One Faith, Many Paths: Kasey Smith

kaseyThis time around, I interviewed Kasey Smith, a good friend of mine who also participates in Special Olympics!

1. What was your childhood like? My childhood was sheltered. Living in a small town, of course everybody’s life is sheltered in some form or another. I was a premature baby. I had fever seizures, brain bleeder, and a deflated right lung. I started going to school in my little not long after we moved in March of 1990. By the grace of God and with the support of many people, I graduated in 2007 after nearly 20 years.

2. When were you diagnosed as autistic? I was diagnosed as autistic in my 6th grade year in 2001. This just happened to fall not long before September 11, and I honestly believe that if it had waited, it would have been a disaster for me.

3. How did you become a Christian? Let’s backtrack 4 years to April of 1998. It was  a small town Sunday…it was a lazy laid-back slow Sunday. Our family got ready to go to Church that Sunday morning, and I personally had no idea that what I was going to do that day would change my life. We went to church and I don’t exactly remember what our pastor was talking about that day, but when it came time for the response, I walked forward with my older brother. (Funny side note: This was just about a year after our original Church building burned to the ground, we had just moved into our new building, which wasn’t completed yet.  So we ended up being baptized in another church. We were bigger than the baptism tank!) Our family was excited. That was 20 years ago! God has blessed me with so much it’s not even funny.

4. What is your favorite Bible passage? My favorite passage is Psalm 139 because in it, the Psalmist clearly says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and that we should rejoice in that fact.

5. Who is your favorite Biblical character besides Jesus? It would have to be Paul because of what he had to go through–all of the persecution and the problems that he had to go through but he persevered and was very influential in the Bible.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Karly White

karlyThis time on One Faith, Many Paths, I’m interviewing a longtime FB friend Karly White, who I’ve known since my days in the Fans For Christ FB group. She is married to her husband Edward, and they have a newborn son named Hezekiah.

1. What was your childhood like? In some ways, it was very idyllic. I grew up in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of West Virginia and white Christmases during my childhood, and have fond memories of things like playing flashlight tag on summer nights, and sledding in the winter with the neighborhood kids. In other ways, it was pretty bad. My mother had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and could be verbally abusive, which got worse after my brother Keric died in infancy from HLHS, a rare heart condition. West Virginia is also a predominantly white state, and my father is Cuban. My parents were always very lonely and pretty excluded from our community. I didn’t really think about until I was older that racism played a part in that.

2. How did you become a Christian? My father is a Pentecostal pastor, so Christianity was a huge part of my upbringing, so I was always aware of scripture and Jesus’s ministry. Like most teenagers, I went through a phase where I questioned whether Christianity was a bunch of magical nonsense or not. Ironically, what brought me to faith was a fantasy novel. I read the Chronicles of Narnia the year my nana (my mom’s aunt that raised her) died, and on the plane ride to her funeral, I remember looking out the window at the patchwork of land beneath me and thinking, if there was a being like Aslan, the lion God-figure of the books, who was merciful, loving, regal, and righteous, I wanted to follow him. In the next moment, I remembered that CS Lewis was a devout Christian, and Aslan was his version of the Christian God. That’s who he was describing in his books, and that’s who I wanted to know and follow. I’ve wrestled with my faith a lot over the years, and still do, but I still want to follow that God.

3. What is your occupation? Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom. I do freelance writing and editing and am currently working on a novel and regularly blog.

4. What is your favorite biblical passage? Tough to say. When I was in high school, Ps 143:7-8 meant a lot to me, as the NLT says, “Come quickly, Lord and answer me, for my depression deepens. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you.” It was reassuring to me when I was struggling with depression. In more recent years, Isaiah 62:4-5 was given to me when I was praying for wisdom from God about whether I should marry my now-husband. The passage in the ESV says, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight is in Her and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” There are many more, but those specifically always stand out to me.

5. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus? I love the stories of strong women in the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Mary, Deborah, Jael, but over the years the story of Joseph is one I continually come back to.  There is so much reassurance and hope in his story, so much of what Christ would later reveal in Jesus. The fact that he was able to forgive his brothers, the fact that he took bleak circumstances and was able to rise above them.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Lizzie Storm

This month’s interview is with a very interesting woman named Lizzie Storm, who is a member of my Autistic Christians group.

1. What was your childhood like?

Very tough growing up. I had loving and supportive parents but I felt I didn’t before among my peers. When I was about 11 and started getting called weird for the first time, I used to think what was wrong with me, then I ended up severely bullied. I never want to go back and look towards the future. I know Jesus can do anything, so I hope to do things again and have a second chance at making friendships with a renewed life in Heaven.

2. What is your favorite biblical passage?

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

3. How did you become a Christian?

I wanted to go to Heaven and my teacher at my Christian school, Mrs. Blakeman, told me how to get saved. Then I was happy. I was like “Oh, that’s how you get to Heaven.” So I gave my life to God in 1999 at 9 years old.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

I have seen him. I think it’s something you have to experience yourself.  God will always find a way to reveal himself to you. Also how unique we are. That couldn’t have happened just by chance.

5. Who are your favorite biblical figures besides Jesus?

Gabriel, The Virgin Mary, and St. Michael

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jane Lebak

This month’s interview is with Catholic writer Jane Lebak!

1) What was your childhood like?

I grew up in New York City, so it was a strange distortion of too many crowds and too much isolation, but I think it was just right for making me who I am.  I went to high school in a different borough (the local public high school wasn’t a great place; I remember three high school girls attacking a cop in the hallway) and getting there required an hour and fifteen minutes on the subway in each direction. Because of the distance, I got a subway pass.

That was freedom. It was amazing to have complete freedom to wander Manhattan with my allowance and my bookbag. After school, I’d walk from 83rd Street and head down to wherever I wanted. Forbidden Planet (both of them!) or Strand Bookstore or St. Francis Bookstore…I found so many amazing little shops and awesome little stores with ethnic food, and I could go all over the place to explore and learn and experience. I loved that so much!

Contrast that with early release days, where if I bolted out of school the moment the bell rang, and if all the trains and buses were right there to connect, I could get home in time to watch the last fifteen minutes of Transformers. 

2) What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

My personal reason is that I’ve had personal experiences that lead me to no other conclusion. When you reach out and something reaches back for you, you have no more doubt.  When you fall and something catches you, you feel secure in what you felt. That’s not data for anyone else of course, but it holds me fast.

Overall though, and even before I had that kind of one-on-one experience, I knew order doesn’t arise from chaos.  Things fall apart on their own.  They don’t become more ordered or more complex.  So the tremendous complexity we see inside a cell or the way galaxies are constructed, for example, tells me something must have created and sorted, and organized everything that went into that.

3. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?

That’s hard to pick. I like the Archangel Raphael in the book of Tobit. I used to have the worst crush on the Archangel Gabriel.  But on the human side of things, I really like the apostle Thomas because he seems to have this sarcastic and pragmatic edge that really speaks to me.

4. Favorite biblical passage and why?

“Kindness and truth shall meet. Justice and peace shall kiss.” I love the sense of completion.  In some ways, these things could be opposites (think of the answer to “does this make me look fat?”), but with grace, they become complementary.  In the end, all our differences are harmonized so they retain their character but all work together to show the many facets of God’s glory.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Steve Condrey

condreyThis time, I’m interviewing the Moderator for my Autistic Christians Facebook group, Steve Condrey.

1. What is your denomination? How long have you been a Christian?

I am officially a Baptist (my baptism was through a Southern Baptist-affiliated church), but I see myself as a nondenominational progressive.  I first professed Christ as my Savior in October 1982, and while I may not have been the most faithful of believers, I have never once stopped believing and acknowledging Christ’s lordship.

2. What was your childhood like? 

My parents were believers, but for the most part not actively churchgoing.  They stopped going to church regularly once the church started getting heavily involved in politics.  My parents were tough-minded, no-nonsense people.  Dad was a Marine and mom was a floor nurse–two professions notorious for not taking nonsense from anyone.  They were however, very fair-minded and even though they didn’t know any more about autism spectrum issues in the 1970’s and 1980’s they did their best. Frequently they did much better than the professionals recommended!

3. How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife offline in 2003 when Yahoo Personals was still in business. It is the first marriage for both of us after a lot of very dysfunctional relationships.

4. When were you diagnosed? Have your children been diagnosed as well?

I was diagnosed in April 2008, shortly after being placed with our son. The challenges of marriage were more than enough to stress my usual coping mechanisms beyond the limit; parenthood only made the situation more stressful. After a series of referrals, I ended up with an excellent neuropsychologist who pinned the problem down in a single office visit! My son (adopted and no genetic relation to me at all) was formally diagnosed this year; we had suspected he was on the spectrum, and some of the people who worked with him back in California thought so as well but the diagnosis was always considered of secondary or lower importance compared to his severe ADHD. My daughter is so far as we know neurotypical but still very bright.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Nicholas Tieman

tieman

This month, I interview an old friend of mine from my days at Christian Anime Alliance, just like Arri Lemons. Here’s Nicholas Tieman!

1) How did you become a Christian?

I was claimed by Christ in baptism in the first month of my life. I’ve been growing into it ever since.

2. What denomination are you?

I am a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. My family has been a member of this church body as long as it’s been around, and it’s a spiritual heritage I’m very happy for.  Here in the South, the dominant paradigm is Baptist, which is prone to legalism. Many people overcorrect into antinominianism, or by rejecting faith entirely. The Lutheran emphasis on ongoing repentance is particularly helpful to people in churches who feel like they can never be good enough but still want to follow God.

3. What is your current job?

I help Hilton Hotels maintain websites. I mainly work on a collection of foreign language web sites, like this one: http://www.hiltonhotels.com/fr_FR/france/trianon-palace-versailles-a-waldorf-astoria hotel

My job is interesting and not too stressful. I’m constantly having to learn something new. I love it.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

I went through a time where I felt severely challenged in my faith, to the point where I wondered if I was just fooling myself. One day I got my butt handed to me in a forum argument (this was in the olden times, before all the social interaction was consumed by the Book of Faces) and concluded that I should just give it up.  I was at the office that day and happened to mention it to a coworker. Before I then I never knew he was a Christian. I only knew him as a hard partying loudmouth, and I don’t remember him saying anything particularly insightful before or after that.  But he managed to say exactly what I needed to hear.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

jannah

This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

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