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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.

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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.