Snow!

We finally got our first snow of the season and the boys were both pretty excited and ready to play. ^_^ David wasted no time at all and immediately started building a snowman. Joshua joined in later with a mini snowman because there wasn’t enough snow for bigger. Both are now wishing with all their might for more snow. Oh boy. lol

Peace

The second week of Advent focuses on peace. What first comes to mind when you read or hear this word? Maybe the iconic dove with an olive branch? A beautiful winter scene complete with quiet streets and falling snow? Ocean waves lapping at the shore or a mountain brook bubbling through a small clearing? Maybe a symbol made popular in the 60’s? Or maybe something more personal perhaps? A treasured memory, safe family and home, good news at work, even better news from the doctor…

What if I told you there was a peace available that is stronger, purer, and more abundant than all those things put together? What if I told you it is possible to have peace even when everything around us is no where close to being peaceful? Are you sick, broken, worn down? Did you lose your job? Are you struggling to keep up in school? Do you have more things in need of repair than your bank account has the finances to cover? Is your home more of a war zone than a safe shelter? Do you struggle with uncontrollable emotions and thoughts? You can still have peace!

It’s true, if we are talking about the peace of Christ. Peace that surpasses all understanding. It makes no sense! It doesn’t fit the narrative of everything else going on in our life at the moment. It seems impossible! That though is the beauty of it. It is impossible, but Christ makes the impossible possible for those that put their hope and their trust in Him, for those willing to rest in His arms and lay their burdens and worries at His feet.

Because of Christ, when I think about peace these days I think about a water heater. A very specific one, that’s barely a year and a half old. One that has been broken now for the past two and a half weeks with still no solution in site. I remember when I first heard the words “we think it’s cancer” shortly before I found myself in a whirlwind of preparations for emergency surgery, including putting together legal papers with instructions on what to do with my sons if I were not to make it. Memories flood in of being locked away in a place I didn’t belong while in a foreign country, fighting for safety and a way home while growing a small child inside. Filling my pillow with tears, yet my day with song just to try and hold on to my sanity.

Why in the world would I associate these things with peace?? It’s not that I enjoyed the fear of foreign oppressors I couldn’t even understand half the time due to language barriers. Being rushed to a hospital for a blood transfusion just to make me stable enough for the life saving surgery I just found out I needed wasn’t any fun either. Don’t get me started on trying to stay clean with nothing but cold water for weeks. Brrr! Definitely nothing peaceful about any of that!

Candles of peace and hope

No, I associate those things with peace because I look to Christ for it instead of at my life (2 Corinthians 4:18, Colossians 3:2). These things remind me of how Christ continuously steps in to calm the storm inside my heart and mind even as the waves crash around me. He has provided for me in ways I will never be able to fully explain and has taken care of my needs in more ways than I can count even when all looked bleak. When we look to Christ, He offers us a peace that isn’t like anything the world can offer (John 14:27, Isaiah 26:3). He promises to give us rest and to share our burdens (Isaiah 40:28-31, 43:2, Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 5:7) and that He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 46:4).

He invites us to bring all we’ve got to Him. All of our hurts, hang-ups, fears, joys, celebrations, tears, frustration, excitedness, anger, doubt… He can handle it and He wants us to bring it to Him! He longs to come alongside us and share His yoke with us so He can help shoulder the load, not just in the good times, but also in the bad ones. Along with that invitation, He also delivers a promise to provide the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that makes no sense, but is ever so badly needed in our hearts and lives. If we remember to come to Him with what’s in our hearts or what is filling our heads, being grateful for Who He is and all He has done and has promised to do, He will fill us with His peace to help guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6,7). That doesn’t mean all our problems and worries will disappear, but it does mean we have a safe shelter from the storm when we need Him. That is what comes to my mind when I think of peace.

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This is week 2 of our Advent posts. You can find more here as they are made.

Town Christmas Tree

This actually was last week, but the boys and I wanted to share it with you. ๐Ÿ™‚ There were a few accessibility kinks at the event, but thankfully the mayor and her assistant are working with me to make this less common. I was excited to see they covered the giant electrical cords for the sound system this year with rugs to make them easier to travel over. Yay! ^_^

They also set aside a special hour before the event officially started for special needs families to be able to take a ride in a horse drawn sleigh. The sleigh driver even thought ahead and brought his sleigh with the wider opening and lower steps. Big win for the physically challenged! Because of that, I was able to join the boys this year. ^_^ It was pretty great. ๐Ÿ™‚ We also got to go to a winter farmer’s market where the boys met the Grinch. He was pretty fun to talk to. There were neat crafts, yummy food, hot chocolate, and various booths throughout the whole event space so lots of variety. They even had the train museum open for free touring which was a pretty big hit with David.

Before lighting the tree, we got to meet the winner of the town’s art contest for the official Christmas card, listen to some pretty great carolers, sing carols with the mayor, and the tree was officially dedicated. Overall it was a fun experience, but it was pretty crowded and located downtown so there are some definite accessibility concerns to watch out for when going. The special hour before it started for the special needs families this year was a nice touch though and greatly appreciated.

Does your town do an official tree lighting or something similar? We would love to hear about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

A sample from the carolers

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Stop Motion Fun

With the Christmas season upon us, the boys have been enjoying a lot of the old classics. A Miser Brothers Christmas is one of their top faves, and our copy has a fun behind the scenes video included with the movie. The boys enjoy watching how it is all done and seeing the puppets and learning about the animation. This year though, they wanted to try it themselves. I will share their first attempt and their final project (for now… lol something tells me they will want to keep making these for days… haha).

David’s Transformer

Joshua’s car and Charizard

I think they did a pretty good job. ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially for beginners using a flip phone camera. They had a lot of fun doing it too and got to learn something new. Win, win! ^_^ Do you have a favorite Christmas movie? We would love to hear about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Christmas Mission

As promised, though a bit late, here is Joshua with a special Christmas mission. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is our second year doing this, although not consecutively, and is one of Joshua’s favorite traditions even though it is also one of our newest. We hope you will join us! ^_^ Feel free to send us pictures or stories of your experience if you do. We would love to hear from you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s throw a baby shower for Jesus! Give to Jesus by providing for babies and young toddlers in need in your community.

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This Is Us, Again

When I started The 5th Sparrow, it was after a long break from our former blogs and community events. At the time, for reasons of safety, I had to keep our true names quiet and start completely from scratch. It is now finally possible for us to share who we are and both boys said they were ready to do so. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cindi, David, Joshua, Koda

To start with, this is our family. We used to be found working together and with the community under the names “DogforDavid” and “Stripes and Puzzle Pieces”. We loved to reach out with stories, videos, service projects, and adapted events to serve those with higher and/or more complex needs to help them connect to the community more. As the boys grew, our mission changed, which is why we went through the name change as well to help reflect that. We started out as a young family of three trying to raise funds to provide my oldest with a service dog to help him with his seizures and Autism. During those years, we found we all shared a passion for connecting with and serving the disabled and special needs community. We never were able to get the dog for David, but we did help make dreams come true for some disabled artists, create community connections for multiple children and their families, and started successfully advocating for more acceptance and accessibility.

After both boys were found to also have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, like me, and the service dog dream fell through (Koda doesn’t behave well enough to be one ๐Ÿ˜‰ and was added to our family at a much later date), I decided to change “DogforDavid” to “Stripes and Puzzle Pieces” and continue our community events and advocacy efforts. As my health started to decline more and take my mobility with it, I had to start pulling back on a lot of my efforts while trying to learn how to adjust to and adapt to my new limitations. During that time, I learned how to advocate on a different level and started volunteering my time and effort to our city to try and bring more awareness and action to the accessibility needs. Some of which I have shared on here. “The 5th Sparrow” was born from a desire to continue having a connection to community, both for the boys as well as myself, but in a more protected manner. We also had decided we wanted to be more than just disability and special needs advocates. We wanted to more freely share our faith and just general life and fun like we used to do in our early days.

David

David, known here as Daniel until now, is a passionate young teen with a love for all things Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, robots, and pirates. He is also pretty enthusiastic about Legos. His heart is a compassionate one and he loves to help children and make a difference where he can in our community. Some of his favorite hobbies include art, bowling, working with tools, and being adventurous. That last one tends to get him in trouble though as he has very little danger awareness.

David is diagnosed with Autism, cognitive delays, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, moderate traumatic brain injury, and Sensory Processing Disorder. He also has a painful history of seizures, but we are gratefully in remission now even though his doctors still warn us to be cautious and alert. He is medically charted as being mentally developed mostly at 5 years, with some areas stronger (and closer to actual age) while some are weaker.

Joshua

Joshua, known here as Jonathan until now, is an energetic ball of enthusiasm and deeply felt emotions. He loves science and math and trying to figure things out. He has also developed a deep love for all things Pokรฉmon. He is the younger brother chronologically, being not quite a teen yet, but the older brother in a lot of ways too. He both looks up to and looks out for David on a regular basis and has to be repeatedly reminded to just be a kid and let mom be the mom. He enjoys bowling, reading, going to Pokรฉmon club, hanging out with friends, and interacting with animals. He still hopes to get a bunny someday, but Koda has to mind a LOT better first.

Joshua is diagnosed with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, mild social and fine motor delays, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. He partially uses a chair as well, yet he is not in need of it as much as me. He mainly needs help with extra long distances or other situations where excessive walking is needed.

Joshua and Cindi

Lastly, there’s me. Cindi, known here as Emily (or “sparrow” for some of you ๐Ÿ™‚ ) until now. I have always had a passion for helping the outcasts, the unheard, the looked over, and forgotten. A lot of it comes from being a part of each of those groups myself in more ways than one. Even more comes from the faith, prayers, love, and time my Grandma Jane invested into me as I was growing up. My favorite hobbies include reading, crafts, writing, photography, and drinking cocoa. I also love a good nature experience when I am able to get them (camping, hiking, driving into the mountains, star gazing, etc). I will be turning 40 next month and hope to celebrate with a year of adventure, touring nearby special places I have been wanting to see and hopefully checking a few things off my bucket list (weather permitting) while I am still physically able to do so. Most will have to wait for snow to melt though as we live in a valley and wheelchair vans are not good at getting through mountain passes covered in deep snow. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I am diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (although my friends and I like to joke that it should be “ADOS” instead… Attention Deficit… OOOOH! Shiny!). I also have a rare and progressively debilitating version of EDS known as Arthrochalasia Type, or aEDS. Other conditions include Sensory Processing Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder (which interferes quite a bit with my ability to hear and understand speech), brain injury, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, multiple sites of damaged nerves and irreparable tendons and/or ligaments, Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction, sinus arrhythmia, tachycardia, and femoral anteversion. Yeah, I am a bit of a mess. lol At least I still have a strong sense of humor and a big heart though. ^_^

At some point I will update our old posts and our official Connect With Us page to show our real names, but for now this knowledge is reserved for you, our readers. ๐Ÿ™‚ Be sure to check back in tomorrow for a special Christmas mission Joshua wants to share with you. ^_^

Hope

This is our first year officially celebrating the Advent season and we lit our first candle last night. The candle representing hope. We had a personal devotion time, sang a Christmas carol, and reflected on what it means to have hope, especially the hope we find in Christ. Then today came and I started trying to put together a post. Struggling for a topic, bouncing back and forth between sharing something old, an update, a collage of updates, something based on advent… As I loaded pictures and played with words and ideas there was suddenly a loud and disheartening crash heard from the kitchen…

I love my boys with all my heart. I try so hard to be a good mother to them. That being said though, I have a terrible weakness… a nasty temper. I am most susceptible to falling into it when I am tired or dealing with increased pain levels, but that doesn’t make it right or any less of a problem. After the crash, I heard the cry of shock from my youngest and then the tears of my oldest. He was scared. He had just broke mom’s plate and he was afraid of the reaction he might get. I was heartbroken and convicted by what I saw next… his body curled up on the floor next to my seat, head in his hands, tears streaming down his cheeks, and apologies pouring from his mouth. I took a deep breath and then got down on the floor with him. His tears became my own, his pain pierced my heart, it became my mission to calm his fear and to assure him of my love.

Finished plate before the accident.

It isn’t that the plate wasn’t special or valuable to me. I had worked for months on that piece and it was my favorite dish in the house. It’s not that I wasn’t upset about it being broken, or about it being handled loosely on the edge of the sink. I am always trying to teach the boys about being careful with things, especially when they are breakable and/or belong to someone else. It wasn’t even that I was already over the frustration and pain of knowing it was gone now. It still stung, and probably will for a while.

What made me put all that aside and pull my son into my arms instead is simple. I love him. I love him unconditionally and unwaveringly. I consider him a priceless treasure and I know nothing could ever replace him if I were to lose him. In that moment, what mattered most was making sure my son knew of my love. I wanted to reassure him he hadn’t lost it. I wanted to comfort him, ease his pain, take away his fear. The plate was a loss, but my son was, is, and always will be much more valuable and precious than anything else could ever dream of being.

Isn’t that what Christ was trying to do for us? When He left the glories of Heaven to enter the womb of a peasant. When He humbled Himself to the limits of a human baby, going from being the Creator and in charge of everything to being created and depending on others to take care of him. When He willingly let Himself experience human pain, heartache, weariness, hunger, thirst, and more. He let our pain pierce His heart, our tears became His. He got down on the floor so to speak and scooped us up in His arms, aching to envelope us with His love and to quiet our fears. He not only humbled Himself to come as a baby and grow up in a human body, He also took the time and compassion to teach and lead us so that we could understand better and draw closer to Him and His love.

Then, He made the ultimate sacrifice… He took our place. He allowed our sins and mistakes to be laid on Him and died in our place so that we could know life instead. Isn’t that the hope of Christmas? That we are loved so much. That we are considered priceless treasures. That Christ would come to us in such a humble and approachable way so that we could know He understands us, then go on to take our place knowing we could never really pay the price for all our mistakes. Even better, He didn’t stay down. He rose again and lives in our hearts, still ready to pull us into His arms whenever we need Him to, ever ready to remind us of His love.

Candle of hope from Advent

Knowing that gives me so much hope. I am not perfect, but He is. I make so many mistakes, but He can and does cover them all. It is not a gift to take lightly by any means, but it is a gift given freely. And as if all of that wasn’t already more than we could ever dream of and desperately more than we could ever earn or deserve, He didn’t stop there. He has promised He will be coming back again someday. That He will gather us up and create a new Heaven and a new Earth, where all the pain and imperfections will disappear. Talk about hope! No more tears, no more broken bodies. No more sickness, heartache, or pain. No more fear, addictions, shortcomings, loss, depression. No more struggles with bad tempers… Just love, peace, and joy. Oh what hope that can ignite in a weary heart.

Hope… a powerful word, made more potent when combined with a powerful love. The hope of Christmas is the kind that brings peace and assurance of better days to come and loving arms to hold us until they do. May the hope of Christ fill your hearts and homes not only at Christmas, but all year and throughout the rest of your days.

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This is week 1 of our Advent posts. You can find moreย hereย as they are made.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA friends and readers. Happy beautiful day to all my non USA friends. It has been a long time since I have written, but I am hoping to start being on here more again. A lot has happened since I last let my fingers feel the stroke of the keys as I watched my screen turn into post or message here. I have been injured severely more than a few times, gotten sick and mostly recovered, been promoted, turned down other promotions and opportunities, dealt with emotional tugs of war over raising a teenager and a preteen, my house is full of things that are in need of repair now, and we lost an extremely precious family member suddenly to old age. All while trying to come to grips with new physical limitations and health restraints amidst the chaos, heartache, and joy we call life.

Overall though, I have found I still have so much to be thankful for. Food on our table, clothes on our backs, roof over our heads, a mostly working van that accommodates my wheelchair, family and friends that love us, and faith in our hearts that is growing stronger with joys and heartaches alike. There are the simpler things too that make my heart sing with gratitude: colorful sunsets, birds singing in the trees, leaves floating like a dance on the wind, warm sunshine on a blustery day, mountain view as I drive along the road, strong hugs from dear friends, laughter in my children’s voices, a good movie or book…

My prayer today is that you too can list blessings both big and small that fill your heart with gratitude. May today, and the coming Christmas season, bring peace and joy to your hearts and smiles to your faces. May however you choose to celebrate this day be successful for you and may you create new memories to cherish over the years to come.

Happy thanksgiving everyone! ^_^

Down for the Count

My apologies for the sudden and prolonged silence here recently. I wanted to touch base to let you all know at least a little bit of what’s going on.

As I have mentioned before, I use a wheelchair, but I still have some mobility. This means that I still stand and walk if the distance is short enough, for instance from my car to my front door. Sadly, attempting to do exactly that led to a really bad fall when my system crashed and I fell onto the pavement of my driveway, hitting my head in the process and dislocating my lower spine again which led to temporary loss of feeling and use in my legs. One was out for over 2 hours, the other didn’t regain feeling and function until the next morning. Both still function with a bad limp after just a few steps or a couple minutes of standing even though the accident was over 2 weeks ago.

I am doing ok now, but fighting off the residual effects of the fall and the injuries so have had to refocus my energy and efforts accordingly. I hope to be back to writing again soon, but for now I need to be there for my boys and rest where I can so I can regain some strength and stability. Times like these make me grateful for the support system I have in place here locally. I didn’t always have help so I am very appreciative for it now.

I look forward to catching up with everyone soon and to being more active again in both writing and local advocacy. In the meantime, I hope you are all doing well. Feel free to leave me comments to let me know how things are going in your neck of the woods. I promise to read and respond to each one I receive. ๐Ÿ™‚

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