Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Dream Come True

I have this memory from when I was young. It is a very clear one of an interview, maybe the paper or local evening news or even just one of those award ceremonies they used to have in elementary school. I remember vividly my PTO president parents being proud of me that day and I loved and still love to make my people proud. I remember some random smiling adult stranger before me asking me questions and one of those questions was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” That question was easy for me. I knew I was smart enough to be whatever I wanted and I knew exactly what that whatever was. So, I looked back at my parents and glanced around the room and very confidently said, “When I grow up I want to be a mom!”. My parents were not super impressed with this response. I think they felt I should want bigger grander things in life but I was certain that motherhood was a vital part of my calling and was most excited about it! This memory makes me laugh and cry somedays. How funny that my little girl heart was already wrapped up tight in loving little people? How funny that my dreams came true and yet they don’t always look or feel like all that I ever imagined?

As I got older, I did realize that I might need a job that paid in actual money and so I choose nursing. I could still be with kids and when I when I became a mom, I could have a flexible schedule. Of all the plans to actually fall into place, this one did. I have my three boys and I live the quintessential boymom life and I do a very small amount of nursing on the side. As I was sitting on my back porch sanctuary earlier today, listening to the sounds of my boys and my life, I was struck by how I am actually living my dream. Sure, my hair is in a knot. Yes, I am void of makeup and I have laundry to fold and dinner to make. Yes, it is true that I drive a minivan and that my big plans for the week were playdates and sports physicals. I throw like a girl and most of my kids’ friends are rapidly passing me in height. I shop at dicks for us all now and I find myself putting the seat up on the toilet for self-bum- protection. This is MY dream though. I wake up to one who needs to snuggle in bed with his milk and his mom. The other two groggily turn on sports center and interrupt my quiet time for cereal requests and game stats that I don’t really care about but pretend to. I spend my days feeding and playing and cleaning and feeding. I go to bed tired and smelling of outside and sweat. Sometimes, I rock it out with night time prayer and devotional and bike rides and ice cream and other days I fail miserably with rants over drones that won’t fly and blaming them on losing my keys.  Always though, I love it, really I do, but when I think back to that memory of being a little girl who wanted to be a mom, I am struck by something much bigger. I am convinced that even then, He who made me knew that I would need that dream to get me through sometimes. He knew that I would feel scared for my boys. Some days I would feel overwhelmed by the struggles. He knew that when someone hurt them, I would need His kindness and self-control. He knew that I would always feel like I have no clue what I’m doing but that I would never quit trying.  He knew my strengths, even as a little girl, were not in princesses but in baiting my own hook and playing whiffle ball in the field. He knew that it was going to take a big strong heart to make it through the tough parts and a joy seeker every morning and so He planted a seed of desire in my childhood soul, a longing to be a mom. On the long days, during the hardest times, I find such peace in that. I am always aware that I alone, am not enough, not even close, and yet, the God who gave me the want will certainly provide the will and the way.


A mom…. the littlest word with the giant-est meaning. Thank you, Jesus, for your good, pleasing, and perfect plans for me, for my boys, and for each of us who will seek you.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

31 cents worth of Autism

It is the beginning of April! This has become a very important month to our little family because we are foot-loose and fancy free for a whole month to share our crazy, nutty, perfect (ish) life with autism in an effort to make the world around us more aware. Here is the thing, the numbers prove that it is nearly impossible to not know someone with autism. 1 in 62 people have autism and that is just the diagnosed ones. It is more common in boys and approximately 1 in 42 males are diagnosed with some form of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). This is the statistically reality. The real-life reality is that daily our little boy meets people who stop, who stare, who don't understand. I was telling a story the other day about being at one of my other boy's basketball games and I noticed two women turn around and do a double take to Garrett. It took me a few more minutes to realize that G was getting excited and he was expressing his excitement with a humming sound and hand-flapping. In order to redirect him, I handed him a hairband to chew on and placed my hand on his head to help him get his body under better control. A part of me wanted to be offended. A part of me wanted to be sad. Another part remembered how I felt the first time I witnessed G handflap. I'll never forget it because Ryan and I and G were at the Klingberg center and our baby boy was  being evaluated for ASD. Ryan and I had talked about what we would hear and I thought we were ready to hear the words whatever they might be. And then, standing right in front of a two way mirror, my little boy started flapping his hands and jumping. I felt a hurt like never before. That sort of mom feeling that you get when your whole life just changed in an instant. I looked over at my husband and simply said that we just got our diagnosis. Hand flapping is definitive sign of autism. It was like watching my world be permanently tilted and realizing that it would never go back to normal again. We did indeed walk out of that 3 hour torturous eval with our diagnosis and a large packet of information and, even though life would never be the same, my little boy was not one bit different to me. He was the same kid that I carried in. The same kid I had known for every day of his life. He was my G baby. I cried the whole way home. I am crying as I type this. I remember praying. I remember calling my mom and saying, "It's not going to be a secret. G is still G and this is going to be ok." I knew nothing about autism. I was unaware. I may have done a double take a time or two. I may have stared for a moment too long at someone else's child, and now that was my life. It still is my life. The difference is that I am now aware and I am so abundantly blessed by that awareness. I wish I could go back so that Ry and I, and, maybe even Parker and Carter could jump right up there beside G, in front of that two way mirror. We could all stand tall and proud and flap our hands right alongside our G. Now,  we celebrate it. On the good days and the bad days, we know that we have been given a gift we didn't ask for and will never stop unwrapping and discovering. One that we enjoy and embrace and love beyond all reason.

I thought that as a kick off for the month I would give you "31 cents of autism". A couple of months ago, G was being observed by someone who works with us from a program for families with autism. We think of her as our autism angel and feel blessed to live life with her on our team. One thing that Peggy has encouraged and guided us in is trying to help G become more self aware of his autism. If he can recognize and embrace it, then he can deal with it himself more independently and become his own advocate. This can be tough to do though because the whole concept makes no sense to his literal concrete mind. He thinks everyone is just like him. We have attempted to help him with this in many ways including reading some great children's books that explain autism and ASD. These tools help him and we share them with anyone who wants them, especially friends, neighbors, and family. We have really seen more  self-awareness from G in the last couple of months, on more than one occasion, G has said that he might have autism (and that I might too), and he has been ok with that. These are major steps for him and us. On this particular day, our friend Peggy was observing G in his classroom and watching him and another little girl playing a math game that included counting coins. G had noticed Peggy and is very comfortable with her and at some point in the game, he looked up after counting out $0.31 and said, "Yeah, I might have 31 cents worth of autism." Self advocay at its finest! I thought it might be fun to give you all 31 thoughts from G, his brothers, and some of our friends who know and love us. Some are funny. Some are sad. All are honest and real. Life with autism requires those two things. You've gotta be honest and you've gotta be real. So here goes...

1. "Autism is when you feel things in different" - C
2. "One thing that I've noticed about autism is that some kids with it can be really normal, like G. Well, until he starts talking like a TV show!"- P
3. "Autism has different degrees and G is a 2-3 with 1 being no signs and 10 being severe"- K
4 "Autism makes you different from others, like care free, you know like G-man. He can run around in his underwear and not care" - J
5. "Mom, I think you might have a little of that autism"-G
6. "When I see others who are autistic, I want kids to be nice to them. I hate it when kids are mean about that kind of stuff." - P
7. "Some folks, like the Stucks and Hendersons, don't even seem to notice. That's a good thing about some people." - C
8. "G looks at life with different eyes. Like we can be seeing the some show but he doesn't even notice it."- P
9. "Autism makes me really good at some things."-G
10. "Kids with autism have a different mindset. They see things differently"-H
11. " The thing I hate the most is when people stare at G." - C
12. "Autism makes some kids see things different and they may tell you no if you ask them to play."-J
13. "It can be a bit socially awkward at times, but we just roll with it." - P
14. "Autism is like OCD." - K
15. "G has autism. I think he is fun loving and playful, nice and very creative. He isn't afraid of what people think of him." - J
16. G is a normal boy. One of his friends -R
17. "I love the fun of G, the nerf wars and being crazy. He has a lot of fun." - P
18. "Having a brother with autism makes us good protectors of G and of all people"- C
19. "It's hard work to get G to listen.  Sometimes it's hard to control him because he can get angry easily.  Sometimes he is very silly just like me." - L
20. " This autism is going to help me win the war against this sickness." - G (when he had strep)
21. "G gets so excited about things, like flapping or making sounds, that sometimes I find myself getting excited and wanting to jump around too!" - C
22. "G isn't really different because I moan too and I am OCD about my nerf guns." - R
23. "We do have one of the coolest houses"- C (read on to find out why!)
24. "For real, swings, gorilla gym, giant bean bags, sand and rice boxes, and all of it INDOORS!" -P
25. "G has autism but he's awesome, creative, and I love having nerf wars and missions with him" - J
26. "G is not like anyone else. He is his own person.  It's like he has his own world." - H
27.  When asked if there is anything odd that G does- "He moans sometimes". - K
28. "A pro of having a brother with autism is that it makes me notice kids with differences. Even like a kid whose mom passed away or a girl who wears glasses or a boy who is a really good builder, and I am cool with differences. I notice them and I think it makes them cool." -C
29. "G doesn't seem to care what anyone else is doing or saying.  I think that makes him special because things that might bother us don't always bother him." - H
30. "I can't imagine our life without autism. G is just G to us." - C
31. "There are pro and cons to life with autism but the pros way out weigh the cons." - P

That folks is our 31cents worth of autism! Stay tuned for an entire month of what we affectionately call "G-isms"!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Plan and a Purpose

I have a reader and sports enthusiast. I have one who is good with numbers and can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone. I have a G......

I was cleaning up some madness in my mom "keep" pile a while back and I stumbled upon this beautiful note from a former teacher of Garrett's that said, "remember always that Garrett is a child of God's and then he is your child and lastly, he is a child with autism". That reminder was meaningful when it was written and it impacted me similarly that afternoon months later. It was during a time when I was very much focused on surviving autism and second grade and, to be honest, that week. I couldn't see past bedtime much less any farther. I was forgetting the "plans and purposes". Plans and purposes are something that I talk about all the time with my big boys. We pray about them and I encourage them always to trust that God has wonderful plans and purposes in mind just for them. I pray they will walk those paths and trust in the Father's perfect will for their lives. Now let me be honest, the funny thing is that I had never really considered it much for my Garrett. My failure in this area was also noted in my heart a few months ago when we were in a team meeting with some key folks in G's life and we were talking about our hopes and dreams for his future. The whole idea of thinking and planning and praying about this for him felt foreign to me and I was ashamed and shocked at my lack of faith. It wasn't' intentional that I wasn't planning or praying for G's plans and purpose, it's just that first I want him to wear his glasses, finish his homework, make a friend or even two, use kind words and actions,  and, to be honest, survive. These are the plans that I have for him; homework, getting some sleep, self control, joy. Yes, they are good and right but not his God ordained purpose, right?

I tried to feel out Garrett's thoughts on all this and I discovered that it was alot for his heart and mind to wrap around as well. Maybe it's fear or ignorance or misunderstanding but G doesn't want to talk about what God's big plan is for him. When we talk about Jeremiah 29:11 where it says," For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future", G shuts down a bit. He tends to ignore it or even get a little irritated. My older boys are all in. They want to talk about exactly what sort of awesomeness might be in their future and they want assurance that it will at some point in time include their own phone and staying up later. G is ok with hanging with mom and sticking with what he knows and can control.  He would be ok to marry me and sleep in his pokemon jammies for the long term. He's good. His reaction proved to me that I needed to go deeper in this area. The thing is though that I don't exactly know how and I'm a little afraid to dream big. I realized in praying about this that I still struggle with letting go and letting God with the longterm. Let's be real, if that little guy could fit on my lap for the rest of life, I would gladly rock him to sleep in those pokemon jammies and carry him back to his tent bed in the room next door to mine. It's safe. It's sure. It's surviving.

Then, a little over a week ago, I got an anonymous gift in the mail. It was a book written by a boy who had grown up "special" and his mom who had loved him through it. It walked through several different situations that they had come through and gave each of their perspectives, but the part that spoke to me was when the mom admitted how hard it was to see beyond the todays and to trust that the tomorrows would be ok.  She talked about how she had to learn to not measure her son's future potential and possibilities by his disabilities and current limitations. She had to trust that God had a particular plan in mind for her little boy. It spoke of directing and nurturing her special needs child's passions and believing that God planted those seeds with a purpose in mind. I needed that truth more than I even knew. I needed to remember that God knew all of my boys and their talents and their limits before I even spoke their names. He knew that Parker would love to read and that Carter would engage everyone he met. He knew that G would have contagious joy. He also knew about their flat feet, their allergies, and, even autism. The truth is that none is created equal and, yet, each is made for His glory. We are limited. He is not. Not only does He have a perfect and good will for each of us but by walking with Him, we can accomplish that purpose and bring Him glory. He does not make mistakes. He creates life and breaths passionate, perfect, purposeful love into it. 

 What is my role in all this?  I can pray. I pray that I will become better at trusting. I pray that I will do my part in raising boys who will walk in the Light and trust in their God given purposes, each unique and right. I pray that they will have success and joy, and that I might get to see it all unfold. I pray that I won't hold too tight but that I will always be a safe place for my boys. My hope is that somehow I will be able to teach my boys to walk in faith, to trust in the unknown. I don't want any of them to just survive, to feel less-than or like a mistake. God doesn't make us unable to do what He calls us to do.  He equips. He plans. He purposes. He writes us each a part in his glorious script.  I certainly don't know what the big picture will look like but I am reminded to trust in the Author to have written a perfect story that includes each of us. I think the author of the book "different" put it perfectly when he wrote, "God is out there in the dark right past the spotlight, watching me perform this song called life. I don't think he's waiting for mistakes or counting the mess ups. I think he's waiting to jump to his feet in applause" To God be the glory both now and in the future, that is so much more than just surviving!

So let me try this again...I have a reader and sports enthusiast. I have one who is good with numbers and can carry on a conversation with absolutely anyone. I have a G who collects nerf guns and lives and loves fiercely without limits. What will become of these boys of mine? Only God knows and that is a beautiful blessing to this mom.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Helping Hands

I have never understood the hard parts. I admit it. I realize that pain, suffering, and some sadness are unavoidable but maybe just one of the three or maybe just for a moment.  Why can’t life just be sunshine and roses? Especially if we are trying, doing our best and all that? Yet, life and living are hard and it seems some stories are sadder than others. If you know me, you know that I love romances and feel-good movies. I steer clear of sadness, drama, trauma and the like. I abhor crying and avoid it all costs. I really try to never sport a frown. I would even say that one of my gifts might be joy. You know what the really crazy thing is? Sometimes my life doesn't feel good. Sometimes it is sad and hard and ugly, more than once, and for longer than I am comfortable with. This has been my reality for the last few months. It has been a season of sickness and change and it hasn't been easy. I have felt weak and frustrated and even sad. I have cried many tears and struggled to understand. I have prayed prayers for swift healings and wise words only to get more sickness and frustrations. But, there is always a but, I have also had peace and joy and been privy to new and wonderful ways of my God.
 I read a devotional that compared some times in life like sitting on the front porch with the lights off. What should be a cozy and comfortable spot becomes different and uncomfortable. Common things look scary and shadows seem to rule. There is fear in that place. There is loneliness in the unknowns that lurk in the darkness. And then, someone turns on the light. Someone flips the switch and the shadows are gone and things don't look so scary in the light. It just took Someone. There is a story in the old testament about a battle that the Israelites were fighting. It was a frightening and unsettling experience for those slaves turned soldiers and what was the game changer for them was Moses. He was their leader and he walked closely with their Lord. He came and, he stood where they could all see him and he raised his arms. It was a victorious stance a powerful posture, until he got tired. The battle was not a short one and poor old Moses started to tucker out. His arms felt heavy and I wondered if his heart felt some doubt and dismay. The problem was that when his hands began to fall, the soldiers lost hope and began to lose. That is how I have felt at times. Even as I write this, there are tears in my eyes, because the hard seasons sometimes last too long. I have found myself, even recently, worn out. I may have started out feeling strong and courageous but time took its toll and I felt like I was losing ground. For Moses, and for me, God showed up with some friends. They came alongside Moses and they helped hold up his arms. They gave him strength to keep hoping, keep going. They helped the soldiers fighting to renew their strength and not give up and, eventually, the battle was won. For me, it has not been the physical support of my aching muscles, it has been the prayers and love of my family and friends that have kept me hopeful. They have given me strength when I felt too tired to fight. They have turned the light on for me when things looked dark and scary. They chased the shadows away by being lights in my life when I felt like the darkness was winning.

Now let me be transparent here. I don't like to ask for help.  I would put it right down there beside crying. I like to be able, able to do and be whatever I need to be and do and I like to do it on my own. I'm not great at all at asking for help. I kind of figure Moses was of the same mentality. Assertive, strong, independent, those are how of think of Moses and myself. We are the givers, not the takers. We are the doers, not the askers. Except when we can't. Except when we are too tired and weak to be able to be, to do, and to give. I love that God already knows this,  He knows that some stories need support characters and so he has them already written in. For Moses and for me. It is the love, the prayers, the hugs, the faces and hearts of the people I live this life with. They have held up my arms and seen me through the tough, long battles. They have helped me keep my peace land find my joy in the hardness and the through the darkness. I feel like God has shown me some great truths in all of this. He has shown me that some stories have the sad chapters. We might want to quite reading, give up.  Some of them seem like we might not like the ending, like it might not be what we had hoped for. The battleground looks bleak and the warriors weary, but He is still the Author and He really does only write happy endings. Living with Him means we end with Him forever. He knows every moment before it happens and He is always ready with whatever we need to get through. The good, the bad, and the ugly, we can't avoid them but we can have victory over them. It might take a little extra help, support when we grow tired and afraid. The battle may last longer than I would like, but when the dust finally settles and the sun finally rises, the light will overcome the darkness, and on that day, I will raise my hands in victory and worship. On that day (and today) I will be eternally and overwhelmingly grateful for the folks who held me up in my weakness. God uses the love and the lives all around us to support us when we are weak.