Our kids are growing like weeds. That’s nothing incredibly new to report. Not only do they eat more, need new clothes and shoes like crazy, there’s other things like bikes that they outgrow.
Knut decided this winter that David would need a new bike this year. David’s bike will go to Elias, and Elias’ bike to Solveig, and so forth. Silje and David are nearly the same size, so not a whole lot gets passed from her to him.
It would make sense to get him a bike for his birthday, but that’s in the fall, and since Knut loves to take all the kids out on bike rides, he actually would need it in the summer. So to fight the attitude of entitlement (a heart issue) that seems to be ever prevalent in our kids, he told David that he would get a new bike when he completed a massive job that would be assigned to him.
We use a bunch of wood in our fireplace to heat our house every winter. We have learned that the wood burns hotter if it has been properly dried over the summer (something Knut doesn’t always have time to do). This would require that David stack the whole winter’s worth of wood that Knut split and chopped for next year, and stacking it so that it could get nice and dry in the sun, and then this fall Knut and he will move it over to our wood stack nearer to the house.
This job would take David a few months of working at least an hour every day.
So Knut had already decided to get him the bike. Dangling it as a carrot for David had less to do with David earning it, and more of a way to get David doing some heavy lifting daily.
You see, one of David’s diagnosis’s is 2 different kinds of sensory processing disorder (SPD). I learned so many fascinating things last year about SPD, and started to get a bigger picture of what it was like for him to live in his skin. I am not a doctor or expert, so bear with my oversimplifications. There are 6 different types of SPD, and he has 2 of them. David has ADHD, not autism, but both of those usually have 1 or more kinds of SPD attached to them, with combinations varying from kid to kid. What this means is that David’s nerves communicate with his brain in an abnormal way that can easily overwhelm him.
In David’s case, one of the things that calms his nervous system down is to get some pressure on his joints. This is why when he is struggling to concentrate, he will push against a wall, or pull hard on the chair he is sitting in, or want to jump or press against something. He’s trying to calm down his nervous system so it stops overfeeding his brain. Sometimes if we are anticipating a situation being difficult for him, we will have him move around some heavy things, so he goes into the situation pre-calmed.
Carrying around and stacking wood puts a ton of pressure on your joints. This job that Knut has assigned David has gotten David through some challenging school subjects, and prevented some major meltdowns as he gets some consistent, daily deep pressure on his joints. In one occupational therapist’s words, “Having David help outside on the farm is the most ideal situation for him to be in.”
But who likes to work every day stacking wood? It’s a chore. It’s work. Work feels mean to kids (and adults) sometimes.
But in David’s case, he needs the work.
What David doesn’t know, is that his dad was looking out for him, (and looking out for me, his teacher) by making sure that David had a daily dose of heavy-joint-pressure-physical-work so he could handle his spring semester better, and generally handle himself better. Giving him this job was a blessing to our whole family, yes, because having dried firewood this winter will be amazing. But even more so, it was a blessing to David. It was what he needed.
And in the end, David will get a bike, so he can continue the family bike rides with a ride his size.
As I was walking back by the grain bins for my daily bit of outside exercise, I saw the enormous length of this woodpile. I was proud of my son, and how he pushed through this enormous job. I thought about how God gives us work to do.
We think we’re earning something from all the work that God gives us. Maybe we’re earning his pleasure, our salvation, his good graces, his blessings. But we’re not. The fact that he was giving all of those was decided long ago. God’s grace isn’t earned. A father’s love is never earned.
But God does give us work.
Why? Because we owe him? To pay him back? To get extra credit? So he will love us?
God gives us work because he knows we need it. As much as we resist it, we need work because we are designed for it. It puts us in connection with him, it helps us develop how we should. It builds our character and shapes our heart. Doing God’s work means that we are in communion with God again, that we are working alongside him like in the Garden of Eden, that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves. It helps us understand it’s not all about us after all. It works on our hearts in that deep-pressure sort of way.
Plus it’s a blessing to others.
The grace was decided long ago. The love is unconditional. The work he gives us? Well, that’s a gift too. All is grace.