Planted For Purpose

I visited a local nursery a few months ago to buy vegetable plants for our garden.  I took Aaron with me, hoping that he would enjoy seeing the various goodies that we were going to plant in our garden.  But Aaron had eyes for one thing only – sunflowers!

“MOM!!” he exclaimed as I stood at the counter to pay, “can I get some sunflowers?” 

I turned to see him with the packet of sunflower seeds already in hand, so I agreed.  He watched carefully as the cashier scanned the small package, all the while talking excitedly to her about how we were going to grow SUNFLOWERS!!

We decided to plant the little seeds between our house and our neighbor’s house, near her raised garden beds.  This way, their children could also enjoy the sunflowers.  Amanda loved the idea, so one afternoon Gary dug the holes…I handed three seeds to Aaron to plant in each hole…and Aaron bent over to place them in the ground.  We covered them up and went about our day.

Aaron wanted those sunflowers to be growing the next day but growing takes time.  Growing takes lots of patience.  One day, though, we saw the tiny shoots emerging from the ground!  Aaron was SO excited!  Over the next weeks we watched each little bitty plant become more and more established.  They grew!

But not into the huge sunflowers that we have had in the past.  These seem to be smaller sunflowers, or maybe they are responding to the harsh heat and the dry weather we have had.

Then one day, Amanda texted me with some exciting news.  We had a bloom!  Later, Aaron and I walked out to the row of sunflowers and sure enough, there was one bloom.

I noticed something that day.  The pretty sunflower that had been the first to bloom was the smallest of the others in that row.  Its flower wasn’t large and impressive like ones you typically see in Kansas fields. 

Yet the happiness that our little blooming sunflower gave all of us was huge!

Sometimes I feel like my life is that of the small sunflower.  Others are living more impressive lives similar to the taller sunflowers that stood on each side of our shorter plant…lives, quite honestly, that I thought I might have.

But God has taken that measly sunflower that bloomed first and has used it to reinforce a lesson I know well in my head but don’t often practice in my heart.

Yesterday God gave me a verse that says it perfectly, as only God can:

        “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose…” (Proverbs 16:4)

God has planted me where I am for a purpose.

And more importantly, God has planted Aaron in my life for a purpose as well. 

If I believe in God’s sovereignty…and I do…then I must also believe that every area of my life is sovereignly planned with purpose by Him.

My idea of great purpose is usually not God’s idea.

Yet God’s idea is always best and right.  Not always easy or even fulfilling on many days…but always best.

I can live a life that shines for God as I care for Aaron, or I can live a stunted life of anger and questions and comparisons to others.

I can see Aaron as a weight that keeps me down, or I can see Aaron as a means of experiencing God’s joy.

I can bloom or I can wither.

And here’s the catch.  Often no one…NO one…sees my bloom.  I feel like my life has no purpose.

But God clearly says that He has made everything for its own purpose.

I am to bloom brightly for Him, not so that my bloom will necessarily be seen and admired by others but so that I will grow in grace and be more like Christ.

So, little sunflower, I am thankful that you were planted where you were.  I’m thankful for yet another lesson that God planted in my heart using the least of these.

May I live a faithful life no matter how small I think it might be.

I’m The Uncle!

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”  (Psalm 139:13-14)

Aaron and I were eating lunch out when I received this sonogram picture from our daughter, Andrea.  I showed it to Aaron right away, a huge smile on my face.  He stared at it for a few seconds.

“What is it?” he finally asked.

“This is your niece or nephew,” I told him.

Aaron stared at the picture again.

“It’s too small!” he said. 

I just smiled, still in awe over this amazing view of the miracle taking place in Andrea’s womb.  I have, like you, seen hundreds of these sonogram shots but this one took my breath away.  Isn’t it just amazing that when the baby is yours, as in this is MY grandchild, then the picture takes on a whole new depth and meaning?

It’s another miracle of God, this love that He puts in our hearts for our own flesh and blood.

There in the restaurant as we crunched on chips and salsa, I pointed out to Aaron the baby’s head and torso and the beginnings of his little body. 

Several days later in the grocery store, Aaron and I saw a friend.  Aaron quickly launched right into what was still fresh on his mind.

“I saw the stomach picture of my sister and I didn’t know what it was!” he excitedly said. 

I saw the look of confusion on our friend’s face, so I quickly explained about the stomach picture!

Aaron rarely gets family relationships correct.  Not too long ago, before we knew that Andrea was pregnant, he had an observation.

“I wish Andrea was pregnant.  Then we could all be Granddads.”  😊

But now Aaron knows a few things.  For awhile this is what he would say to anyone who was fortunate enough to be near him or to anyone that I stopped to chat with.

“My sister is having a baby and I’m the UNCLE and we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl because it’s too little!!”

But now…NOW…we know that Andrea and Kyle are having a baby BOY!!

Aaron’s rote phrase has changed.

“My sister is having a baby and I’m the UNCLE and it’s a boy and he’s the NEPHEW!!” 

Then Aaron often adds that he is scared to be The Uncle and that he’s not sure he wants a baby boy.  We assure him that all he needs to do as The Uncle is to play with and love his nephew. 

Time to insert the first Baby Bump picture!  Andrea asked Kyle if she looked pregnant or if she looked like she had just eaten too many donuts.  😊

Aaron has obsessed about changing the baby’s diaper.  The nurse at his day group actually brought a baby doll in and taught Aaron how to change a diaper.  Aaron tells us all that he passed the diaper test!  Now we tease him about being the main diaper changer, so maybe this is why he’s scared to be The Uncle.  😊 

But really, we have all been very surprised and touched by how excited Aaron is about this new baby business.  A recent example happened just a few days ago.  The background is that Andrea has been very sick with this pregnancy, having a hard time finding food that will stay down.  One weekend she felt like biscuits would taste good.  She and Kyle bought a can and of the eight biscuits, she ate seven!

Kyle didn’t waste any time in buying more biscuits…many more biscuits!  He stacked them on their counter, and we laughed and laughed when we got this picture.

As Aaron and I were picking up a few groceries the other day, he suddenly started briskly walking toward the biscuits in the cooler. 

“Mom!!” he declared, “I want to buy some biscuits to send to Andrea!” 

It was the sweetest thing for him to want to do that.  I explained that we can’t mail biscuits but that we would buy her some on our next visit. 

 Aaron continually infuses our lives with his own very special way of life and his own unique view of our world. 

We often stand beside him either smiling or laughing or explaining to others or doing damage control from the things he says.

But all this wonderful baby business and Aaron’s way of dealing with such a huge life change for us has, as always, offered another view into the complex and compelling world as Aaron sees it. 

Baby Boy is growing!

And so are we, with Aaron coming along as always.    

An Amazing Cloud!

Yesterday evening I “happened” to look out my favorite upstairs window just in time to capture this absolutely amazing cloud.

Instantly I thought about how God was shouting, “I love you!!”

“For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.”   (Psalm 57:10)

I wanted to share this with all of you. 

I pray that you are encouraged to remember God’s great love for you. 

Impossibilities

We had some very pretty clouds one recent morning that I enjoyed as I looked out my favorite upstairs window.  I sat at my desk having my quiet time as my eyes kept glancing out at the ever-changing sky.  Suddenly there was brightness as the sun began to shine.  I quickly snapped this picture before the moment passed.

One fact that I have observed over my years of sky watching is that when the sun shines on storm clouds, the clouds become more beautiful.  The sun sharpens the contrasts between the clouds and the rest of the sky, and between the clouds and the ground.  The true beauty of those storm clouds is fully shown when the sun shines.

I have just finished studying the book of Ruth.  This familiar story is one that we love to tell.  It’s a favorite for children’s Sunday school classes.  It’s so familiar to us and so easily compressed into a 30 minute lesson that we often don’t stop to really consider what God did with Naomi and Ruth.

What especially spoke to me this morning was how Naomi found herself in an impossibly difficult and hopeless situation in a foreign land.  She was an Israelite in Moab.  Her husband and two sons had died.  She was left destitute with no means of support.

We all know the story.  Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, stayed with her and together they traveled back to the land of Israel.  Ruth asked permission to go gather grain and by God’s providence she ended up in the field of Boaz.  He was the kinsman-redeemer, unknown to Ruth, and they ended up getting married.  To that union God gave them baby Obed, grandfather of King David and ancestor of Jesus Himself.

OK.  It’s a wrap.  We’ll have a new story next week, children.

But wait!  Stop!

Just think of how the providence of God is all over this story.

When we let God’s light shine on this story then we can see the deep storms surrounding Naomi and Ruth.  Their situation was truly hopeless.

But God’s light also reveals the beauty of those storms because it was in those hopeless moments that God’s plan was so amazingly revealed. 

Do you find yourself in a scary and desperate place? 

Do your walls seem impossible to climb?

Do your clouds look dark and foreboding?

Do you think of your future needs…or your needs today…and wonder how on earth things will work out?

All I know is that God wants to shine.  He wants to show me how He works in the darkness of the storm.

But it’s how HE works that I need to stop and see.

And God doesn’t need my help.

He needs me to trust.

The God of Naomi and Ruth is my God, too.  He has a plan for me that He will accomplish every bit as much as He did for them. 

Hopelessness is the best venue in which we can see God shine. 

And as God shines, that storm will prove to be a place of beauty…the beauty of knowing my heavenly Father better and seeing that His plan in this place is truly full of His providence and purpose. 

The Next Step

Aaron loves walking in nearby Swanson Park.  The weather finally cooled down enough a few days ago for us to enjoy a nice stroll on the paved trails.

Aaron is familiar enough with the park to know when we are nearing the small bridge that goes over Cowskin Creek.  There it is, barely visible ahead of us as we walk the winding trail. 

I know as we get nearer to the bridge that Aaron will tell me he doesn’t like that bridge.  On this particular day, I offered for us to turn around and walk back the way we had come and not go over the bridge.  But he did not want to do that, so we kept walking.

Each step brought us nearer to the scary bridge.  Yet Aaron knew, through prior experience, that I would stay with him and that the walk across the bridge would end up just fine.

Sometimes I’m very much like Aaron as I walk with the Lord.  I’ve walked with Him a long time, in many places and many varied experiences.  God has proven Himself faithful over and over.

Yet still, when I know that up ahead is a situation that I may not like, I get unnerved. 

It’s easy to focus on the scary bridge and not on the One Who is walking beside me.

Easy as well to want to plan and strategize.

If I do this, then maybe that will happen. 

But I don’t see how it’s even possible to do this.  So maybe I could try this other thing to make it all work out.

Hmmmmm.

Well, maybe this…..

No.  I know!  I could do……

Finally…I just don’t know how ANY of this can work out!!

All my planning falls in a heap of frustration.

You know what God really wants?

He really wants me to walk one step at a time, one moment at a time, one day at a time.

He wants me to take the next step.  Period.

And to quit stewing over what might be or could be or will it be?!

That’s what Ruth did when she and Naomi left Moab.  There they were, two destitute widows with no plan and no certain future.

But Ruth just did the next thing…took the next step by asking Naomi if she could go glean the grain that the reapers left behind.  She and Naomi needed food, and Ruth had learned that God had told His people to leave grain in the fields for those like her and Naomi.

Ruth couldn’t see what would happen tomorrow or the next day or the following week or next month or next year.

But she knew that today she could go and glean grain.

You and I know the rest of the story, but she certainly didn’t.

And more importantly, God knew all the twists and turns of Ruth’s life and of her future.  He wanted her to each day take the next step of obedience, and to do so without knowing her future.

This is exactly what God wants of me…to walk one step at a time today without trying to leap ahead into tomorrow with all my plans.

All of us have a bridge up ahead in our lives.  We have good things and scary things and hard things up ahead.

But we don’t have to walk across that bridge alone.  If we know God, then He will be right there beside us, guiding us to take that next step.

“Trust the providence of God for tomorrow, and do the next thing in quiet faith today.”  (David Strain)

Yesterday’s Leading

Aaron doesn’t always like to be awakened from his sleep, either in the morning or after an afternoon nap.  Yet when it’s time to get out of bed, it’s time to get out of bed!  And I am often met with his anger during those times. 

One day not long ago he wanted to take a nap.  I asked him if he would get out of bed when I told him it was time.  He promised that he would.  I know Aaron, so I gave him the mom look as we stood there. 

“Mom!” he asked, “do you trust my promise?”

I was honest with him and told him that sometimes he had a hard time keeping his promises when it came to getting out of bed. 

Aaron’s question is one that I feel God is often asking me.

Sometimes the prayers I prayed in the past and the way that God answered leads to a place that is far from perfect.

If my trust is on my circumstances instead of on my heavenly Father, then I will most certainly begin to doubt His leading.

I know better than to live that way.  I know the verses and I know the principles, but life’s realities sure can cloud that knowledge and turn it quickly into doubt and defeat.

God’s promises are not negated because of my feelings.

But my peace can be destroyed because of my feelings.

The trust I had in His leading yesterday is the same trust I need to have in Him when the path He led me to is not necessarily fun and joyful all the time.

Job felt abandoned by God as he endured horrific testing…testing that took place even as Job lived faithfully for God. 

Job expressed his thoughts very honestly in Job 23.  He said that he went forward, and God was not there.  He went backward and did not perceive God.  God did not seem to reveal Himself to Job on the right or on the left. 

BUT!!!

        “BUT He knows the way I take,” Job said.  (Job 23:10)

Ah!  The important thing for me to know is that GOD knows the way I take.  Job was walking God’s path, treasuring God’s words, keeping God’s ways…and still lived with very hard situations in his life.

God knows my path, too…and yours.  As you follow Him and ask for His guidance, then trust Him to do the best in your life.

Yet sometimes the best is tough.

“I’m living my BEST life!” we hear people say.

But then the pictures are usually beautiful and fun and happy.

Mine don’t always look like that.

“Patty?” God says, “do you trust My promise?”

“Yes,” I answer, “but why did You lead me here and now look at how it’s turned out?”

“Because I love you,” God answers.  “I know what’s best for you.”

“I do believe that, of course,” I reply, “but…

“But DO you trust Me?” God asks again.

And I come full circle once again, forced to make a conscious decision about God…to firmly believe that He performs what is appointed for me, as Job said.

“Do you trust my promise?” God repeats.

“I do,” I reply, sometimes through tears, “because I trust YOU.”

Yesterday’s leading is still today’s place for me. 

And that’s because of God…only God.

My Dad’s Heritage

My Dad was color blind.  We five children thought that this was very fascinating, but also very funny.  Now don’t get me wrong.  We were not cruel, but we grew up in a family full of humor and laughter.  Dad was often the brunt of our joking.  I have written about it in the past, telling about some of the elaborate jokes we played on him, often with the help of my fun-loving mom.

I remember how we loved to ask Dad what color the trees were because pine trees, for instance, looked red to him.  Peas and carrots looked the same color to him.  Mom would decorate the house at Christmas with lots of blue because Dad could see blue.  And she quit wearing her pretty pink Avon lipstick and nail polish when Dad finally told her that her lips and nails looked blue. 

One day, many years later and with my own children, I was driving down the Autobahn in Germany.  I passed a bright pink truck. 

“Look!” said little Aaron, “there’s a blue truck!”

And I knew that Aaron, like my Dad, was color blind.

He’s proven it over the years as he talks about the color of certain items.  One of the funniest is our daughter’s dog, Darcy.  Aaron calls Darcy the green dog.  😊

One day not too long ago, Aaron was discussing his color blindness.  We have told him many times about Granddaddy being color blind and that Aaron gets his color blindness from him.

“Mom,” Aaron commented that day, “I’m taking over what Granddaddy was.”

Aaron has the most uncanny, God-given ability to put profound truth into his concise and unexpected comments.

I know without a doubt that my dad was the kind of man that any of us who knew him would want to say what Aaron did…that we are taking over what he was.

That we are becoming…or are…even a small part of the wise, godly, and loving man that he was.

My Dad didn’t leave his five children with a huge earthly inheritance, but he left us with something far more valuable.

“Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked.  The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever.”   (Psalm 37: 16,18)

The word “inheritance” actually means “heritage.”

I’m so thankful that my Dad walked with God.  He exhibited such kindness and caring to absolutely every person he knew.  He met the needs of everyone that he possibly could.  Oh, the stories I could tell!

You know, everything done in the past…for all of us…is over.  Only the effects of those actions remain. 

That is our true heritage.

So, at this time as we celebrate fathers, I just want to honor mine by saying that he truly is a man who left his children and grandchildren the best heritage there could ever be.

Dad, I want to take over what you were.

A Ruined Heart

I’ve written before about the special relationship Aaron has with Carl, one of our Meals on Wheels clients.  Carl has taken a special liking to Aaron and loves to give him things.  Sometimes Carl will even give me a small gift like a flower from his yard, or a picture. 

Carl loves to see Aaron’s delight and Aaron loves BEING delighted.  Carl asked me once if he was doing too much.   I told him that he doesn’t need to give Aaron things every week.   Yet most weeks Carl does have a little something for Aaron.

Today Aaron took a bag of dog treats that he wanted to give to Lucky, Carl’s dog.  I love it when Aaron wants to do the giving, so I agreed.  When we got to Carl’s house, he invited us in so that Aaron could give Lucky her treat.  Feeble old Lucky hobbled over to Aaron and happily took the dog bone from Aaron’s hand.  Aaron handed the bag of treats to Carl, happy as he could be that Lucky liked the bone and that he could give her more.

I could tell that Carl didn’t have anything for Aaron, and that was perfectly fine.  But then Carl reached down beside his chair and picked up a shopping bag in which was a can of Maxwell House Coffee.  He asked me if we like coffee and then wanted me to take the bag.

I did not want him to give me that coffee so I thanked him but said no.  I told him that I had just bought coffee, which was true, and that he needed to keep his coffee. 

Surprisingly, Aaron was quiet during our exchange.  He and I left, but as we walked to the car Aaron spoke very quietly to me.

“You ruined his heart,” Aaron softly said.

Wow.

That almost stopped me in my tracks.

Aaron kept saying that to me over and over as we made our last two deliveries and then headed to lunch.  We talked a lot about it and I believe that Aaron understands why I did not take the coffee. 

But still, Aaron felt so bad that Carl wanted to give us something and I said no.  Aaron wasn’t concerned about the fact that he didn’t get any gift today.

No.  He was worried about Carl’s heart…about hurting Carl’s feelings.

He knows that giving a gift is a good thing for the giver more than the one doing the getting.

I’m pretty blown away by that perception on Aaron’s part.

Blown away by the very insightful way that Aaron verbalized his thoughts.

Aaron loves to give things away, but I never realized that he has empathy and understanding toward others who are doing the giving.

He knows that the joy he feels when giving is also felt by others who are giving to him.

I can also see that the kindness of Carl…and of others like him in Aaron’s life…is causing kindness to blossom in Aaron.

Sometimes Aaron can be the very opposite of kind, quite honestly.  We talked some about how his words can ruin hearts.  But whatever is going on with Aaron and with his words and behaviors, I hope that I will pause and remember Aaron’s words.

You ruined his heart.

May that never be what I do to anyone, and especially not to this special son that God has given to us. 

A Good Place with Each Other

Aaron has a very special friend at his day group, Paradigm.  Her name is Victoria.  From the time Victoria first started attending Paradigm, she and Aaron just hit it off.  They became fast friends. 

Developing and maintaining relationships can be very tricky and difficult for Aaron.  We understand Aaron better than anyone does but even with us he can be full of relational surprises.  The tone of our voice…a particular hand motion…not following in his rigid demands…   There are so many ways that Aaron can suddenly become upset and angry with those of us who know him best.  Imagine the pitfalls of combining all the special needs and personalities in his day group!

But there is something very real and incredibly sweet about his relationship with Victoria.  She squeals and jumps with delight when he walks into Paradigm.  She misses him terribly when he isn’t there. 

And Aaron…well, Aaron (as far as we know!) tolerates her noises because he sees how much she cares for him.  He even shows empathy when a storm comes and Victoria is very scared, or when she is sad about something. 

Who can explain love? 

One thing I do know is that all of us, on whatever level we operate, want and need to be loved.

Aaron is an open book as he attempts to analyze and understand his feelings for Victoria.

One day, after an altercation with someone at Paradigm, Aaron was pondering Victoria’s reaction to that person.

“Mom, Victoria told N not to bother her boyfriend.  Am I the boyfriend?”

Another time, as he talked to me about Victoria, he revealed more of his thoughts.

“Mom, would she be happy for me to tell her I think she’s a girlfriend?”

Gary and I have tried over the years to stress the relationship of friendship rather than boyfriend/girlfriend.  But no attempts on our part to redirect his thinking on this can squelch the feelings in his heart. 

“Mom,” he commented one day, “Victoria and I seem to match each other.”

Who can argue with that? 

Then one day came this nugget of hilarious wisdom.

“Mom, every time I burp, Victoria laughs at me.  And when I make the farting noise like this, Victoria makes it too.  I think we’re right for each other!”

Love is a many splendored thing, right?  😊

Recently, our friend Barb from Paradigm sent some pictures she took as she walked with Aaron and Victoria to the popcorn shop nearby.  As Barb said, this was so genuine and sweet.

I cried when I looked at them. 

And I thought of another comment that Aaron had made about their relationship.

“Mom, can you tell that Victoria and I have a good place with each other?”

Yes, Aaron. 

And I think it’s a very good place to be.

A Donut With a Side of Autism

Yesterday our friend, Karlea, tagged me in a FB post from our nearby donut shop.  Paradise Donuts was reminding all their customers that it was National Donut Day, and that they were giving everyone a FREE donut.  Karlea just knew that Aaron would love stopping in for a donut.  Soon I was explaining National Donut Day to Aaron, asking him if he wanted to stop on our way to his day group for a donut.  YAY!!

NOT yay.

I must backtrack a bit to explain.  Nearly every day at Paradigm (Aaron’s day group), Antoine or another staff will take Aaron to the nearby QuikTrip.  I send money with Aaron, and he is able to buy something to eat and drink.  He absolutely loves this small outing.  His QuikTrip visit is ingrained into his routine now.

Back to yesterday.

Me:  Aaron, today is National Donut Day.  Paradise Donuts is giving away a free donut to everyone that comes in.  Would you like to stop there on our way to Paradigm?  We can get a free donut!

Aaron:  No.

Me:  What?  You don’t want a donut?  A FREE donut?!

Aaron (a little more emphatically):  No!

Me:  Why don’t you want a donut?

Aaron:  I want to go to QuikTrip.

Me:  I’m still sending money and you can still go to QuikTrip.

Aaron:  I like Antoine taking me to QuikTrip for food.

Me:  Antoine will still take you to QuikTrip for food. 

Aaron:  I like QuikTrip food, NOT a donut!

Me:  But you like donuts.  Just a few days ago you were happy that we stopped to get donuts.

Aaron:  I like Antoine taking me to QuikTrip more than you taking me for a donut!

These conversations usually lead to personal insults as Aaron attempts to drive home the fact that on Paradigm days…almost always…QuikTrip is what he does and where he goes for food and fun. 

Nothing will deter him from his routine. 

Not even a donut.

Not with Mom.

I dropped it like a hot donut and took Aaron to Paradigm.

Later, when I picked Aaron up, he told me about his day.

Aaron:  Mom, they had donuts at Paradigm for donut day.

Me:  Oh, that’s fun!  Did you eat one?

Aaron:  No.

Me:  You didn’t eat a donut?!

Aaron:  No.

Me:  Why not?!

Aaron:  I didn’t want one.  I wanted to go to QuikTrip.

I decided to just drop it.  Aaron didn’t see me shaking my head.

After a few moments of silence:

Aaron:  Antoine took me to QuikTrip!

Me:  Good!  What did you buy today?

Aaron:  I bought two donuts.

There are not enough letter combinations in the English alphabet for me to form enough words to voice what I was thinking and feeling and wanting to say at that moment.

Just as well.

Laughter is far better than lectures during these times.

BUT I WANT A DONUT!!!!!