I can't seem to let it go, this new thing my daughter is telling me. I sit at my computer in the early-before-morning, cup of coffee on the desk beside me. My husband and I share the desk, he checks the weather and wanders through Craigslist; I catch up on emails and facebook. Sierra is usually the last to come down the stairs.
It used to be that she would wrap warm, sleepy arms around me, then move to our favorite Army guy, then to the dog - old dog in his bed - awake but not up. I've said it before - my daughter is an equal-opportunity hugger. It used to be, that after her 'rounds', she made her way to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee, then move the piano bench over to the desk to share our morning with us.
"I am not awake yet," sleepy sounding words, soft voice.
"I not have my coffee yet", true statement of the obvious.
But this last week has been different. Yes, we still get hugs all the way around. Yes, she still gets that precious cup of coffee.
But this last week, the good-morning statements aren't about being awake. They aren't about coffee.
"Jesus is here, Mommy."
My heart jumps. You have to know my daughter. She's not a halfway kind of girl. If she's unsure, or treading those waters of not-knowing, or not-understanding, she ducks her head, avoids eye contact, changes the subject, gives a little, misplaced giggle, or passes the topic off with a 'just kidding' statement. Not today. Not yesterday, nor the day before. Her voice is strong; her words are clear. Her eyes sparkle with life, like bright sunlight on the river.
"Jesus is here."
It's the first thing she tells me, everyday now for a week.
I've asked her about it, about Him. "Where?" I ask.
"In my room." Her smile widens, like a memory. Words still crystal clear.
"In your room?" Her hand pats my shoulder and rubs my back. She must sense my confusion. I am thinking about Jesus. I am thinking that I know He is with us, in our lives; I believe in a personal Savior. I am thinking about Jesus in my life, in my heart. It is the first time I've ever heard my daughter express this kind of relationship with Jesus.
"Is Jesus in your heart?" I am searching her face, her eyes, her smile. I don't fully know what she understands. I think she may know more about Jesus than I ever will while I'm still here on earth. I think, not the first time, that her spiritual connection surpasses express-ability.
She places her hands on her chest, she knows where her heart is - lots of visits to various cardiologists have given her a good sense of this kind of anatomy.
"Yes, Jesus is here; he is in my heart."
Have you ever seen someone transformed by joy? I witnessed my daughter, her face bright, her eyes wide, her smile wide, her hand on her heart, transformed. Jesus does that to people, doesn't He?
There is a growing ministry in many churches and denominations - some call it Disability Ministry - I would prefer a name like Differing Ability Ministry - but, words...right? I suppose I've had a finger on the pulse of this ministry for several years, ever since we became part of a 'Friends Class' and 'Bridge Service' in Virginia, where adults with cognitive disabilities were invited to worship and take a Sunday School class. I helped teach that class for awhile. The hope behind Disability Ministry is to provide a place for adults and children, like my Sierra, to learn about and access all of the things we all want and need to learn and access within a church community: fellowship, missions, scriptural knowledge and insight, corporate praise and worship...
The idea is spreading and there are successes and not-so-successes. In some ways, it is transforming the way churches 'see', and causing them to review and revise some hidden and not-so-hidden policies. Change. No matter who the population, there will be change.
I read something recently, by a guy deep in the process of facilitating positive change for Disability Ministry. In his blog, Disabled Christianity, he wrote about a verse from Matthew that opened my eyes concerning my daughter.
You have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 13:11 (NIV)
Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely.
Matthew 13:12 (Message)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5 (NIV)
What an exciting opportunity we have. Ask for wisdom. Jesus is here. Seek the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is here. Make your heart ready. Jesus is here.