A Holy Riot (or, the time Jesus threw down at the temple)

A HOLY RIOT
or, the time Jesus threw down at the temple
by Jenna Pelias
April 18, 2017

There was a lecture I heard once about the time that Jesus made a whip and threw down on the money changers in the temple, declaring that they’d made the house of God a “den of robbers.” I don’t remember most of the lectures I took in during college. Not like this one anyway, and it’s been on my mind almost constantly lately.

Sitting in a stacking chair at a folding table, taking notes by hand as was the custom in the early 2000’s before everyone carried laptops and Starbucks around like status symbols, I found myself unexpectedly riveted. It was a Bible class or I suppose it had to have been. Which class? Which prof? I don’t remember. I just remember the prof explaining this passage out of the Gospels in a way that made it unfold like the opening of a gift, and it’s stuck in my head forever and ever Amen.

So what was going on? It was exactly 5 minutes and 47 seconds after what Christians today know as Palm Sunday – Jesus had just arrived in Jerusalem ahead of the Passover on the back of a donkey to the streets lined with people waving palm branches and praising God. Quite the spectacle, I’m sure. The imagery of this event is similar but also unlike that of his mother Mary arriving the same way into Bethlehem about to birth God made flesh into the world just over thirty years prior. What a parallel with this Jesus arriving on a donkey first to be born with scattered and bewildering fanfare, then later arriving to the praise of the masses oblivious that He’d come to die. Jewish people from everywhere were pouring into the temple ahead of Passover to bring the required sacrifices and offerings to God. That’s where Jesus went first, too. Perhaps He was presenting Himself to the Father quietly as an offering.

This Passover pilgrimage was not taken lightly. Some would bring only the very best of their own animals after careful scrutiny, and others who were coming too far would bring the money to buy the required animals when they arrived. As the people would show their animals to be inspected by the priests to determine suitability for offering, the animals would often be refused for any imperfection the priest could find, forcing business to boom for those selling *pre-approved* animals like credit cards there in the Temple courtyard. But you couldn’t just buy your offering with the silver or gold or copper in your purse. You had to use the Temple currency. The money changers would exchange whatever coin or currency the people had for the Temple currency at such a high exchange rate that they were robbing the people of the ability to bring the appropriate, required offerings to God. Worship was made impossible. Jesus was furious.

This “den of robbers” were the religious leaders who had set up the House of God as a racket, denying the people access to God by putting too many obstacles in their way before they could even get in the door. People who were thrilled, excited, weary, who had waited and saved and brought everything they had to give, who came from near and far – denied. So Jesus braided that whip and unleashed Heaven’s fury, consumed by zeal for the House of God, throwing tables and driving out the sellers and money changers and people who were holding up this corrupt system of selling your soul to the church in order to get saved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What happened next is incredible.  The blind and lame came to Jesus for healing, unhindered. Children sang out in worship. The chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant. (Matthew 21:14-15) A holy riot turned the temple upside down that day. The next time Jesus showed up at the temple He was questioned about who gave Him the authority, but He shut down their line of questioning faster than they could think of the next rebuttal. By the time Jesus sat down at the table for the Last Supper – the Passover meal – He had exhausted Himself teaching in parables about the second coming, holiness, and salvation. It went right over their heads. The plot against Him thickened.

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My little girl pouring out praise to God with all she has in her, hands in the air, on Easter Sunday.

Jesus knew what He was doing all that time. He called His followers to the cross long before He ended up dying on one, remember. And so as He took His last breath the curtain of the temple He’d just undone, was torn. Heaven was indignant. Worship would never be the same.

All through Easter this story of Jesus flipping tables in the temple has been weighing on me. Because there are people here and now, waiting just outside the church, weary, uncertain of whether they will be welcome to walk through the doors at all, never mind participate in worshiping God or getting to know the Savior known as Jesus. When the Gospel is safely hidden away behind lifestyle agreements, boycotts, political posturing, push back *against* social justice as if that’s what Jesus would ever do, backbiting, and arguments over the rules for conduct and Christian behavior – well there’s no good news in there left for anyone except for those who probably don’t even need it.

So what? Would they like a pat on the back for keeping the sinners and hypocrites and prisoners and forgotten and abused and condemned and weirdos and strays out of the pews? Let’s also not forget the faithful who are waking up to the needs and groaning and pain outside the walls of the church, but being told to sit down and shut up or lose support, credibility, and relationship. Maybe it’s time for some tables to get flipped again. Maybe it’s time for that zeal for the House of God to consume us because the Gospel isn’t getting any younger over here and people are being both actively and passively robbed of the ability to worship God. For shame.

Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve been kept away because you live wrong, love wrong, look wrong, ask the wrong questions, have the wrong afflictions, or know right from wrong but keep messing up anyway. “Come to ME,” Jesus says. He says that. I cannot stand in the gap to apologize for whatever racket robbed you and kept you on the wrong side of the curtain, but I can pour some gas on the curtain and burn it if that would help instead. We can warm our hands around that fire and I can tell you about my Jesus. Or maybe you’re in it. You love Jesus and you want everybody to know the goodness and mercy of God but the church, the “Christian Machine” which is a whole thing that isn’t looking good for any of us long term, is telling you to shut up and sit down. Boycotting you. Pulling support. Cutting off relationship. Indignant. That is robbery too.

To all of that, I know one simple thing to be true. God is good. He is never going to stop being good. Jesus didn’t die on that cross and kick death in the face to live again and make a way for us to know the Father, just for *anyone* to start putting qualifications on that kind of miracle. When the people caught up in rules and requirements are indignant while right in front of their own eyes the prisoners are being set free and the sick are being healed and the children are singing out praises to God, well maybe we need to just know them by their fruit and let the Gospel speak for itself. We can exhaust ourselves arguing with the spiritually deaf, or we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to let zeal for the Gospel consume us. Because nobody should be required to sell their soul to the church to get saved. And maybe it’s time for a holy riot around here to remind us of that.

copyright (c) 2017  Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

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Devotion

DEVOTION
When hindsight breathes life into the New Year. 
By Jenna Pelias

We stopped participating in formal church activity for a couple of years once. No attending services or events. Largely disconnected from people and community. Church failures of the highest degree. We were okay with that. You would think that if we were going to stop being part of church at any point in our lives it would have been when Glenn resigned from ministry to deal with issues in his personal life and rebuilding our marriage. That was in 2009. He did in fact stop going for a time, while I continued to attend solo. But it was in 2012/13 that we peaced out of the church altogether.

Rosalie was a baby. Olivier was an extremely busy toddler. Andreas was being formally assessed for autism as we prepared him to start kindergarten that fall. Mateo was 6-7 and a generally easy kid but the needs of his siblings were sometimes hard on him. Our lives were busy and full and exhausting and rewarding and never dull for a single moment ever. 2012 was actually so intense that I need to look at photos to remember what happened and when. I can’t recall most of that year on my own. #momoftheyear

We wanted to be part of church. We really did. We’d go and I would spend the whole time nursing or comforting Rosalie, being called to the nursery to deal with Olivier’s ridiculous separation anxiety, or being called to the preschool room because Andreas could not tolerate church back then – the response from teachers was often an assumption that he just needed to be disciplined more. Mateo didn’t mind Sunday school but with the entire time there spent running between the other three kids to deal with their various needs, we had all come to dread going to church.

The kids didn’t want to go. We didn’t want to take them. Everyone was miserable every time we left. Andreas cried the whole way home and melted down for the rest of the day every Sunday. I think for me one of the “last straws” was going to check on Andreas and finding him sitting in a chair in a corner because he was upset. He wasn’t misbehaving. He was upset. And the teacher couldn’t handle him so she made him go away. I hadn’t yet learned how to advocate for him or even that I needed to. I didn’t expect people to understand or know what to do, as I wasn’t even there yet myself. Why were we doing this to ourselves and our kids? We didn’t even know. So we stopped.

And it was the best thing we ever did for our family.

We started spending our Sundays taking in church services online in our living room. The pressure was off of our kids and we were able to rethink what a healthy spiritual life looks like. We weren’t sure we knew. Glenn had my blessing to do music anytime but I wasn’t dragging my kids along for the ride just to play the part of the smiling, supportive family. There are a lot of ways to support a spouse involved in ministry whether they are paid or volunteer, and for us the best way to support him was to stay home. So that he could focus on being part of the team without worrying about how I was handling the gong show that was our kids and Sunday School. I’m told there were people who had a problem with what they perceived as a “lack of support” for Glenn on my part, but not a one of them ever talked to me about where I was at or how things were going, so to hell with them all was my over-it attitude.

It wasn’t just the kids though. Glenn and I needed time to ourselves. We were still healing and working things out. Church for me had become such a burden. It felt like the walls were closing in on me every time we walked in the door. I needed that time away and to be able to just lay it all down. It was life giving. It probably saved my busted up faith.

A little bit of time passed and we were all ready to try again. We knew that being part of a faith community is important to both of us and something we want for our kids. So in 2014 we joined up with some friends who’d planted a church. Glenn jumped into doing worship with them. I focused all of my energy on getting my kids to go to Sunday School, and stay in their class. It helped that they were together. It helped that Andreas had a couple of years of school under his belt and was comfortable in a classroom. It helped that Olivier had grown out of his separation anxiety. It helped that Mateo and the pastor’s son are best friends. My little firecracker Rosalie wasn’t having one bit of Sunday School and it took a good year or more to get her to stay in that room but I was patient. The whole church was patient with my noisy girl, God bless them every one. She wasn’t used to it and that was fine. We did our best.

We spent 2 years in that church. It was like a hospital where we didn’t have to have it perfectly together and our kids didn’t have to be perfectly behaved and we just had to show up and be part of it. Leaving this past spring wasn’t easy but we had to be obedient to the Lord’s leading so we stepped out. Why? We weren’t 100% sure. It wasn’t for us to know I guess. Glenn still goes back to lead worship for them sometimes and Mateo is still best friends with the pastor’s son, who I am secretly hoping Rosalie grows up and marries one day. So I guess it’s possible to “leave” a church and still be part of it because that’s what we did and it’s weird but it’s fine, somehow.

This year was a year of devotion – to our family. I didn’t see it that way. Hard decisions don’t look or feel like devotion sometimes. When I look back though, everything that has happened and changed since 2009 has been a journey of devotion. Devotion to our marriage and family, in a way that honors God. We have failed so many times in so many ways. But we keep learning from those failures and we keep starting over, every day.

We made a commitment last New Year’s to having a daily time of devotions with our kids. I picked up a devotional book and we read one almost every night before bed. It was so simple. A resolution that actually stuck! When we settled on a church to attend this fall, the decision was based entirely on what our kids need right now for their spiritual formation. Glenn still does music for friends at different churches but our kids need something solid and consistent so we found that for them. I have never had such peace about my kids and church. Everything about our faith lives this year has centered around pouring health and life into our kids. Even when it has involved laying down our own passions and areas of ministry involvement or church preferences.

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It has changed them. It has changed us. The way we think about church, ministry, and family life has been totally altered. At the start of this year I wrote down that I felt God was calling us to make hard decisions for our family, that other people wouldn’t understand. That has been more true than I could explain here.

I wonder sometimes, what the future holds. This year and even the last few years, they’ve felt foundational. What we’re laying the foundation for? I don’t know but I do know that this time of being devoted has been purposeful. Devotion is more than reading a passage from a book. Devotion is discipline. It is prioritizing. It is making hard choices that other people don’t always understand. It is not always knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, but doing it anyway.

Most of all, devotion is worth it. People in this world are devoted to a lot of crazy things. Family is our crazy thing, as it turns out. Nothing else we do or become is worth it if our family isn’t healthy or the kids are getting our leftovers in terms of time and attention. Some years that has meant loving the Lord alone in our living room and other years it has meant showing up and serving just so that we could learn how to function in church again and this year it has meant hard choices and putting the faith of our kids first no matter the cost to us personally.

I don’t care anymore whether people understand or not. The people who do the most judging are usually doing it from afar, making assumptions without ever having a face to face conversation with us. We’ve been through hell over here and spoken about it publicly. It’s not a secret. Answering hard questions doesn’t actually phase us. We aren’t the most eloquent or polished but we are honest. We don’t have time to worry about whether other people understand or not anymore, because we are too busy living well with and for our kids, and that has been freedom.

I am one of those people who prays for a word for each new year. I’ve been doing it since forever, since before it was a ‘thing’ that I was aware of. Some years it has been an actual word. Some years it’s been a picture or metaphor. This year, my word for 2017 is everything I see in hindsight. My word for the new comes from the old. My word is devotion.

Devotion to old things and new ones. Devotion to my people. Devotion to the God who made me, saved me, and gives me grace every morning. I don’t often tell people what my word/picture/focus is from year to year. I’m not sure why I’m sharing it this year. Except that I wonder if there are others who also need to look back at how far they’ve come in order to see hope and life and freedom in whatever is coming next.

It’s a few days early, but Happy New Year. We’ve come a long way. I am willing to bet that you have too.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

When Christmas Is Grief and Glory

I felt her crawling into my bed that morning before my eyes were open. Blankets rustling as she shimmied her way 2 inches from my face, she didn’t even have time for a hello or good morning. “Mama what day is it?” she whispered at me, willing me to open my eyes. Good question. I had to think for a second on account of not being awake, before I replied that today is Wednesday. “How many days before Christmas?” she asked. Awake-enough now, I told her that we’ve got 4 more days til Christmas. She jumped off the bed and ran out of the room yelling that she had to go tell the boys how many days before Christmas. I rolled back over, smiling. Rosalie will be 5 in the New Year. She is at the most magical age for Christmas time. The wait is just about too much for her to bear.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
-Luke 1:13-14

I imagine Zacharias and Elizabeth when they were younger. Filled with a kind of hope and joy unique to newlyweds, anticipating a life together and growing their family. When did days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years, and years and years and years? How long did they hope and pray and plead with the Lord for a child, a family? What did people say? Why was she barren? What sin had they committed for the Lord to deny them? How long did Zacharias petition the Lord on behalf of his wife? How broken was his heart as he watched her keep track of the days, a wait every month just about too much to bear?

“What day is it,” he might ask her, gently, holding her hand in his.
“Never mind love. Maybe next time,” she might respond, quietly.
And he would petition the Lord again.

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
-Proverbs 13:12

In the waiting, they did what people do and continued to live their lives. He a priest, and she his wife. Luke’s Gospel says that “they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (1:6) Why was she barren? They would never know. As they grew old together and her time of being able to conceive and carry a child had gone, perhaps they made peace with their heartsickness over this tremendous loss of something they would never have. Hope deferred, then eventually abandoned. At some point, their prayers and petitions to the Lord had ceased.

“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
-The angel Gabriel to Mary, in Luke 1:36-37

She who was called barren. Elizabeth, a woman known for perceived emptiness; grief compounding grief. When glory replaced her grief, nobody knew for six months that forgotten longings had been fulfilled in her. She hid herself away, almost a prophetic foreshadowing of the kind of life her son would come to live later in the wilderness. Who can really blame her for choosing seclusion. A seclusion interrupted by Mary, given the news by the same angel who had come to announce Christ in her, too. Young virgin and old woman, each filled with new life. It is no wonder Mary stayed with Elizabeth until John was born. Women? We know we need each other to see life into this world. These women knew it too, because giving birth to a miracle is still giving birth, with the pain and joy and grief and glory all interwoven together.

Zacharias though, from the moment the angel told him what was to come, couldn’t believe it. How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years. (Luke 1:18) He had stopped pleading with the Lord a long time ago. And now this angel announces that the Lord has heard his petition? Now? But how? If prayers were letters handwritten to Heaven, this one had gone lost in delivery over and over again. The Lord had heard it too late. Hope had been deferred too long for Zacharias to believe in the impossible.

I have to confess that sometimes it feels like hope has been deferred too long for me too. There are prayers that have ceased for me over time. For you too I am willing to bet. Petitions for things whose time has come and gone, and so we all learn to make peace with the heartsickness over that which will never be. We think we know better. We’ve grown up, wised up, given up. We aren’t four or five years old anymore, counting down the days until Christmas with our mamas.

But maybe we should be. Maybe our letters handwritten to Heaven in heaving sobs or quiet desperation, are the ones He’s holding closest to His own heart. Awaiting the right time to breathe life into them, even long after we’re sure it’s too late. Maybe with God it’s only 4 days to Christmas and the waiting which feels too heavy and impossible for us, is wrapped up in a gift hidden away until the right time. A gift which may look nothing like what we prayed for in the beginning, but with a fullness, purpose, and beauty of its own.

There is no making light of grief here. There were lost years for Zacharias and Elizabeth before that baby rocked their world, and given their age it can only be assumed that they also lost years with their son that they would have had if he’d only come sooner. But oh the man he became, this son of humble parents who were righteous and obeyed God. His life ordained to call the attention of the Jewish people to the coming of Jesus.

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Isaiah 40:3

What if the things which are hardest to believe for, take the most time, and hurt profoundly in the waiting are the very same things which arrive all out of place but just in time to call our attention to the coming of Jesus in our lives too? The grief, barrenness, unanswered prayers, waiting, seclusion, and even the desert. Yes, especially the desert. Unlikely places as a barn in Bethlehem for the Savior of the world, God with us, to arrive. Yet there He is.

Are we finding ourselves in a wilderness this Christmas? This year? Prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus is coming. We are reminded at Christmas that God became flesh, born to suffer and die, and that He has promised to return. That God has heard our petitions, too late and just in time, and even as all creation groans for a Savior, the weary world is set to rejoice. And we fall on our knees. Angels sing. His Kingdom is coming.

Yes, Christmas is more than counting down to presents.

It is the anticipation of the fullness of joy in His presence. It is the something inside of us that leaps like a prophet in his mother’s womb when we know that Jesus is but a heartbeat away. Christmas may or may not be merry. God never promised anyone a merry Christmas but in this world we do have troubles don’t we? There is so much grief in the here and now that the world can hardly contain its own suffering. We become acutely aware of everything wrong when the season is supposed to be filled with everything right – but that might be point. There is right and there is wrong, and it will all be set right one day. Christmas reminds us that we are called to carry on and keep the faith until it is, heartsick and out of prayers to pray and all.

In Christmas is grief and glory, bringing life where none should even be able to grow, miracles manifested in the absolutely impossible. We live in this tension of now and not yet, all because God is both with us and coming back. And with the earnest faith of a little girl who believes in good things coming soon and counting down every day, may we make every single day count. Even when hope deferred is about too much to bear. Because good things are coming. Jesus is coming. Prepare the way. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Love Greater

Blood. Not so long ago, it was common medical practice to stick people with something sharp to let the blood out. It was a go to, a cure all, for an astonishing number of conditions. Let the blood out, we have too much of it, balance the bodily humors, and maybe the sickness will go out with it. They were wrong mostly and it seems barbaric, even criminal, today to consider such a crude course of treatment. We are more likely to do the opposite and give a patient more blood when the need arises, than to take it away. And where does the blood for patients come from? Donors. From people who show up at clinics to voluntarily get stuck with something sharp, giving of their own blood to save the life of another.

Perhaps we have not come so far as we think in our current age, because it seems as though the entire world is set to bleed itself to death anyway. And on such a scale as would seem wholly barbaric to those who came before us. With explosives and guns these days rather than 18th century fleams and whatever-passed-for-needles in ancient times, we are hell bent on letting the blood out, certain that in its taking will be found justice or vengeance or righteousness or satisfaction.

We have a way to go in this bleeding, broken world. Medicine has figured out that it is in the giving of blood, not the taking, that lives are saved. It is when people line up ready to bleed for each other rather than to bleed each other out that miracles take place. Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And then the God who calls us friends laid down His life, bleeding out on the cross until death came like a shadow, taking even Him.

I think His friends then must have felt something like we do now. We watch the news and wring our hands and wonder how in God’s name this world can ever be reconciled to itself. And the answer comes swiftly: it cannot. It can only be reconciled to Him. Him who bled to death and yet could not stay dead. Who calls us to do the same, for our neighbors and our enemies alike. The power of resurrection is really kind of terrible when you think about it, but it’s the best we have in the battle for flesh and blood in this world. There is a battle waging, make no mistake. Resurrection says that the dead will live, and the broken will be made well, and the lost will be found, and that justice in the end, is in the hands of God Almighty.

The human heart starts beating before it starts pumping blood. We don’t have to bleed to have a heart beat and we don’t have to bleed each other out to make our own hearts beat stronger. The heart of God has blood no longer, yet beats for us like the heart of a parent for their child.

Jesus wept for the dead once. If there is nothing else we can do, we can weep for the dead. And then love the living with the kind of greater love that is willing to give blood instead of take. Our hearts beating for another, instead ourselves. Practically speaking, I don’t know. Be nice. Have compassion. Show up with a meal. Hold the door. Hold your tongue. The latter of those being the hardest challenge of loving people for some of us. Okay. For me. Whether the world needs us to open our eyes, get our hands dirty or simply shut our mouths, if we are looking we will figure it out.

God be with those lost and those living with loss. And may the rest of us be given the almighty kick in the pants that we need, to love greater.

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love

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Nobody Cares

I am re posting this today as a reminder of what really matters in raising up our kids.

TroubleFace Mom

Wait a minute. I’ve read this before.

Yes indeed. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may remember this one. I archived it and today I am re-posting another updated version for new friends and new moms and anyone who needs a reminder.  A reminder of that which nobody cares about, but mostly what they do care about. What they care a lot about.

***

The first day of school. Ever. It’s a huge milestone for most families, and we are no exception. We kind of make a big deal out of it every year. The first day of school is always cause for celebration in our house. This school year our boys are in grades 5, 3, and 1.  We’ve got three first days of kindergarten behind us, and one last one coming up in September. Maybe it’s a little odd to be talking about the…

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The One With the Interview

So I was interviewed this week by Mandy from We Are His Daughters, a website committed to encouraging women to be bold in their faith. I was flattered by the invitation since being interviewed is not something that happens in my life except for when my family wants to know what’s for dinner and *why can’t we have something else* – so I went for it. I didn’t tell anybody that this was happening because I figured there was a good chance they’d read my answers and change their minds. (Insecurity: I need to work on that.) But they didn’t change their minds and the interview is up as part of their Ministry Monday feature.

I know that not everyone who makes a pit stop at this blog would identify as being a faith-based person, and that’s cool! Don’t abandon ship just yet. For those who are interested, you can find We Are His Daughters on facebook and on wordpress.

Their interview with me can be found here.

Have a good week friends!

~Jenna

copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2016 // all rights reserved

Code Black: Company’s Coming

Code Black: Company’s Coming
Je-Ne-Sais-Quirky

Some friends are coming for dinner tonight. I know that this is a thing that people do. It’s a thing we do. We like food. Our friends like food. Are there people who don’t like food? We like to eat food with people who like food. Therefore, company’s coming for dinner tonight.

The difference in our house, is that having people over is like someone throwing a grenade through the kitchen window. Is it live? Will it explode? Does it matter? Take cover, man. Code black.

For a kid with autism who struggles with new situations, new people, noise, and changes in routine, having people over is not a thing that is enjoyable without support. Home is his sanctuary. His resting place and quiet retreat from the exhaustion of the outside world. Going out to be with people is different, because we are careful about our outings to begin with and if things get to be too much, then we can leave. When people come here, there is no leaving. They are just here. Andreas is quite polite enough to understand that you do not ask people to leave or tell them you don’t want them in your house anymore. He asks me when they’re going instead.

Knowing your kid’s triggers and managing them well is very much like dismantling a bomb. We get so good at it, that others don’t even realize we’re doing it. Do we cut the red wire or the blue wire? The blue one. Obviously. Now please pass the ketchup or he won’t eat his food. Over the years, we’ve figured out what works best for Andreas, ourselves, and our guests when people come into our home. It’s all trial, error, blood, sweat, tears, and ketchup actually. I was serious about the ketchup.

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Mateo & Andreas at a birthday party this week. When it was time to go? We left.

What works though, like really works?

1. An Escape Plan
Andreas likes a good meal and a good time as much as the rest of us. He tends to get over the good times faster than the rest of us though. What he needs, before anyone ever shows up, is an escape plan. Once he’s had it, he’s had it. There’s no turning that ship around; we’re on a countdown and the clock is ticking. He needs to know that he can go rest in his bedroom with a book or his iPad and be happy being himself, instead of being forced to act happy for everyone else until he explodes. Reminding him ahead of time that he can do this, is the most important part of having people over. Sometimes when he’s overwhelmed, he forgets that his bedroom is a staircase away and we need to point him in the right direction. You do you, kid. Be happy.

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Andreas gives actual people the same face sometimes. Nothing personal.

2. A Schedule
Not like a real, written up schedule – although we’d do that if he needed it. But verbally explaining everything that is going to happen before it happens, needs to happen. These are the people who are coming. This is when they are coming. This is what we are eating. These are some ideas of what you can play, if kids are coming. This is how long people are staying, or if we don’t know then we say we don’t know how long they are staying. Some families use a picture schedule for less or non verbal kids. We do this when we go out too. Spontaneity is not our thing. Our spontaneity involves a lot of foresight. We are not sorry.

3. Clear Expectations
Where food is involved, we have to run interference. Andreas will gag or throw up if he sees or smells something he doesn’t like. I tend to get him his food or tell him what is available to him. We remind him that he cannot say “that is disgusting” if there is food he doesn’t like. “No thank you” will do just fine. Having a house full of people can make a kid forget the normal rules. Reminding them that the expectations don’t change when there is a house full of people is very important. Just because so and so hit you in the face doesn’t mean you can hit them back in the face. (That has never happened, it just came to mind as an example.)

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When he was 5, Andreas went to a birthday party where he told the magician that magic isn’t real and his tricks are fake. Then got a balloon flower instead of a sword like the other boys. He’s a lover, not a fighter.

4. Incentive
Spelling out what’s in it for him, helps. These are the kids who are coming. Remember when you guys did this and it was so fun? Or telling them they get to rent a movie. Or that they’ve got a certain treat for after dinner. These are normal things that everybody does, I think. But the difference is that for a kid who needs something to look forward to in a situation that feels overwhelming before it’s happened, having that incentive gives him something positive to focus on. Filtering is hard, even for so called “high functioning” kids. He sees the whole picture. The people. The noise. The gross food. The good food. The movie. The fun. The annoying adults asking him questions. It’s kind of a lot. Filtering out everything except the incentive helps him look forward to the good part(s). Typical kids may do this naturally but kids with extra needs often don’t and need an adult to help them learn how.

5. Grace
Sometimes we can answer his questions and give him everything he needs and the night is going to suck for him anyway. 10 minutes in and he’s in his room. Maybe he had a crappy day. Maybe he’s tired. Maybe nothing is wrong but he just needs peace and quiet and alone time. Okay. That needs to be okay. Just getting through the day is work for him. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Adults love explanations. “Is he tired?” “Is he coming down with something?” Yes, no, maybe, we don’t know. It doesn’t really matter does it? One more thing at the end of the day might simply be out of the question. That thing families do where they are on the go all the time, and they actually like it? We are not that family. I require a lot of downtime. So it is totally not a problem for me that Andreas also requires a lot of down time. One day out of a week where we are on the go from morning to night, can throw him (and me) off for several days to come. Our pace is not the same pace other families can keep. There has to be grace for that among us, and the people we have in our lives.

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Party for 2. Just the way he likes it.

Company’s coming for dinner tonight. I’m cleaning my kitchen and making room on our coat rack at the door and pretending I am ever going to get the pee smell out of the bathroom. And disarming bombs before they go off. You know. Code black. Because our home wouldn’t be the same without Andreas. He brings a certain je-ne-sais-quirky to our lives and we want him to have a good time, whatever that means for him. To know Andreas is to love him. The bomb isn’t him. The bomb is whatever gets thrown into his world to disrupt it – the people, the dinner, the whatever. We are disarming the situation, not the boy. The boy is just right. This is his sanctuary. His resting place. We like to keep it that way.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

 

 

Pandemonium (Deep Breath In)

My daughter is talking about her birthday. She’ll be 4 years old next month. I’m supposed to say that it all went by so fast and I can’t believe she’s not a baby anymore. It’s partly true, but kind of not. While it does feel sometimes that she was just born, mostly it’s totally believable that the time has passed and here we are. Because the truth is, it didn’t go by so fast. And it hasn’t only been 4 years. I’ve been a stay at home parent for 10.5 years now to 4 kids one right after the other. Fast? No. A decade doesn’t go by quickly. I am glad for that. Why would I want this time to speed away from me? Kids are small one time. Childhood is fleeting. Let them be little and let me enjoy it, please and thank you. No. I don’t need time to speed up. One day at a time is perfectly alright with me.

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Lord have mercy. I was so tired. So. So. Tired.

I’m supposed to be registering that baby for kindergarten today. She makes the cutoff date here, and would be 4.5 years old like her older brother Olivier was when he went. If I send her at all. I’ve got the birth certificate. I’ve got the registration form. I don’t have the will today.

There’s this mom. I see her going to and from the school with her gaggle of small children, as I do the very same with my crew of not-as-small-anymore children. Her oldest is in grade 1 like Olivier. Unless she has unseen older children, this must be her first year with a kid in school full time. I was that mom, only 4 years ago when Mateo was in grade 1 and I had 3 little ones at home. 3 little ones to suit up, loading the smaller two into a double stroller, going to and from the school, exhausted and wondering if a 15 minute walk was really supposed to take an hour to prepare for. Having a kid in school is a lot of freaking work for a mom with a house full still at home. Everything we did was all-consuming. There was nothing as simple as putting on shoes and walking out the door for many, many years. 1 in school and 3 at home. That was only 4 years ago. It felt like we would never, ever get past that stage of life which can only be described as pandemonium.

boys and rosie in swing

I remember trying to take this photo. Pandemonium indeed.

To be honest, the following year – when Andreas was in half time kindergarten and Mateo was in grade 2, while Olivier was still a 2.5 year old in diapers and Rosalie was still a baby – that year was the HARDEST year of parenting ever. I swear to God if parenting was going to kill me or get me locked up in a padded room, that would have been the year to have done me in. Because I had a hernia and an uncontrolled thyroid problem, so I was utterly exhausted and in pain. My daily ventures to the school increased to include an extra mid-day pick up thanks to kindergarten being half time here. 2 year olds still nap and babies need to eat, sleep, and be changed regularly. Everything my little ones did was scheduled around the school bell times. If they hadn’t woken from afternoon naps by the time we had to go back to school to collect Mateo, well, too bad for them. Wake up time it was. Our walks to pick up Mateo often included a lot of grumpiness and crying. In that year we had Andreas assessed for and later diagnosed with autism. We toilet trained Olivier. I got on meds for my thyroid. I had a hernia repair surgery. I weaned Rosalie. Olivier stopped napping. Rosalie started walking. And then at the end of that school year, to cap it all off, we moved. Pandemonium.

kids on log

4 Kids On A Log. One fell off and bumped her head. Mommy called the doctor and the doctor said stop taking your kids for walks in the woods and posing them for photos on logs. Duh.

It slowed down after that. The summer we moved, we gained a backyard. I could send my kids out to play in a safe, enclosed place. Deep breath in. Andreas and Mateo began grades 1 and 3 that fall – two in school full time. Olivier wasn’t a toddler anymore. Only Rosalie in a stroller and diapers. Deep breath in. That year went nicely by. Another summer came. Olivier went to kindergarten. The older two were in grades 2 and 4, and well settled into a school life routine. Yeah, I was doing the back and forth from school all day thing again – but it’s way different with just one kid at home. It was okay. I was sick again though. Tonsillitis from hell finally put me on the list for a tonsillectomy. Gallbladder attacks put me on the list for that to come out as well. But, by the end of that school year, the gallbladder was gone. Another summer. Deep breath in. Then it happened. This past fall Olivier was in school full time too. Finally, and just like that.

That’s when I noticed her. This mom with the 1 kid in school and 3 little ones at home. I want to tell her it gets better. But I don’t because I know it’s going to take a while. And I’m not sure how to say that in an encouraging way. A year is a long time when you have a house full of very small children. “Just wait til next year!” sounds like, “you only have an eternity ahead of you!” to a wiped out mom. From her vantage point, there’s no end in sight. And she’s not wrong. So I smile at her. I’m not even sure if she sees me. Her kids are fighting. Someone is trailing behind. Baby is crying. It’s cold outside. But I smile anyway. It gets better, I’m silently nodding in her direction, knowing she can’t hear that right now.

kids at school

A sign of things to come.

When we get home from school, my kids take off their own shoes. They get their own snacks. The front closet looks like a bomb filled with hats, mittens, snow pants, boots, and heavy jackets, just went off. There’s salt from the sidewalk all over the floor, and little puddles of snow and mud pooling under the boots. Backpacks have paper, books, and leftovers from lunch spilling out onto the floor. My boys have 153 things each to tell me about their day. Rosalie is running around hugging them all, telling them she loves them and forcing them to pay attention to her. I can’t hear anything anyone is saying. My previously clean kitchen is a mess of after school snack making. Pandemonium.

I think of that mom at her house. She’s taking her baby out of the carrier. Stripping snow suits and boots off of little kids. Checking who needs to potty or be changed. Making everyone a snack. Cleaning it all up. Is there anything in her son’s backpack that needs to be signed or read or cleaned? Someone is probably crying. The baby needs to be held. “Mommmmm come wipe my butt!” is not an unfamiliar sound emanating from her bathroom. Toys? Everywhere. Laundry? I promise you don’t even want to know. Pandemonium.

I take a deep breath in and yell at my little twerps to clean the mess they made in the kitchen. Put their boots on the mat and wipe up the snow. Get me whatever I need to see from their backpacks. Put away their hats and mitts and jackets for goodness sakes! Yes you can have screen time after you read. Someone turn on a show for Rosie while you play your games. I’m sitting at the table drinking a coffee. They don’t need me for everything anymore. They just need me. It’s a welcome change. The pandemonium is actually kind of nice these days. I can take a deep breath in and not feel like a loon in the midst of it all. Usually.

kids snack time

After school snack these days is smooth sailing.

I’m supposed to be registering Rosalie for kindergarten today. But she’s the last bit of little one I have in this house. She reminds me of the long, long days and years of mothering very small children. Those were some hard years. But they were our years, mine and these kids. Years of reading just one more story. Singing another song. More milk please. Pushing on the swing. Endless cuddles. Walks to the park. Sneaking cookies. Trains on the floor. Finding lost bears and kissing away tears. She’s here still, for now, reminding me of all those years that almost broke me, but also built me up into someone I never would have been otherwise.  So. It’s about to be pandemonium around here as the boys get home from school. I’m going to take a deep breath in. I made the lucky ducks some brownies. Signing Rosalie up for kindergarten is going to have to wait until tomorrow. I’m ready for it if she’s ready. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally say hello to that mom with all her little kids if we happen to pass them by.

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Fine. It *does* go by pretty fast when you look back at those baby faces.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

La Paix Pour Paris

It’s not often that I title my blog posts in French. My actual working knowledge of the language is not strong. French happens to be the first language of my mother, who was born in Quebec. Her family’s genealogy can be easily traced back to France on both sides. I do so love the French language despite my lack of understanding of it. I love listening to my mother and her family speak it. Two of my children, Olivier and Rosalie, have French names that show up in the family tree several generations back. The other two, Mateo and Andreas, have names with very close French equivalents. I want to keep the connection to the French side of my own history. I want my kids to be reminded of it when they hear their own names. Someday, I want to take them to visit both Quebec and France. I’m always kicking myself for not keeping up with the language or sharing it properly with my kids.

When I turned on the news tonight to watch as the terror attacks in Paris were being reported, my heart sank. This cannot be. What I was seeing is a war zone. Paris and terror are not words that go together. Paris is the city of love. Not hate, not fear, not violence. Certainly not terror.

Love.

And I wanted to pray, for Paris and it’s people, but I couldn’t even find the words. What do you pray? One word came to mind. Peace. And a prayer I was reminded of.

The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

I decided to look up the prayer online tonight, as I wasn’t even totally sure of it’s history or authenticity. Sure enough, while the prayer was later attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, it was first published in 1912 long after his death. Where? In Paris.

Of course in Paris. Here is the original French, which as usual, reads more beautifully than the English anyway.

Belle prière à faire pendant la Messe
Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.

Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l’amour.
Là où il y a l’offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l’union.
Là où il y a l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu’à consoler, à être compris qu’à comprendre, à être aimé qu’à aimer, car c’est en donnant qu’on reçoit, c’est en s’oubliant qu’on trouve, c’est en pardonnant qu’on est pardonné, c’est en mourant qu’on ressuscite à l’éternelle vie.

“Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix” – my French is not strong but I do understand that statement. In a world where terror tries and fails to destroy democracy and freedom, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. I may not be of any influence on a global scale, but in my small part of the world, where I may be but a breath in light of eternity, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. At the grocery store, in my own home, among friends or in the company of strangers, at church, or the bookstore, or the playground – wherever and among whomever it is needed, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.

The world is watching Paris tonight because Paris isn’t just any other city. Paris is a city that belongs to the world. A place people feel connected to through travel, film, literature, art, history, language, and even proud genealogy. An attack on Paris is a shot through the heart. Globally, I think.

So how do I pray? I just pray for peace. Peace for Paris. La paix pour Paris. That I would be an instrument of peace in a world where people strap actual bombs to themselves as instruments of terror. That the people of Paris and France as a whole, would find this peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding. How do you drive out terror with peace? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible. But it is, in my faith anyway. We – Christians I mean – call Jesus the Prince of Peace. When we pray for peace, we’re praying for Jesus. Jesus who was murdered by a government to whom He would not bow, and yet death had no victory over Him. The power of peace is the resurrection power of Christ; a power that death cannot defeat. We sing Peace on Earth, Goodwill To All Men – and when we sing it, it’s more than just a pretty carol. We mean it to the marrow in our bones. It’s a prayer. It’s a declaration. Peace and Goodwill.

Peace On Earth A candle beside one of the drawers from my Advent calendar, which is soon to be filled with treats for my kids, but serves at the moment a reminder of the need for continued prayer.

Peace On Earth
A candle beside one of the drawers from my Advent calendar, which is soon to be filled with treats for my kids, but serves at the moment a reminder of the need for continued prayer.

So that’s my impossible, ridiculous, small faith, sorrow and hope and agony filled prayer for Paris. Peace. In hearts and minds, and on the streets. La paix pour Paris. Not a peace that dismisses or ignores or passively sits down, but a peace that is confident and sure of a just, victorious end. Peace for leaders to make wise decisions and secure their city and people. Peace for children to be able to sleep at night. For peace to replace panic. For peace to bring healing, in time.

Faites de moi un instrument de votre paix. Fais de nous des instruments de votre paix.

Belle prière” indeed.

*link to the French prayer: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html

copyright (c) 2015 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved