What Will I Wear?

Aaron notices much more than we sometimes give him credit for.  I love how he will point something out to us, often something that we never paid attention to at all, and then offer his comments on it…..of course……whether we want to hear them or not.  We usually DO want to hear what Aaron has to say, but trust me – there are times when we do NOT want to hear what comes out of Aaron’s mouth. 

Aaron rarely gives any thought to whether we want to hear his observations or not.  His insights may be new, or they may be ones that we have heard over and over and over and over…..and over……again.  It doesn’t matter one whit to Aaron.  He would probably implode if he didn’t talk, so talk he does……and we listen, regardless.

He shares things with perfect strangers, too.  I took Aaron to Wal-Mart with me after I picked him up from Paradigm on Friday.  Aaron was happy that I had found a soft fuzzy blanket on sale and that I had put it in our cart. 

“Is it for ME?” he hopefully asked.  But when I told him it was for our aging Great Dane, Jackson, Aaron was not at all disappointed.  He loves Jackson. 

Aaron sat on the bench near the register as I checked out.  I loved the look on his face as I looked at him and smiled.  Inside I was hoping not to hear him blessing us all with his ear splitting loud clapping…..or a silly ‘meow’……..or a fox whistle……or a very embarrassing farting noise. 

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But Aaron didn’t stay on the bench for very long.  No.  He saw the cashier ring up the soft fuzzy blanket, which reminded him that he had something important to share with her.  He didn’t care one bit that he didn’t know our nice Wal-Mart associate.  He did know, though, that she needed to know something.

So he got up from the bench and purposefully marched over to where she and I were finishing my transaction.  He pointed to the soft fuzzy blanket.

“That’s for our dog.  He’s nine years old and he has weakening in his muscles.”

She thought that was so nice to be buying our dog such a nice soft fuzzy blanket.  She and I were starting to have a dog conversation when we heard Aaron again.

“LOOK!!” he blurted out.  And there he stood, lifting up his right arm and showing the poor unsuspecting soul his yucky yellow and purple bruise on his arm. 

“Aaron…..” I started, but he barreled right over me.

“My desk chair fell on top of me when I was reaching for apples and peanut butter, and I got a bruise!!” he explained. 

She showed him his desired amount of shock and sympathy while I tried to hurry up my payment.  Knowing smiles were exchanged between us as I readied to leave.  Well, knowing smiles shared quickly between her and me. Aaron was already off in search of his next victim, so I had to run.

So back to what Aaron notices, and then shares all too fully with us…..or anyone else who is fortunate enough to be nearby.

On Thursday I wore this blouse.

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Aaron came into the kitchen, looked at me with his head tilted to the side, and then offered his opinion.

“That shirt looks like it should be colored,” he commented.

This forced me to look with new eyes at my shirt. 

“Aaron,” I asked.  “Does this remind you of the adult coloring books that you and I have seen?”

“YES!!!” he replied, so excited that I had gotten what he was trying to convey.  “It looks like it should be colored!”

“Do you like this shirt?” I asked.  And he told me that he did like my coloring shirt, very much. 

So on that day I was fun.

The next day I wore this blouse. 

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Aaron had come in the bedroom and seen me wearing it, before I added a sweater.

“WOW!!” he said, in awe.  “You look like a princess!”

I just laughed.  A princess?  But there was something about this blouse that he loved, and so he saw me as someone very special as I wore it. 

On Sunday, as I was getting ready for church, Aaron came in the bathroom and saw me wearing this blouse.

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“Ewwww,” he said in a measure of disgust.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“What you have on,” he answered. 

“Don’t you like it?” I asked.

“NO!” he replied.  “It’s ugly.”

There was something about it that wasn’t fun like my coloring blouse and wasn’t special like my princess blouse.  This blouse, to Aaron, was ugly……ugly enough to him that he reacted instantly to it.  He wasn’t trying to be mean.  He was just being honest.  The design; the colors that he saw since he’s color blind, perhaps; or maybe the style – whatever it was, he didn’t like it one bit.

I’ve thought about all this since our morning yesterday.  Aaron was not one bit happy to be going back to Paradigm after enjoying his weekend.  I’ve learned to just let him work through it, to not force the issue, but to let him make the decision.  He knows the consequences of going and of not going, so it’s good to let him be the one to choose. 

But yesterday, on this Monday, he was extra unhappy and extra grouchy.  Downright hateful a couple times. 

“I want a break!!” he angrily told me.

“You just had a break,” I told him back, but not angrily.  I know better.

“When was my break?!” he wanted to know.

“Saturday and Sunday,” I answered as I fixed my hair.

“Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!” he told me.

“OK,” I said.

So I’m fairly certain he came in the bathroom a dozen times, each time saying with more and more anger, “Don’t say that Saturday and Sunday were my break!!”

He continued on down his anger path.  I didn’t react……I breathed deeply……I prayed…..and I looked forward to Aaron making up his angry mind about what he wanted to do. 

He finally came in the bathroom, bent over while he rubbed his hands together, and said, “I don’t love you anymore!!!!”

Then he was spent.  I was, too.  He walked away, calmed down, went to Paradigm while he happily listened to music, and the storm passed. 

What I wear, in a sense……what I display to Aaron when he is so angry…..makes a huge difference in the outcome.  It’s much like my blouses that caused a reaction in Aaron.  If I show anger when he is angry, the result is explosive and nothing is accomplished.  If I show patience, then he sees that his anger isn’t accomplishing what he hoped it would.  If I ignore him totally for awhile, he becomes uncomfortable and realizes that he has crossed a line. 

I can choose what I wear during these episodes just as much as I chose those three different blouses on three different days.  Will I be fun, or special, or ugly? Every situation with Aaron is different, too, so I need wisdom…..which is a big reason that I pray.

Oh, I get upset, too.  I mutter under my breath……think not-so-kind thoughts……and if Gary’s here, he is at times my sounding board, as I am his. 

But still, what I wear in front of Aaron is so important.  Above all, I must wear unconditional love.  It’s hard sometimes to do that, especially when he tells me he doesn’t love me anymore.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen often, but when he does go that far, I struggle.

When I picked Aaron up from Paradigm that afternoon, he acted as if nothing had happened between us at all.  And last night, as we watched Wheel of Fortune, Aaron starting rubbing his hands together wildly.

“MOM??!!” he loudly said, “I LOVE YOU!!”

Which is Aaron’s way of saying that he is sorry, and that he does love me for real.

I slipped on some forgiveness right then.

“I love you, too, Aaron.”

It felt very nice, maybe like the princess blouse.  And fun, like the coloring blouse. 

I’m thankful the ugly was gone, at least for now. 

Choosing My Focus

I had my day all planned today, my to-do list made, and the order of that list firmly in my head.  Take Aaron to Paradigm, then the post office, return an item to Gordman’s, stop at the Vintage store to ask about milk paint, run quickly into Dillon’s, probably get gas, home for a quick lunch and indoor straightening, and then outside into this upcoming warm afternoon where I was looking forward to some leaf raking out of our drainage ditches and picking up branches and maybe pine cones and cleaning off the front porch and vacuuming out the van……whew!…..and pick up Aaron and home to make supper and then Wheel of Fortune and ironing and then bedtime before I know it. 

There.

What I wanted to get done today is based on what I need to get done tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.  We all know how that is.  None of these errands is life changing, by any means, so if they don’t get done today it’s really not a huge deal. 

And they won’t get done today, at least most of them won’t.  Poor Aaron had a night of hard seizures, so he’s having a day today of sleep along with a terrible headache……and the possibility of more seizures, so I won’t stray too far from him today.  My to-do list pales in comparison to what he endures, and to how I hurt for him. 

I’m extremely blessed in many ways and I recognize that.  Gary’s job allows me to stay at home with Aaron.  Gary is a faithful, hard worker.  Aaron’s seizure clusters don’t happen daily, so he has many days where he feels good and is able to participate in life.   And my greatest blessing?  That I know God and I know that He is in control of our lives, including Aaron’s life. 

Aaron came downstairs this morning, took his morning pills and some Ibuprofen for his terrible headache, and then lay back down on the couch with his soft pillow and his favorite fuzzy blanket and a trash can close by in case he needs to throw up.  And as I listened to him breathing in sleep, I thought that this…..

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This hard thing…..is what has continually over time drawn me ever closer to God.

If all I see, though, is Aaron and this sadness, then my faith will falter.  But I have learned to look beyond the seizures…..the sadness for my son…..the pain…..and to look at God. 

God….Who has a plan.  I read in Psalm 25 this morning, and was so filled with joy.  “O Lord, I give my life to You.  I trust in You, my God!  The Lord is good and does what is right.”  And other verses this morning that confirmed to me that the very thing that causes me the most heartache is the thing that also deepens my walk with God.  God does what is right, even when to me it seems far less than right.

It’s all in where I choose to put my focus.

Then my friend, Jill, posted an article on Desiring God…..an article on intimacy with God, written by Jon Bloom.  It was excellent!  And this statement in the last paragraph says it perfectly:  “Intimacy with God often occurs in the places where we must trust Him most.”

Yes!!  Lying on my couch is my son whom I dearly love, and whom I dearly wish could live a normal life, but God has not willed that to be the case.  But in that pain of my mother heart has grown a deep trust in God, learned over time and in the hard, broken places.

I’m reading “Faith of Our Father” by Dale Ralph Davis, and is it ever good!  Today I read about Abraham and his faith, but how faith isn’t always a piece of cake in the long term.  Our faith can waver, so that’s why we need to keep our eyes on the One in Whom our faith rests.  Davis says, “….if the object of faith is what matters, then don’t be overly worried about faith itself, wondering how much you have, anxious about the ‘amount’ of faith.” 

I’ve heard people say, “Well, God didn’t answer my prayers.  Was my faith not strong enough?”  No, no!  The strength of our faith has nothing to do with us but everything to do with the God that we trust.  He is the strong one!  And He DOES always answer prayer.  It’s just that sometimes the answer isn’t what we wanted, so we tend to think that He hasn’t answered.  In reality, what we’re thinking is that we just didn’t get our way.

I love Davis’ prayer at the end of this chapter I read today:  “We give thanks, O Lord, for the trouble you take to help us go on believing.  Teach us not to fret over the intensity of our faith, but convince us that even a weak faith may lay hold of a strong Christ.  Amen.”

Amen, indeed!

My faith can on some days be weak.  If I just look at Aaron…..his seizures……his autism and behaviors……his here and now…..and his future – then I can most definitely falter.  But like Davis said, may my weak faith lay hold of a strong Christ!! 

I’m not a super parent, but I do have a super God!

And the more I trust Him, the more my faith grows. 

The impossibly hard times are times rich with learning, if we but let go of our pain and place our focus on God, Who loves us more than we can know.  When I open my hand and place it in God’s hand, then I have also let go of the pain that I sometimes hold too close. 

“Bible faith looks away from itself to the One Who promises and finds rest there.”  (Davis)

I can be thankful that God took my to-do list and added the most important thing to be done, at the very top of the list. 

Trust Him and rest in Him. 

And to be here for my Aaron…..this son that has taught me so much, even when he doesn’t know it. 

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You Want Me Gone?

The other night, Aaron kept coming in our bedroom after we had gone through his bedtime routine and said our goodnights.  Gary was already trying to go to sleep, and I wanted to do the same.  But Aaron kept opening our bedroom door and then softly knocking on our closed bathroom door……as softly as Aaron knocks, which is about as softly as he whispers……which is not much. 

“AARON!!” I hissed.  “Why are you in our room?” 

“I just wondered if you’re gonna have the monitor on,” he said.

“I’ve already told you I’ll have the monitor on,” I replied.   “Now go to bed!”

Not long after, it happened again.  Just repeat the above scenario, but this time Aaron said, “I just wondered if it’s going to rain tonight.”

I told him it was not going to rain…..and to go to bed, as I escorted him to our door, which I soundly closed.

Take three.

Same thing, except now he stood in the bathroom with me saying, “I just thought I could talk to you while you get ready for bed.”

The Mom look I gave him was all he needed, but still he just had to ask one more question.

“Are you SURE you want me gone?”

I assured him that I was sure as I yet again walked him to the bedroom door, closed it with one last goodnight……and locked it!

It’s been a rough couple of weeks with Aaron.  Both his seizures and his behaviors have escalated…..seizures at home, behaviors at his day group, Paradigm.  Another bad report this past Monday just took all the wind out of me.  Gary and I feel like nothing is working, but something has to make a difference.  We saw his caregiver at the Epilepsy Center this week, had labs drawn, will see his autism doctor before long, talked to friends who travel this road, are researching some options……and praying.  Praying a lot.

I was so thankful for the verse that God gave me this week.  The portion that meant so much to me was this phrase: 

“DO NOT HIDE YOUR EAR FROM MY PRAYER FOR RELIEF.”  (Lamentations 3:56)

It’s like that old story of the guy up in the tree with a coon, telling his friend on the ground, “Just shoot up her amongst us!  One of us gotta have some relief!!” 

It’s funny to hear that story…..not so funny to live with Aaron when he has so many behavior struggles that are severely impacting his happiness.  But all of us need some relief, Aaron included.

When he and I got home on Monday, after such a dismal report from his day group staff, Aaron went to his room.  Soon he walked up to me and handed me one of his sticky notes.  Here is what he had written:

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Bless his heart.  He really wants to do better, but finding that better is very difficult for him in certain circumstances.  Really impossible at times, as his Epilepsy nurse and practitioner discussed with me on Wednesday. 

That verse God gave me early in the week was perfect.  We need relief, as many believers through the ages have expressed, and as many of my friends are experiencing now in their lives in very serious ways.  The book of Lamentations is all about God’s faithfulness throughout the stresses and calamities of life on this earth.  In fact, the following verse after the author begs God to not hide His ear, says, “You came near when I called on You; You said, Do not fear!”

Good advice…..great promises!!

The day after these verses spoke so much to me….the day after Aaron’s bad day at Paradigm…..this happened.  I was out with my little elderly friend, Nora, when I got a text.  This text was from my friend in Texas, Dona, whose husband had a terrible stroke 11 months ago.  Dona and I rarely text, so I was surprised and a little alarmed to see her name appear.  I instantly thought it might be about her husband, Steve.

But all Dona said was, “Are you doing OK?”

Wow!!

She had totally, absolutely no way of knowing what I was dealing with.  We briefly texted, with her telling me that I had just been on her heart and mind.  God at work, without a doubt.

I could hardly wait to get home and call her.  We talked for quite awhile.  She told me again that she kept thinking about me and so she prayed.  I love it when God does these things!  He shows His love and His care in these amazing, wonderful ways, blessing all of us in the process.

A day or two later, Aaron and I were in Dillon’s.  We bought our few items, and then the cashier pointed to a large container of roses at the end of the conveyer belt. 

“Would you like a free rose?” she asked.

And Aaron jumped on that like a flea on a dog!!  He took a rose and then handed it to me, his face nothing but a huge grin.

“Here, MOM!”  he boomed.  “I want to give you a rose!!  Because I love you!!”

And with that, he gave me the biggest hug!  I thought my heart would explode!

The love note…..the rose……the hug. 

Mixed this week with the behaviors…..some scary seizures…..doctor visits…..decisions looming.

It’s like Aaron bounding in our room at bedtime, just when we think that he’s settling in for the night.  BAM!!  There he is again, full of talk and excitement, no matter how tired we are. 

“Are you sure you want me gone?” he asks.  No, Aaron, not gone…..but resting.  Go rest, and let us do the same.

His behaviors can be so very tiring.  This past week has been emotionally exhausting for us, as well as physically.  We could use some relief.

But we don’t want Aaron gone…..his personality and his take on life’s events to be gone.  We just want him to be happy, and to know how to behave in a way that makes others happy, too.  We have to keep working on that, and to keep trying to enable him to achieve that.

We’re praying for God to give us wisdom, and to not hide His ear from our cry for relief.  I know He’s listening…..I know He cares……I know He’ll answer.  He’s already impressed others to pray for us.  That’s such an encouragement!

And when I look at my lone little rose in its vase, I’m reminded of Aaron’s love and of God’s love, entwined in many ways in my life.  One so often shows me the other. 

I just have to be making an effort to look sometimes. 

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Wilted

I have some container plants on our front porch.  They need routine watering, of course, but definitely need plenty of water during our very hot Kansas summer.  A few weeks ago, I was guilty of neglecting those plants for longer than I should have.  You know how it is.  I just got busy with many other things.  I would remember the plants and tell myself I needed to check on them, but then once again I would forget to do so in the midst of running here and there.

I had noticed my pretty Impatiens in the corner drooping a little one day, so I gave myself a mental note to water the plants that evening.  But I yet again got distracted and didn’t water them like I promised myself I would do.

When I finally went to check on the plants some time later, I was sad to see that my Impatiens was completely wilted.  “Beyond wilted,” I thought.  “This poor plant is dead……gone.”

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I very nearly just tossed the pitiful thing in the trash can, but something made me stop.  I decided to go ahead and water it.  What could it possibly hurt?  So I filled my watering can, gave all my plants a much needed drink, and waited to see the result.

The first time I looked at the dead Impatiens after being watered, it didn’t look any different.  This just confirmed to me that it was beyond hope.  But still I waited.

And wouldn’t you know, by the next day I was amazed at what I saw!!

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My once dried up plant was now thriving once again!  It had sprung to new life because of simply being watered.  It soaked up what it needed once that life giving need was provided.

I have gone through times in my life where the bad news and the burdens are overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s been hard to handle the stress, and so I have bowed low under the pressure.

It’s during these heated times in my life that I must not let myself neglect the one important element of what sustains me…..God.  He knows my situation and has even planned my path for a purpose.  But it sure is easy to become distracted from Him as I feel the weight of my fears and burdens.  Someone else felt this way, too, and wrote about it beautifully in Psalm 42:

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”

When we know God, it doesn’t mean we won’t suffer.  It doesn’t mean we won’t feel despair.  But knowing God does mean that we have hope.  Hope in God is hope well placed.  It’s a hope that brings us to praise…….praise for His help and His presence.

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”

God loves us throughout each day and even gives us a song during the awful dark hours of the long nights.  That song is our prayer as we lay in the stillness of night, when everything seems darker and bigger and more awful than in the light of day.  Our prayer to God…..our deep groanings……our praise…..turn into a song, even when we don’t really hear a beautiful tune at that moment.  But God hears and He is pleased, and He is the One Who turns our prayers into a song.

Just in the past few days I have a dear friend who found out that she has breast cancer.  She will soon begin chemo and then face surgery.  My brother-in-law went in for a heart cath and was told that he will need bypass surgery.  A friend said goodbye to her wayward son as he moves very far away, and she feels she may not ever see him again.  Another friend is watching her son’s seizures dangerously increase as she awaits a visit with their specialist in Memphis.   I could keep going.  It just seems like there is so much suffering and personal attack right now.

This past Monday I sat in a friend’s back yard, at her picnic table, and we along with another friend were sharing some of the ongoing situations that one friend especially is dealing with.  This wonderful mother and wife, my sweet friend, suggested that we pray.  She bowed her head and started speaking very comfortably with God.  We all prayed, just as if God was sitting right there with us and we were including Him in our conversation……which is really the case.  It was so sweet, and each of us was so encouraged in just the way that we needed.

Just like my wilted plant.  We all felt like this at first –

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But after praying, we were encouraged and refreshed…..just like my plant that finally received water.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

The more I wilt, the more I can count on God to give me just what I need as I hope in Him, praise Him, and rest in His arms.  He will refresh me and He will revive me, even in the heat of the trials that I may be encountering.

He’s a good God and an amazing caregiver for us.

And He never forgets us when we need watering!

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Another “Sorry Card”

I pulled up in front of Aaron’s day group today, waiting for him to come outside and wondering as I always do in what mood I would find him.  He wasn’t very happy to go this morning.  Mondays are often difficult for Aaron, like they are for many who must return to work or school.  Problem is, Aaron isn’t always able to filter his frustrations, so he may be angry and rude as he expresses his Monday morning blues.  But he did go this morning, carrying his bag as he got out of the van…….his bag holding two bottles of water from the house, two sausage biscuits and two boxes of Hot Tamales from Quik Trip, and two cucumbers from our garden.  The water and the food was for Aaron.  The cucumbers were for whomever he decided to give them to today.

Aaron’s language of love toward others is definitely sharing.  I have to watch him or he might try to sneak things out of the house that I don’t want him to share.  Or he might bring a smile, as he did a couple weeks ago, when he put a few okra from our garden into his pocket…..and gave several of the staff at his day group AN okra.  One okra.  I’ve wondered if they think me a bit stingy.

Anyway, I sat in front of Paradigm today trying to prepare myself for whatever form of Aaron would soon be climbing in the van beside me.  Happy Aaron?  Sad Aaron?  Tired Aaron?  Angry Aaron?  It’s so much like still having a kindergartner in school, going to pick them up and waiting for their stories of the day, and seeing what frame of mind they are in.  Except that all the clients at Paradigm are adults, not young children.  My Aaron is nearly 32 years old and weighs 225 pounds!  He is grown up, but sometimes still his issues are not. 

He walked out today with Barb, his very loving staff, holding Piper the resident therapy dog.  Along with Aaron and Barb walked one of Aaron’s friends who often comes to the van with Aaron to see if I have brought our big Jackson.  I could tell that Aaron looked like he had been crying at some point, and I was right.  As the van door opened, Aaron’s mouth also opened as he told me that he had gotten mad at J for telling him to be quiet so that another client could sleep…..and Aaron thought that J was being bossy…..and Aaron didn’t like a hand motion that he said J made (nothing bad – Aaron just really doesn’t like other’s hand motions)…..and so Aaron hit J in the back…..really hard. 

Oh dear.  Children’s issues but in adult bodies.  Barb was kind and supportive as Aaron declared that he did not want to come to Paradigm tomorrow, telling him that she hoped he would come, but not pushing the issue.  I said a little but not much, knowing it’s best to let the dust settle first.  More soft words from Barb and then she mentioned that he gave his two cucumbers away…..and his little friend standing behind Barb brightened, opened her purse, and pulled out one of the large cucumbers.  Aaron brightened, too, and my heart softened for this man/boy who has so many conflicted emotions in any given day, today included.  The moment suddenly turned sweet and funny, his little friend happily holding up her cucumber with a big smile on her face.  These special adults can touch me so deeply if I just pause to soak it all in.

Reality hit again as Aaron and I drove away.  He told me once more that he didn’t want to go back tomorrow.  I was seeing a long evening ahead of anger and sadness, with Gary getting hit with it as soon as he unknowingly walked in the door.  So I calmly talked to Aaron for probably the zillionth time about not hitting people, about how that holds him down in life, and how someday he might get hurt. 

He turned on the CD of Zac Brown.  “Don’t talk, Mom,” he instructed.  “Let’s just listen.”

This suited me fine.  We hit the three lane and rode in silence in rush hour traffic.  Finally, he reached over and turned off Zac Brown.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Can we go to Dillon’s and let me get a sorry card?”

What?!  Aaron’s mood had dramatically changed.  As he has in the past, he wanted to once again get a “sorry card” for someone he had hurt.  But this change had happened quickly.  He was sincere and quiet as we talked about it.  I told him that we had cards at home he could use, and he was satisfied with that. 

“And can I bring Barb an okra?” he continued.  I suggested a green pepper instead, and he was excited at that idea.

“Mom?” he asked again.  “I’d like to bring S a stuffed animal.  That’s why I wanted to bring her my spider.”  But I reminded him that his cute stuffed spider was a special gift from Bruce and Glenda, from Hawaii, and he shouldn’t give that away.  I told him we would look for something else to give S…..his very special friend who is wheelchair bound, all bent over, and the girl with whom Aaron loves to share his food and his conversation. 

I can’t explain the positive change in Aaron’s mood, but I sure have been praying lately about his hitting and his anger at times.  Praying, too, as Gary and I get so tired some days.  So I may not be able to explain Aaron’s happiness tonight, but I can say thank-you to God for allowing it. 

I ended up finding an ancient little “sorry card” that I had saved in my ancient container of cards……two “sorry cards,” in fact……so Aaron chose the one he wanted to give J.  Later, he saw the Burger King coupons from yesterday’s paper that he had cut out.  He asked if he could give one to J, so we chose one to cut out and include with the “sorry card.”

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Then I showed him one of the green peppers from our garden that he could give to Barb, and it met his approval. 

Finding something for S was a little more difficult, but I remembered a very soft pillow stuffed with tiny microbeads, a pillow that Aaron never uses.  He set it aside in his room, ready to take to S tomorrow. 

I was happy that I had started supper early because Aaron wanted me to play the Frog in the Pond game on the Atari system that Gary hooked up to Aaron’s computer.  We laughed and laughed and laughed at me trying to get the frog to catch the bugs.

Aaron offered to set the table for supper.  He fed Jackson a piece of asparagus stalk.  He didn’t dump bad news on Gary when he came home from work.  He told Gary all about our Atari game and all about his sharing plans for tomorrow, but barely was mention made of his rough spot today and why he needed to give J a “sorry card.”  We watched Wheel of Fortune, and we laughed ourselves silly at the Nexium commercial with the man who was made into a burrito.

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I pray that tomorrow morning, when Aaron wakes up and is tired, that he doesn’t change his mind about all that he has planned for tomorrow.  I pray that he is excited about all the things he plans to take to give away, especially the “sorry card.”  That’s the most important of all. 

I’m grateful for this happy evening, and I know that it is one to which I can direct Aaron as an example of how to handle life’s rough patches.  I can honestly tell Aaron that he was a wonderful example to ME of how to overcome anger and frustration. 

Sharing touches a loving chord in Aaron’s soul.  It always has.  I need to work with that more, and get creative.

I can see a trip to Dollar Tree in our future.  We need to restock Aaron’s “give away” items, or I may be missing some dishes…..towels…..jewelry……

 

 

 

 

Be A Ladybug!

Every year, Gary and I enjoy our little garden.  No two years are exactly the same.  Last year, for instance, I was hauling buckets of summer squash out of there every few days.  This year, so far, we have had four squash.  Not four buckets.  Just four squash.  Pathetic, I know.

But we have had buckets of cucumbers this year, so that makes me happy.  A couple tomatoes here and there as they slowly ripen; one lone spaghetti squash that has survived so far; some peppers; and always, thankfully, lots of okra.  Okra seems to do very well in our hot Kansas summers, no matter where in the garden we place it or how hot our weather is.  Okra is certainly a hardy crop for the conditions in which we live. 

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There are other reasons that I could say our okra does so well.  One is the tilling that Gary does, such as you see in this picture I took one Saturday after he had worked hard tilling the garden.  I also hand weeded the areas where the tiller couldn’t go, so the garden looked all clean and beautiful for awhile.

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Then there’s the ingenious sprinkler system that Gary designed.  There are three sprinkler heads placed on poles in the front of the garden, and three in the back.  Gary measured for all the pipes that were needed, glued, dug trenches, rigged up the hose and the timer…..it’s really pretty amazing, if you ask me.  And I love it because it turns on twice a day and I don’t have to lift a finger! 

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We also had our soil tested last year, and it showed that our soil is healthy.  That was nice to hear.  I bought bedding plants at a nursery that I trust, and we added some fertilizer into the holes as we planted each one.  With all of these things that we did, our okra have thrived and we’re enjoying every bite of fresh okra from our garden.

But I left out one part of their success……..a very important part, though it comes in a very tiny form.  These:

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Yes, ladybugs.  Every time I cut okra off the plants that are getting taller and taller all the time, I see my little miniature friends.  I call them friends because they work very hard as they help insure the success of our okra.  Ladybugs eat aphids, and so without the help of these little spotted bugs, our okra just might not live.  And if they did live, they might not thrive.  I can’t really see aphids, but I know they are there, sucking the life out of the healthy plants.  So our ladybugs quietly go about their business, eating the dangerous aphids and tremendously helping to insure that we have lots of delicious okra to enjoy. 

Ladybugs are cute, but they’re not really visible from far away.  We see the sprinkler system doing its watering.

We see and hear the tiller digging up weeds, giving us the results of almost weedless soil.

 But ladybugs?  They’re unobtrusive and very little and hardly seen at all, unless you get right down there in the midst of the leaves and really look.

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I had a sweet little Grandma that I think of when I see these ladybugs doing their quiet but valuable work.  She was little in stature…..I definitely get my shortness from her!  Grandma Hollandsworth….whom we later affectionately called Grandma Holly, or just Holly…..lived with my parents for 14 years.  Therefore, I spent lots of time with her and knew her very well.

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One of the most precious memories that all of us have of Grandma, I know, is the picture in our minds of what we sometimes saw when we passed by her bedroom in the mornings.  She would be sitting at the long built-in desk that lined her bedroom windows, her Bible open before her.  Her head covered in beautiful white hair would be bowed, and she would be praying.  She told us that she prayed for all of her six children every day……their spouses…..their children…..their children’s children…..and on it went.  It was quite a long list, believe me!  She would also pray for many others who were not family, faithfully and persistently.

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When Grandma would be taken to see the doctor, she would sometimes have to wait to be seen.  The doctor would come into the exam room, apologizing for making her wait, and Grandma would just smile and tell him that it was all right.  She told him that she used that time to pray for her family.  She had such a sweet testimony of being a praying Grandma.

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Grandma died when she was 99 years old.  She was actually praying when she died.  She was, at that point, in a care home. Her roommate heard Grandma asking the Lord to take her home.  Then there was a sharp breath and Grandma Holly was gone to heaven, just like that……while she prayed.  How perfect! 

We have always said that the thing we would miss the most about Grandma was her prayers for all of us.  We won’t know this side of heaven just how impacting her prayers were in our lives, nor the impact that her prayers are still having in our lives and the lives of family members that she never even knew. 

Grandma didn’t make a big show about her faithful prayer life.  She definitely never bragged about it or tried to draw attention to herself through her prayers.  She just quietly went about doing what she knew God wanted her to do.  And she prayed because she loved Him and she loved all of us. 

Scan0005Grandma was like my little garden ladybugs, just daily doing what she knew was right.  I wonder what difference her prayers have made in so many lives……what fruit her faithfulness is still producing today.

The prophet Zechariah, whose name means ‘Yahweh remembers,’ was one of the prophets who encouraged the returning exiles in Jerusalem to complete the temple.  The people were discouraged as they compared the smaller, simpler temple they built to the grandeur of the former temple.  But Zechariah told the people in Zechariah 4:10 to not “despise the day of small things.”

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” God said in verse 6. 

We tend to notice and value the big and the bright and the noisy.  But let’s not despise the small things……things like little ladybugs doing their work……things like a Grandma’s quiet but fervent prayers.

The smallest acts can produce the most beautiful fruit.

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Lessons From the New Roof

When we moved into this house, it had a shake roof. An old shake roof, weathered and beaten. At least it looked weathered and beaten, but it passed the house inspection. Gary kept a close eye on it for the following years, especially after every hail storm. He patched a place here and a spot there. The roof held, though, so we were thankful for that and went on with life under our shake roof.

One day, though, we saw an ugly spot on our bedroom ceiling. It was a water mark, without doubt, so we had no doubt that our shake roof finally had succumbed to the latest hail or wind storm and needed to be replaced. The insurance adjustor came out and looked everything over, including the water mark on our ceiling. However, he said that the roof generally looked fine so he would recommend that the insurance pay to repair some individual spots that needed new shake shingles. We were disappointed, but what could we do except leave the decision in the hands of our insurance company.

On a Saturday morning as Gary and I worked outside, the phone rang and so Gary stood in the garage talking. I could tell that it was our insurance company, and I could also tell that Gary was happy about whatever it was they were saying. He hung up and told me the good news. Our insurance company had decided to just replace our entire roof! And not only to replace it, but their policy was to give the owner the price it would cost to replace the roof with the same kind of roof. Now a shake roof is expensive. Gary and I had decided that we wanted, someday, a composite roof, for many reasons other than price. Gary told our insurance man that we weren’t getting a shake roof, but he said it didn’t matter. Policy was policy, so we were given more money than we needed for our new composite roof. Wow! The extra money went toward a much needed bathroom remodel. We were so thankful for this extra blessing! We got a new roof and a new bathroom to boot!

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I’ve been slowly reading through the book of Nehemiah. This morning as I started the last chapter of this wonderful book, a phrase just jumped out at me. The people of Israel were reading aloud to the assembly from the book of Moses. They were reminded of how the Ammonites and Moabites, many years ago when the Israelites were in the wilderness, had treated God’s people so badly. In fact, the king of Moab had paid their prophet Balaam to speak a curse against the Israelites. Perhaps the best known part of this story is about Balaam’s donkey, whom God spoke through to Balaam. It’s an interesting and funny story from Numbers 22. But what was so meaningful to me today was that little phrase in Nehemiah 13, at the end of verse 2, as the people were reminded of the story of Balaam.

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING.”

What a precious reminder these few words were to me today! So many times we have things happen to us that seem to be a curse, in a sense. Hard things……difficult to understand on many levels. Things out of our control, like the hail and the wind that beat on our old roof. And even when we might see some reason or make some sense of it, the answers still don’t fully come. We may get a small amount of partial relief here and there, but not really be able to escape the pain and the mess that we find ourselves confronting.

Paul reminded us that “all things work together for good,” though. He didn’t say that good things happen all the time. They don’t. But whatever does happen to us as believers is under the sovereign allowance of God, and we can be sure that it WILL all work together for good. We may not even see the good this side of heaven, or feel like any of it is working out for good at all. But God has His policies, so to speak……just like our insurance company. And His policies are clearly stated: He WILL turn a curse into a blessing!! He WILL work all the things in our lives out for GOOD!!

Someday, even if it’s not until heaven, we WILL be able to look at all the stuff that has happened in our lives and then voice that big “HOWEVER!”

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING!

Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose focus!

God comes through on our side, for our good, every single time!!