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For Those Who Can’t

I love camp. I enjoy riding my big trike around with the twins on their seats behind me, though each year the workout gets a bit harder! Annie and Audrey love it too. The lake breezes, the freedom of seeing what’s going around camp and especially zipping over to the camp meeting church services, or leaving in a hurry if need be. The other day I was riding our trike with the twins aboard on our way to the service. As we approached the Tabernacle, a gentleman commented, “nice ride!” As I dismounted I noticed he was standing holding the door open for us, so I commented back with a smile, “yep, for those who can’t ride!” To which he swiftly retorted, “or don’t want to”.
Ugh. A wave of heaviness swept over me and my throat tightened. I took a deep breath and courageously, in a calm but firm tone responded, “No…they… CAN’T.
Attempting to be gracious, I then continued with a brief explanation, and a forced smile, “They both have disabilities.” He kept standing there, holding the door, expressionless and almost angry looking, carefully eyeing my girls, who were now fully engaged in spinning in circles, iPads in hand and looking down, as they waited for me to gather up our things before entering the building. I told the man he didn’t have to wait for us, and with another bit of forced laughter, that, “we come with a lot of luggage”…I was trying to lighten the mood but he remained stone faced, almost stunned. We walked in past him, both Annie and Audrey of course not speaking, nor saying thank-you to the ‘gentleman’ because alas, they are non-verbal. I thanked him for holding the door. He walked in to his seat and sat down near the front. Funny, the hat he wore with the red letters ‘Jesus’ across the front seemed, well…you get the picture. Seriously?
I really don’t know whether he understood what had just transpired or if he was convicted at all, or angry that I confronted his careless remark or that my twins were so ill-mannered and obviously lazy. As if I would choose to cycle around on a 150lb bike with 2 passengers each weighing 115lbs! I like to stay fit but really?! Really. I think there are those whose world is just that small. I suppose it’s not an everyday sight but honestly, the judgement. Harsh and unthinking.

I was initially worried I had offended him but felt I had handled things well and I prayed that the Lord would take it from here. I pray the gentleman opens his heart and mind and thinks about what happened, about invisible disabilities and judgmental attitudes. I am not saying I have never done the same but my life’s situation has made me aware of such a tendency, that everyone has a story, and that grace wins every time. In any case, I am confident Annie and Audrey will continue to be used by the Holy Spirit to change the hearts and minds of all who are fortunate enough to encounter them…and for those who can’t see beyond what they think is going on, well, that’s up to Jesus.

Follow up to 100 Huntley St.

It’s not every day I get to speak about disability ministry and perhaps my nerves kept me from saying a few things I thought I could have.

I firmly believe ALL people belong in the Church, the community of believers, the fellowship, the Body of Christ. However without going out and inviting such persons and their families, going above and beyond in order to ensure their attendance and being absolutely fine when they don’t show up-even when we have made arrangements for volunteers to help, we are an incomplete Body and our functioning is slowed down, our effectiveness diminished.
The Church is missing parts of its Body due to a lack of understanding, seeking out, and making a way for people with cognitive and physical disabilities to be in it’s sanctuary and part of it’s community. Even those with profound intellectual impairments, who seemingly don’t need the Church at all, have something to give and need to be in fellowship with the believers-not just to be served but to serve. Presence alone is a gift.

Something else I wanted to express was with regards to the time when our family was asked to leave a church service because Annie & Audrey were a disturbance to the other churchgoers. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. My heart hurt a hurt I had never known. Rejection is a sharp pain to the soul. Maybe you can identify on another level? A parent leaves, a spouse gives up or a church simply says, “sorry, we can’t help. Try somewhere else”. I cried a lot that night and the following day. But the reassurance from the Holy Spirit was immediate and undeniable. “You took one for the team. I needed you to feel what so many have felt”. The words were clear and I knew His comfort once again. My humanity wanted to run away, to protect my babies and to deny anyone the pleasure of having them in their presence. They don’t deserve to know my kids anyway. But that’s not grace and also,  I had asked for a sign. “Am I on the right track? Do people really need to be educated about the need for disability ministry and that there are missing people from the Body?”

The Lord showed me this is where the rubber meets the road. My passion for ministering to people with disabilities was and is growing and I can’t help but share it, advocate “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8), and keep loving even the ones who just don’t understand, the ones who were annoyed in the church service that night. Gulp, love them, pray for them and believe that they will be part of changing the fabric of our churches.

There are some incredibly practical things we can do. Are you willing to learn? Are you believing that God wants this? Can you imagine being led by, “those parts of the body that SEEM to be weaker”(1 Cor:12:22)? How can we not? After all, the rest of the verse tells us that such people are “indispensable”!

Indispensable means: Absolutely necessary, essential, all important, of utmost importance, of the essence, vital, must-have, crucial, key, needed, required, imperative, invaluable. How can the Body of Christ possibly function properly without such parts?

All belong. Let’s be part of making it so. 🙂

Christmas 2015-Family Update

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Kirk & Me

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Russ, Lily, Audrey & Annie

Dear Family & Friends, ​​​​​​
Dreams, hopes and expectations; we all have them. But we also have disappointments, tragedies, and pain, don’t we? We know that God is a giver of good gifts and He is continually surprising our family and blessing us in unexpected ways. Here are our family updates…
Lily is 15 and in grade 10. She is involved with a few school clubs and working hard in all her classes to stay on the honour roll. She attends Youth group and regularly invites her classmates along. Lily is still an avid knitter and movie/show watcher. Downton Abbey, Dr.Quinn, and Heartland are among her favourites. She likes Family Studies courses best, especially child studies, cooking and baking. Lily passed her Bronze Medallion this fall and will likely be studying hard for her drivers test next year!
Russ is 14 and in grade 9 at the same high school as Lily. They ride their bikes together and will continue to until the snow comes. Russ has been faithfully delivering the Brampton Guardian for over 2 years and is appreciated by the neighbours, as he scooters his way around the street delivering. He attends Youth Group with Lily and his cousins and likes all things Minecraft. He is our go-to guy for everything technical we need help with. Russ loves playing hockey for the Brampton Bears and is doing well on defence. He loves dirt biking with Kirk and their buddies.
Audrey & Annie are 12 and in grade 7 in the same contained ASD/DD (Autism Spectrum Disorder/Developmental Delayed) classroom they were in last year. The same teachers, TAs, bus driver and bus attendant made September an easy transition. They both got to attend Kids Camp at Lakeshore Pentecostal Camp (LPC), (where we have our cottage), this summer. We hired 2 respite workers from home and brought them with us to camp. LPC accommodated them and they took the girls to the kid’s camp activities and services as much as possible. It was a wonderful week for all of us.
Seizure control has been challenging as usual, and the girl’s growth and developmental changes that come with being adolescents have impacted them, as expected. Annie was hospitalized in May 2014 for 5 days due to her having 30-40 seizures per day and much aggression, as a result. We felt like we had been to seizure-management boot camp, and although it was a turbulent experience, we learned how better to manage these episodes. There are still meltdowns and frustrations and Annie needs to nap daily, but we are managing.
Audrey is in the choir this year at school and loves to practice at school and at home with her iPad. She is almost too big to stand on the bay window, where she often rehearses, curtains and all! She loves singing and dancing and reciting familiar phrases from shows she loves. Audrey hates tooth brushing, is fearful of dogs and still pretty sly about getting the iPad Annie has.
Annie loves her reflection and is quite chatty these days. She made her way onto the stage during the Pastor’s sermon a few months ago, as she was quite taken with her own reflection in the drum set, plexiglass cage. The pastor simply said, “Welcome to the Stage!” Annie still nicknames people and imitates very well, to the point we are not sure if it’s her or the thing/person she’s imitating! She loves music too and reciting her memory verses the girls learn at Pioneer Clubs on Wednesday nights at church. iPads truly are teaching language.
Kirk is still working hard at firefighting and running Fire and Ice Heating and Cooling. He is also great about taking care of all the stuff here at our home and being my partner in raising tweens and teens. He tries to get to shinny hockey with the fire guys and hopes to hit the slopes with the 2 eldest this winter, should it ever snow!
I am busy keeping our home as usual, among other things… I graduated with my Bachelor of Theology in April and have just completed my first 2 of 10 courses for my Masters in Disability (online). I am speaking more regularly and had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at Masters College and Seminary this fall. I had an article published in alliance.ca Magazine (spring 2014), and in Testimony magazine (July/August 2015). I am excited to see where the Lord is leading and trust that I am on the right track.
As we continue to walk this journey of raising twins with special needs and two teenagers, working hard to provide for our family, as well as seeking to do whatever God has for us to do, we are constantly faced with choices and decisions in the midst of it all. Sometimes we are overwhelmed. It’s in those moments when we look up and remember Jesus, and the gift He was and is for the world. That through Jesus all people have a way back to God. We find comfort in knowing that God loves us. We are strengthened by His Spirit and take courage when things seem impossible. We keep following Jesus, because: He is the “wonder of Christmas” and the “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:1), all year round.
May God bless you in unexpected ways and use you to be an unexpected blessing in the life of someone else both at Christmas and throughout 2016.
With love, Andrea, Kirk, Lily’s, Russ, Audrey & Annie Foster
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

Answered Prayers

Foster Family Update
It’s been an amazing 3 weeks. Lily, along with her cousin John, walks to school each day and has settled into high school-making new friends, joining the Christian Club and excited about her classes. She’s now in Sr.High Youth at church and is a Pioneer Club leader.
As part of the Davis Athletic Council Russ got to attend Cedar Ridge Camp during week 2 and unfortunately has been down with a nasty cold since. He’s loving gr.8 so far and all is well otherwise. Hockey starts today 🙂 Russ is in Jr.Hi Youth and is also a Pioneer Club leader.
Annie and Audrey are so happy in their new school. I was able to hire a worker to go with them and basically train the school team on Annie & Audrey. I thought I might need her for 2-3 weeks but by day 3, Julia was out of a job. 🙂 My biggest concern was that Audrey wouldn’t let anyone feed or change her and be generally anxious in her new class. She had been in the same school for 7 years, with the same TA. We were pleasantly surprised. The girls ride the bus with one other boy from their class and there is a bus assistant for the 3 of them. They are in an ASD/DD contained class. 6 kids, 3 TAs & 1 teacher-an incredible team. So far they are getting on and off the bus happily and we see no sign of anxiety. Except for today, when they’re stuck at home with me! Lol! They will go out for the afternoon and Kirk and I will work outside. Yard & pool maintenance:)
Both girls will attend Pioneer Clubs this year along with their workers.
My 2nd last course (for my BTh) starts this Wednesday, in class. I’m almost done Beyond Suffering and will take the Leaders course during a week in October, online. Perhaps an article to come as well. I’m also headed out to Winnipeg to speak at Calvary Temple’s Women’s Christmas event in November. I am excited to share our testimony of our unchanging, faithful God in our ongoing, difficult season.
I know things are not going as smoothly for many of you, as they haven’t for us at times. Hang in there and don’t be afraid to ask the Lord for help, strength and wisdom. He is always listening and able to carry our worries if we let Him.

I also know there have been many many people earnestly praying for us and this is evidence that God hears those prayers, that my trusting Him has been honoured by Him and that God truly goes before, beside and behind us always. We are so thankful for smooth transitions, for unexpected blessings and for the pure joy we have from seeing God’s hand in the tiniest details. Truly God is still faithful in our ongoing season and He deserves the glory. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Tolerance isn’t Love.

I think once we remove the word “tolerant”, only then can we truly love as Jesus loves. If we ever find ourselves annoyed by, “disruptions”, who happen to be people, we ought to look inward first. Otherwise we will only see such a, “disruption” as something to be removed, when what must be removed is ones own entitled heart attitude. Heart transformation is what is most needed by all and is what I pray most for as I move into disability ministry; for hearts to be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. It can’t happen any other way. Only then can ears hear, feet move into action and hearts to be full of genuine compassion. Then will the church truly incorporate ALL people it ought to. No matter how uncomfortable or unorthodox it may appear. It takes courage and prayer.

Only then will the Spirit fall and allow people see Jesus in us.

But maybe that is the very thing we are afraid of. After all, revivals, extended worship times and tongue speaking are inconvenient, sometimes loud and at times untidy. Surely not what the Church is meant to look like…or is it?<
Time to read the book of Acts.

Trust and Obey

Let’s face it, disabilities are hard. Caring for my daughters who have tuberous sclerosis complex, epilepsy, autism and global developmental delay, is exhausting. I want them to be whole of course, but who am I to judge that their spiritual condition is not already whole in spite of the physical and cognitive limitations they possess? Is it my place to discern whether their relationship with God is more or less intimate than most? I love them as they are and believe they are made in God’s image, as the Bible teaches we all are.
Annie and Audrey’s disabilities are an inconvenience and perhaps uncomfortable for them, which makes my heart ache and spurs me on to look after their needs even better; to serve them with my whole heart. Of course toileting, bathing, dressing, and feeding are all duties I wish they could do independently but for what purpose? Right now, all of these tasks humble me and allow me continually to thank God for the many ways my life has been spiritually blessed, in the midst of fulfilling these tasks and needs.
It has been over a decade since Annie and Audrey were diagnosed with TSC and I have always felt I should pray for their healing, in spite of my being at peace with who they are, as they are. It’s another illogical piece of this puzzle I have been asked to put into place.
A section of study in my Beyond Suffering course shed light on why God has placed healing in my heart. Not because I expect them to not have TSC here on earth, but because they are human beings who need to know Jesus more intimately every day, no matter how much they appear to be unable to comprehend such complicated concepts.God is more interested in our spiritual healing than He is in our physical healing. It’s not for me to decide whether my girls need need prayer for healing/wholeness but it is up to me to pray as Jesus taught us, to call on His name when things seem out of control, to pray for healing when it doesn’t make sense, to pray in a tongue given by the Holy Spirit which I can’t understand and to expect great things because God is great. It takes the pressure off, knowing my job is really quite simple. Trust and obey.

I Messed Up

Last week I began to get discouraged again, as it seemed Annie was once again having seizures, and was lethargic and aggressive at times. It seems once we get her settled on a new drug or dose, she is good for a few weeks and then bam, downhill we go and we are troubleshooting TSC again. It’s discouraging but we always press on. 

I was looking at the new bottle of pills my mom had picked up from the pharmacy and was about to explain to Julia (a respite worker), that they were bigger and how many we give etc…when it hit me…these pills are 200mg, not 100mg as I had assumed. Aaahhh! I had given Annie one whole pill rather than only a half like the bottle said. I had not read the bottle, or had not had the usual conversation with the pharmacist at pick-up and had not paid attention to the 200 on the actual pill either. I felt terribly guilty and relieved all at the same time.

Annie had been doing so well since being sick with a cold last month, and my mistake had caused her to be, well a bit snowed for a few days. Thankfully, I caught the error after only 3 days of the extra doses and knew that since her body was used to the drug, she would be okay. I am soooo grateful this mistake was caught so soon, as it could have been rather horrible for Annie had it carried on longer, or worse…well, thank God it didn’t.

It was a reminder for me to “pay attention”, to not beat myself up over mistakes and to thank God that things didn’t get worse. Best of all, it has been 4 days now, (back on the correct dose), and I am happy to report that Annie is doing much better. She has been so happy and has even been cooperating at school to get some of her schoolwork done. Phew. 

I am human. I am not supermom. I am prayed for.

I am not alone. 

God answered the prayers of whomever has prayed for me at some point, that I might “be aware of the Holy Spirit”, that I “would be strong”, that I “would be able to keep going even when the storm seems to be coming again”. God heard those prayers and He answered. Thank you. Image

I am thankful for false alarms and the swiftness of a very big God who cares enough to remember me when I mess up. 

Blessings friends. 

Our Decade with Epilepsy and TSC-In Honour of March 26, Wear Purple for Epilepsy Day.

January 2004- My twin baby girls were 5 months old.

I bit my lip hard in an effort not to cry. No one in that room knew that Annie was an identical twin. Nobody knew about Audrey, our other baby at home.

The looks of shock on the medical team’s faces told me, this was not good news. After Annie’s diagnosis at Sick Kids, we were warned to keep our eye on Audrey and make the necessary calls to the doctor to get some tests set up for her as well. 3 weeks later Audrey began having seizures and the diagnosis followed. Audrey too has TSC.

Both girls have Epilepsy.

2005-6

My toddlers were not progressing well.

They slept little.

They had seizures.

They were obsessive/compulsive; which were the beginning signs that they might also have autism.

They didn’t know who I was.

I cried to my mom, “I just want them to know who I am!”

THIS was not what I had expected my life to be.

This season was not ending.

I questioned.

“How can God expect me to take care of my two “typical” children as well as my babies, if I am tired and unable to cope?” My twin toddlers were insomniacs who had seizures and so many other issues.

Their future looked bleak.

The Neurologist said, “most people with neurological dysfunction HAVE sleep disorder.

Most discouraging.

I was exhausted.

I was out of patience.

I shook my fist at God.

I cried.

I screamed…

”THIS IS all I can handle!”

And then it stopped.

I stopped…..

I opened my fist…..

….and I began to receive truth.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

And then Luke 12:6 popped into my head-

 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

I received His wisdom.

God had not forgotten us.

I realized I had a choice to make.

Keep whining to God and complaining about how hard this season was OR,

decide to stop being angry at God and look for ways to use my wakeful times for something good.

In my ongoing difficult season…

I chose to give God my worries, my fears and my broken heart.

I chose to turn on the kettle, at 4am, have some tea and open my Bible.

In the wee hours of the night, sometimes, I chose to connect with people on the internet, whose children had also been diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis and Epilepsy.

I chose to be a part of a support network of families whose lives were touched by TSC.

I chose to stay connected with my church family.

I chose to be thankful.

Thankfulness changed my life.

I became less focused on the injustice and difficulty of our situation and more focused on the goodness and the faithfulness of God.

I began to experience something supernatural.

Joy in the midst of Epilepsy, and TSC, and insomnia, and autism and….

I realized that God doesn’t make mistakes.

He had entrusted these two “special” girls to our family for a reason.

God designed our family.

He designed your family.

Lily and Russell are the specific brother and sister for Annie and Audrey.

Kirk and I are the specific parents God meant for them all to have.

God’s design wasn’t flawed.

2014 – My twin baby girls are 10year old toddlers.

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex has caused our daughters to have Epilepsy (seizures), global developmental delay, and autism.

We are still forcing a total of 12-20 pills down Annie and Audrey’s throats, 3 times a day, just to keep seizures under control. Although this is our “new normal”, it’s a task which I find never gets easier.

Annie eats fairly well.

Audrey eats only purees.

Neither feeds themselves.

Both fight the pills.

Annie and Audrey are still affected by TSC and Epilepsy but for nearly 6 yrs Audrey has been 90% seizure-free, and on less medication. 

Annie has had some times of seizure control but is still on much more medication and struggles with aggression when seizures hit.

Both Annie and Audrey attend our local school and Pioneer Clubs (at church), and their peers seem to love them.

Kirk and I thank God for tiny victories and still believe in healing.

I still pray for more patience, which I never seem to have enough of.

I still give thanks for the many blessings and milestones, big or small….and write them down.

I still have questions and wonder about the future.

I still get tired of changing diapers, giving meds and troubleshooting seizures and aggressive behaviours.

Yet somehow,

I am not beaten down and I am not destroyed.

The Holy Spirit has given me unexplainable peace about my girls never leaving home.

 I am stronger now and closer to the Lord than ever before.

Kirk and I are partners on this journey and our marriage is strengthened in spite of the odds.

This journey with Epilepsy and TSC has not been easy and continues to be a challenge every single day, but it is the path God has put us on …and we trust Him.

The truth is God hasn’t shown me what will happen next year, next month or even tomorrow but I’m not worried or anxious about it.  

I see this life as a privilege and an honour; one I cannot live out well on my own strength.

On my own, I am weak, angry, anxious and confused.

With God, I am strong, loving, carefree and wise.

I have experienced true joy when my children learn something new, sing and dance, or simply play the way other children play.

Joy, when my older kids want to help or ask me quietly, “mom, are you okay?”

I have also experienced true grief over the loss of dreams and what I had expected this life to be.

Grief that never seems to fully go away because the seizures never really stop, and my babies never really get to grow up.

Grief when my older kids want to help or ask me quietly, “mom, are you okay?”

But…God has given me dreams for the future and excitement about what might lie ahead.

He is here, walking with me, talking with me, and carrying me when weariness or chronic sorrow overwhelms me.

When I lean over and kiss Annie’s forehead and I tell her I love her, I am quite sure she will not tell me, “I love you too” or kiss me back. In fact, she may even react with kicking, pinching and crying. She can’t help it. She has epilepsy…seizures every day, is developmentally two years old and autistic…all getting in the way of her being the person she was created to be.

In a similar way, when God leans in to draw me closer to Himself, sometimes through difficult circumstances, sometimes I react badly- with kicking, pinching and crying. I get frustrated, just like Annie and Audrey do and I want to push God away. My selfishness gets in the way.Thankfully, God is unchanging and He loves me anyway. His patience and grace overwhelms me and I know He wants the best for me, just as I want the best for my children.

My character is being shaped by a very big and very gracious God, who cares enough about me that He is still interested in changing me-making me holy- as I choose to walk by faith, lay all my cares at His feet and ask Him to forgive me my mistakes.And He doesn’t want to see me fail.Image

So, for now I will continue living my life with eternity in mind and stay  focused on doing whatever God has for me today, that one day, when my daughters are free from Epilepsy and all that TSC has caused them to cope with, we might all hear the words of our Heavenly Father:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

 

On Halloween

Excellent thoughts on Halloween. 🙂

Jenna Pelias

I think I may actually offend many of the church going people I know with this post. I’m not sorry. Just so we’re clear, you know – in advance.

(*Edited to add that when this post was written in 2012, the only people who read it were my church going friends who really know me, and they know that when I say I might offend them, that I’m saying so in a let’s-still-be-friends-even-if-we-disagree, kind of way. I did not expect this blog to blow up the way it did the following year in 2013. I did not intend to offend the church going people everywhere, all the time. Holy smokes. But that seems to be what happened, however unintentional.)

Every Halloween it’s the same silly thing.

People getting annoyed with the gore. The focus on death. The devil. The blood.

And you know, I’m not a huge fan of all…

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A Hallowed Welcome

“This is what they do in Canada!” As a young Dutch immigrant my mom was thrilled with trick or treating. Treats were few in their home and a meal often consisted of bacon fat poured over potatoes. Halloween was not celebrated in Holland and the trick or treating  custom was fully embraced by my mom and her siblings. And they were good, Christian kids.

So, as children, we too took on the tradition of going door to door asking for treats. Our one neighbour even had us sit on her front bench each year, and took our picture. As Little Red Riding Hood, I recall being so sure I saw a witch fly past the moon on her broomstick. It was magical. If a house had scary decorations or lights were out, we skipped them. I was always proud to carry the UNICEF box, strung around my neck, and bring it in to school the next day, hopefully full of change.

Times changed. Maybe it was the reports of people finding apples tampered with or razor blades in homemade cookies which changed things. Perhaps incidents, like the time my cousins got beat up for their candy, or approached by strangers caused fear in parents and avoiding the whole thing was thought best. Or is it the obvious disregard for human life. I honestly don’t understand decorating one’s home with death and gore. I believe society has fallen prey to marketers once again. If they put it on the shelf, someone will buy it. Grim Reapers, body parts and tombstones for the front lawn. Cheap.

Don’t get me wrong. I love fall in Ontario. The colours are incredible and the cooler days refresh. I decorate my front porch with mums, gourds and pumpkins. But gravestones, blood and zombies? No thanks. I realize the supernatural is real. Satan is real. There is a spiritual battle going on, for your soul and for mine. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s real. But Jesus Christ resides in me. I’m safe. I understand the saints who want to avoid opening up that can of worms to their children. I don’t want to either. But Harry Potter is another story…

I have friends and family who have said “no” to Halloween altogether. Most are Christians and their reasons vary. I’m not here to critique their choice. After all, they know what’s best for their family. I’m here to give the reason for my choice.

I believe in Harvest parties and I also believe in trick or treating.
How can I have both? I can, because not every year is the same. It’s because predictability is not always reality, and flexibility is a character trait which I am thankful, has been forced upon me.

I remember for a few years, Kirk was on night shifts on Halloween. Lily and Russell were little and the twins were babies and then toddlers. I hired a babysitter or asked my mom to come over. I took the two older kids to the harvest party. They loved it and always wanted to go. I wished we could all go together, as a family but we couldn’t.

I did my best at making things normal for them and always worked hard at finding costumes. I invested heavily in dress-up clothes, as it was one of Lily’s favourite pastimes. Maybe it’s the ECE in me. I value and understand the importance of dramatic play and always encouraged it in my kids. I could only dream of Annie and Audrey wanting to dress up. I dressed them up anyway on Halloween, for school, knowing their classmates would enjoy it.

Lily and Russ soon asked if they could trick or treat instead of going to the Harvest Party. I agreed but told them if it was raining, we’d go to the church. Some years we visited a few neighbours we knew well and then took off for the Harvest party. I liked the warmth, the games, the fellowship with my friends and sister, and yes, the treats. The Harvest Party suited me just fine and the twins and Kirk even came a couple times when he wasn’t working.

Trick or Treating
I’d like to tell you God told me to “open my door”, to “be a light in the darkness”, but He didn’t. I came to realize, that it was dark out by 7pm. We could trick or treat on our street, be home by 8, and have the kids in bed before 9! The added bonus was, Audrey wanted to walk with us. In recent years, Kirk usually stays home and shells out candy with Annie.

The other bonus – we get to meet our neighbours.

One year, as we were a few houses away from being back to our home, a neighbour invited me in. Her husband was very ill in hospital and she wanted to visit. I sent the kids home and sat down with her. Another neighbour, showed up at the door with a glass of wine and bruschetta for my saddened neighbour. She returned with another glass of wine and bruschetta for me, once she realized I was there. I live on a nice street. I ended up praying for my neighbour and felt we had established a friendship, despite the 45 year age gap. I’d like to tell you that I still see her but I don’t. I attended her husbands funeral and did my best to go over for tea. But she is now a shut-in and is a private person. She hasn’t  let me in again but my prayers still hold her up.

On Halloween I make a point to I introduce myself to my neighbours. I write their names down when I get home and even had a list on my fridge at one point, which helped me learn them. Off the top of my head I can name well over 30 names, and would feel comfortable engaging in conversation with nearly all of them on the street. Some only see my kids on Halloween night and they are always  thrilled when we come to their door.

Camping on Labour Day at a particular campground was also a time for trick or treating for us. It was a fun tradition there and something we got to share with good friends from far away. The memories are lovely.

Halloween 2011

Once again I dressed Annie and Audrey up in the easy wear-over-anything-pumpkin costume, as I had for years. Audrey realized she was dressed as a pumpkin and patted herself saying “pumpkin, pumpkin”. I caught it on film and for the next year she would watch it on the iPod and would often request, in her little non-verbal way, to wear her pumpkin! What a gift. This year, my brother gave Audrey and Annie turkey hats for Thanksgiving and to my surprise they played with them and wanted them onthemselves, or on us! Dramatic play 101, here we go! 

My kids are 13, 12, 10 & 10 now. This might be Annie’s first year to walk with us for trick or treating and the older kids last. Annie’s  been less aggressive and much happier than ever these past months. Without sounding too much like Eeyore, I am not holding my breath but I am hopeful we can walk the neighbourhood on October 31. This was the first fall we were able to take family walks together after dinner. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal to most. You see, Annie and Audrey could become agitated and just stop, or have a meltdown, so we often opted for just playing outside or not even bothering.

The reality for our family is that we will likely not rent a popcorn machine or have carnival games on our front lawn. Maybe we will give out great chocolate or maybe licorice. Or maybe my jr. leader – 12 and 13 year olds will help run games at the church Harvest Party. Flexibility and being open to where we should go -that’s what we will do. 

Whatever this year’s treats turns out to be, whether they come from the Harvest Party or from neighbours, my response is what matters. Halloween isn’t the only day of the year my door should be open. I want my neighbours, as well as my Church family to know my door is always open. Whether things are tidied and in order or there are puzzle pieces thrown down the stairs, and the curtain rod is pulled out from the wall. My lights are on, we invite, and welcome is something  more than just a phrase on a plaque or a mat at my door.  It’s something I am, (at least I want to be) every day of the year.