Forgiveness

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 some cheat codes for him.  He was carrying a large sheaf of stapled-together codes that he said a staff member at Paradigm had printed off for him.  It was very large – the number on the last sheet was 77!  And Aaron wanted me to print it off again………at least that’s what he said……….and so began the very frustrating process of trying to figure out the why and the what of Aaron’s request.

Aaron couldn’t explain to me exactly what it was he wanted me to print, even as I explained to him that I was not printing 77 pages – that he already had!  He began to escalate, and then hit my dresser with his fist as he walked out.  Thus ensued the fight – not physically, but verbally.  I was trying to understand what he wanted and at the same time calm him down, all the while feeling my tiredness and my exasperation mounting.  Soon I was yelling……..and Aaron was yelling……..and I yelled louder………and Aaron responded likewise.  It was a lose-lose situation all the way around.  I backed off and walked away, taking a few minutes to calm down and then approaching Aaron again as he headed toward my room.  We came to an agreement……….more of a stalemate……..and soon left for the dentist.  Both of us were quiet and rather depleted.  And I was feeling very guilty.

Aaron waited for me in the van as I put something in the mailbox, picked up the newspaper, and got the empty trash cans ready to roll back to the house.  I took a step or two and then saw it……….a weed growing up between a crack in our driveway.  What would have been an ugly weed, except for one thing.  Growing on that weed were such delicate little violet blooms that I had to stop in my tracks and stare down at it.  Those little blooms transformed that otherwise annoying weed into a soft spot of beauty on our driveway.  Instantly my heart was pricked.  My behavior with Aaron not an hour earlier was ugly and hateful.  I let my tiredness and my selfishness call the shots instead of letting the Holy Spirit empower me to respond to Aaron with love and kindness.

Out of my nasty behavior, I needed something soft and pretty to grow……..something that only Christ could enable to bloom.  Forgiveness.  In particular, to BE forgiven by Aaron.  I’ve read and studied a lot about forgiveness over the past few years.  In fact, I just listened to some on-line lessons last week on this very subject.  I know quite a bit about the anatomy of extending forgiveness and being forgiven.  Could I practice this today?  With my child?  With Aaron?

I know that asking for true forgiveness means naming the sin you have committed, without making excuses for your behavior, and asking to be forgiven.  As Aaron and I ate lunch, I waited for him to pause in his monologue of the moment and then I said, “Aaron, I’m very sorry that I got so angry this morning.  I’m sorry I yelled and acted hateful to you.”   Aaron looked at me, gave a little grunt, and stuffed more pizza into his mouth.  I continued, “So Aaron, will you forgive me?”  Another grunt.  And I repeated, “Will you forgive me?”  And he said, “Yeah.  Hey, did you know that I woke up at 8:33 but I stayed in bed, and then got up at 9:04?”

I chuckled.  This is as good as it will get with Aaron in the forgiveness department.  Oh, he heard me loud and clear………..and he registered every word that I said.  He may still call me weird, as he did earlier…….or maybe not.  He knows, though, that I am sorry.  He knows that I love him.  He knows that I am human……..and weird sometimes.

And I know that a little flower began to bloom in my guilt-ridden heart.  For I had also asked God to forgive me and He did more than grunt.  He has given me assurances all over His Word that He is there, waiting with open arms to forgive………..and to forget!  I can’t forget my behavior, but I pray that I will once again learn from my failure and grow in this issue of forgiveness.   Grow and bloom………beauty from ashes, God says.

Just like my little driveway weed.

Grape Trees

We finished planting our vegetable garden today, which made Aaron very happy.  Long before planting season is upon us, Aaron begins talking about the garden – flower and vegetable alike.  He wonders which perennials will return in the flower beds……….what new flowers will I plant………..and what we’ll decide to plant in the vegetable garden.

He’s full of ideas, wanting us to consider planting “something different.”  He has suggested strawberries; cantaloupe (which we did try one year); sunflowers; and a variety of other flowers and veggies and fruits.  He was discussing his gardening ideas one night a few weeks ago while we played Skip-Bo and said, “Mom, how about if I give you a new idea of what to grow?  How about grow a grape tree?”

The thought of a grape tree made me smile.  I almost didn’t want to correct him because somehow a grape tree just pleases me.  Later, though, Gary and I both told him about grape vines…………but I still think Aaron believes that grapes surely grow on trees, like apples and pears.

He was looking out our upstairs bathroom window one morning as I got my make-up on.  He saw that the yard was full of those little twirly seed pods from the maple tree.  “Mom, you know those helicopter things that come off the tree?  Where do they come from?”  I pointed to the maple tree out in the yard, but at first Aaron thought I meant the Golden Rain tree.  I said no and pointed again to the maple, and Aaron said, “Which tree?  That one?  The green one?”

Well, Aaron, they’re all green.  It’s the one with a million little helicopter things hanging from it……….yes, the green one!

He loves the Lamb’s Ear in the front flower bed because it’s so soft.  If someone mentions it or asks what kind of plant it is, Aaron immediately yanks off a leaf and hands it to the person so that they can feel it.  It’s a good thing that it’s a sturdy plant!  He often sits near the Lamb’s Ear when he’s in the mulch, and he will talk about how soft the leaves are.

Today I bought our vegetables to plant in the garden.  I had a few of the tomato plants on the kitchen table.  Aaron never can resist touching plants………or pulling or picking or snapping off.   As he walked by the table, he saw the new tomato plants and of course, reached over and felt one of the leaves.

“Mom, these are a weird kind of softness.  What kind of soft are they?  A hard kind of soft?”

I guess when compared to the sweet softness of Lamb’s Ear, the tomato leaves are a rather hard kind of soft. Who else but Aaron would talk about a hard kind of soft?

And later, when I walked past the tomato plants, I reached out to touch the leaf that’s a hard kind of soft.  Aaron’s right – as usual.  The tomato leaf is a hard kind of soft.

If I stop to see the world through Aaron’s eyes, there just might be grape trees after all.

Our Nest

I remember being pregnant with Aaron and hearing the term “nesting.”  I wondered if that phenomenon was really true, and later discovered that it certainly was.  I had the rush of energy and the desire to get our nest in order before Aaron’s birth – and he was three weeks early!  Interesting!

I find myself considering our nest again, but now on the other end of the spectrum.  Goodness, how time flies!  And now I sound old even in just saying those timeless words about time.  I don’t really feel old, but soon our nest will be a little emptier, and I know that the years have rushed by much faster than I ever dreamed they would when I was knee high in diapers and runny noses.

Tomorrow, barring any delay, Andrea will officially be moving to her new apartment.  She’ll only be an hour away but the distance isn’t what matters.  This marks the beginning of her independent life.  She’s worked since she graduated from college, but has patiently still lived at home as she waited for the wisest opportunity to launch out on her own.  That time has come for her, and no one could be any happier for her than Gary and I are.  Yes, we’ll have the normal sadness as we watch her go, but the sadness is tempered by the happiness we feel for her.  She has a job that she’s wanted and that God put into her lap, so it seems, and now her own place.  Her patience has paid off and we believe that God has honored her.

When Aaron found out that Andrea would be moving, he was very surprised.  He blurted out, “NO MORE ANDREA??!!”  Well, kind of, Aaron………….she’ll still come to visit but no, she won’t be living here anymore.  He’ll miss her a lot, as we all will.  And she’ll miss him, too – in some ways more than others, for sure.

The nests I’ve seen around our yard, up in the trees, are all empty.  It’s the time of year for empty nests.  When I think of our nest, the Moore nest, I know that we have a different nest than many other people have.  We’re not alone in our uniqueness, certainly, but we are in the minority.  At our age, Gary and I should have an empty nest…………but when you have a child, or an adult, with special needs – sometimes the nest won’t be empty for a long time, and maybe never.

This fact hit me at some point when Aaron was entering adulthood.  Some of our friends were anticipating their own empty nests, or celebrating that fact when it occurred.  None of us dislike our children, but when the time of life comes that our children move on and we’re still young and healthy enough to be alone again – well, it’s just fun!  But as Gary and I dealt with the reality of Aaron’s needs, part of that reality that hit us square in the face was that Aaron may not leave home for a long time.

I’m not complaining and I sure hope I don’t sound whiny.  When we were first exploring what options we had for Aaron’s services, we chose an agency that would provide Aaron with a group home.  We were definitely headed in that direction…………..until one of the staff physically and verbally abused Aaron.  Gary and I considered that door shut, and so have kept Aaron at home with us.  Some day we will have to cross that bridge again, but we don’t know when that will happen.  His day group is a blessing to all of us, with an awesome staff.  But honestly, I can hardly imagine someone being able to love and understand Aaron enough to live with him, to care for him during his seizures, to know how to defuse him when he’s angry, to read his body language, and on and on.

There are some lessons that I have learned over the years in regards to our lack of an empty nest at this point in our lives. I don’t always practice what I preach, but I have learned:

1.  Do not compare myself to others!
This is a trap that I think we women fall into so easily.  I remember in our early years of marriage how I would listen when other wives told me that Gary and I should do this or go here or experience that.  I had to learn not to compare our lives with their lives.  Now as I think of Aaron being home I must also not compare our lives to those who are “free.”  God has given us this life with this situation, in His sovereignty, and to live any other way than in freedom would be defeating.

2.  Do not covet the life that others have!
     This goes along with not comparing ourselves to others, but coveting takes it one step further down that slope of sinful behaviors.  Other couples may have more time alone, more opportunity for travel, more peace and quiet, more time for their own hobbies or pursuits……..but I should never covet these things.  Coveting is purely sin!

3.  Be content!
     Paul had a lot to say about being content………….”Godliness with contentment is great gain;” and “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Being content is an act of my will and an act of obedience to God.

4.  Count my blessings!
I have so many reasons to be thankful and so many blessings to count, every single day!  And counting my blessings keeps my mind on positive attitudes and focuses me once again on being content.

As Andrea and I worked in her apartment the other day, we noticed the pretty tree out the front window.  It’s a Redbud and this spring it promises to provide lots of beauty for her to enjoy.  As I was working on something, Andrea said, “Look, there’s a nest in the tree.”  And sure enough, there sits a nest up in the branches of the Redbud.  What a perfect reminder that now Andrea is starting her own nest!  Her first nest is not like my first nest, but it’s a nest and will be blessed by God as she honors Him.

 

And I want to continue to honor God with the nest that God has given to Gary and me.  Our last bird may be here for a long time, but that’s OK.  What a privilege to mother our special bird!

Besides, what would I write about if not for Aaron?

Lessons From the Little Black Ant

Let’s face it – life isn’t easy for any of us.  God has allowed Gary and I to be in a place we never even thought about as new parents to our beautiful baby Aaron over 32 years ago.  One summer I wrote some thoughts about persevering as we carry the burdens we face.  It involves an ant:

If you had driven by my house this morning you would have seen me standing in the front yard under our maple tree, watering hose in one hand and coffee in the other, with my hair blowing crazily in our Kansas wind. And to make me even more noticeable, I’m sure, was the fact that I was staring up into our maple tree for a long time. You see, God has often used my gardening as a time to teach me. Object lessons abound and this morning was no different. So I was observing God’s lesson for me this morning in the form of an itty bitty tiny black ant. An amazing itty bitty tiny black ant.

There he was, this little ant, carrying a white load that was bigger than he was. As he climbed up the tree, defying gravity with his load, he never wavered from the task at hand. Other ants were barreling down the tree, passing him as they went merrily on their way, seemingly oblivious to the load he carried. Several times he bumped into rough, curling bark that threatened to stop his progress. Then the wind blew and it buffeted him terribly. He would swerve and I wondered if he was going to fall down to the ground, but he never did. He pressed on and on until finally I could barely see him. I don’t know if he made it to his goal today or had to start over, but something tells me he accomplished what he set out to do. I know that God used that little oblivious ant to accomplish a work in my heart.

We all face those loads in life and I’m no different. I remember some of them in particular as milestones in my life. Usually the loads are painful, for that is when I learn the best. Aaron’s diagnosis of Epilepsy and then several years later of Autism were particularly hard loads to bear. Our frequent military moves were often painful as we once again said goodbye to family, friends, and ministry that we loved. Receiving the news of my dad’s two cancers, and then losing three of our parents in 14 months was at times too heavy to bear. Watching family that we love go through terrible trials takes a toll as well. That out-of-the-blue phone call that came several years ago that changed our lives and has impacted our children continues to be difficult.

I admit that lately I have become discouraged with it all. I have wanted to throw the load down and head merrily back down the tree to a life where things aren’t so burdensome. I’ve become tired of the impediments, the rough tree and curling bark. The winds of doubt and of feeling unused threaten to blow me off course. Worry, concerns, injustice – it all crowds in during the dark hours of the night when sleep won’t come. But today God spoke to me. Not with a mighty voice or an awesome miracle, but He allowed me to “consider the ant” and to be uplifted and blessed.

James said that we can know “that the testing of our faith produces endurance.” Endurance, which means abiding under difficulties. Not dropping the load and running back down the tree but living under the difficulties, pressing on toward the mark, and counting it joy. Thank you, God, for the strength that you promise; for the joy that you give under the loads of life; and for the little black ant that you sent my way today.