Tucked Away Promises

I woke up yesterday morning to the faint sound of thunder, so I went first thing to my favorite window and saw this:

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What a beautiful sight any time of day, but to me a special morning blessing!  It only got better a short time later when I went outside and saw a faint second rainbow in the sky.

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Before long, the lightning got brighter and the thunder was louder.  Then came the rain.

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And after the rain, our rainbows reappeared.

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The same scenario repeated itself as soon more rain fell.

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I was up and down, inside and outside, and enjoying the rain with Gary as we watched from inside the garage.  Some of the lightning was close and scary.  Some of the thunder was loud and unsettling.  But we were safe.  And we were thankful for the rain, which brings growth and nourishment to our yard and gardens.

I was especially touched as I read once again the verses from Psalms that I had just read the day before:

“But as for me, I will sing about Your power.  Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love.  For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.”  Psalm 59:16

The rainbow that I first saw reminded me of the fact that it’s vital for me to have a grasp of God’s promises before the storms hit.  It’s so important for me to have that knowledge of what God has to say to me, found in the Bible, tucked into my brain and my heart.

I need to be reading His Word, remembering His promises, and learning WHO God is…..and doing this every day.  Days add up to weeks, then months, then years.  Looking into His Word, listening to God, talking to Him……just like looking up every morning and seeing a beautiful rainbow that catches my eye and grabs my attention.  That’s what I need to be doing with God’s Word.

Then one day…..BAM!!!  The storm hits, in whatever form that takes, and even though the beauty of the rainbow may be hidden by clouds, I can still trust that it’s there.  I can still trust that God is there, with His promises that are highlighted in my Bible and hidden in my heart.  I don’t need to be afraid, distressing and exhausting though my situation may be.  That’s because I’ve gotten to know God intimately over those days and weeks and months and years.

Not it’s time to put into practice what I’ve put away.  It’s not the power of positive thinking.  It’s the power of God’s promises…..of God Himself!!  He will give me comfort and safety in the storms.  He will be my place of safety in my distress.

And I could also sing this old wonderful hymn this morning in church:

          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.

At the end of the day, I can see God’s hand all over my life.

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Forgiveness

He Said What?!

This morning did not go as I had planned.  Maybe it’s because I feel so tired.  I haven’t slept well for several nights and don’t know why.  We all do that at times.  And you know how those long nights are, when every little issue in life is magnified.  Nothing is horribly wrong, but even my to-do list seems overwhelming at one in the morning!  But all of this is an excuse, really, and I know it.

Aaron had a dental appointment this morning.  I looked forward to this being a morning of Aaron being in a compliant, happy mood because he would be looking forward to lunch and maybe a Wal-Mart trip.  Instead, I found Aaron down on my computer, looking up cheat codes for a game.  I fussed at him and he got off, but came up to my room wanting to know if I would print off…

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Quilted With Love

He Said What?!

Some of my earliest memories of my mother revolve around her amazing skills as a seamstress.   I remember being very young and seeing Mom sitting at her sewing machine, turning out something beautiful and seemingly perfect from all sorts of fabrics.  She kept us girls busy in those early years while she sewed by giving us pieces of felt in various colors.  From this soft felt we fashioned  clothes for our little troll dolls, cutting and fitting each ugly troll as if it was a priceless and beautiful doll.  Mom provided glitter and sequins and odd buttons for us to glue onto our awkward handiwork.  We stayed busy for hours laboring over our important creations.  I don’t remember all the mess we must have made, but I do remember laboring over our little troll dolls while Mom labored over her more important sewing jobs.   Mom made small, meticulous Barbie doll…

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God’s Work of Art

I love how Gary stops to enjoy the world around him.  Sometimes I may not quite agree with it, like when he found a huge Orb Weaving Spider on the back of our patio chair recently and instead of killing it, he placed it gingerly in our flower bed.  You who know my fear of spiders will also know that I am now avoiding that flower bed, or am stalking around it carefully like an NCIS agent at a crime scene. 

I wasn’t at all surprised this past Sunday afternoon to walk out in our garage and find a Cicada, a poor dead Cicada, laying on Gary’s work bench.  I knew that Gary had placed it there for me and for Aaron to see.  I didn’t even have to ask.  I paused to look at it, which prompted Gary to tell me about the Praying Mantis he had rescued from the ground and placed in the pecan tree.  And then Gary remembered that he had meant to get his magnifying glass so that Aaron could have a closer look at the Cicada. 

I got Aaron while Gary got the glass, and soon Aaron was doing his own examination of the Cicada.  Everything about this common creature…..this sometimes annoying insect…..was super fascinating when enlarged under the magnifying glass.  His sheer, intricate wings……his compound, bulging eyes……his very perfect camouflage design…..the hooks on the end of his legs. 

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As Aaron examined the Cicada, we took the opportunity to point out that all of this design was God’s doing.  Aaron knows that.  But still it’s nice to have the opportunity to again draw Aaron’s attention to the reality that we have a personal Creator Who put lots of thought and planning into the design of an insect. 

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Our Cicada encounter has made me pause, once again, to also examine another fact that I know all too well but sometimes struggle to remember.  Our own Aaron, unique and special, is also one of God’s extraordinary designs.  

Why would I struggle to remember that fact?  Because just as the shrill noise of a Cicada can be irritating, sometimes the daily-ness of Aaron’s behaviors can be irritating as well to me and Gary.  Yet when we stop to examine his intricacies, we do see how amazingly Aaron is wired.

Take his water bottles……his ever and very important, to him…..water bottles.  He must have three water bottles.  Since he has in the past struggled with low sodium and must watch his water intake, his three water bottles are smaller than they used to be.  I somehow snuck that change past him.   Here is the scene over Labor Day when we were on the patio visiting with my cousin, Jim, and his wife Patti:

Aaron came out on the patio…..yet again…..and interrupted our conversation by asking if he could have his three water bottles.  I told him that he should just drink one, considering that it was a little late and he had drunk a big glass of water at dinner.  He would not drink just one of his three water bottles, because the three must always go together as three.  You do NOT drink ONE of the THREE.  You drink THREE of the THREE.  However, he said that he would drink one bottle of water from the frig in the garage where we keep the water bottles.  That’s because the water bottles in the garage are not part of the THREE.  Getting Aaron to veer from this set way of thinking is like treading water…..in the middle of the ocean…..with no rescue ship in sight.  Trust me.

So as Aaron and I talked about this water bottle decision, I was internally examining him and realizing fairly quickly where he was coming from.  So amazing he is! 

Then there are his Star Trek videos that he is now watching:

 We got him the old Star Trek television series from the 60’s as a Christmas gift.  He has been watching them in his bedroom, at his desk, on his computer monitor.  But then he started coming down to the family room to watch any other video that he wanted to see instead of using his own DVD player in his room.  Why, you ask?  Well, at least we asked.  And though Aaron didn’t exactly verbalize his reasoning at first, we soon realized that for now, his DVD player is only for Star Trek…..since it IS a series and since he DID already start that series on his player in his room.  He MUST finish the series on his DVD player before watching anything else, even if it takes months.  Gary and I can go along with it, or we can fight it and suffer the unpleasant consequences. 

It didn’t take Gary and I long to decide how to handle that one.  Welcome to the family room, Aaron. 

Sometimes Aaron is the one who is doing the examination:

Yesterday Aaron had a doctor appointment, which always means that I take him to lunch.  Eating out is his favorite sport!  Yes, sport…..because sometimes I feel that I have run a marathon after running interference during the course of our meal.  Or maybe that’s football.  Anyway, yesterday during our lunch Aaron heard the couple in the booth behind us order Espinaca.  He asked me what that was, so I explained it to him.  He still wasn’t quite sure about it, so when the unsuspecting couple’s Espinaca was brought to their table, Aaron wanted a look.  Before I could say “Espinaca,” Aaron was up out of our booth and halfway to their booth….craning his neck to catch a glimpse of their mysterious dip.  I do hope they were understanding.  I didn’t ask.

This whole incident led to me showing Aaron pictures of Espinaca…..going to Wal-Mart to buy ingredients for Espinaca….putting Espinaca ingredients in the crock pot…..and eating Espinaca while we watched a video last night….in the family room. 

Yesterday evening, Gary and I were in the garden for a few minutes.  Then we sat on the new bench Gary got us, under our old oak tree.  It was so pretty outside, and so nice to sit together for a few minutes.  But then the back door opened and out walked Aaron.  Gary sighed, and I knew what he was thinking.  Our quiet time was about to end. 

“But look at him, Gary,” I said.  “Just look at him.”  And we both looked at Aaron lumbering across the grass, wearing his pajama sports shorts and sleeveless shirt, with his socks and tennis shoes.  And we both just smiled at the sight of him.  Yes, we knew what was coming and we were right.  Godzilla this and Godzilla that, because Aaron just discovered that there will be ANOTHER Godzilla movie in 2018!!!!  And there we sat, we three, scrunched together on the bench…..listening to Godzilla talk.  But Gary and I were smiling, and we were responding, because this is the family that God has made us to be. 

You know, I don’t have a magnifying glass big enough to examine Aaron all at once.  But each little piece of him is very fascinating all alone.  Put together, he is one very complicated…..very astounding….very funny….work of art.   

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The Surprise

I was walking through our vegetable garden one day in early summer, looking at the pretty little plants growing so nicely where Gary and I had placed them.  There was the summer squash on the front row, along with some zucchini.  The tomatoes were already inside their tomato cages that Gary had put up, and behind them were our okra plants.  Cucumbers were on the side of the garden near the tall oak tree.  We have a simple garden this year, not as full as it sometimes is, but enough for us and hopefully some to share with others.

Everything was where it should be, growing as we had hoped at this point, with no visible bugs or other problems that I could see. Weeds hadn’t started taking over yet, either, so I felt content as I turned to leave the garden.

But wait.  What was this?

I stopped between the tomatoes and okra as I noticed a plant growing in a place where we had not put a seedling.  It wasn’t a weed.  It looked for all the world like……a cucumber?  But what would a cucumber be doing here, when the rest of the cucumbers were all the way over on the other side of the garden?

I hadn’t planted it there.  Gary hadn’t planted it there.  Hmmmmm…….

I stood looking at it, wondering what to do.  There are any number of ways that a cucumber seed from last year ended up under the soil and then growing again this year.  I’ll never know for sure.

But what I did know was that I would not have planted that cucumber in the spot where I found it.  It was too near the edge of the garden, for one thing.  It might get all tangled up in the okra or try to climb the tomato cages.  It might want to grow out into the yard where Gary mows.  It might not flourish under the sunflowers that were soon to be planted right there where its leaves had sprouted.

Bottom line……that volunteer cucumber was just not at all where I would have put it.  I didn’t want it there.  I could think of all the reasons mentioned above that I didn’t want it growing where it had sprouted.

It hadn’t been in our garden plan at all.  Now here it was, intruding in a place and at a time that I hadn’t intended for it to be.  I hated to uproot a growing vegetable plant, however.

“Well, OK,” I thought.  “I guess I’ll leave you here while I decide what to do.  You’ll probably die anyway and then I won’t have a decision to make after all.”

And with that, I turned and walked out of the garden……my garden that now held a stray cucumber plant.  A plant that messed up my plan.  One that, honestly, I didn’t want.

I watched that vagabond cucumber plant over the next days…..days that became weeks.  I left it where it was, more curious as time went on to see how it would fare.  And guess what?  My stray cucumber plant grew beautifully!  In fact, it grew better than the other cucumbers that I had so carefully planned and planted on the other side of the garden.

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It wasn’t long before I saw the first tiny little spiny cucumbers growing under its leaves.  I tended it carefully, pulling its curly tendrils away from the tomato cages…..guiding the growing vine out of the yard and back to the garden…..watching another of its vines growing up a tall sunflower stalk.

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The fruit of that unwelcome cucumber has been beautiful and sweet.  We’ve benefited from it very much, and so have others with whom I’ve shared.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t follow my first response and pull the cucumber from the soil!  I’m thankful that I stepped back, gave it time, let it grow, and then enjoyed the sweet fruit…..and the lessons it has taught me.

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One thing we all know, if we live long enough, is that life is full of surprises.  We can be going along just fine, things working out the way we had planned, when BAM!!  We hit the proverbial wall.  Suddenly, things are NOT going as planned.  Now what?

As followers of Christ, we’re certainly not exempt from those detours in life.  In fact, God does put situations and events and people into our lives for a purpose that sometimes only He knows.  Maybe He’ll share it with us and maybe He won’t.  So again, what do we do?

Do we try to fix it?  Get rid of it?  Ignore it?  And if we can’t do any of those, do we argue with God?  Get angry?  Get bitter?

I mean, admit it, there are things that happen to us that that we just can’t see any reason for.  Really, God?  I would NOT have done that.  I would NOT have put that situation in that place in my life at all.  I mean, maybe another time…..another place…..or better yet, not at all!!

So, God, this wasn’t in my plan.  I had my life pretty well mapped out, you know.  Grow up….college….job….husband….kids…..family…..

I didn’t plan on Aaron falling back into my arms that Sunday afternoon 25 years ago, seizing and bleeding and unconscious.  That was most unwelcome.  I didn’t plan on being given his further diagnosis of autism 7 years after that.  I mean, isn’t Epilepsy enough?  I didn’t plan on still being his caregiver when he’s almost 33 years old.  Don’t You know about empty nest?  How welcome, on many days, THAT would be?

So…..this plant that You have placed in my life?  Why did You put it there?  I might agree to it in some form…..over there, in another area, to a different degree.  Here….just let me decide where it goes and how big it grows, OK?  Really, I would never have put it there in the first place…..in case You want to know.

But oh my goodness, what God has taught me over the years from that little unwanted seedling that popped up where I didn’t plan it!

What I’ve learned can be summed up with one verse in one of my very favorite Bible passages.  Psalm 18:30:

“But as for God, His way is perfect.”

There you have it.  Eight little words that speak incredible volumes about God and His sovereignty.

It doesn’t say that His way is easy…..fun…..pretty…..popular…..understandable.

Or fast.  Gary and I are in this life with Aaron for the long haul.

We each have our own situations that God has put, just so, in our lives.  As we stand and look at whatever that is, we must choose whether to accept God’s placement in our garden or to spend our life hating it.

But let me tell you, when you accept that God’s way is perfect and you let Him be that Master Gardener in your life, you’re going to one day see fruit.  You’re going to see growth in your life that you never thought possible.  You’re going to see beautiful fruit like peace, joy, thankfulness, wisdom.

And best of all, that fruit is what you’ll be able to share with others…..especially others who are suffering.  Comforting as you have been comforted…..blessing as you have been blessed.

God does know what He’s doing, after all.  His way IS perfect, and perfectly placed, in each of our lives.

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Lessons From the Battered Pepper Plant

Considering suffering to be joyful is not a trait that comes naturally.  How do we do that, anyway?

He Said What?!

Weeks ago, we had a strong storm during the night.  It was a Kansas storm, full of bright lightning, loud thunder, and very strong winds.  When I was able to get out in the garden several days later, I was disappointed to find that my only pepper plant that had done any decent growing was now toppled over.  I stood there staring down at it as it lay on the nearby zucchini, whose leaves had also been tossed around during the same storm.  I stood there, tempted to just uproot the battered pepper plant and be done with it.

 
I bent over and gently lifted it, realizing then that the main stem of the pepper plant was unbroken and was still safely in the soil.  “Why not just leave it and see what it does?” I thought.  And that’s what I did. 

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Laughing Again

Sometimes Aaron talks in his sleep.  He has conversations that are so clear it’s as if he’s awake, talking to me or Gary.  I hear him because I keep a baby monitor with me when Aaron is asleep, to listen for seizures.  One recent morning, I heard this “sleep talking” from Aaron, and I quickly wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.

“Mom,” he said.  “In the movie theater, when I was laughing, I couldn’t see myself laughing.  I want to see myself laughing…..again.”

I have no idea what he may have been dreaming that prompted this little conversation.  But I sure have been thinking about it, wondering if deep in Aaron’s mind there is more meaning to this than I…..or Aaron…..knows.

Aaron goes through highs and lows emotionally as well as physically.  Lately, we’ve been having more lows.  He doesn’t want to go to his day group, Paradigm.  Then he goes, and is at times verbal and physical with staff and clients alike.  Sometimes he’s trying to tease and other times he is genuinely angry, but both times he can be hurtful.  He does so much better one-on-one, and most times he doesn’t participate in the group activities.  It’s just sometimes one thing after another during these low times.

Aaron is unfiltered.  Sometimes it’s funny…..sometimes it’s not.  He can tell you to shut up one minute, and the next minute be wanting to tell you something funny……and then wondering why you’re not laughing.  He’s so complex!!!  So frustrating!!!  And so endearing and heart breaking, too.

He knows when he’s done something wrong, but he just can’t seem to stop himself from doing it first, before the knowing kicks in – in time to stop the doing.  Make sense?  That’s our world.

So when he said that he wants to see himself laughing….again….I had to wonder if he is deep down genuinely wanting to be happier, like he used to be more than he is now, and hopefully will be again. 

When I pick Aaron up from Paradigm, I never know if I’m going to see happy Aaron:

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Or pensive Aaron:

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One night last week, I was so tired and so done with some ways Aaron was acting that I was the one who lost control.  I laid down the law with him, but I did it through gritted teeth and a pointing finger.  Yes, I was that tired and upset.  So the next morning, Aaron stood by me and said, “Mom, I’m telling Barb that you grind your teeth!!”

Barb is his second mother – his favorite Paradigm person.

“I don’t grind my teeth,” I replied to Aaron.

“Yes you do!!” he asserted forcefully.  “Last night you went like this!!”  And he clamped his teeth together and bared his lips, much like a rabid dog.

Oh dear.  Is that what I looked like to Aaron?  Probably.

But more than how he said I looked, his comment was a glimpse into how it hurt him for me to respond to him the way I did.

I’m so thankful for every new day, and for God’s new mercies that He shows me every new day.  Those are the same mercies I must extend to Aaron, hard as it sometimes is.

You know what’s really hard?  It’s really hard to remember who has the special needs here.  Sometimes Aaron is so high functioning that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that his brain does not operate like mine.  And also easy to lose sight of the reality that he deeply feels his struggles more than we can know.

A day or two after I gritted my teeth with Aaron, I noticed that our house was getting a little dark.  The sun had been shining so brightly, but I looked outside to see a dark storm cloud forming right over our house.  Then I heard thunder, and next came a few large raindrops.  Nothing even showed on the radar at this point, but I sure saw and heard our little storm that soon moved on east of us and became a big storm in Wichita. 

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And I thought of what a picture that is of life with Aaron.  He can be our personal storm, loud and disruptive, and then move on to Paradigm to do more of the same there. 

But on this day of our storm cloud, Barb had called to say that Aaron had a bad day.  She said that her daughter, who has Barb’s kind heart, wanted to take Aaron to Wal-Mart.  I agreed, and then when I picked him up later he was so very happy.  He held a Dr. Pepper, and was full of laughter and talk about their little adventure.  What a difference Casady made in Aaron’s outlook with that one simple kindness!  The rain had ended and the sun was shining, both literally and in Aaron’s heart.

And this week, Aaron hurt his friend’s arm by being too rough as they were goofing off or as he greeted her…..I don’t know which.  He broke his glasses in anger on the same day.  Another storm cloud.

He didn’t go to Paradigm the next day.  I took him to Carlos O’Kelly’s for lunch.  It’s one of his very favorite places.  We had a wonderful server who has two special needs boys.  She was so good with Aaron, and I relaxed.  I just watched Aaron eating his food.  He loved every single bite.  He asked to go to Best Buy.  I’ve been saying no to that, but I agreed and off we went…..with Aaron happily pocketing two toothpicks to add to his toothpick collection.

He strolled through Best Buy, looking at this and that, and not asking to buy anything.  He just wanted to look.  It felt good to make him happy in such a simple way……lunch and Best Buy. 

He’s so dependent on us for these times out…..and so dependent on us for his happiness.  Despite our tiredness…..our frustrations…..our ineptness…..our failures…..he needs us. 

I want to see Aaron growing, learning, controlling himself, being responsible.  Like any parent, right?  It’s just a little more difficult for those of us with these issues like we have with Aaron.

But I must agree with Aaron.  Maybe on most days, more than anything, I want to see Aaron laughing again…..laughing from his heart.

And I want AARON to see himself laughing again, happy and having fun, knowing that he is loved. Loved by his Paradigm staff……loved by me and Gary…..loved by friends and family.

And most of all, created and loved by God. 

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