Thursday, January 25, 2018

Old faithful

Ryan has this old, ragged, favorite red, hoodie sweatshirt. It was gifted to him many moons ago by his aunt Connie. I can even remember him opening it that Christmas because I thought that it would look nice on him. I like him in reds. It is from American Eagle and was given to him back when we were still cool enough to shop there. He wears it ALL the time. It has holes in the front pocket, holes in the cuffs (and we are not talking about the cool thumb holes). It is frayed and battered and he loves it. He hates when I steal it for a quick wash and keeps it on the bottom of our bed so he can slip it on in moments. That sweatshirt, he wore it in the chilly hospital rooms when we had our babies. I remember him off to the side with wide teary eyes in his red sweatshirt. He wore it for his first scope, that dreaded day when our lives tilted a little. He wore it for his first treatment where he received a 5 hour infusion to kill his immune system so it couldn't attack his belly anymore, hopefully. He wears it to play Mario kart, to watch his boys play ball. He has worn it on walks on the beach and to take the trash out. He wears it worship practice and for lazy evenings at home. It is his go to and has been for a very long time.  It is woven into our memories and our days and our lives.  This red sweatshirt has been with us through our greatest joys and also through some of our worst moments. He loves it and, oddly, I do to. It's old. It's comfortable. It's useful. It's faithful.

This sweatshirt recently reminded me of some important truths in life. It started out as a normal early morning at our house. Ryan and I were chatting while he got ready for work. He took his red sweatshirt off and placed it in his spot for it at the bottom of our bed and reminded me not to try to wash "old sweater" because he planned on wearing it that evening. It made me laugh and then the morning continued on as they all do. He left for work and I got busy having my quiet time. I was reading through Revelations and reflecting on how I tend to avoid that particular book. It is just not my favorite. It can be confusing and overwhelming to me but that day, I noticed how beautiful and powerful it really is. That morning the words seemed so fresh to my heart and spoke volumes to me of old truths that were being made new to John, a tired but faithful servant of God. John was in it for the long haul and he had been through much in his life and the last book he wrote was one of his greatest feats. It's truly unimaginable. How inspiring to have lived a life devoted to sharing the hope of the world and then to be blessed with the prophetic visions of the that hope being finally fulfilled. That particular morning, it left me feeling encouraged and yet also wondering where exactly my faith was taking my life right now. My heart felt distracted and not at peace. Between holidays and health and worries about the future, my footing felt weak and my vision was unclear. Life's road has been relatively smooth for us all in all but I wasn't feeling solid or comfortable. I confessed it and asked for God to open my eyes and my heart to His ways in my life. My journal reads it like this, "Help me to grow and to seek and to live in my faith and your faithfulness. I want to have old, full, fresh faith. Always. Constant. Never failing and always bearing fruit."

My next reading took me to Esther. Quite different from Revelations, the book of Esther doesn't even mention God but it clearly shows his hand at work. I knew this story well and I have always liked it, but as I read it this time, I heard an answer to my earlier request and struggles. In the words that I know like I know that old sweatshirt, "For such a time as this" said Esther 4. Right then and there I heard God reminding me that my faith, and the faith of all of us, is for right now. It's for the days we need to honor our spouses. It's for the snow days and the sick days and the sunny days. It's for the easy paths and the ones we would rather avoid. It's for the climbs up the mountains and the times when we are sinking deep. Esther's faith was old and steady and that day in her life, at that very moment, it was necessary to save the lives of her people. I heard God tell me that my faith needed to be like that red sweatshirt, old, worn, predictable, and constant. I need to wear it when I'm celebrating and when I'm filled with worry. It will get me through the coldest nights of my life and it will keep me through sunny breezes. Wherever I go, my faith goes too and it is necessary "for such a time as this" Whatever that time is! It is now, today! Somehow, yesterday's faith will still be fresh and necessary and enough for all the tomorrows yet to come. Just like Esther's and just like John's and just like that old sweatshirt, we have to wear our faith. We have to trust in it and rely on it and be comfortable to live all of life in it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to know where it is and it needs to fit us in a moment's notice.  It might get a little threadbare in spots but it will never fail us.

As fate would have it, that same day, I heard a remake of a favorite old hymn of mine, Great is thy Faithfulness. In closing, I'm just going to write the words of it here. As you read the words, know that it is an old song meant for long ago and also meant "for such a time as this"-this very day and everyday. Let it warm you and wrap you up tight. Let it heal you and fill you with the great faithfulness of our God and may all of us find our faith to be old, full, fresh faith, perfect for such a time as this.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Red Trumpet (and a short introductory confession)

I need to make a confession. Or maybe a resolution. Maybe a confession that results in a resolution. Yep, that's it! I confess that I have had this blog on my heart for the last several months, I have had it on paper for over a month, and I have no excuse for why I haven't shared. I just haven't taken the time and the energy and I have felt less than confident about how much of myself to put out there lately. Not good reasons and yet the real ones. That being said, in my prayer time, I have resolved to share more regularly. I have decided that I want to be known as an obedient child of my living and active God and that requires actions and words and sharing real life. It's all out there now, so feel free to hold me accountable whenever you deem necessary. Now, onto the Red Trumpet.....
This year we have a trumpet player. Neither Ryan nor I were involved in the band, so this whole concept is new to us but we are always in support of trying something new. As school started, Parker began requesting we purchase his new trumpet. We questioned why a trumpet and not some other instrument. In true 11-year old reasoning, Parker made his decision on the instrument that his petite stature could easiest manage. As we shopped, we noticed not only several varying brands of trumpets but also several color options. Parker was psyched about this and kept pushing for a red trumpet. We said no. But, why not? Our answer was simple-you don't want to be known as the kid with the red trumpet. There are many things that you can be recognized for in life, don't let it be the color of your horn. This conversation about the appropriate trumpet color for our middle schooler morphed into a dozen more thoughts and conversations. What do we want to be known for? What should we represent? Where do we seek our value, our worth?
As I challenged my boys with this concept and these questions, I was equally convicted. I encouraged them to be known as lights in darkness. I want them to be bucket fillers and builder-uppers of the world around them. We have a saying of "choose joy" at our house. No matter the situation, you can always choose to see the good. I want my boys to love Jesus and love others and to be known as boys growing into godly men. I want them to be respectful and responsible in a world that doesn't always deserve it. I reminded them that we have other options.  We can be sarcastic, unkind, rude, lazy. We can be takers or givers in this world. I want them to be givers. 1 John 3:18-19 confirms these truths when it says,  "Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God."  I desperately want my boys to feel confident in God's deep love for them. In return, I want them to be confident and sure in living that love out loud. Red trumpets are fine and fancy and great but I want us to be known as reflections and children of the King of Kings.
All of this was also very challenging to my own heart. I have found myself dissecting what exactly I, myself, am known for. Lots of kids will say they know me from church. I lead the kids' worship. I also sign my name with a "RN" afterward when I am working and so some folks know me as a nurse. There are still a few blessed folks who still call me a "Parker girl" and know me from my family. I am a wife, a mother, a friend to some. And yet, I know some would not say these things. I am convicted to say that some would say that I am not always kind and friendly. I know that my heart has been led too often by things like jealousy, selfishness, an, even occasionally, by anger. God forgive me.  This is not how I want to be known. As the discussion continued, my prayer journal and my Bible quickly became filled with red trumpet scribbles in the margins. God used a simple request by a 11-year old for a fun trumpet to show me ugliness that I have displayed for my world to see. I saw that I am not always reflecting my Jesus. I am not always choosing joy and promoting peace. "What am I know for?" became a daily reflection question and, quite honestly, sometimes I was ashamed of the answer. This "red trumpet" has become a new motto in my heart. I want to be known as a child of God and as on obedient disciple of his Word. It is a tall order and one that I fall short of all too frequently but I am a work in progress. My boys and I together are challenging each other to be known for goodness and righteousness and faithfulness. We want to reflect the God we serve who saved our very souls.
In closing, here is a prayer from my journal. The honest cries from a heart that loves and desires and struggles to live out the love I've been graciously given...Lord, let me be known as a source of love and, even, gentleness. (That second one is real hard for me!) Help me to be a safe and comfortable place for my tribe and my friends to visit and get encouragement. Let me seek you and then generously share you with the world around me. I love you and I want to be your light, your fruit, here in my world. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Firm Feet

Last night my oldest got out of bed. For all those parents reading this, you know that this is a near mortal sin, especially since it was the third night this week that he had reappeared after bedtime.  I was just getting comfortable with the remote in my hand and my final cup of coffee half emptied. My response was not kind, needless to say. It was something along the lines of GO TO BED and he was obedient in tucking his tail and heading back down the hall. Then Ryan brought a little wisdom into the situation and pointed out that this son of ours might just be a little nervous. You see, our oldest is having surgery this week. It is not a major surgery and we are always thankful for health in our family,  but he is having his feet operated on and it feels big to him and, honestly, to me too. This time it was my turn to do the walk of shame down the hall and into his darkened bedroom. I crept to his bedside and apologized for overreacting and asked what was wrong. My mom heart broke when he admitted with a quivering voice that his feet hurt and that he was a little scared. He said, "Mom, what if I limp?" Such a simple question but one that was too deep and too real for such a young soul. I tried to hold in my tears and offer my best mom comfort while internally begging Jesus to let my boy heal easily and to give me the right words and then I told him we would pray. So while I rubbed his ankles and feet with some Deep Blue, we presented our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving. We asked Him to help us to not be anxious. We thanked Him for good doctors, for insurance, for better feet in the future. We prayed for peace and sleep and quick healing bodies. I did the talking and Parker silently agreed as we prayed that we would trust and hope in the plans that God has for him. It was heartbreaking and heavy and somehow those moments helped my boy find sleep, but not this mom. 

The next morning I felt myself still wrestling with worry over the situation. I had been trying to diligently pray and let go for weeks,  but the struggle was very real, not only was my child scared, but I was too.  As I sat doing my devotional that morning I kept going back to those anxious thoughts,  wondering why God gave him feet that ached and was I making the right choice for his little body. How could surgery ever be the best option and why couldn't he just have normal feet? I questioned if it would all really be ok, that is what I was telling him but how was I to believe it in my own heart. As I washed dishes and stared out the window at the trampoline in the back, all I could think of was the unfairness of it all. Then God spoke to me. He reminded me that walking, with or without a limp, in this life was not the walking that I needed to concern myself with for my boys. My greatest desire is really for them to walk closely and firmly rooted and established with their Savior, all other walking is in vain. Naturally, I want Parker's body to heal whole and well but, more than that, more than anything else, I want him to take his every step, his every decision, his every breath with Jesus. I can rub his feet. I can hold his hand.  I can buy him insoles and even, sign off for surgery. I can pray with him and try to help him in many ways, but his heart, his future is not in my control. My Parker knows his Lord and it is Jesus who is his true comfort and healer, not me. It is the the paths that the Lord has for him that I want him to walk in. I want his feet and his faith to rest solidly in Jesus and His ways, not my own.

Psalm 40:1-3 says this, 

"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord."

Oh that this would be my hope, my cry for Parker, for all my boys, for my own soul. No matter what we face or what we fear, He is with us. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He never leads us down wrong paths and He always walks beside us. Let us wait and trust. He will take the pain and turn it into praise. He will steady us as we walk sure on solid ground. Let us sing a new song and may others see what He has done and be amazed

I will be tucking that little boy into bed tonight. I will have to remind him several times to take his allergy medicine and brush his teeth. I will go to the room that he shares with his brother and we will chat and pray and for our devotional, I will read them this verse. I will pray it and hold tightly to it and we will rest in certain hope that we can sing a new song as we walk steady and safe in the ways of our Lord.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Happy Endings

I just finished a great book. It was one of those books that made me want to be better, to do more. I loved it so much that I incorporated it in to my devotional time, because it felt spiritual and deep and freeing. It made me laugh and cry and made me feel good. I am a feel good kinda girl. On date nights there is always a debate between suspense and shoot 'em ups and a romantic comedy. I really only like movies with happy endings. On my kindle, you will find a bunch of christian fiction romance novels. The kind where the girl and the boy meet and fall in love and live a predictable happily ever after life. I love things that are easy and good and happy. I struggle against the heavy and hard and harsh.

Real life is annoying to me because it is nothing like a hallmark movie. Sometimes, the endings aren't happy. Sometimes you can't predict it. In a couple of days, my 30-something year old husband will go and have an IV infusion. He knows that he needs it. He has had it before. He knows that it will last a few hours and then he will make an appointment for his next one in a about 8 weeks and still he hates it every single time. This week, he is staring real life in the face and scowling at it. The struggle is real. How can a dad of 3 little boys, a coach, a friend, a guitar player, justify that every couple of months, he has to go and have a needle stuck in his arm, give up several tubes of his own hard earned blood and sit for several hours while nurses take his vitals and medication wipes out his immune system so that it can't attack his own body? He goes to the appointment with normal coloring and clear eyes and he comes home exhausted, pasty, and sick. All in the name of survival. Is there really any good in that? It feels like mostly ugly. It proves that the world and life aren't always joy and light and easy.

I could give so many examples of this, of hearts that get bullied and broken, of struggles with things that we take for granted like reading a book or writing our name, of health that is stolen unfairly, of broken relationships, of women, mothers, who have fought and cried and worked tirelessly just to get to love and hold their own babies. I have cried with friends. I have cried alone. I have refused to cry anymore over some things. Life isn't always fair and fun and easy. It's why I read my happy romance novels and watch my cheesy movies.

My most recent read though, and my husband's looming appointment, and life in general all remind me of the Truth and that leads me to living everyday in joy or some measure of worshipful gladness. Psalm 30 says that "joy comes in the morning" and Lamentations says that "his mercies are new every morning". Real life is that my husband is sick but with modern medicine, he can play outside with his kids. He can work and provide for his family. He can stand on stage and worship his Savior with music. He can live life fully! There are blessings, even on infusion days. The truth is that life is not always sunshine and rainbows but, like my kids' favorite song to belt out in the car right now, "there ain't nothing gonna steal my joy!" I am choosing, and I really think we all should, to live life grateful and happy and overflowing. I am thankful, so very thankful, for the easy, like pretty sunrises and hugs from my boys, and I am also thankful for the hard, like meds that destroy to heal and the unpredictable struggles of life. I am thankful for joy-new, fresh, and always the choice that I want to make in my life. I want the joy down in my heart to be the definition of my each and every day.

The writer of the book Cold Tangerines put it like this, "It's rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. It's much easier and much more common to be miserable. But I choose to do what I can do to create hope, to celebrate life, and the act of celebrating connects me back to that life I love. We could just live our normal, day to day, lives, saving all the good living up for someday, but I think today, just plain today, is worth it. " May everyday from infusion days to birthdays to Thursdays, be lived in joy. Add it all up and it equals an entire life of love and light and joy. Heck, it might even be fit for a Hallmark movie!

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.