Pssssst. We’re Over Here (Shhh)

Today’s musing may only be relatable to my Christian readers, but everyone is so welcome to weigh in! My hope for this blog is that it would ignite a conversation between us,  rather than be just a one-way dumping ground. I like to mull over things in my mind; and it’s nice when others share their thoughts, because I then gain another perspective, which helps me learn and grow.

Today’s topic is about what I’m going to label as Christian cloistering. I’ll tell you how it came to mind: One day, while I was at work, a woman told me she was so ready to leave the Seattle area and move the heck outta this state. I think I commiserated with her re: the endless rain. I mean…it really is endless between January and March. Most of us have asked our doctors about installing gills, and we eat Vitamin D like it’s candy. At least I do.

Anyway…she said something like, “Yeah…plus, my taxes are going up, and I just hate the values here–everyone is so l.i.b.e.r.a.l.!  OMG, a fate worse than death! Let me tell you something – to all my Jesus following friends, I am pretty darn liberal, and to all my non-Jesus following friends, I’m pretty darn conservative. These labels…oy. Can you envision my eyes rolling with the love of Jesus? I didn’t roll them in front of her. Because I used my faulty-but-better-than-nothing filter. At any rate, I gathered enough intel to understand that she is a Christian, trying to raise her family in what is, quite honestly a very spiritually dark area of the country. The Northwest is not an area where one typically hears a lot about Jesus. It just isn’t. In fact, we hear a lot NOT about Jesus. When I drive my son to one of the most renown universities in the state, I see store which clearly sells and celebrates items from the occult. I have rebuked Satan often as I drive by–rebuked his influence from these young, curious, incredible minds, who were made in the image of God, Himself. So, I can see how it would be much easier and more fulfilling to move to a spot where more people shared the same religious and moral beliefs. It’s tough to be a fish out of water, so to speak. But when we believers choose to cloister ourselves from others, how does that help them? Shouldn’t we be more ignited to share about Jesus in these dark corners, rather than giving into our comfort, convenience, and fear by moving away from them? Jesus told us to love Him more than anything else, and love our neighbors as ourselves. He also shared many parables about how important lost people are to Him. Hit me up if you want to read any, and I’ll link you to some. Lastly, his final instructions to us included saying that we needed to go out and share His love to the ends of the earth, noting that He would never leave us, and would even send a Helper (Holy Spirit) to indwell us! We have no reason to ever feel alone, because if we accept His gifts, we know we aren’t alone. Again, this is easier said than done, I grant you. Why? Because when we live in an area that doesn’t reflect our personal values, we can love Jesus all we want, but, being human, the lack of community hurts. So, when we find people who ARE OUR PEOPLE, we cling to them. Or at least I do. And, yeah, it’s very important (and Biblical) to seek out the community of like-minded believers. But it’s equally important to reach out, after we’ve been “filled up” with that like-minded love.

Look, as Paul says, “I am the worse of these (sinners)”, and I really am when it comes to what I’ll call mini-cloistering. I’m not moving off the grid into a compound, but I can honestly say that it’s muuuuch easier for me and usually more fun for me to be with my similarly believing friends, whether in regards to politics, religion, or preference for Taco Bell. Anyone feel me? And there is time for that. But God isn’t about my comfort as much as He IS about His glory and loving the lost ones–our neighbors, both near and far. In my opinion, Christian cloistering, whether mini or not (sin is sin, no?) is a real show of a lack of faith. Yes, we must guard our hearts and be in and not OF the world. But if we’re so busy trying to protect ourselves that we fail to live and LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY and SACRIFICIALLY among people who don’t think the way we do, to me, that’s a lack of trust in Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us. Christians will be persecuted, whether by sneers and jeers, or even by violence–and that sucks. Most of the disciples were martyred for their faith. Certainly Jesus was martyred for His. We must trust that God is with us, even to a bitter end, because we also trust the eternal picture of life after this blip on earth. I’m exhorting us all to live out our trust by loving those who aren’t like us. We are free to love as Jesus loved, because he loved us, first.

What are your thoughts on so-called Christian cloistering? Do you see it where you live? Is it hard for you to love and hang out with people who don’t know Jesus?

Much love to you.

 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10:10-17 (NLT)

this is my first blog post – and it’s a bit of a PSA. i have no idea why.

Well hello there! Welcome to Musings with Gretch. I introduce myself more fully in the “howdy” post, but basically, the tagline on my blog says it all: I have too many words, and need somewhere to put them, because my poor, long-suffering husband? His ears must be exhausted. 🙂 I also like to share–mostly to encourage; sometimes simply to laugh. I’ve had this blog for 8 months, and this is my first post. Why? Oh, tons of silly little reasons. But I’m here now. This post is a bit of a unicorn for me, as I’m actually sharing reflections not only to encourage, but also to inform.

For the last eight months, I’ve been serving a preschool population of children within a local school district. I also serve a handful of elementary kiddos, but over 2/3 of my job is spent with the nearly three-to-5 year old population. I’m a speech-language pathologist (or speech AND language pathologist, if you prefer – or “she’s my speech teacher” also does in a pinch) so my jam, at least in the educational setting, is anything to do with speaking, listening, and expressing thought through language. Although I have a few preschoolers on my caseload for therapy, my main job is to evaluate them for possible communication delays. I prefer to use the word delay rather than disorder, because the word delay implies “not yet”, while disorder suggests more permanency. I like to promote hope and sit in the “not yet” for as long as I can.

I want to be an encourager, and as someone who has walked the road of special needs within my own family, I know God has prepared me for such. Aside: I am a Jesus freak, so I mention God all the time. If this annoys you, I’m not sorry. But I hope you’ll stay with me, even if you’re not a Jesus follower, because I promise I don’t bite. God is just so much of who I am that to NOT mention Him on my blog would be disingenuous.  Anyhoo…I want to encourage others, so actually working with the parents of this population of children is more my mission, than working with the children themselves. MOST of the parents, regardless of their level of education, race, or socio-economic status, have been wonderful and advocate well for their child/ren. I am so pleased to see this. I am even pleased to work with the annoying  demanding  extremely concerned and vocal parents even though they exhaust the crap outta me because I know they are working to give a voice to someone who may not have one. I was one of those parents. I am one.

Be annoying.

I mean, don’t be annoying unless you must; but your child is worth a secret eye-roll and deep cleansing breath of his/her practitioner at your expense. I think most of us went into our professions to help others. But knowing there is a difference between what we want to provide, and what we are ABLE to provide, can be a bit of a grind on our psyches. Most therapists, teachers, medical staff  (especially in the public schools) are serving you in a system that is over-taxed and underfunded. Things take much longer to turn around (e.g. reports and getting kids into therapy) because there is always someone else waiting in line who needs help. But we can only change care for the better if we all speak up. If your child needs something, please speak up! You know your child best of all. YOU are the most important part of his/her healthcare/educational team. YOU. S/he is at the center of activity, but parents are the project managers of their child/ren’s lives.

The primary reason I bring this up, is that I have been tempted to judge a few parents for NOT advocating, and my heart was convicted. Perhaps they are rotten people, who don’t love their children, but I think it’s more likely that they love fiercely, but don’t know what to ask for on behalf of their child/ren. Back in the 1900s, when I attended gradual school, a wise professor said: “I have never met a parent who said, ‘This is BEST and this is second best. I believe I’ll take second best, please.'” As a clinician, that perspective has never left me. Oh, sure, it needs to be dusted off and brought to the forefront of my mind every now and then, but it’s true. Most of us truly want the very best for our children.

With that in mind, I want to help you advocate for your child/ren by sharing some tips regarding normal speech and language development. This is not an exhaustive list, but a place to start. If you have concerns, speak to your pediatrician or call your school district, or do both.

  • Generally speaking, kids begin to speak at about one year old. First words may include: “mama”, “dada”, “dog”, “milk”, “juice”, “ball”, etc.
  • Kids are putting words together at about 2 years old (e.g. “mama juice”, “go outside”), and speaking in phrases and small sentences by 3 years of age.
  • Kids all simplify speech by using what’s called phonological processes. These are things like saying, “ba-ba” for bottle, “pagetti” for spagetti, etc. This is developmentally normal, as speech sounds are acquired in a specific-ish order and it’s quite a load on the brain and body to learn how to say each sound. However, if they simplify their words such that you can’t understand them at all by the time they are preschool age, they may be demonstrating a delay.
  • By preschool age, most children should be mostly understandable to their parents and other familiar listeners. And they should have no problem understanding you – e.g. able to follow directions, engage in a discussion, tell a story, etc. If you’re the only one who understands your preschooler, I think it’s worth exploring with your doctor or school district.
  • Your child does not need speech therapy if s/he is understandable, but can’t produce R’s at age 2 or 3. R is a later developing sound. This link is super helpful in determining the acquisition of sounds.
  • By kindergarten, your child should be producing mostly adult-like speech. Consonant blends and later developing sounds might show some errors, but in general, they should be easy to understand.
  • This link is from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, and gives great guidelines not only for development, but for what you can do to facilitate growth and development in a child’s communication.
  • Ear infections matter. A child with a history of re-occurring ear infections likely has had a swiss cheese-like exposure to speech and language. They will show strengths and holes in development. When the ear is full of fluid or gunk, that creates a mild hearing loss for the period of time the child has that fluid/gunk in the ear. Let’s say a child is sick for even just a week – think of how much language we hear in a week’s time. If you multiply that by the number of ear infections which last a week, this is a significant loss of exposure to language. If your child is susceptible to ear infections, keep an ear/eye on his/her speech/language development, and remain in communication with your pediatrician. It’s very common to see delays with these kiddos.
  • Please, for the love, READ out loud to your child/ren. Often. This is far superior than putting him/her in front of a TV show or app (even better than Mr. Rogers, but he’s pretty darn amazing). But it takes time and energy to read. I get it. If you happen to have older siblings, have them read to their younger ones. I cannot underscore this enough.
  • Please, for the love, READ out loud to your child/ren. 🙂

Parents, you are doing such hard, holy work in raising humans. It seems endless, but it is so worth it. Long days, short years. May God bless and protect you and your babes. Please comment below if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer or find the answer. Much love to you.