Monday, 3 August 2015

{You} Are Faultless

The key is repetition...


For the past couple of months, I have been meditating on the concept of being faultless to stand before God's throne, by His righteousness... That no matter what we have done, or how we see ourselves - we can stand at God's throne F-A-U-L-T-L-E-S-S!!! Why would God do that for us? It's because His love for us is so deep and so vast, that He always sees us as beautiful and righteous and NEVER any different. As it says in 1 Peter 4:8 "Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins." (New Living Translation)

Jude 24 tells us this "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you FAULTLESS before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy..." (emphasis my own)

WOW! **Pick jaw up off the floor** Isn't that AMAZING??

Most times we are our worst critics and put ourselves down more than we deserve. I know, I am guilty of doing that to myself - more times than I can count! I want to believe this scripture and speak it over my life, don't you? And the only way we can do that is to constantly and consistently repeat it, over and over! 

"I am clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before His throne!"

God is such a good God! He wants nothing but the best for us and often we hinder that 'best' in our lives by our negative mindsets, by not speaking life over ourselves and also by not believing His Word. If we don't speak life over ourselves - who will!? As we see in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Living Bible Translation)


If God sees us as righteous and faultless - why do we see ourselves any different? Actually, WHO are we to see ourselves any different!!


Think about it, if we don't see ourselves as God sees us - we are basically calling God a liar. And He is definitely not a liar!! In Numbers 23:19 it says "God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?" (New Living Translation)


"I am clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before His throne!"

Are you starting to believe it yet? 

I want to encourage you to start speaking life over your life, over your husband or partner, over your marriage or relationship, over your children, over your job, over your boss, over your family, over YOU! Little ways to do this, is to put little sticky notes all over your house, car, desk, etc with this (or any other encouraging scripture), so that you keep reading (whether consciously or subconsciously) and speak life over yourself!

"I am clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before His throne!"

Please do get in touch - I'd love to hear from you. 

Remember, speak LIFE and also remember that you are righteous and faultless to stand before His throne! Believe it!!

Until next time,
KBx

**Side note: all views are my own**

Friday, 10 April 2015

A is not always for 'apple'...

So, with it being Autism Awareness Month, let me start by giving you a bit of background for this post...

My son, Darren, has Asperger's Syndrome (AS), which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is characterised by difficulties in social interaction (they have to be taught how to socialise etc.) and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviours or interests (Darren loves trains and Transformers......a LOT!!). It differs from other autism spectrum disorders in that his language and cognitive development is not negatively affected, if anything, they are highly developed. With Darren his brain never shuts off, it is constantly going and trying to figure out how things work. He loves reading and his vocabulary is outstanding. Another real-life example is he'll get a new PlayStation game and get to the end of the game within a day or so and then he'll start it again and finish it again, and then start it again and finish it again...so within a week he would've started and finished the same game a number of times (if you want more info on AS or ASD go to: Wikipedia).


How it all started


Darren was in nursery school (kindergarten) when we first picked up that something wasn't "quite right" with him. Please don't get me wrong - I'm not saying my son is stupid or anything like that, his brain just processes things differently to what the world terms "normal". He would get completely overwhelmed with all the noise of the other kids and of his teacher's loud "shrilly" voice, he would play on his own (no social skills) and didn't want to be involved in group activities. We sent him to Grade 0 in a mainstream school and he battled throughout the year, but his teacher was amazing and managed to get him through the year. But after much discussion with her, we kept him back as she didn't think he would manage Grade 1 at his level of maturity or that he would cope emotionally.

At the beginning of his second year in Grade 0 we had him assessed by an independent psychologist and she diagnosed him with Asperger's and referred us to a psychiatrist for further assessment and confirmation.

After some observation, his psychiatrist sent Darren for a brain scan to rule out the possibility of epilepsy. She thought he was maybe experiencing seizures known as "absence seizures" due to the fact that he couldn't focus his attention on a single one thing for very long. An absence seizure causes a short period of “blanking out” or staring into space - most of the time the person doesn't even realise that it is happening (if you want more info go to Epilepsy Foundation). The brain scan was done and the tests came back negative - it wasn't epilepsy. Now, at least we had a way forward as it could only be one other thing - Asperger's. It was at this point that he was diagnosed with AS.

He was put on medication for concentration as well as anxiety and he has been a different little boy ever since. Now, this is a very highly debated topic - whether to medicate or not - and everyone has an opinion about it. I chose to go with my gut as his mom and decided to medicate my son, as it was going to assist Darren in class and help him cope with his life.

His second year of Grade 0 was still challenging, but he (we) made it through. We decided to remove him from mainstream and put him at a government remedial school for Grade 1. The reason why the government school, is because the cost of private remedial or special needs schools are exorbitant here in South Africa and, to be honest I'm not sure how most people afford them, together with all the therapy (OT and speech, etc.) and other things that go along with having a special needs child. Anyway, he coped a lot better at his new school as the class sizes were a lot smaller, but the school as a whole was still quite big as it went from Grade 1 to Grade 12. Still too much to overwhelm my little boy.

Grade 1 was still quite tough, but he made it through. His teacher told us that he would often sit under his desk to escape the constant overwhelming bombardment of sound and sensory over-stimulation and overload. During the first term of Grade 2, his teacher called us in and told us that we needed to find another school (where they offered more 1-on-1 attention) as he was not coping at the level he needed to.

At this point I had a total emotional breakdown. How were we going to suddenly afford school fees that were so out of our reach?? Since Darren was diagnosed, I think I was just operating in "survival mode". I had just become so exhausted! Exhausted of being strong all the time, exhausted of dealing with the stress of a special needs child, exhausted of being a momma to my daughter - Emily - who also needed attention from me, exhausted of being a wife to my hubby who was also dealing with all of this, exhausted of having a full-time job that is very demanding in itself. And now that we were faced with this, I completely fell apart. Not long after this though, I started the process of getting him into a new school.

The Turning Point


I had heard about this little school called the Studio of Learning (SOL) and had been to see the school before, but the cost, again, stopped us from sending Darren there initially. But now, we had no choice - we had to make a plan to afford it. I got hold of Clare Hulse, the principal, and thankfully she had an opening for Darren to start in the second term.

Sending him to SOL was the best decision we have made. It has been the biggest sacrifice for us! Financially we had to cut back on a lot of things and adjust our monthly spending to be able to afford the fees. But seeing the change in our son has made it worthwhile. He has just grown and grown and grown.

I must admit it was a very bitter-sweet moment in our lives, good in that we now had a way forward, but devastating because our son, our sweet little boy, had autism! Something we never thought would happen. Jono and I had to work through our disappointment, our fear, our self-blame. I would ask myself over and over again: "Could I have done something differently?", "Was I a bad mom?", "Did I let him watch too much TV as a baby?", "What did I do wrong?". The answer to all of these is: NO! I did nothing to cause this! It took me a long time to believe this truth: Nothing I did or didn't do made this happen to my precious boy.

With AS or any other ASD, routine and continuity is always key. So we always strive to have continuity, routine and structure in Darren's life, because if anything changes in his routine, it throws him completely. A little thing that wouldn't affect us at all like suddenly deciding to go out, or suddenly telling him to go do something else - without giving him enough warning to complete whatever it is he is busy with - an example of this is telling him he needs to go bath and he's busy playing - you have to give him a warning 10 minutes ahead of the time you want him to go bath and then again 5 minutes ahead of the time and then eventually at the time it is easier for him to leave whatever he's doing and go bath. These types of things totally throw him if he doesn't have the proper pre-warning or routine and cause him to have a meltdown and sometimes it's a huge challenge to bring him down from that meltdown. As he is getting older, it is getting easier to reason with him, but he still needs that warning ahead of a change in his routine.

Four years later


Now Darren is in Grade 4 and is coping so well with most things. His social skills are getting better - he's learning how to play with his friends and how to interact with them. He's learning how to be a friend. He's learning how to stand up in front of his class and tell everyone his "news" (a very scary thing for him). He's had to learn how to do a speech in front of his class (it is only 2 other kids and his teacher, but this took us about 3 weeks to get him to a point where he felt he could do it - the anxiety of it was just so overwhelming that he would just completely shut down).

Having said all this, my boy is the most amazing young man! He has taught me patience, how to live life to the full, how to enjoy every moment, how to laugh (he has such a dry sense of humour), and most importantly, he's taught me how to love by being the most loving child!

I am so blessed to be Darren's mom!!

I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below. Also, join my mailing list to ensure you never miss a post!
Until next time,
KB xx

(Disclaimer: the information in this post is from my own personal experience with my son, please seek medical advice before self-diagnosing anyone)


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

#TheBentzsTakeOnIndia

So, last year Jonathan and I had the amazing privilege of travelling overseas (first time for both of us!)… and where do you suppose our FIRST EVER trip was to??  You will NEVER guess (unless of course you read the title) :) that’s right…we went to INDIA!

Now India would not have been our first choice of holiday destination, especially for our first ever overseas trip! But thanks to Corporate Traveller I won 2x SAA economy class tickets to Mumbai at their client year end function in November 2013.

Our trip started months before the departure, with planning and researching and saving, and planning and researching, and planning and researching……and saving!! :)

With all my (planning and) research, I came across some great websites with invaluable information that really helped us get ready for our trip (I’ll include some of the links at the end).

The main thing about India is the humidity that hits you as you disembark the plane! It really is something else, and something that cannot be described really…The humidity, together with the smell that becomes synonymous to anywhere in India…the country really has an odd, smelly, muggy smell.

…ok…let me get back on track… I’m just going to give you highlights of our trip (don’t want to bore you with details of every single fort or palace we saw, because we saw a LOT!)

We did the Golden Triangle tour, so that is Mumbai, Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal), we added Jaipur and Goa in as we were there for 10 days.

(in hindsight, we were really grateful to have booked our trip through an amazingly efficient tour company called Gets Holidays. The consultant we dealt with - Mithun Sharma - was fantastic!)

So, first up… Mumbai!  

Mumbai is like Johannesburg but 100 times crazier…like by a million percent! Seriously! It’s ridiculous! :) We saw our lives flash before our eyes on numerous occasions! But as bad as the traffic is, they have no road rage or issues with fellow road users (and I say road “users”, because there is not only cars and motorbikes on the roads! There are animals, bicycles, pedestrians, people pushing makeshift wheelbarrow things, you name it!)  And hooting… Oh my goodness, do they like to hoot (constantly), but to let others know where they are - not in anger.  It was quite something to get used to. 

One of our taxi drivers in Mumbai (the taxi was an ooooold Morris Minor, loads of those around)

Wondering if we will get to our hotel...alive! :) We had just had a delicious dinner at Hard Rock Cafe Mumbai!
In Mumbai alone there are over 75 000 of these taxis

New Delhi and Old Delhi were also great places to see. New Delhi is quite commercialised but driving into Old Delhi (it took us about 2 hours to get into Old Delhi because of the traffic due to festivals happening)…is like you’ve stepped back in time! Most of the original buildings are there…and the original electrical wiring - how everything hasn’t burnt down to the ground is a question I’m sure gets asked regularly! :)

Old Delhi electricity cables between the buildings

The absolute main highlight of our trip was the TAJ MAHAL! Wow! That is a phenomenal piece of architecture! The skill that it took to build that place in the year 1632 is mind-blowing! Adding the fact that it took about 20 years and about 20 000 workers to complete it…let alone the cost, which was close to £5 million (in 1640)!! We are both so grateful to have seen the Taj Mahal with our very own eyes! The queues of people to get into the palace was cray cray! And not a lot of foreigners, actually mostly locals.

Entrance gate to the Taj Mahal - the 20 pinnacles on top symbolise the amount of years it took to build (10 on either side)

The breathtaking beauty that is the TAJ MAHAL!

Biggest highlight - seeing the Taj Mahal with our very own eyes

Other things we did and places we saw:

Horse rickshaw ride...

The ride was a little scary

We were glad that we got to the end point safely! :)


The Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, also known as the Pink City:

Jono and I in front of the Palace of the Winds

Breathtakingly huge

That brings me to another funny thing… the fact that our skin colour is white made us like celebrities there! I’m not even joking… The amount of times I was stared at, smiled and waved at by children, gawked at, videoed, etc is too many to count! This one guy (in Mumbai) as we were trying to get onto a ferry to go to the Elephanta Caves, followed me with his phone (video recording me) as I walked past him! Creepy I tell ya! :)

Another cool thing we got to experience was elephant rides up to the Agra Fort:

Elephant rides at Agra Fort, Agra

Jono and I about to set on our journey...:)


Our elephant "driver" made Jono put on his (very sweaty) turbin and insisted on taking a pic! LOL!

Most of the places we went to also totally ripped foreigners off…such as the Elephanta Caves 
we went to - the locals paid 10 Rupees (just under R2) for admission, while foreigners paid 250 Rupees (just under R50)!!!!



Our last place we visited was Goa! OhEmG! This place is like heaven on earth! The Arabian Sea was gorgeous and felt like a bath when you went in and we sooo enjoyed ending our holiday off there.  We stayed in Varca, South Goa at a beach resort about an hours drive from the airport. There we experienced shopping “local” style…I say that because at all the other places we went to, our guides would take us to the places that were geared for foreigners and by that I mean people that have come to India with hundreds of thousands of Rupees! (which we didn’t have!) So when we got the opportunity to shop in Panaji, North Goa we had a ball. Hundreds of little stalls in the market selling sarees, shoes, toys, food, etc…

Local market in Panaji, North Goa


Miramar Beach, North Goa


We were quite sad to leave India at the end of our holiday and would definitely go back if given the chance again!

Let me end off with 7 things we would recommend:
  1. always drink bottled water and carry with you all the time (you will dehydrate quickly)
  2. stay at hotels that are 4* or higher
  3. use a reputable tour company (be careful of scams)
  4. never eat food from the vendors on the street
  5. don’t be caught out by shop owners trying to sell stuff at very inflated prices - if you’re a foreigner (ie white) they will take huge chances
  6. visit during October and February - this is their “winter” months (March to September is monsoon season)
  7. take enough money for daily expenses - things like tips (you have to pay EVERYONE for whatever they do and it ranges from 100 - 1 000 Rupees depending on the service provided), also monument entrances, waters, lunch, taxi etc (these are not always included in the tour costs) I would guesstimate to take about R200-R250 per person per day extra in Rupees.


If you’re thinking of going or already planning on going - you will not be disappointed! Just keep an open mind and take it for what it is!

Well, that brings me to the end of my first ever blog post! Thanks for reading…

Ciao for now,
KylieB



Hotels we stayed at:

Airlines we used:

Links to websites I found very useful:
Annoyances and Inconveniences