May 29, 2012 (Olga)

Well, this has been a heck of a month. Heck, it’s been a hell of a weekend. I feel like some things have really come together for us this month. I think we have confirmed and cemented our commitment to adopting and serving God in that way. I feel like we are focused and united in that commitment in a way we never have been before. It is amazing to me how different you are than when we first started talking again, when we got married, even a year year ago.

I love the direction we’re going. I love that every time I think I’ve thought of something crazy, you confirm that it is a crazy – crazy biblical! =) It’s amazing to me how you keep us grounded without squashing or discouraging me. And I love how, when given the chance, you have chosen love and sacrifice over comfort and security. Every time you don’t bat an eye when I make a substantial (for us), unplanned donation to someone you’ve never heard of. Every time you step out to help someone. Every time you support me when I’ve volunteered us for something without talking to you. Every time you take my most extreme, radical interpretation of what love or charity or giving mean and not only consider it, but, run with it.

Thursday the 27thAll these things and more convince me that I was not mistaken when I thought I heard God saying you are the one. It was not wishful thinking that pushed me toward you, and down that aisle. I guess I’m just feeling really good about where we are. We are making improvements and taking the steps necessary to live the life we want and that I think God wants for us. Most importantly, we are not just talking about things, we are really doing things, and we are meeting challenges and reacting and responding in ways that are consistent with our faith and our calling.

I just get more hopeful and more excited to see what the future holds and where we go from here. I want to go on mission trips with you. I want to love Jesus by loving his people with you beside me. I want to fill this house with kids and raise them in faith with you. And I don’t want to retire or sit on a beach or take a vacation. The idea of doing God’s work – especially with you – is so awesome that I just want to keep doing whatever he has for us until we both fall down dead from exhaustion: “1, 2, 3…die.” =)  Hmm. Maybe Paul said it better. Well, not maybe, I know he did:

But I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do.                                                             -Acts 20:24 (CEV)

You once said our emails were like collaborative journaling. I think that’s true and, in a similar way, some of our conversations are like collaborative praying. Sometimes I feel like I’m praying in my head and then bouncing the results of that of of you. Then I can take what you say and think/pray about it in my head. Then talk to you some more. I guess because I trust you so much, I can say anything. You don’t hinder my interaction with the Holy Spirit. On a good day, I think you help it. And, even when we stumble and disagree, I know you are sincerely pursuing truth and you are trying to move us towards God.

That is what reassures me every day that this is where I’m supposed to be. I know we will continue to walk toward Jesus and we will be together with him some day. I look forward to that and all the trials that come till then.

You are my heart and I love you more than ever.
Always, Olga Jean*

Neither Aloof Nor Detached: the Reality of Autistic Empathy

Originally posted on The Unpuzzled Project:

aut empathy illustration

[Image is a circular light blue face with crying green eyes and frowning pink lips.]

Today, I’ve been reflecting upon empathy and autism. I know that in many cases, the autistic person is believed to be too withdrawn (“in their own little world”) or too aloof (not caring about others, lacking social skills, etc.) to experience empathy. Yet, I know that I am autistic and have empathy, although it may not be the same type of empathy that allistics (non-autistics) experience. To say that autistic people lack empathy is dangerous, because that sort of idea is widespread and is commonly used to dehumanize autistic people, presenting us as robotic or animal-like.

As I wrote this piece, my friend mentioned that certain sugary foods hurt his teeth. Immediately, I think about my own teeth and I imagine (or feel, if you will) the sensations associated with sensitive teeth. What has…

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April 29, 2012 (Eli)

Thursday the 27thAs you may have noticed, I’ve been under spiritual attack this last month. I assume that’s because we are doing some things right: As soon as we started doing the home Bible study faithfully, little things started popping up; as soon as we started praying every day together, bigger things started popping up. Or maybe they were always there–Michael’s issues didn’t start two months ago, and neither did the church’s–and we just simply woke up and started paying attention to what was going on a round us all along. I suppose that’s what spiritual warfare is like–war is upon us, whether we would have it or not.–and the choice is to pretend or to fight. I choose to fight…starting…now! =) But seriously, being a Jesus-follower in a fallen and evil world is very difficult. So difficult, that nobody can do it. That is, nobody on their own. Thank God I have Jesus, and all the angels on my side, and thank God that I have you by my side. If I’m the one who must go out of the home into the thick of the battle, then you are my comforter and supporter (earthly, that is), but you are also the one who keeps me on track, on mission, as it were. The home is both a field hospital and a tactical planning base. I am so very fortunate to have you here wo-manning the fort. You are strong, dear Olga, so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. You get an idea and you pursue it to its logical conclusion, consistently and determinedly. Moreover, you pursue it also with your heart, and your hands. Take, for example, your desire to give to the poor. I know you will stick to it.

In a nutshell, I know you are FAITHFUL. Full of faith. Full of commitment to the Faith. Full of love, and steadfast love at that. You, my dear, reflect and exemplify and demonstrate one of God’s most holy attributes, about as best as one of us fallen mortals could:

Hesed in Hebrew Name

Chesed (Hebrew): Steadfast, Covenantal Love

You are far stronger than you know, because you are filled with the Holy Spirit, and you remind me that I am, too. And I read somewhere that if God is on our side, then nothing can stand in our way. Demons, look out! The Evanses are awake, and they bring with them a holy and righteous God, a host of angels, a spirit of strength and power, and leading the charge, a warrior-king who lays down his life for the troops. We may be in chains–financial, emotional, situational, but I know that this present darkness is only for a little while, and then comes glory. Until then, I look in your eyes, and I see a vision, just a small taste, of what is to come, and I take heart. By your love and faithfulness, you encourage– in-courage –me. I love you beyond all reasonable words to explain. I am so thankful for you, my helper. My wonderful, beautiful, strong helper. You and me, against the world, with Christ ahead, beside, behind, above, in and through. You and I will prevail over all things, in Him. Christ has defeated the world, and made us more than conquerors. He has made us lovers. In loving you, I have better learned to love Him, and that, dearest girl, is the best gift you could ever give.

My hand hurts from so much writing. I feel like I’m living in the Middle Ages!
I love you!
Eli, husband-warrior

March 27, 2012 (Olga)

As you know, I have been consciously spending more time in my Bible. See, I was thinking about the roles of men and women and I was thinking about how the man goes into the world and makes a living which protects the woman, to a large extent, from the world. But, then, he’s out there where it’s so easy to get wrapped up in how much money you’re making and how well you’re providing and bigger and better and all that. I mean, as the man, you are not only supposed to provide for the family but also lead spiritually. The two things almost work against each other. But I realized that if I can change my focus, I can spend lots of time and focus my energy on God’s Word and maybe, in a small way, help protect you from the world as well. I think that’s why Paul said women should not speak up in church and should ask their own husbands if they have spiritual questions. I think that is how they keep the majority of their spiritual learning in their marriage and it’s how the wife helps to keep her husband focused where he should be. If he has to be able to answer her questions, then he has to focus his energies on his own learning as well. And it takes his eye away from what he can do to do his job better and earn his pay and reorient him on what he can do to be a a better Christian, leading his family and growing in the Lord.

And, as I focus more on being in the Bible, I find it’s easier to frame things that way. To see conflicts and issues and try to think of them in light of God’s standard and what they mean to Jesus.

And I love that when I want to move that way, you are always willing to consider it. And you always take the lead. You don’t try to leave it all to me, even though it would be easy. I want to really know what it means to “do the word” and not just hear it. I want to have God’s standard be our standard, not the world’s. And I know I can be gung-ho and overly optimistic and sometimes I take things to their absurd conclusions – and I don’t find it all that absurd. Thank you for considering the possibility that maybe we really are supposed to be fringy. I love seeing the girls respond as we bring the Bible to them more and more. I’m excited to see how they do in BSF. And as we walk more faithfully and it gets harder, I find I don’t want to run away, I want more. As I read the Bible more and study more, I don’t get tired of it, I wish I had more time and stamina. And I am excited to see where it takes us, what the Lord has for us. When I look at the gifts and resources he’s given us, I think he must have something really cool in mind. I can’t wait to get there and I’m glad you will be with me.

You have made me – and you continue to make me – holier as well as happier and that is why God put you here and that is why I love you, Mr. Evans. You are the happiness that constantly points to my Joy.Thursday the 27th

I love you,
Olga Jean*

March 3, 2012 (February 2012 – Eli)

Thursday the 27thI’m late in writing, not because I have nothing to say, but because I have too much to say, and so little time to say it. That, and these last few weeks have been very stressful. Not that drama-filled world-coming-apart kind of stressful, but more like a sinus headache. Work, kids, exes, and church, and throw on top, all this conviction about relationships. We read these marriage books and watch these marriage sermons and I’m always struck by two things: How good I have it now, how bad I’ve always had it before, and how much better it can be. (Okay, three things.) I love you like crazy, and even when I think, “Well, this must be it, this must be as much as you can love someone,” I find out that no, it goes deeper, it goes wider, it goes longer, it never stops. Every time I think I’ve gone as far as I can go, I find out that I’ve been holding back, holding out, holding on to something besides love. Idols are like that, I guess. They need to be clutched. We have recently been actually, you know, TEACHING the children in an intentional way – and guess what? – they’re responding. So all that time I/we held on to the idol of “spontaneity” (as John Piper put it last night) – as long as I held back leadership (as Mark Driscoll has put it over and over again) – as long as I kept the gospel for myself and didn’t share it with them – because I was afraid of how it would hurt my relationship with them, mainly, and how that might spill over into our relationship (which I like very much) – as long as I held back for whatever reason, I was not loving them as much as I could. Not leading them is not loving them. What seems loving – what, rather, seems like it will best preserve the relationship in the status quo – is to not lead them and let them do whatever they want. But how can letting people who are LOST continue to WANDER be loving? How can it be loving to let people FLOUNDER when what they need is direction, and inspiration, and instruction, and correction, and guidance, and, and, and.

So, all that to say: I think, dearest, that it is our lot – our calling? – to be reluctant leaders. I don’t want to take the reins, and I never want to manage other people’s affairs. But when I want to or not, God keeps putting me in situations where I must LEAD or be frustrated, and be dragged down by my own sin of HESITATION. I must lead you, even if I think you’re very, very capable, smart and able to lead yourself. Which I do. I must LEAD the children, because on that last day, I’ll have to stand at the judgement seat of Christ and account for not “how they turned out” but what I put in. I don’t want to bury my talent in the ground. And I must LEAD at church, even though I’m sure that will cause conflict, and stress, and all sorts of heartache. LOVE ALWAYS does. Whenever you love, the world becomes your enemy. “Perfect love casts out fear.” I want to have perfect love for Jesus, because he has perfect love for me. I want us to share perfect love together, and even though “we got a good thing going,” it doesn’t mean it can’t be better and better and better all the time.

So, how can I be a better leader; to you, to the kids, for Jesus, and in my community? That’s the question.

I love you, and I never, never want to hold back. You deserve my all.

LOVE, Husband

PS (and I want to encourage you to lead, too!)  : )

January 27, 2012 (Olga)

So I was planning on getting the whole 27 Journal published by the 27th of last month. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate our fifth anniversary. It wasn’t very realistic, though. So I think I will adjust my aims to something more realistic. An entry a week. With that I give you the first installment of:

Thursday the 27th

In my studying of Paul and his missions and his lover for these churches, I am struck over and over by a couple things. Well, lots of things, but a couple in particular. The first is how much he loved them and how much joy he took in preaching and teaching them. And also how well he seemed to understand that the real saving work was the Lord’s.

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s Love and Christ’s perseverance.
-2 Thessalonians 3:5

I think, finally, I’m starting to get that. All we can do is tell the kid the truth. We have to present the Gospel-through Bible study and our lives. After that, the saving is up to God. And, yeah, it’s hard to hear about other Christian parents praying with their kids and stuff like that. But I have to stay focused on what I have. I have three girls who watch a very dense sermon with us once a week and then have good discussions. I have hope that one day, Mae will not just hear and understand the truth but really accept it and love it and submit to it. I have faith that if that doesn’t happen, God will work it all for his glory. I know that they see our house and our lives lead by Christ and, more and more, I think they are beginning to understand what that means. I hope to one day stand with them before the throne. The only reason that’s a remote possibility is because God worked through you to save me, and he continues to work through us to save them.

I just want you to know that I have more hope for them than every before and that’s mostly because of you. You are the best blessing that God ever sent me and those kids, and I love you more every day.

You are my courageous, resolved man and I am lucky to have you, valiant warrior.

All my heart, always, Olga Jean

In Autism: Routine Conquers All

Well, maybe not all, but perhaps it can conquer my executive function disorder. Or executive dysfunction, as I like to call it, since that is what it feels like. I have always felt like I don’t really need a routine or anything. I don’t like schedules. I hate time. When I try to do anything at a specific time, I inevitably miss it. I am usually late for everything. (I have that Time Agnosia thing. I simply can’t deal with time. I don’t feel it passing. I don’t know how long it takes to do things unless I actually time it with a clock. When I am doing something, I don’t know if I’ve been doing it for five hours or five minutes without a clock.  I’ve been a mom for 18 years and a person for almost 41 and I still seem to be almost completely incapable of getting us anywhere on time, no matter how much I focus on it or how much effort I put into it. Anyway, that’s not really what this is about…)

5bec4e877ef949b9bbcd39c1e4cb932eI am coming to the conclusion that I need “routine” more than I ever thought. The days when I sleep in, it becomes a chore to do the smallest thing, even if I want to do it. The monkey wrench in our lives that our house guests entail continues to throw off any sense of familiarity and routine that I had. Last week, our basement leaked and wet much of the downstairs and between the extra stress of having to worry about whether it was drying out and so many extra smells (outside water plus candles burned to cover the smell of outside water), I was pretty low on spoons all week. By the time Friday came around, I made it through my early BSF meeting but I spent the rest of the day on the couch watching Numb3rs like I had the flu. Which is kind of what I felt like.

I’m starting to realize that this is not laziness on my part. If I’m overstimulated or stressed to what feels like the point of exhaustion, it’s not just me talking myself into exhaustion so that I can get out of doing things. I’m not lazy and I don’t hate housework. Truth be told, it’s a little embarrassing to admit, I rather like housework. I like to do mindless tasks that leave my mind free to think and ponder big ideas. I like to intersperse times of problem solving with times of menial labor that allows my mind to process everything that has gone into it. For those who have never tried it, this is a pretty good description of being a housewife. So why am I so bad at it? That’s not false humility, I really am. I mean, I keep everything functioning and we usually never have things growing anywhere (barring a leaky basement growing fungus or mold), but, that’s a pretty low bar. Basically, if I get the dishes done every day and all the necessary laundry done every week, that’s really all that I can reasonably expect from myself. Wanting anything beyond that is just going to result in me beating myself up and feeling like a totally useless waste. I don’t clean bathrooms unless they’re gross and the fancy takes me. I don’t vacuum unless someone is coming over even though I have pretty noticeable dust allergies. I just can’t get started. 973ff9da48c742f0bd5d9450d260eac2

But I think one of the things that I like about doing dishes and laundry is that I have a routine for those things. When I am doing them, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be and then my mind even likes to take it to all the generations of women who have done this very thing before me. It’s like the most beautiful cross-generational rut ever. So, maybe if I get a routine going for cleaning the bathrooms and the upholstery and other things that carry dust – which would probably really help my quality of life and not just be an aesthetic thing – maybe I could get that done. If I could get some kind of routine down for grocery shopping and menu planning and did it so that everyone would eat but our diet 3808f5ac9d4a47dd8ca17ee03f2998b3could still be mostly wheat-free – another thing that would really improve my quality of life by cutting out more allergens and reducing the strain on my system – maybe I could get that done. I think I just need to put my mind to it, get a system in place and then work the system till it becomes automatic. Alternating times of problem solving with times of menial labor. You know, like playing to my own strengths to give myself the best chance of succeeding? Hm. Novel idea.

I think rather than a schedule, I need to make a routine for each day and put each thing into that routine. The first thing I do every day after taking my husband to the bus and getting breakfast for Joseph, if necessary, is put in a load of laundry and do the dishes. Well, those are the first things I do every *good* day. =) It is ridiculous what an amazing sense of accomplishment I get just from doing what I plan to do. Then after I do the dishes and put in a second load of laundry, I do whatever BSF I have to do. Then after that…well, it kind of falls apart. I think I need to add more to the routine I already have. But I can’t make it time dependent, otherwise, I just fall apart if I get late or something keeps me from getting things done on time. And, apparently, I need visual reminders. At least, that’s what all the tips for overcoming executive dysfunction suggest. I have to admit, I do usually do better when things are right out in the open. Which is why it would probably be a good idea to have fewer things. =) But that’s a post for another day…