The Dandelion

I’m a little…actually, a lot…fired up right now because of an article I just read.  Apparently, a special-needs teacher in Indiana decided on award night to present one of her male students with the Most Annoying Male award.  Yes, you read that correctly.  She did this in front of all the other students and their parents, including the parents of this young boy.

OK.  You have the background now for why I’m upset. To publicly humiliate this boy and his parents is inexcusable.  To do it in this fashion is heartless.  And the fact that this woman actually teaches special-needs students is beyond belief.

Yesterday evening, after we ate supper and as I was cleaning the kitchen, I looked over at our kitchen table.  The evening sun was shining in the windows beside our table, highlighting the beautiful flowers that Gary brought to me last week for our anniversary.  The flowers still look so gorgeous, so bright and cheerful, that I just had to snap a picture.

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When I look at those pretty flowers, I’m reminded of Gary’s love for me over all these years, and how he showed it on this particular occasion.  Gary shows his love for me every day in so many ways, but he knew that these flowers would be a very special way to demonstrate his love on our special #40 anniversary.

Later, I went out to the garage to talk to Gary while he whittled on a walking-stick he’s finishing.  It wasn’t long, though, before we heard the familiar sound of Aaron’s fast walking headed in our direction through the house.  He loudly opened the door and barreled into the garage, primed to talk about whatever was on his mind.  So much for our quiet conversation, Gary and I both said without speaking as we looked at each other.

I became occupied with some things that needed my attention,  soon realizing that Aaron had disappeared but had not gone back into the house.  I stepped out on the driveway and sure enough saw Aaron at our neighbor’s house.  He was standing at their pool talking to them as they were, I’m sure, trying to have a few moments of conversation without interruption from either of their young boys.  After calling to him a few times, Aaron turned to come home, and I turned back into our garage.

A few seconds later, Aaron rounded the corner and ran excitedly into the garage.  “Here, Mom!!!” he exclaimed.  Into my face he thrust his gift…a decrepit looking and closed-up Dandelion.

Aaron was all smiles as he awaited my reaction, holding this unimpressive Dandelion under my nose.  Honestly, my first initial impulse was to say something like this: “Oh Aaron, how sweet, but I don’t need a Dandelion in the house.”

Yet something stopped me as I saw Aaron’s huge smile and looked at how his eyes were sparkling with delight.  So, I took the little Dandelion and instead thanked Aaron.  When I did, Aaron spontaneously put his arm around me and gave me the sweetest side hug!  If you know Aaron, you know how unusual this was!  I hugged him back, a little awkwardly because I had been turning to walk away and because I was so surprised at his hug.

Aaron chuckled, full of satisfaction at his good deed.  I told him to come with me and we would put this special flower in some water.  This made Aaron very happy!  When I put the browning and unimpressive Dandelion in a small plastic glass of water, you would have thought I had put a gorgeous bouquet in a crystal vase.  Aaron grinned from ear to ear as he bounded back outside to talk some more to Gary.

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I decided to put Aaron’s little gift beside Gary’s big gift, which only accentuated the smallness of this meager Dandelion.  Yet, in no way was Aaron’s intent any smaller than Gary’s.  Both were full of love, expressed in two different and yet two very sweet ways.

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This is Aaron.  He does, in the midst of his often perplexing and annoying ways, show us his love.  He shows love on his terms and in his times, not usually on ours.  But in allowing him this freedom we are also allowing him to be expressive in manners that suit him and that come from deep in his heart.  It’s beautiful to see!

You notice I did say that Aaron can be annoying.  Aren’t all of our children, at times?  Yet never would I publicly shame Aaron as this teacher did to her student.  Our special children often find it impossible to function as expected in our complex world, but they are rarely setting out to purposely be annoying.  It’s up to us as parents and as teachers to understand this and to respond appropriately.

I don’t always understand, and I don’t always respond as I should.  Like last night as I said goodnight to Aaron, why did I choose that time to mention his need of improving his showering skills?  It took him a while to wind down from that, just when I am most tired, but what did I expect?  There are times I need a lip zipper, for real!!

This morning I saw that Aaron’s closed and rather ugly Dandelion had opened fully and was a bright yellow.  I showed Aaron, and he smiled a smile that was as bright as his Dandelion gift.

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Our special children…ALL of our children…will open and thrive if given the opportunity.  A little water and some light totally changed my little Dandelion.  He still looked small beside the larger vase of flowers, but he has quite a large place in my heart.

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Just like our Aaron.  If given the chance, he can shine along with the biggest and the best.  It’s just going to be in HIS way, and I need to know that this is a good thing.  A very good thing!

I also need to remember to point out to Aaron his own progress and accomplishments.  He loves hearing affirmation, just like he loved seeing his Dandelion gift sitting there looking brand new.  It reminded him that he had made a very good choice!

I pray that Indiana special-needs teacher will understand this someday, too.  And I especially pray that her student will be nurtured and will open up to his full potential…and that someone certainly threw away that awful “award!”

 

Wonderfully Made?

Today is World Autism Day.  It’s a day to bring attention around the world to the issue of autism – its causes, its impacts, its uniqueness – and so much more.  I can’t speak for others, really, but I certainly can tell you how autism has rocked our world.

I was a young wife but not a mother yet when Gary was in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  He was learning to fly helicopters for the army, and I was learning the bare beginnings of how to be a good military wife.  I particularly remember a warm Alabama day when I was outside our house on Sharon Lane, planting Zinnias, and wishing with all my heart that there was a baby – our baby – lying in a little crib inside.  I thought that life would be complete if we had a baby.

The army moved us to Fort Carson, Colorado, and in another house we did welcome our little Aaron Daniel.  He was perfect and tiny and complete, as was my happy heart.  A baby!  A son!

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I thought often of that stunning verse in Psalm 139:14:  “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.”

Fourteen years later, I sat in a pediatric neurologist’s office in Tucson, Arizona.  I watched him talk to and examine our son…our Aaron…not so little now, but big and complex and confounding to us.  Gone were his sweet small innocent ways.  He was instead often angry, agitated, loud, embarrassing, and the center of much unwanted attention.

Gary and I at first thought that our unusual and perturbing Aaron was this way because of the effects of seizures he had endured since the age of seven.  Then we wondered if his behaviors were due to side effects from all his seizure drugs.  Or puberty, perhaps, added to the mix?

But Dr. Gray turned to me and told me that Aaron had Asperger’s Syndrome.  I was blank.  I had never heard of this, and I had no idea what he was talking about.  Only when he defined this syndrome as a form of autism did I have an idea…a small inkling…of what he meant.

But oh, little did any of us know what this REALLY meant.  Not until you travel on this unknown path of autism, with its myriad displays affecting every area of life…ours and Aaron’s…can you understand autism’s daily, minute by minute, impact.  Impact on Aaron…on Gary and me…and on Andrea and Andrew.

So, what was I to do now with that powerful, affirming verse from Psalms?  You know, the one that so eloquently said that God makes each baby…fearfully and wonderfully designs each one.  Really?

I choose.  I choose to trust God, totally…or not.

And then, even in my trust, I look up the words I don’t understand.  Really.

FEARFULLY:  means to reverence – so I know that I am to look on God’s design of Aaron and deeply respect what God has created.  I am to be in awe of what God has formed.  Of WHO God formed in my womb.  And trust me, some days I’m totally in awe of who and what I see in this son of ours…and not always in a good way!  And even as Gary and I shake our heads, we do know deep in our hearts that Aaron is exactly who God formed him to be.

WONDERFULLY:  (This meaning is the BEST!!)  This word means to “put a difference; to distinguish; to show marvelous.”

Aaron NAILS this one, people!  Oh my goodness, he is so different than the average bear…and he cares not one bit that he is!  He distinguishes himself everywhere we go and in everything we do…and he doesn’t mind one bit that he does!  AND…he does show himself…sometimes marvelous and sometimes not, at least in our way of defining “marvelous.”

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I decided to use some words to illustrate a little of who Aaron is, showing some recent pictures to boot.

Aaron is BLUNT:  NO picture to show here!  But earlier today I told him he could go to Dillon’s with me, so from that point he was impatient to leave.  He walked in the bathroom, where I was fixing my hair.  Wanting to leave NOW, he stared at me for a few seconds and then said, “You could just go to Dillon’s on a bad hair day!”   😊

Aaron is PERSISTENT:  Aaron talks and talks and talks and talks.  The other evening, he followed Gary to the bathroom, standing outside the door as he continued to talk and talk and talk.

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Aaron is PRECISE:  Look at his notebook in which he logs his times that he goes to bed and the times he wakes up each day.

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Aaron is LOVING:  He loves to share.  If you have junk to get rid of, just let Aaron loose with it, and he’ll give it to anyone that he sees.  He’ll also give away things that you prefer to keep.  Anyway, he has a big heart.  And he especially loves animals!

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Aaron is TOUGH:  He recently had 8 staples put in his head after a drop seizure on our stairs.  Tough hardly describes all he has gone through over the years, physically and in other areas as well.  But he was thrilled to get to keep those staples when they were removed…a trophy!!

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Aaron is THOROUGH:  Here he is yesterday, watching the movie credits with great intensity and delight.  After all, movie credits are part of the movie and are to be watched!  Totally.  To the very, very end.

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Aaron is RIGID:  We want him to wear a helmet for a couple days when we think his seizure pattern may indicate that he’ll have a dangerous drop seizure.  He does NOT want or intend to wear this helmet.  His Aunt Sandra struck a bargain with him, saying that she would make and send him a toboggan hat to wear if he would wear his new helmet.  So, he wore the helmet for an agonizing maybe three minutes.  He DETESTS how it feels!!  Tactile issues have never been ones he can overcome, from the time he was a little boy.  Here the helmet lays, where it was ungraciously tossed by a very frustrated Aaron.

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Aaron is FUNNY:  He does make us laugh, some days more than others.  He delights in the things that most of us ignore or take for granted…the cows in the field, the horses, things laying on the ground that he finds, funny commercials, store decorations, and on and on.

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And I could go on and on about our Aaron.  He truly is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

In many moments, Gary and I don’t grasp that truth.  Have no doubt, there are deep tired sighs that you will hear often in our home.  We get frustrated, lose our cool, feel guilty, and then repeat the process again.

But also have no doubt that we know…we KNOW…that Aaron has been used by God to make a huge difference in our lives.  He has distinguished himself as God has taught us more about Him and about us than we would most likely have learned otherwise.  And Aaron has shown us just how marvelous God is in our weakness and in our pain and through our tears.

And God reminds us of how marvelous Aaron is, created with a purpose.

Yes, fearfully and wonderfully made!!

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Salads and Seizures

Aaron walked into the kitchen on Saturday morning a little over two weeks ago –  March 2nd, to be precise – and saw that I was boiling some eggs.  Ever hopeful that whatever I am cooking will be something he likes and something I am making for him, he stopped and watched for a few seconds.

“Mom, what are you making?” he asked.

I told him that I was making his favorite salad.  He stared blankly, as if he was utterly clueless about this favorite salad.

“You know, Aaron,” I continued.  “The salad you love so much.”

“The salad with Ranch?” he questioned.

“No,” I told him.  “You know, the salad with the eggs on top.”

Still blank.

“And the cheese and the bacon,” I explained.

“Oh yeah!” he finally said.

But he still gave no name to this mystery salad which really is his favorite salad!  Aaron has such a hard time with names of people and pets and, amazingly enough, food!

“You call it Egg Salad, Aaron,” I told him.  “But the real name is Seven Layer Salad.”

I knew he wouldn’t remember the name, but he knew it for now.  It was fun to watch his happy reaction to the thought of this salad for supper…whatever it’s called!

We were looking forward to our day and our weekend.  The day before, on Friday, Aaron had two seizures, and so he wasn’t able to go to his day group.  He missed movie day, which always makes me sad.  Thankfully, though, Aaron loves staying home and showed no regret at all.

On Friday evening, we all went to Wal-Mart to get Aaron’s weekend treats as well as some fun food for the weekend.  We were expecting a strong winter storm to hit on Saturday evening and into Sunday, so there was excitement mixed in with our fun.  We are snow lovers!  I had especially waited until Gary was home from work so he could go with us, just in case Aaron had a seizure in Wal-Mart.  We have learned that when Aaron has one or two seizures, he might have a drop seizure.  These seizures, drop seizures, are so dangerous and unpredictable.  This past year has seen Aaron have some serious injuries from falling.  Thankfully, our shopping trip was uneventful and was fun for all of us, Aaron especially.

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There were no more seizures during that night.  Aaron was happy as could be to think of his free day ahead…the anticipated snow…making chocolate chip cookies with me…steak for supper…AND his special salad!!  Whatever it’s called!  😊

Later that morning, before noon, Aaron was downstairs in Gary’s study.  Aaron was talking up a storm of his own with Gary, as usual.  I was in the kitchen, out of sight of the stairs.  Suddenly I heard a terrible crash…and then the noise that I definitely recognized.  A seizure!!

Gary was beside Aaron in an instant.  As I started down the stairs, Gary told me to get towels.  I was panicked and in tears as I ran for towels, hurrying them down to Gary.  There was blood all over Gary’s hands.  I knew this was serious.

As he started up the stairs, Aaron had fallen backward into a file cabinet, hitting the bottom metal handle with his head and actually bending it.  Aaron is usually not conscious for a period of time after a seizure, sleeping soundly, but not on this day.  He woke up, maybe because we were holding him and applying pressure to the gash on his head.  Or perhaps he awakened because of the pain.  He was combative and scared, something we’ve never seen.  He was fighting us, trying to get away and go up the stairs as we held him tightly.

Finally, Aaron calmed down.  He wanted to know why Gary’s hands were bloody, which of course was scary.  We explained what happened and told him we would need to take him to the ER.  Soon we were in the van, me sitting in the back with Aaron while Gary drove.   Aaron was coherent then.  The bleeding had stopped, but not his pain, of course.  Yet he was remarkably calm and understanding, a trait he often displays in these frightening times.  A gift from God, I’m sure.

I thought of other gifts from God as Gary drove.  We talked about how thankful we were that the sun was shining and there was no snow yet.  I was VERY thankful that it was a Saturday and Gary was home.  And we were thankful still that there is a good hospital and emergency room out here in the country not far from our house.

We continued to be grateful that Aaron was seen immediately and that the CAT Scan showed no damage to his head or neck.  Aaron was so compliant during the scan, even though it hurt his head and the bleeding began again, worse than ever.

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But oh, how my heart hurt for our son!  I couldn’t let him know that.  Gary and I stayed strong for Aaron and for each other.  I really wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, but God gave so much grace to be fully there for Aaron.

And there was Aaron, fully talking up a storm about nuclear bombs, of all things!  Talk, talk, talk he did in his typical Aaron fashion.  He knows a captive audience when he sees one, let me tell you!!

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God gave special strength to Aaron, especially, as he endured 8 staples being put in his head.  I knelt by his side, stroking his arm and face and talking to him during the ordeal.  With each staple, he would flinch…eyes closed…and mutter a soft “ow.”  I felt like my heart was being pierced each time.

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I tell you, our children with medical issues…and I know a lot!…are true heroes.  They endure more pain IN their lives, and disruption OF their lives, than I can fathom.  And yet they just keep on going.  One of our sweetest blessings is that Aaron doesn’t feel sorry for himself or complain about his lot.  He LOVES to talk about what happens to anyone who will listen, trust me, and even to perfect strangers…but he doesn’t act like he resents this life that he lives.

However, once in a while, he does give us a glimpse into his heart and his thoughts.  He did just that on Sunday as we made his cookies, lots of snow outside our windows, and his head still bandaged.

“Mom?” he began.  “Saturday, I thought, would have been a good day, but it wasn’t.”

I really wanted to wrap him in a hug…which he would have promptly pulled away from…and empathize with him about what a bad day it certainly was.  But I knew that I needed to point him to a principle that God points ME to, over and over.

Thankfulness.

“I know it was a hard day, Aaron, but it ended good,” I reminded him.  “What did you have for supper?”

“We had steak!” he answered with enthusiasm.

“And what else?” I prompted him.

He thought a few seconds.  I was hopeful that he just MIGHT remember the name of the salad.

“Triple egg salad!!!” he exclaimed.

Triple Egg Salad??!!

How on earth did Seven Layer Salad become Triple Egg Salad?!

Whatever.

So, for that moment, we were both thankful for Triple Egg Salad!

And in my heart, for so many other blessings as well!

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Special Aaron

 

No mother can ever forget the birth of their babies, each one so unique and completely amazing.  That first baby, though, holds a very tender place in a mother’s heart.  Our first baby was Aaron.  He wasn’t loved more than our other two children, but that first birthing experience was one of a mixture of fear and uncertainty that culminated in total wonder at the little squalling miracle lying in my arms.

A son!!  I remember a feeling washing over me that I had never experienced before.  Total love.  I knew that certainly no other woman could have ever felt as blessed and…well…as special as I did in those new moments of motherhood.  I know now that this wasn’t true, but you could never have convinced me otherwise during those first fresh days of holding my little son.

I examined him from the top of his fuzzy head to the very bottom of his wrinkled toes.  Every detail was so perfect.  He was so tiny and complete…wispy eyelashes, button nose, tee tiny little fingernails and toenails…just every single part was truly a work of art from God.

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Lots of years have passed since my first introduction to motherhood in that old wooden WWII hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado.  So many details of Aaron’s future, unknown to us back in 1984, have woven themselves into our own future now.  Never, ever did we dream that our Aaron would continue to be defined as “special,” but now in the sense that we often call “Special Needs.”

Sometimes I still shake my head in disbelief at that title.

Yet there is no denying the reality of this path upon which God set our steps.  Aaron’s first seizure in Germany at the age of seven led us to a diagnosis of Epilepsy.  Seizures have never been out of the picture since that time other than for brief periods of reprieve.

Then later, at the age of 14, came the surprising diagnosis of autism…Asperger’s Syndrome.  This wasn’t a common condition at that time.  I didn’t even know what Asperger’s was.  But we’ve all learned along with Aaron just what it means to live with what we call “Special Needs.”

It’s very interesting to look up this word “special.”  It’s a word that we so routinely use that we don’t give it much thought.  So, I did just that…I looked up this special word in the dictionary…and I was touched by just what it means to be special.  Especially what it means to Aaron, and so to us as well.

 

SPECIAL:  Distinguished by some unusual quality.

Our family would laugh at this one, not because we’re cruel but because Aaron has LOTS of unusual qualities.  Many days I wish it was only one.  Some are funny; some are annoying; some he repeats over and over; some are loud; some are very embarrassing….

 

SPECIAL:  Readily distinguishable from others of the same category.

Well, that’s one way to put it.  He’s very readily distinguishable when he stops in the crosswalk at Wal-Mart and holds his arms up just to be sure that traffic knows to stop!  He’s totally distinguishable when I remind him to look UP as we leave the store and enter said crosswalk again so that he looks for traffic and not at his feet…and he stops in the middle of the crosswalk and looks up at the SKY!!

He’s also very likely to hover at the door of the nail salon like a stalker, watching the women getting their manis and pedis…fascinated by the smells and the sounds…but a little alarming as he curiously stares.

He whistles…he claps…he sings.  Or he stands in the little restaurant in the Wal-Mart entrance and delights in the fact that the attendant thinks he wants to order.

 

SPECIAL:  Being other than the usual.

Usual is so boring to Aaron.  Some days I wish for boring.  But Aaron does add a spark to life on most days.  Sometimes a raging fire, honestly.  Like Gary and I envisioned Friday evening in Cracker Barrel when Aaron decided to take the globe off the oil lamp…that was lit…with real fire.  All was well.  Nothing to see here, people at the table beside us.  Move on.

 

But there is also one more meaning to this word…this special word.  And this meaning is by far my very favorite.

 

SPECIAL:  Designed for a particular purpose.

You see, Aaron was indeed designed by God, just as much as all the other babies ever conceived.  He was designed for a particular purpose.  I don’t always live in that reality, especially on the hard days.  But I know deep in my heart that God made no mistakes with Aaron.  God’s sovereign hand made Aaron just the way he is.  It’s up to me to live in that knowledge, especially when I’m tired or upset or discouraged or embarrassed.

Honestly, one of the huge purposes that I’ve seen Aaron have in my life is to remind me of how much I need God.  How much I need His love and forgiveness and patience and strength.  How when I am weak, then God is strong FOR me and IN me.

 

Aaron reminds me to give:

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Aaron reminds me to love:

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Aaron reminds me to laugh:

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Aaron reminds me to enjoy life:

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Aaron reminds me to keep going when things are tough:

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And God reminds me of these truths:

 

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.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret;

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.    (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

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Seeing BIG!

Last Friday evening, a good old Kansas thunderstorm was trying to blow in from the west.

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By the time we were getting ready for bed, the winds were kicking up and the lightning was really flashing.  Aaron, who loves storms…especially nighttime storms…was very excited at the prospect of a lightning show, seen clearly from his upstairs westward facing windows. 

“Mom, I want to keep my blinds open,” he informed me as we went through his bedtime routine.  I knew he would want to do this.  Every time we have a storm when it’s time for bed…or the prospect of a storm during the night…Aaron wants to keep his blinds open so that he can see the lightning in all its bright glory.

I’m glad that he’s not scared.  In fact, I join Aaron in his love of watching lightning.  That’s why, after I told him goodnight, I went straight to the bedroom on the other end of the hall.  We still call this room “Andrea’s room,” even though she hasn’t lived here for years. 

I stood at the windows there, in the dark, enjoying the gorgeous light show at this perfect vantage point.  I was actually having a little worship service right there.  Seeing God’s power displayed like this in nature makes me feel so small as I’m reminded of how big God is.

I was also reminded of a time several years ago when Gary and I were going through some deep waters.  God drew me to Isaiah 40 one morning.  Reading of God’s might in creation really soothed my heart.  Isaiah said that the nations are like a drop in a bucket…we are like grasshoppers…that God stretches the heavens like a curtain…and that He created the stars and calls them by name.

A God with that much power and that much care over creation and over our affairs is surely a God big enough to handle my little problems that seemed huge to me!

These truths were going through my mind as I watched the lightning at Andrea’s windows and as I thanked God for His love and His power.  But soon my private viewing of this storm was interrupted.  I heard Aaron’s bedroom door open. 

“Mom?” he asked as I heard his bare feet padding up the hall.

“I’m in here, Aaron,” I answered.  “I’m watching the lightning.”

“Mom!!” he exclaimed as he joined me at the windows.  “I saw it BIG!!”

So there we stood, side by side, watching each streak and each flash of lightning.  Some were muted, but still beautiful.  Then would come a huge burst of light, sometimes with jagged bolts, so bright it actually made us squint our eyes. 

“There’s a BIG one!!”  Aaron would say loudly as he rubbed his hands together and laughed.

Soon he was back in his bed for the rest of the storm, his blinds pushed up so that he could fully see and enjoy each bright burst of lightning.

I’ve thought a lot since that night about what Aaron saw and what he said.  The lightning, so bright and stunning, was indeed impressive.  No wonder Aaron couldn’t just lie in his bed, looking through his windows.  No wonder he wanted to keep his blinds open so that he could fully see each flash.  No wonder he just HAD to find me and to share his excitement.

“I saw it BIG!!”

I want to see God like that in my life.  I want to see Him BIG, but not to just expect His bigness to be demonstrated in BIG events.

It’s like the lightning.  God didn’t only create the huge flashes of light.  He also created the softer, smaller bursts of light…even though they weren’t as impressive as the big and bold displays.  All of God was in all the varying degrees of lightning that night. 

I admit that I love the times when God is big and evident in my life.  And don’t the huge answers to prayer…the “just perfect” verse for the hard times…the miraculous displays of His power…knock our socks off and give amazing testimony to His provision in our lives?

But so do the smaller events…the still, quiet voice…like the little storm cloud that Elijah saw on the horizon, the one that turned into a huge storm.  Or later, how God spoke to Elijah – but not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire.  God chose that day to speak to Elijah in a gentle blowing, a soft whisper.  But  God’s power was just the same in the softness and smallness as it was at other louder and bigger times.  The same God Who sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice was the God Who also spoke to his servant in a whisper.

On my birthday last month, I found myself sad instead of happy.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Nothing bad had happened.  I just missed Andrea and Kyle, and Andrew, and extended family.  I don’t particularly enjoy holidays and special days for that reason.  But instead of feeling God’s presence, I was allowing my birthday party to be a pity party instead. 

I walked into Bath and Body Works to pick up some soaps.  I always shop with a coupon.  My mantra is “It was on sale and I had a coupon!”  Just ask my kids.  Anyway, I had no coupon because I had used mine a couple weeks earlier.  I sighed, bit the bullet, and went inside to shop.  My “no coupon” situation further amplified my sad day.  Silly, I know, but that was where I was on that morning.

All of a sudden, a stranger walked up to me.  She held out a coupon and asked me if I could use it.  She said she had no need for it.  I was so amazed!  Such a simple act, but one that clearly touched my sad heart.  I thanked her profusely, and then I told her that this day was my birthday.  She was so delighted to hear that!  She wished me a very happy birthday as she handed me the coupon and walked away.  And my heart was lighter.  I thanked the Lord as I drove home for that very sweet show of love for me in that moment…both the love shown by a stranger…and the love shown to me by my Heavenly Father.  For I knew, in that very common and small gesture, that God was reminding me of His love and care for me.

I saw Him BIG in that little act!

Sometimes God shows Himself big here at home, in common events that I often see.  Yet what I don’t always see is the bright touch of God.  The commonplace can all too often hide God’s touch…not because God isn’t showing Himself to be there…but because I too often keep the blinds of my heart closed.  I just don’t pay attention to what He is wanting me to see.

Aaron had a seizure at the supper table one recent night.  Gary and I had worked all day on projects around the house.  We were both dirty and tired, especially Gary.  When Aaron suddenly started seizing, Gary immediately went to his side and held him so that he wouldn’t fall out of the chair.  Thankfully, Aaron was safe.  As he came out of the seizure and was more aware of his surroundings, Gary knelt down by Aaron’s chair and just talked to him.  The look in Aaron’s eyes as he looked into Gary’s eyes was just precious.  I snapped this picture.

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As I have looked at it, I realize that right there was God’s big love shining out of Gary to his son.  I am so thankful for this husband who walks beside me in life, and who also kneels down to care for our Aaron. 

And also grateful that I looked through the open windows of my heart, blinds up, and saw what I know God wanted me to see.  His power and love was shining through Gary to Aaron, and also to me.  What a gift, all too often taken for granted!  Just like the Kansas storms that we get accustomed to seeing and hearing, so I can get accustomed to the care of this good man that God has given me. 

Oh God, may I “see it BIG,” every day.  May I see YOU…BIG…in the joys and the sorrows; in the small and the large; in the friend and the stranger; in the familiar and the new; in the mundane and the unique; and in our home, all around me, every day.   

 

The Sprinkler Rainbow

“MOM!!”  Aaron yelled one evening not long ago as he rushed into the house.  “Come look at what Dad and I saw in the sprinkler!!”

It was just after supper and I was busy cleaning the kitchen as my mind was skipping to the next thing I needed to do.  That next thing was NOT to drop what I was doing and go outside to look in the sprinkler. 

Aaron commonly does this to us…insisting that we come here or go there or look at that in order to see or hear something that to him is just amazing…and to us is often not. 

Yet we have also learned, over our years of life with Aaron, two important lessons.  One is that taking the time to see what Aaron sees is sometimes a source of great joy and wonder and fun.  We might miss something fantastic if we don’t stop to look when Aaron says to stop and look.

And number two is that if we don’t just go ahead and listen and look, we will not have peace until we have heard and seen whatever in the world it is that Aaron is hearing and observing.  The price of peace is certainly worth a look and a listen.

So outside I went, following Aaron as he led the way through the garage and out to the front yard. 

“LOOK!!!” he exclaimed as he pointed toward the spraying water.  “A RAINBOW!!!”

I obediently looked, and sure enough…there through the mist…was a rainbow.

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Now I’ve seen rainbows in the water’s spray before as the sun shines on the droplets just right.  I’ve seen sprinkler rainbows lots of times.  But seeing the colorful prism through Aaron’s excited vision made that rainbow a very special sight indeed!

The moment was so sweet and brought a huge smile to my tired face.  Plus knowing that Gary had shared the discovery of that rainbow with Aaron, full of the facts surrounding the reasons why there even was a rainbow, brought me extra joy.  It was very well worth the extra minutes out of my day.

This past week I had what my good friend, Atha, would have called the “mulligrubs.”  That’s a real word, by the way.  It’s an old word for being down…on the sad side…having the gloomies.  Atha always understood me and I understood her, and we both understood those old down moments…or days.  Atha doesn’t have the mulligrubs anymore because she’s in heaven, but I’m still here on this earth where I sometimes battle the mulligrubs.

There are several reasons why I was gloomy last week, none of which are particularly important.  What’s important is that I was letting my emotions, my worries, and my stresses get the best of me.  Even my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling, not going very far, and this definitely left me feeling even worse.

God talked to me in my gloom, though, and reminded me of what Paul said to Timothy about contentment.  He said that godliness…WITH contentment…is great gain.  But how to be content?  Especially how to be content when the tendency of my heart in those moments…or days…is quite the opposite.  That’s because my focus was on ME…not on God…and not on what God was trying to get me to see.

But God, ever patient, reminded me of another truth.  It’s found in Psalm 50:23 and says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.”  This concept is nothing new, to me or to you, but I am ever amazed at how being thankful can quickly become buried under all my “me stuff.” 

It’s like me in the kitchen the evening that Aaron saw the sprinkler rainbow.  I was focused on the task at hand, and then the next task, and the next, and the next…becoming overwhelmed with all I had to DO.  But stopping to listen to Aaron, to follow him outside, and to observe the pretty rainbow added a splash of joy that I needed that day, even though I didn’t think I did.  I had to stop…to take the time…to really SEE what needed to be seen.

A sacrifice. 

A sacrifice is not only something that I give, but a sacrifice should cost me something.  Otherwise, it’s not really a sacrifice in the true sense of the word.

So what does a sacrifice of thanksgiving cost…to me?

A sacrifice of thanksgiving costs me…me.

It means I lay “me” aside and I dwell on other things for awhile…or other people…or other situations. 

It means I sacrifice myself in order that I may focus on God’s good gifts that are all around me.  When the going gets tough, and the burdens are heavy, and the heart is lonely, and the concerns are just too much…then is when I need to follow God outside of all that, and to look through His eyes at what is around me.

Through the mist that might obscure my vision, if I just stop and look, I’ll see a rainbow.  Splashes of God’s blessings and color all around me.

I have a loving heavenly Father…a house…food…eyes to see…ears to hear…clothes to wear…a car to drive…flowers that bloom (at least some of them!)…a faithful and hard working husband…hands and legs and hair on my head (even on my all-too-often bad hair days!)…our sweet new friend, Jess, at Subway – who remembers Aaron and just gave him some money for Chubby, his stuffed piggy bank…and Aaron!

Aaron…who consumes my time and concerns my heart and confuses my plans and convicts me that God is very real and very present in our lives. 

Aaron…who showed me the rainbow in the sprinkler, and once again helped me to also see God. 

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Other’s Colors

Do you remember that old song, Color My World, sung by Chicago?  I’ve always LOVED that song!  The meaning of those lyrics takes on a different hue when I think of our life with Aaron, and how he most definitely puts his own color on everything that we do. 

For instance, on Sunday after church I took Aaron with me to our local Dillon’s.  The grocery store is one of Aaron’s very favorite places!  Every aisle is full of discovery to him.  And since those discoveries involve his taste buds, he is especially eager to go along if offered the opportunity. 

Sunday was a chilly day, but not a super cold day.  However, Aaron decided that it was super cold, no matter what I said.  So he walked outside to the van with his toboggan perched goofily on his head and wearing his thick winter gloves.  I could have insisted that he take them off, but after suggesting such, he still wanted to wear his arctic garb and so I just let it go.

We went in the store, and as I headed to the pharmacy, Aaron veered off to explore the candy and snack aisle.  No surprise there!  When I veered up the same aisle to join him later, I had to laugh at the sight of him standing there examining the selection of peanuts. 

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He did not think it at all unusual to still be wearing his hat and his gloves.  Nor did he think it at all unusual to talk loudly when he saw me coming toward him. 

“Mom!!”  he bellowed.  “I’m looking at the peanuts!!”

And with that update, he proceeded to bend over to examine the jar that he thought he wanted.

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And then he had to stretch his arm out to retrieve the perfect jar.

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“See, MOM?!” he continued to bellow.  “These are lightly salted!  Is that good?”

I assured him that this jar was a great choice, and off we went to the self check-out…where he proceeded to talk to the attendant there about his lightly salted peanuts, in his commanding voice and his even more commanding presence…hat and gloves still included.

Sometimes it’s easy to be embarrassed by Aaron.  He doesn’t need the funny hat and gloves to be noticed, trust me!  So on this day, as he was even more noticed than usual, I just smiled and tried to see Aaron through fresh eyes…to relish how unusual he is…and to enjoy the moment.

The colors of that moment could have been red from my red face, and maybe my face was slightly red some of the time.  But that’s OK.  A little red doesn’t hurt me one bit! 

Another aspect of my colorful life with Aaron has been the joy of getting to know other moms of special needs children and adults.  The special bond we share is a rare treasure.  It’s very encouraging to walk the same path with others, though none of us would wish our circumstances on them.  But here we are, together on this journey, and our shared experiences make us all stronger. 

One of those friends, Joyce, has a particularly rough path as she mothers two adult sons with very significant special needs.  I truly am in awe of what she must handle on a “normal” day, much less on the kind of days she has had lately.  One of her sons had his wisdom teeth removed.  Then sickness hit the family, including Joyce and both her special sons.  Intestinal…respiratory…fevers…seizures…many, many sleepless nights. 

Her world is most certainly colored right now with the colors of poop and puke and puffy eyes, to be honest.  So on Sunday afternoon, I called her and I asked if she might want to escape for a bit…go somewhere and catch a breath of fresh air.  Change the colors a bit.

“Yes!” she said.  And a short time later, when I pulled into her driveway, she strode out to my van with a big smile on her face.  I was amazed, though knowing Joyce, I shouldn’t have been.

“Look at your smile!” I told her as she climbed in. 

“Well, I know what I want to do!” she happily declared.

I was expecting her to name a restaurant…or a park…or maybe the mall. 

“I would like to go to Dollar Tree,” she continued, “and get five vases.  Then I want to go buy some tulips and take them up to Oxford Villa.” 

And again, this woman amazed me.  Oxford Villa is a senior assisted living center where her mother used to live.  Joyce wanted to take some vases of flowers there for some of the residents who might not have anyone who loves them and brings them flowers.

Wow!! 

Joyce, I thought, needed some color in her life.  But instead, she wanted to GIVE some color to others!  I was so touched by her unselfishness!  So impacted by yet another lesson taught to me by this dear friend!

Instead of sipping a coke or coffee while eating a piece of dessert somewhere, I watched Joyce buy pretty colored vases and then examine the beautiful colors of tulips at another store.  We realized that Sunday was not the best day to deliver the flowers, though, so that job will be completed another day.  I hope I can help make that delivery!

Sometimes the best way to mix up our colors in this all-too-demanding life of parenting special needs children…or any other part of life that is draining you…is to look beyond yourself and see the needs of others.  To reach out and help carry their burden while taking your eyes off your own for awhile.

There was joy for me in watching goofy looking Aaron find just the right jar of peanuts.

There was joy for me in watching Joyce’s delight in finding just the right colorful vases for some unknown, needy seniors. 

Looking beyond ourselves causes us to see so many stunning colors that otherwise would have remained hidden. 

It’s so worth the effort, even with red cheeks or through tired eyes!

Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful and colorful friendship!

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