This past week we were at Lakeshore Pentecostal Camp. Family Camp Week is a time for families to spend their days going to church, singing, playing, and just being- together. The mix of young families is varied and the older generations are still present, many who have their own grandchildren in tow for the week. This was our third year attending LPC Family Camp and by far the most relaxing yet.
It’s funny, I doubt onlookers thought I was ever relaxed. One gentleman asked me if I ever stopped running and commented that we “sure must have our challenges”. In each service we attended, Annie and Audrey were full of energy and needed space to move as we worshipped in song together. Ken, the head usher at the back, ministered by saving our special spot and continually reassured me, “don’t worry about it”, as Annie spun in circles or walked down the aisle to the altar, turned, crossed the altar area, and returned down another aisle, making a complete circle around the entire section. One friend called this: “Annie’s Jericho walk”, as she did it more than once throughout the week. At first I was inclined to follow and stop her but it was pointless and her activity seemed harmless. Surely if there was one place a person could be allowed freedom to walk the aisles, dance, jump and clap excitedly during worship time, a Pentecostal camp was the place.
We were embraced.
We managed to make it to all services except one, on Friday night. It was Russell’s birthday and our old college friends graciously allowed us, along with cousins and friends, to be in their spacious cottage for pizza and cake. It was pouring rain and our trailers just didn’t have the room.
We were blessed.
Later in the week a lovely neighbour brought over delicious, freshly baked squares and commented to Kirk that she was impressed with our commitment to bring our four kids to Family Camp, and what a challenge it must be.
We were encouraged.
People were noticing and accepting us. I had the pleasure of meeting more than a few LPC residents who shared stories of challenge and trials of their own. They were interested in knowing about Annie and Audrey’s diagnoses and our situation proved to be a gateway for communication.
We were connected.
I reconnected with my friend Lynn for the third year. During our first year at LPC Family Camp she observed the girls from afar and finally approached me on our last day at camp and inquired about them. I am always willing to share that the girls have Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, the challenges this has brought and how good God has been through it all. But that year I was drained. That first year at LPC we ended up taking Annie home to my mom for our last few days at camp, as Annie has struggled with anxiety and her aggression was extreme that week. Feeling like a failure and confused about why we had bothered with LPC at all, The Lord gave me a gift which reminded me that He had not forgotten us. It turns out Lynn is a Paediatric Neuro Developmentalist. Basically she’s an expert who deals with kids like Annie. Our conversation lasted an hour or so but our bond has remained. Some relationships have been born at LPC, others reestablished, still others fertilized-all nurtured.
At times people stared, shushed, or looked confused as our girls turned in circles with devices in hand, or Annie ushered them into church with a gentle tap- and that’s okay. We understand that our life of living with twins with special needs is not everyone’s reality. The truth is, our girls would likely have been institutionalized 50+ years ago and certainly not dancing and singing in church.
I love it that my girls are leading the way in worship, that their connection to The Lord is evident to all who watch them, and that they are being embraced by the Body of Christ. I love it that Mark McKnight spoke about Integration, about trials and “considering it pure joy”. I love it that Robert Martin preached loudly, much to Audrey’s delight and that I was reminded to pray for healing for my girls, in the prayer language of tongues. I love it that my girls, although mostly non-verbal, had to be shushed for being chatty, and worshipped the one whose image they bear, without inhibition.
God is faithful on this journey. He placed people in our lives years before we ever began walking this hard road, and they’ve been genuinely happy to “do life” with us. He has given us families, church families, and now LPC families to support, love and pray for us. God has entrusted us with much and we trust Him with all.
James MacDonald said, “A promise involves an assurance that God gives his people so they can walk by faith while they wait for Him to work…The person who rests in the promises of Gods truth, is living a great life”.
I continually hold onto the promises of God while I wait for Him to work and He is working hard.
So what about that twisted scripture? My friend Jamie Warren expounded the truth of that verse: “The Bible tells us that God doesn’t let us be tempted beyond what we can handle, but it also teaches that God allows us to face circumstances beyond what we are able to handle on our own so that we will learn to rely on God. (II Cor. 1:8-11) I’m relying on Him and resting easy, knowing that He is a God who always keeps His promises and that life is about more than simply making memories.
It’s my guess that the Foster Family has been added to a few prayer lists this week and for that we are most grateful. Annie was content at LPC this year. She slept well, her seizures were controlled and her aggression and anxiety were almost non-existent. Both girls played on the teeter totter and swings, enjoyed riding on our special trike and were not anxious in new spaces. While memories are lovely gifts, this life is about much more than making them. God is using encouragers, gracious old friends, ushers who do more than usher, people who stare, smile or shush, neighbours who stop and chat or intentionally bake squares. Jesus Christ has been in my shoes; He lived a great life and I can too. He is handling things better than I ever could and is still giving me the courage, strength and ability to rely on Him, to press on and to soak in the joy of these more than memories.