming, when all along it turns out my brain is simply wired up differently; that not only am I autistic, I also am ADHD.

This answers so many questions, yet it’s opened a whole load more. For example, how do I multitask? I can actually do a number of tasks simultaneously as long as it doesn’t involve holding a conversation. I just can’t do it. Recently it’s led me into issues with a neighbour due to one of my dogs having the habit of trotting up to others dogs in order to say hello. Dogs tend to be sociable, so that can be understandable. However, it’s not always appreciated, and I understand that which is why my head is on a swivel looking out for other dogs. This works fine until I get distracted, and then it doesn’t. I try and try to get this right, but just lately it seems to go wrong more times than not. Whether it’s because people are more stressed due to the pandemic I don’t know, but I’ve been sworn at even when they are on a lead, and reported even though there was no fight. Believe me, I’ve been around dog fights, and mine have never had one with another dog! Anyway, trying to bend down when every muscle in your body is agony, while the other owner keeps talking and moving forward so they get between you and your dog presents me with a problem. I can’t concentrate on what they are saying and grab my dog at the same time. I can’t find the words to ask them to stand still so I can get my dog, who has trotted up, tail wagging, with not an aggressive bone in his body, to say hello. My body doesn’t obey me, and my mind doesn’t process either, so I end up in a situation not of my choosing.

Whether you feel I’m to blame or not, I ask you to hold fire while I explain why I can’t bend over or move very fast.

It started about 5 years ago when I slipped on a bank while walking the same dog. I crashed to the ground and thought nothing of it. Why should I, we all take a tumble or two at some point. What was different about this was that I developed a painful hip. So much so that I went to the Dr’s. It turned out I’d developed osteoarthritis in that hip. Next I began to develop painful fingers and knees. Low and behold I was told the same had happened with those joints too. If that wasn’t enough blood tests revealed an underactive thyroid, as well as low iron. Pain started flaring up all over my body and it became painful to get out of bed, to walk, to shower, to cook, even to sit. Tears and I became well acquainted until they started to dry up. Despite being diagnosed with fybromyalgia 2 years ago, it seemed as if the medication I was on wasn’t helping, so I went back to the Dr’s, time and time again. By this time I was having to use a walking stick or crutches when really tired to help me get around. I tried it once when walking the dogs, but after tripping over a tree root and getting it tangled up with leads and dogs so that I ended up in a heap on the ground, I decided it was more dangerous to use either, no matter how necessary, when walking the dogs.

Recently I saw the rheumatologist, apparently dry eyes are a sign of a condition known as Sjogren’s Syndrome. Who would have thought that? It’s an autoimmune condition which causes tiredness and painful joints among other things. So in other words I appear to be suffering from a number of different conditions, all of which cause tiredness and joint pain. And that folks is why it is really hard for me to bend down and grab my dogs collar for all those new dog owners with their cute little yappy hounds who are terrified of a friendly staff x who wants to say hello. And before anyone says I need to be more responsible, I try really hard to do just that. I just wish my body would cooperate and that my brain would help me speak at the same time.

I feel like the biblical character of Job, especially when being accused of something I haven’t done on purpose but who struggles to defend themselves against accusations. Its left me depressed and worried about leaving the house. It’s not helped by struggling to do housework or gardening and not having the money to pay someone to help. Living in a well to do area means such neglect is visible and judged. I just wish as my hubby said, that people would just ask instead of judging, and maybe offering to help. I could really do with some help although I’d royally feel guilty and try to do everything myself, rather like cleaning the house before the cleaner arrives!

Somewhere in all of this is a lesson for me to learn.

Break down the walls

Churches are dying.

The stench of their death has been building for years.

Slowly the wheel turns, and the walls of fortress church stst to tumble.

Mega-churches with their thousands can never be intentional, relational.

The wheel is turning. Slowly returning to what was once the way.

Community; relational. Hospitable and sharing. Giving all for all.

Loving God, loving your neighbour and loving yourself.

From the heart all these grow, taking root and spreading to all your limbs, you mind, and mouth.

What you do and say is grown from a heart of love: a vine that may need pruning but when it is, gives more glorious fruit because it can.

Let go of the old traditional ways.

Embrace the challenge set by Jesus.

Allow the wheel to turn, to learn how to love, how to care and share, how to let go of your castle and walk and talk with all peoples.

Embrace your neighbour; the refugee, the dispossessed; the hungry child roaming the street.

Don’t turn your back, step off your pedestal and humbly kneel and wash the feet of the weary traveller.

This is church without its walls, that shows respect for all beliefs.

The wheel is turning. Embrace the love of God and share it with your neighbour.

Moving forward

Some days are filled with pain and my only way of getting around is using crutches, which is fine shopping, but impossible dog walking. Our youngest dog still pulls a lot, and while the behaviourist’s advice is working, it’s not safe to juggle crutches and an exuberant dog. I tried that once with a walking stick. I tripped over a root and went base over apex, and the walking stick was tangled in my legs, and I crashed on my side as both hands were full. I could not think fast enough to throw the stick to one side. Still, I survived but until he’s calmer on the lead, sticks and crutches stay at home. It means that dog walks are interspersed with yelps of pain from me, but that just adds to the fun 😁

Some pain is physical, while some is mental anguish. Just over a week ago I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. I’m still processing how I feel about that, and will be for some time I expect. It explains a lot, especially about school and work. Would knowing earlier have made a difference? I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I would have achieved all that I have done if I’d known. I’m pretty sure that I would not have asked to go on meds when I was younger. I was more inclined to allow nature to run its course when I was younger. Now I’m willing to see if medication will make a difference. I hope it does. I look back now and see the massive struggles I went through and the thought that much of that might have had a different outcome is difficult to process. Of course I didn’t know why I struggled then so it’s a moot point really, hindsight and all that stuff…. All I can do is try and focus on the future and see if moving forward things are different for me.

Understanding now that my anger and frustration has a cause is a big relief. It doesn’t, for me, excuse it but I know why I’ve struggled to concentrate, study, hold onto a job and follow a conversation. Knowing, without blowing my own trumpet that I’m quite intelligent, it’s been incredibly frustrating not being able to express that clearly and in a way that showed what was going around in my head. All the words whirl around at high speed, but I can’t write it down fast enough or remember it, and I end up so frustrated. Looking at a page in a book and reading it time and time again and still not being able to process what the author is saying is something I hate. I want to understand it, but it doesn’t sink in. I’m constantly putting the book down and moving about, getting a cup of tea, finding something to do with my hands, having yet another snack, all because I’m frustrated at not being able to process what I want to read.

I couldn’t figure out why I kept doing this, but now I have an explanation. Now I can weep for what was while looking ahead in the hope that the medication prescribed will flip that switch and allow me to do the things I want to do, even if its just something as simple as read a textbook without drinking half a dozen mugs of tea, eating a packet of biscuits and a bar of chocolate and needing the loo every half an hour!

Here’s to moving forward.

Where is the nearest coffee shop?

These next couple of weeks are busy for me with hospital appointments. The last few years I’ve been feeling lousy. I won’t bore you with my symptoms but suffice to say I have about 6 medical issues running side by side, at least 2 of which are side effects of some of the main ones, and of those all 4 have very similar symptoms so it’s no wonder I have to have some new investigations. On top of that I have my assessment for ADHD.

This past year has been especially difficult as I suspect I’ve had a mild form of long covid. It’s funny how every medical appointment you are asked if you have the symptoms of covid, yet no one asks if you’ve had it. No one looks back in your notes to see if the paramedic who came out to see you actually entered it into your notes. I’m pretty sure they did, but with an overwhelmed health service was it flagged up? I don’t know, and unless you ask me a direct question I may not know you don’t have that information.

Before I carry on, let me be clear about one thing. This is not a whinge fest. I simply what to write down the frustration I feel, trying to make sense of neurotypical language and the nuances that go with it and which I still don’t fully understand.

Two years ago my husband got a job that he loves. He’s really good at it, and I’m so pleased and proud of him. When we first got married we were both wanting to put ourselves forward for the same job. To both of us, with our background it made perfect sense. What job was it? Becoming methodist ministers. We saw it as something we were both called to and that we could support each other in. We were both turned down. We were both left unsupported and adrift, struggling to understand why not now. Then our children came along, and we both knew that it was not possible to juggle children and ministry, certainly not with all that was happening during this time.

Fast forward 29 years and my husband is once again taking that step, and I’m really happy for him. I know that he won’t be able to serve for as long as he could 29 years ago, but I totally support him answering this call now.

For me, that’s no longer the direction I feel I should be taking. So much has happened over the years and I have learnt so much about myself that I know I have neither the patience nor the tolerance to work as part of the established church. I’ve learnt that I don’t understand either the language used or the delays imposed as committee after committee is tasked with discerning “God’s” will, which loosely translated means, we have finally decided on a course of action, even though we’ve missed the window of opportunity, and now we ask God to bless it. I know many will argue with me to say this is not how it happens, but I’ve watched too often from the sidelines and seen it happen, for me not to believe that in a lot of cases that’s exactly what happens.

This is where I struggle the most. The only way I can describe it is by using an example. Say I meet up with someone one day, just in passing. “oh”, they say, “we must meet up for a coffee and a chat”. “That would be lovely”, I say, “when suits you best?”, getting out my mobile to check my calendar. I’m sure if I was looking up then instead of trying to remember where my calendar app is (it’s in the same place it’s always been, I just forget each time I need it), I would see either a look of horror or panic on their face as I actually hold them to that suggestion. You see, I think you actually mean it. I don’t realise that it’s just a social nicety, a throwaway remark with no real intent behind it.

Again, before anyone jumps up and says to me, but I do mean it, remember I’m trying to generalise here from an autistic viewpoint. A belated realisation that social niceties do not always mean what they say.

So what has this to do with hubby and his journey? Probably very little other than to say I’m lost and confused. I feel alone and out of place, adrift in a boat without a rudder. Next year we may still be where we are now, or we may be trying to settle into a college flat. Whatever this next year brings health wise, I’m still left struggling knowing that I have no spiritual home and no idea what to do with my life. Hubby and I chatted about all the possible options yet no matter what ideas we came up with, there is a dawning realisation that no matter what idea I think about, either my health, or the slowness of decision making will mean I run out of time. Some of my thoughts around next steps need money, something I don’t have, and for which time is not on my side.

I know this is a jumbled mess of thoughts and fears, worries and impatience, frustration even. I don’t think I’m alone in this. If you get to the end of this and want a coffee and a chat, then I’d love that. I feel so alone at the moment.

Square box, round hole

Quite a few years ago, I remember my husband and I, meeting with our vicar to offer our skills as preachers. We had both trained as methodist local preachers, and had many years of experience under our belt. We also had a young family, one that was loud, disorganised, incapable of sitting still or quietly, had enormous amounts of energy, and who I felt embarrassed about. Imagine that for a moment. I felt embarrassed by my children everytime I set foot inside a church because they were different. When I look back at that now, I am so angry that we were made to feel that way. I tried so hard to help them fit in, when I should have encouraged them to stand out. To be their own unique selves. Yet I did to them what my parents did to me, and I can only ask their forgiveness now, for the hurt that must have caused them, to know that this God of love we’d been telling them about, accepted them only if they behaved in a certain way in church. A place that was supposed to be God’s house. Its ironic isn’t it, that I’ve only really cottoned on to that now. Our children no longer attend church, and whether they ever will again I honestly don’t know. What I do know is this, if churches continue to push for people to conform in certain ways without accepting the vast complexity and difference of God’s creation, then its highly unlikely they ever will.

When we asked the vicar if we could preach, his response was this: until we sorted out our lives then no one would accept our preaching because they would effectively say, I’m not accepting that from them.

Now, not only was that extremely hurtful, at the time I interpreted it to mean this: you are not good enough to preach here. You are not professional enough to preach here. You are too disorganised to preach here. You are too poor to preach here.

Looking back at that experience and any number of other similar experiences over a lifetime of being rejected, I have realised that I’m too female, too disabled, too outspoken, and too outside of the box to be allowed to speak out, or to be allowed to lead in anyway, shape or form within the church.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve preached in churches. I’ve even made a joke about it over the years, that I get invited once until they hear what I have to say, then never again. Being challenged is uncomfortable, I get that. I don’t like it either, yet there is a difference between being challenged about your faith, and being judged for your lifestyle. The church I’ve realised is very good at judging people’s lifestyles and seeking to use the bible as a way to browbeat them into conforming to what the Church leaders consider to be a biblical way of conforming. Theres just one problem with that, that I can see. God did not make us all round to fit in square boxes, nor did he make us all square to fit in round holes. In other words the forced conformity found within our churches is human made, not God made.

If we want our places of worship to truly be representative of the God we worship, then we have to unpick all the old style teaching and preaching that has caused so much hurt. We need to be all encompassing with our leadership and accepting of people and their differences in the same way that God is accepting of those created in the image of their creator. To do otherwise is to suggest that there is some other creative force at play that has created those who are unacceptable to God, and that my dear friends is a dangerous heresy.

You see, we are not meant to be perfect, even after we find a relationship with Jesus. We are still broken; square or round pegs, disabled, LGBTQi, from different ethnic backgrounds, poor and well off in comparison, professional or not, that’s not what unites us. What unites us is Jesus. It’s our ability to connect with him, to understand who he is, what he is, and what he’s done for each of us, that is the unifying factor in our communities. It’s our ability to speak to him and about him in a language that can be understood across the board that speaks volumes, not our education or our lifestyle. Love knows no boundaries. Love unites, it empowers all to share their story, their relationship. Its only when we don’t understand that, that we put barriers up and make excuses for why people should be excluded.

Lightening the mood

Yesterday my blog was somewhat despondent I suspect. I think most of mine just lately have been, all though not intentionally.

Today I am feeling a little less down, so I’m sharing some of my passion for crafting. It’s something that’s kept me going through this past year or so.

I started crafting around 5 years ago thanks to a fantastic group of ladies. Since then I’ve grown in confidence, and love to explore different art forms. I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and love to try and go beyond by mixing up different media and seeing what happens.

I love working with paperclay. It’s great because when you make your own mix, I know that I’m using recycled paper. I’m may not be the easiest to use, but the more I’ve practiced, the more excited I get.

Recently I hit on the idea of melting plastic bottle tops and wrapping that around a paperclay dish. It worked!

While I know using concrete is not environmentally friendly, I’m trialling it to be sure I can work it properly before adding paper to make papercrete. One thing I have discovered is that this takes longer to dry before removing from the moulds. I’m having to learn a whole new level of patience.

At a crossroads

I feel as if I am approaching a crossroads in my life. There may be a number of reasons for this, but at the moment I’m somewhat despondent not quite knowing which direction life will take me.

The sign is there ahead of me, but no matter how hard I try to read it, it’s too distant for any words to make sense. Not being renowned for my patience, I find this incredibly frustrating.

My body is aching and the small amount of work I manage to do leaves me tired and annoyed with myself. No amount of investigations seem to result in a definitive diagnosis, and so my labels just get longer and longer. Each time I go to see or speak to the GP I’m restricted to talking about one symptom, yet there are many. I suspect they are connected, but that requires being sent from one specialist to another. None seem to talk to each other, and I struggle to articulate myself when presented with someone new, who’s way of responding is unknown. If they are abrupt, I shut down. If they are chatty, I become over articulate. There is no happy medium where I am concerned, instead, like a pendulum I swing from one extreme to the other.

On top of this, two of my children have flown the nest. As with most parents I struggle to believe they can cope on their own. No matter how hard I try, inevitably I say the wrong thing and then our relationship becomes rocky yet again. I’m teetering on that precipice of do I contact them, don’t I? I worry that if I don’t days can lead to weeks, then months of not talking. Similar to how I am with my brothers. The last thing I want is to loose touch, yet my struggles to say the right thing at the right time impede me every step of the way. One step forward finds me running backward several times.

My husband is looking to move his career forward to the next step this coming year. I can see that it’s the right time for him, and he’s already shown that he’s good at it, so he has my support, but where does that leave me? I’ve been something of a nomad all my adult life, yet now when we know his job change, if it goes ahead will involve 2 or possibly 3 moves over the next twelve years. Ironic isn’t it, that it’s now I want to put down roots and stay in one place. I will make those moves, and it could just be that I’m reaching that part of my journey through life that my thoughts are turning towards stopping still and hunkering down.

There is one direction I’ve not had to consider for so many years. I’ve been a parent and a carer for twenty years or so. It’s hard at times to know which hat I’m wearing at any given time, or even how to seperate the two roles so that I can just be mum. It doesn’t happen very often it seems to me. I want it to but then something happens and once again I’m called upon to be that carer. I’ve felt robbed of all those memories that other parents talk about. I often struggle to remember their first step, or their first day at nursery. Instead I remember the constant round of hospital visits, those strangers coming to the house to assess this, or that part of my child. I have wanted to scream that this is a person, yes they are a child, but they are funny, and quirky and oh so clever, they are not a name on a sheet of paper and no, you don’t know my child, not as I do. Over the years of bottling up my rage, I think that I too have lost sight of who they really are. I hope it’s not too late to rediscover them all.

So where will my crossroads lead me? I honestly don’t know. I know that the institution my husband seeks to change roles in, is one that we once had a shared dream about, but now I no longer feel able to pursue my own role there. Perhaps there is a role for me on the fringes, with my fellow outcasts, who knows. I know I want to work on my art, to create things that speak to me if no one else, and you never know, that maybe one of the blurry directions just out of reach. At the moment though my path is still unknown and my frustration still present. Patience they say is a virtue, I just wish if that was the case, I’d hurry up and develop mine.

Who is the cleverest person in the room?

These last few weeks I’ve found myself thinking more and more around the subjects of theology, leadership and Jesus. Why, you may ask? For the simple reason that I think we’ve got it wrong. Now that probably sounds pretty arrogant, so before you shout me down, let me try and explain what I mean.

At the age of 12 Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem, and instead of returning with his family group, was found by his parents talking to the teachers there. All who heard him were amazed by his wisdom and understanding.

Why then, if Jesus was able to hold his own at 12 among such learned people, those who made the study of scripture and its interpretations their life work, why when he started his adult ministry did he not return to debate with his peers? He was clearly on their level at 12, so why not go back and study more with these people who had made such study their life work?

Today, if you want to be a minister or leader in a church then you are expected to study theology or biblical studies, or any combination of those and other subject related to leading a church. It’s understandable after all, that the people you are expected to lead, should have confidence in their vicar, priest or minister, even those who are non ordained, have knowledge of what the Bible means. Such learning can take you all the way to doctoral level. Such subjects can be fascinating and the ability of the student to show their grasp of quite complex theological arguments is to be applauded.

Our Church leadership, archbishops, bishops, deans, priests, curates, deacons, ministers etc, all undertake such study. They are taught to choose their words carefully. To be prepared to defend their arguments. How to quote the great teachers of the past as well as the present. To weigh up their words before they speak or write so that there can be no misunderstanding. They use the correct language to show their grasp of the subject, paring it down into quite carefully thought out presentations that their fellow academics can understand.

Therein lies the problem. Therein lies the issue that I need to discuss, which is, that while the language of academics is necessary, it is available and understood by a small group of people for whom the joy of such discourse is like a drug, dare I say. They simply can’t get enough of it and keep searching for more and more of it. There is a desire to gain more knowledge, to open themselves up to more fields of expertise, all the while becoming unknowingly to them, even more distant from those who they are called to serve.

Let’s go back to the question of why didn’t Jesus spend his time as an adult, studying and teaching amongst his fellow teachers in the temple? After all he is the Son of God, if anyone should be teaching there, it should be him surely? Yet he doesn’t. Instead he chooses to teach amongst the poor, the sick, the outcast, even amongst those called Gentiles, people outside the Jewish faith into which he’d been born and raised. He chose to use everyday language and examples from these peoples lives in order to teach them. He wasn’t teaching them theology. Most of them would have been able to read scripture anyway, as they went to school with the local rabbi, or teacher as children. Instead he was teaching them about love. God’s love for them.

Jesus, in answer to a question said the greatest commandment or rule that a person could live by was this: Love God and out of that love, love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.

It’s that simple. If we learn to love God as much as he loves us, then we will learn to love ourselves because we will understand what it is to be loved. Once we know that, then we can love everyone else as God loves them. Oh sure, we won’t always agree with each other. We may even fight each other, just as siblings do. There’s that saying isn’t there, you can choose your friends but not your family. Yet when we let love wash over us, even when we disagree with someone else’s viewpoint, yet we become willing to feed, clothe, house, visit, and accept those who hold different views and values to us. It’s not easy by a long chalk, which is why we are given the help of God’s spirit to sustain us, and when all else fails, and we’ve hit rock bottom and feel we can never ever love that person, to give us a top up and oil change so we can go that extra mile.

It’s interesting that despite all Jesus knew about the teachers of his time, and all his own knowledge, it was these very people who were his most ardent enemies. Jesus was willing and able to bring down the temple upon which these people based their very status upon and instead brought to the forefront those for whom these teachers had nothing but contempt. The beggars, the refugees, the prostitutes, thieves, liars, even those who helped out their overlords, the Roman empire. With their help the message of love, what is called the gospel message spread around the known world at the hands of these often uneducated people.

We need to stop thinking that only those who are educated to be “our leaders” can form churches. Church is not meant to be a building with a highly educated leader, it is meant to be a community of people who express love through acts of love and compassion irrespective of who the other person is. It is not about whether that person fits a rigid set of requirements. It’s not about whether they are straight or gay, male, female, trans or binary, able or disabled, black, white or Asian. What is important is, do you love God? If you do, then love these people in the same way God does and stop splitting academic hairs over it. Get on your knees and get your hands dirty just as Jesus did.

Let’s do God’s love in the same way he did, by healing the sick, binding up the broken hearted and stop, just stop this desire to be the cleverest person in the room, coz you know what? You are no more that the pharisees and the sadduces of Jesus’s time.

Being a parent at any cost

There are times as a parent when all I want to do is find a hill, or a field and stand there and scream. I now know why, when you are expecting a child and the midwife gives you a parenting class, there is no mention of what is to come, just a talk around the birth, and how wonderful it will be. If we could see into our future life with our beautiful baby, how many of us would be asking to put the baby back!

My sister once told me that one of my children had never grown out of the terrible twos! Unfortunately she missed one. There is currently a sense of deja vu about our life as we live through for a second time an extremely painful experience.

When you look back at events in your life after you’ve had time to process what happened, you get some perspective. You realise that maybe you didn’t handle things very well and you wonder if you would have the patience and the nerve to say things that you didn’t say then. Well it looks like we will get that chance.

I find conflict the most difficult thing to deal with. Due to my autism and my adhd, processing what someone is saying, especially when I feel challenged is hard. I end up getting angry and defensive. I find it hard to breathe as my chest gets tight and any calmness goes out the window and my mind struggles to process what is being said. It’s like a physical attack but verbally and I have no idea how to defend myself. My words trip over themselves and I loose any ability to express coherently my response.

These last few weeks have been tougher than most as I struggle to process the loss of a loved one, and the realisation that two of my children are determined to live their lives their way. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent I’m well aware that my role as a parent is to try and equip my children so that they are ready to go out into the world and live their lives. It’s funny how our dreams of this event in live can be heavily influenced by books, magazines and television. I remember reading how these people helped their child to pack up their things and head off into the big wide world having had loving hugs, kisses and tears. The parent (usually the mum) who is left behind in a suddenly empty house wonders how they will cope in the quietness.

Is that how it really is?

My experience so far has been probably very similar to my own mum’s when I left home. As I have got older I have found that I can no longer tolerate noise. Ironic really as my hearing is failing the older I get. I struggle more and more to hear the TV, which is not helped by the subtitles being to small that I can’t see them with my verifocals. Oh the joys of getting old!

I see so much of myself in my hildren, and finally see how patient my mum was with me. Despite all the conflict she never raised her voice to me, even when I was screaming at her. Reminiscing with my sister today we agreed she was a Saint. Both of us find ourselves saying sorry to her in our heads despite the fact she has been gone many years now.

Processing grief, as well as stepping out on your own into the big wide world is daunting at any age. I think though that when that person has additional needs to deal with, that it’s a lot harder. The last thing you want to do is crawl home to your parents and admit you got it wrong. It adds to the frustration of trying to find your own path through life to realise that maybe, just maybe mum and dad (if both are there) might have known what they were talking about.

Several times I found myself returning to my mums home, not because I wanted to, but because I had nowhere else to go. Jobs fell through and so did my place to live. Living back at home just frustrated me. I felt by going home that I was only half an adult, yet even when I took my frustration out on my mum, she remained calm. How on earth did she do it? Me? I’m like a volcano, constantly erupting in response. I frequently have to leave the room so I don’t loose my rag and say something I will later regret. How my husband stays calm as well, I don’t know. I think there must be a calm gene, that I missed out on in my rush to be an adult. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to say that I managed to stay calm during a recent disagreement with someone I don’t know. I understood that they were trying to help, however, having only one side of an argument can mean you don’t have the full facts. Even though my initial response was to react as I have done in the past, there was just enough space for me to draw a deep breathe and for once handle it maturely. Whether I’m able to do a repeat performance is still to be seen.

Why have I shared this? It is only recently that I have begun to understand how our actions are influenced by things that we have no control over. I had no control over the coming together of my parents, whose genetic makeup gave me both autism and adhd, neither did my children. My parents didn’t know they were autistic. Neither did I until recently. Despite trying my hardest to raise our children there is no handbook that can instruct you in what to do. All you can do is your best. You muddle through and hope that the lessons you’ve shared, and the experience you’ve used us enough to equip your children to do their own thing.

At the end of the day it is love that wins out. We can only keep reminding our children that despite getting things wrong, the one thing that remains solid like a thread is our love for them. Hopefully as they get older and wiser, they will forgive the mistakes and feel able to return home whenever they need to.