The Turn Signal

A few months ago, as I headed out of our neighborhood taking Aaron to his day group, I noticed that my right turn signal didn’t sound right.  The second time that I pushed up on the turn signal lever and heard that very fast clicking sound, I knew what it was.  Either my front or my rear turn signal was out.  I drove across town, dropped Aaron off, and then before leaving I got out of the van to check the turn signals.  Sure enough, the rear signal wasn’t working.

Bummer!  Of all the days to have this happen, it had to be on the day I had several errands to run instead of just going straight home.  One of the places I had to go was McConnell Air Base…and they are super picky there about things like the speed limit and vehicles working correctly.  Imagine that!

I drove under the speed limit the entire time I was on base and was thankful that I only had to use my right turn signal once.  But I was sure that this one time would be the one time that an MP was behind me!

I had also promised Aaron that I would take him to one of his favorite stores, Big Lots, after I picked him up.  Our local Big Lots had closed, so I had to once again do some extra driving in my defective van.  I never knew how many times I needed that right turn signal until it wasn’t working!  And I decided a possible conversation with a police officer was a better choice than the conversation I would need to have with Aaron if I told him our Big Lots trip was cancelled.

I wanted to paste a sign in the rear van window that explained my situation…to let others know that I knew my light wasn’t working…to tell them that I really DO know how to use a turn signal.  How many times have I said that very thing out loud about other drivers who don’t use their turn signals?  I was feeling a little guilty, wondering how many of their signals were broken, too.

Sometimes we just can’t see and don’t understand what a person is going through, do we?  We look at the outside and think things look fine, but the inner workings of a person are far more complex than what we outwardly see.  This fact is very true for every single one of us but is very VERY true for our Aaron.

To be clear, I am not saying that Aaron is broken.  What I AM saying is that Aaron’s responses and handling of life situations can manifest outward behaviors that are extremely frustrating for others around him to understand and handle correctly.  His brain is wired way differently than typical people, and so his turn signal often doesn’t let anyone around him know the direction he is getting ready to take until he’s turned that corner and there’s no going back.

Karen Williams wrote in a paper years ago concerning students with autism:  “Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration.  Children with Asperger’s Syndrome rarely seem relaxed and are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be.  Interacting with people and coping with the ordinary demands of everyday life take continual Herculean effort.”

Williams was writing about young students, but this same description also applies to adults with autism…to our adult with autism…our Aaron – who definitely flipped his turn signal on last week at the theater.

First, the set-up:  Aaron had been home for three days this past week due to our severe weather chances and flooding concerns.  Aaron loves being at home where he is totally relaxed and able to do all the things he enjoys.  But when he must re-enter normal life, like going back to his day group at Paradigm, it is often a huge struggle for him.  And therefore, for everyone around him.

On Friday, Aaron was reluctant to go to Paradigm.  Even the thought of Friday movie day didn’t really help him.  He decided not to go to the theater, despite having his nine dollars in his wallet for popcorn and the prospect of a fun movie to see.  I encouraged him to go to the theater, and his staff encouraged him to go after texting with me.  But no one MADE him go.  However, that is not at all how Aaron saw it.  His anger was getting deeper.

Second, the incident(s):  At the theater, Aaron took a behavioral turn that everyone could see despite his lack of a working signal.  I don’t even know all that happened there, and don’t really want to know.  I believe, though, that his day group staff was told by theater staff that Aaron needed to leave.  No matter what I know about Aaron and what I understand about his autistic outbursts, these times test my love and my patience.  I’m a normal mom who is terribly embarrassed when Aaron blows it, especially in public.

I wonder what all he did there.  Who saw him?  Did anyone we know see and hear our son acting that way?  Now what?

Third, the repercussions:  When I went to pick Aaron up at the theater, he was sitting in the Paradigm van.  Aaron emerged from the van with a very unhappy face, and I knew something not-so-good had happened.  Athena, his kind staff, gave me a very brief update, but Aaron’s still-angry mood told us it was not the time to discuss it.

He and I talked about it on the way to Wal-Mart, and again inside the store.  But Aaron was saturated with frustration and guilt so I knew I could only say so much before I would push him over the edge again.  Two repercussions that initially happen with Aaron, when that angry turn he took is over, are regret and guilt.  He truly wishes that he hadn’t gone so far in his anger.

Aaron was totally compliant in Wal-Mart, overly so.  This is his way of making up for his angry actions.  At the self-checkout counter, Aaron was super helpful.  He held my coupons, helped unload the cart, and couldn’t say thank-you enough to the clerk who assisted us.

“Am I being good, Mom?”  he asked at one point.  “Am I helping?”  And he looked me square in the eyes, waiting for my response and my affirmation.  It would have been so easy for me to say, “Yes, Aaron, but I sure do wish you would have been this nice in the theater!”

But when I saw his eyes, tired from the bad day and hopeful that he was finally doing something good, I nearly cried.  Right there in the check-out lane at Wal-Mart with holiday shoppers all around me, I wanted to burst into tears for Aaron and for me.  For Aaron, because I fully know that he can’t repair his broken turn signal in time to avoid that wrong turn.  And for me, because I love him and I want to “fix” him, but I really can’t.

I turned away quickly and finished paying.  Aaron helped gather up the bags out of the cart and we walked to the van, happy that the rain had stopped.  When we got home, another storm was coming.  Aaron was concerned about the lightning while he was on his computer, so he wanted me to be sure and tell him if he needed to shut the computer off.

“Mom,” he instructed, “come up and tell me, or call to me from downstairs, OK?”

He waited for me to respond.

“I’m giving you two decisions,” he finished.

I always smile at how he says that…two decisions instead of two choices.

But I thought of how true his saying was at that time.  I did have two decisions regarding more than lightning and his computer.  I also had two decisions about that turn signal issue of Aaron’s.  I could be angry and berate him, or I could be loving and instructive at the same time.  The decision is mine to make, despite how difficult it sometimes is.  It’s easier to lash out at Aaron, honestly, but harder to be loving and patient with instruction thrown in.  Yet the first decision only brings more anger and hurt.  The second decision, hopefully, helps to fix Aaron’s hurting heart and show him a better way to handle his anger.

Back to my van’s turn signal – Gary was able to pick up the correct part and repair it that evening.  Aaron was beside him the entire time, at one point using that moment to show Gary some scrapes on his legs.  Aaron is so oblivious about how he looks in public, and at times it’s really funny.

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But at other times, like the theater incident, it’s anything BUT funny.  How we wish that we could install the part that would make Aaron’s turn signal work correctly and avoid all the damage that’s done when it doesn’t!

How many times do I wish I could paste a sign on Aaron’s back that explains his behaviors?!

I can’t, though.  We just keep driving down this road with Aaron, trusting that some people understand and not worrying about the ones who don’t.  Easier said than done!  But God does give grace and He gives us wisdom to make that right decision…and He redirects us when we don’t!

Aaron’s turns aren’t easy when his signal’s messed up, but we’re there to repair the damage and pray it works better at the next turn.

And sometimes hang on for dear life!

 

God In the Ugly

It’s a cold, cloudy, and blustery day here in Kansas.  I was doing Gary duty with our Great Dane this morning.  Gary is out of town right now, so I was the one shivering out on the back walk while our elderly Jackson took his jolly time doing his morning business.  Why must he sniff every single leaf??!!

I looked over at our Rose of Sharon bushes, standing there in an ugly brown row.  I could hear their crunchy dead pods brushing together in the cold wind.  There was nothing inviting there, that’s for sure!

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But something did catch my eye as I routinely scanned the dead scene.  I walked over to further examine a cluster of branches at the end of the row.  It was what I thought it might be.  A bird’s nest, all tucked in securely among the brown stalks. 

As I looked closer, I saw that this bird had repurposed some plastic to help line her nest.  There were little dead leaves inside the nest that had blown there in our Kansas winds.  I have no idea how old this nest is, or what kind of bird built it, but there it lay nestled safely in the branches.

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I immediately was drawn to how God has told us that He cares for the birds of the air.  He created them, He feeds them, and He knows when even one has fallen. 

He also tells us that if He cares for the little birds, how much more does He care for His children?

I pondered all this as I hurried inside with Jackson, who was finally done with his doings.  I thought about why I was able to see this nest.  I could see it because the once pretty, green Rose of Sharon bushes were now bare of their beauty.

I could see a picture of God’s amazing care because all the beauty, for this particular season, has been stripped away. 

How like our lives at times!

This is the scene that I far prefer.

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I love the lush green growth, and all the beautiful blooms.  And in my life, I love it when things are going well.  I like it when life is pleasant; when I feel like prayers are being answered the way I want them to be; when I’m at peace. 

But we all know that life isn’t that way…not all the time.  Yet when times are tough…when my life feels like my winter Rose of Sharon, all dead and dreary…is when something amazing happens.

It’s in the empty times, when all the goodness seems gone, that I can more clearly see the goodness of God.  I can plainly see His care without the distractions of all the fun and pretty things around me. 

Sometimes I must step nearer and look closer, but there I will see God and His loving care in my life.  God isn’t hidden by all the luster that I sometimes have, and honestly desire to have. 

“As for me,” the Psalmist said, “I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.  You are my help and my deliverer…”  (Psalm 40:17)

If things are pretty all the time, I won’t always give as much thought to the Lord’s thought for me.  But when life is rough and even feels empty, I can better see His thoughts for me.  I see the form that those thoughts take…the loving care He has for me…the help He brings to me…how he strongly delivers me.

Sometimes seeing God happens best when I’m rid of the most. 

I’m loving the view of this little nest today, unhindered by eye-catching distractions.

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And I’m loving that I have a Heavenly Father who is thinking of me today and using such simple means to show me how truly awesome He really is!     

Remember When?

Aaron loves looking at a particular picture of me and Gary, taken back in the day.  WAYYYY back in the day, to be clear.  This picture was taken at Gary’s Army Flight School Banquet upon his graduation.

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Aaron has always said that he thought this photo was of our wedding, so I am often correcting him about that as I repeat over and over that this was taken four years after we were married.  Aaron doesn’t sweat the details, though, and he continues to tell us…and others…that here are Mom and Dad at their wedding.

But there is another detail that Aaron loves to share the MOST as he either talks about this picture or gets to show it to people who come to see us in our home.

“In her wedding picture,” Aaron begins (and I know exactly what is coming!), “Mom used to be skinny!!”

Emphasis on “USED to be skinny.”

As in I was…in the past…not the present…in the FAR distant past…skinny.

Aaron will randomly tell this bit of news to anyone who has ears, including people who barely know me.  He will share it within the context of any conversation, out of the blue, ignoring people’s curious looks and my rolling eyes in my red face.

Yes, Aaron, I USED to be skinny.  Those WERE the good old days.

I’m able to laugh as I tell this story, even as I constantly try to keep Aaron FROM telling it in order to hopefully teach him some manners or some tact.  Yet Aaron’s focus on the past…on MY past…has also taught me an important truth.

The prophet, Haggai, helped with this as well.  I’ll explain.

Haggai was the first prophet that was heard in Israel after the Babylonian exile.  The Israelites had returned to Jerusalem and Haggai encouraged them to finish building the temple.  Fifteen years had passed since any work had been done on the temple.  God promised to be with them as the people agreed to once again build God’s house.

Yet later, as they stood at the site of the temple, God knew that the people were very discouraged.  He also knew why they were so down in their spirits.  So, God spoke to the leaders and to the people through Haggai.

Haggai 2:3 – “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?  How does it look to you now?  Does it not seem to you like nothing?”

God, through His prophet, just cut to the chase.  He hit the nail on the head as He revealed openly what He knew they were thinking.  And what they were thinking was that compared to years ago, this beginning of a new temple looked dismal and ugly.  In fact, the Israelites…especially the older ones who remembered the former glory of the old temple…knew that the new temple they would build would in no way compare to the beauty of the past temple.

Who could help but be discouraged as they stood there remembering the glory that used to be, but would not fully be again?

But God didn’t just leave it there.  He continued to speak, telling the leaders to be strong, and ended by saying:

Haggai 2:4-5 – “Be strong, all you people of the land – declares the Lord – and work, for I am with you, declares the Lord almighty.  This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear!”

I’ll tell you that there are times and there are ways in which I am much like these Israelite Jews as they looked at their current circumstances and compared them to what used to be.  And for me it goes WAY beyond remembering my skinny days!

Ten years ago, God set Gary and I on a path of great hurt and loss.  The details are not what matter.  What matters is that God was surely with us each step of the way.  He did indeed tell us to keep working for Him in very difficult circumstances, just as He did to Israel.  He told us to be strong even when we were tired on every level.

What kept us going?  The two promises that God gave to Israel were ours as well.  God said, “I am with you…and my Spirit remains among you.”  I can promise you that God kept His promises to us.  His strength, His peace, His Spirit, was always present and enabling in our lives.  His Word was powerful!

I love what John Mackay says about God being with us: “This is what distinguishes the advice of the world, ‘Be strong.  I know you’ve got it in you,’ from the counsel of Scripture which recognizes that we have NOT got it in us, but that God’s presence with us will make all the difference.”

Circumstances can get very ugly sometimes, but I am not to focus on what’s around me.  I am to focus on God and on the fact that He is with me.  He will not fail me.  He will not desert me to my enemies or to my runaway thoughts.

God also gave Israel a simple three-word command.

“Do not fear,” God said.

Again, John Mackay: “The Lord’s faithfulness in the past and the present is the basis for future encouragement.  It is not the appearance of the building, but the presence of his enabling Spirit that will make the crucial difference.”

Not the appearance of the building.  Not my surroundings, but rather the God Who surrounds me with His protection in every way I need.

So, what’s your “Remember When?”

Remember when:  You were loved.  You weren’t alone.  You were important to that group.  You were included.

Remember when:  You had a job you loved.  You had the money you needed.  You made a difference.

Remember when:  You had your health.  You had your spouse.  You had your children close.

Remember when:  You sang.  You taught.  You were a part.  You mattered.

Remember when:  You had your parents.  You had a family.  You laughed.  You talked.

The list is endless, isn’t it?  Life changes.  Sometimes suddenly…other times, slowly.  But change is inevitable for all of us.

What doesn’t ever change is God.  His presence is with His children, steady and stable, always constant.  He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When the past tries to capture my attention, I know I must look to today…to what God has for me today…to Who He is today…and to His promises that are true…TODAY!

And I can declare from experience that out of our deepest pain of yesterday will come our most beautiful usefulness TODAY!

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The Broad Place

Anniversary:  the yearly remembrance of an event or occurrence.

We typically associate the word “anniversary” with weddings, don’t we?  Which, by the way, Gary and I will celebrate such a remembrance this Saturday.  39 years!!!  I wonder how this is possible…and then I look in the mirror and realize that yes, indeed, this is true.

But there are other anniversary dates as well.  Many are full of happiness, yet sadly, many are just the opposite.  In my Bible, I often make a note beside certain verses that were especially meaningful to me during good times and during not so good times.  I jot down the date and make a short entry about what was occurring when that particular verse, or verses, impacted my life.  I call these my memorial stones, taken from the way that Israel would memorialize important national events by building a stone memorial.  Israel would thus remember what God had done for them there, just as I can remember what God has done for me through significant sections of Scripture during significant times in my life.

I came upon a memorial stone this morning as I was reading II Samuel 22:18-19.

“He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.”

I looked at the brief notation I had made, and memories came flooding over me.  The year was 2008 and the month was May, ten years ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since Gary and I were blindsided by the events that took place.  I really can’t say more about it, but I knew that God’s hand was in it as a direct answer to prayer even though there was much wrong involved.  Our lives have been forever changed…forever scarred…yet forever touched by the hand of God.

You see, after verse 19 comes verse 20:

“He also brought me forth into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

So now, ten years later, I can truly say that God has brought us to a broad place.  But what does that mean?

Well, places of hardship and distress in the Bible are usually referred to as narrow places.  They are places of being closed in, confined, and full of danger.  But broad places are places of peace and security, where you can stretch and grow and see all around.

I can look back on the past ten years and see the progression in our lives from the narrow to the broad.  I can also attest to the fact that God was very present with us through the awful narrow passages, and He is also very present with us in the broad place.  We need Him in both.

You see, coming from the narrow to the broad doesn’t mean that we have achieved perfection.  Wrong done still carries a huge impact in our lives.  But God’s presence also carries an impact even larger than hurt and pain carries.

Time is ever so slow when we travel from the narrow to the broad place.  There are many, many dangers.  It’s easy to doubt God…to quit serving Him…to blame Him…to resent others…to gossip…

But the painful journey is also the perfect time to hear God speak to us through His Word.  It’s a time for us to take one verse at a time and ponder it, apply it, and let God use those verses to heal us.  It’s a time to learn to look to God and not to anyone else or anything else.  The most disastrous events in our lives cannot hold a candle to the amazing grace and love of God that He delights in showing us, if we but let Him.

David, King of Israel, wrote these verses in II Samuel 22.  He certainly saw his share of turmoil and rejection and danger and sin.  Yet he also wrote this, in II Samuel 15:26:

“But if He (God) should say thus, ‘I have no delight in you,’ behold, here I am, LET HIM DO TO ME AS SEEMS GOOD TO HIM.”

Do you see what David was saying…what he was doing?  David had a grip on God’s sovereignty, as Dale Davis says.  Part of the journey from narrow to broad is being able to understand this:  that we must be satisfied with letting God do to me what seems good to Him.

I did NOT say being satisfied with letting God do to me what seems good to ME.

Sometimes the cancer is not cured.  Sometimes the prodigal does not come home.  Sometimes the lay-off still happens.  Sometimes the grave is where we visit the one we love.  Sometimes restoration is not granted, as happened to us.

Yet regardless of all the “sometimes,” we can say that EVERY time, God knows what is best for my life.

So I hang onto Him, in total trust, and know that my good is of utmost importance to Him.  My good may come at great cost, but it is also of great value for all of eternity.

I’m stretching in the broad place today, thank God!

And so can you.

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The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh 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.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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From Bliss to Brokenness

On Monday, November 6, of last year…..yes, 2017 is – as of today – LAST year!!  Anyway, on that day last year our washing machine loudly died.  I mean, the noises coming from the bathroom/laundry room were downright scary.  I remember that date because two days later, November 8, was Aaron’s birthday.  Gary and I met at Lowe’s after he got off work on Tuesday night, where we found our dream machine, got it ordered, and were told that delivery would be on Thursday.

Thursday was the day we were having two of Aaron’s favorite friends over for a birthday supper, so I knew I would be home most of the day as I got things ready.  It was also the day that Aaron woke up in a very wet bed, so it became the day of a huge mound of wet bedding piled near our dead washing machine, waiting on our brand new dream machine.  And friends coming for dinner. 

So I prayed as I made apple pie….Aaron’s birthday “cake” of choice.  I asked God to please let the dream machine come sooner than the possible delivery time given to us, which was between 12:00 and 4:00, and usually means it might be there by 6:00 – with friends coming for supper and with Aaron very picky about his bedding and covers being JUST right.  It was shortly after 11:00 when I asked God for this kindness…not really near the expected delivery time.  But don’t you know, that within two minutes my phone rang and it was the delivery guys asking if it would be ok to come early!

I almost said, “Amen!!  You come right on over!”  I didn’t because I wanted my dream machine delivered and was afraid I would scare them away, but I did share with them God’s sweet provision and answer to prayer as they installed my dream machine.  One man smiled as he worked and the other said, “God is still on His throne!”  I did say “Amen!” to that!

I’ve loved that new washing machine.  The tub is so large that I have to stand on my tiptoes to reach the bottom of it, but does it ever hold big loads, like bedding!  And often I think back to that sweet answer to prayer on my very busy day….how God provided the dream machine in the first place, and then gave it to me early when I asked.  I love those “simple” and kind answers to prayer.

So fast forward to December 22, the Friday before Christmas, when Aaron woke up in an even wetter bed than the one of the month before.  Seizure?  I didn’t hear one.  More likely just too much drinking water before bed.  Regardless, everything needed washing on the VERY busy day of cleaning and cooking before the kids came in and our Christmas began.  Oh well, nothing to do but DO what needed doing…and I had my wonderful new dream machine, remember?

I was thankful for that extra large tub as I loaded Aaron’s wonderful waterproof mattress pad and sheets into it, and then went about my other work for the day.  But when I went back to check on that first load, I found it to be dripping wet.  “Oh dear,” I thought.  “What could be causing that?”  I had washed heavy loads before with no problem.  I set the load on a rinse and spin cycle, but still had the same dismal results when I checked it later.  Setting it again, I watched closely and found that water wasn’t entering the tub, and the tub wasn’t spinning.  Nothing in the manual helped and nothing I did worked, so I was stuck with all of Aaron’s bedding in another huge pile, and very wet bedding in my dream machine. 

Gary worked and worked on that machine when he came home, to no avail.  I did manage to get the very wet items dried in our dryer, but still had piles of laundry at the end of the day.  Gary called Lowe’s and a repairman was scheduled, but not until Wednesday…which this year was our Christmas Eve. 

Bless his heart, Gary insisted on taking all the laundry to the laundromat on Saturday morning.  Aaron helped him carry the bags out to his truck, and before too long Gary was back with lots of wet laundry to be dried. 

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And when the repairman came on Wednesday, he found the problem but told us he wouldn’t be able to come back with the needed part until January 2nd. 

So we have lots and lots of laundry sorted and piled on now empty beds since all the kids have come and gone after Christmas.  Of course, that means extra bedding and extra towels waiting to be washed in my dream machine that has turned into a little of a nightmare, honestly. 

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I went from happily sharing this evident answer to prayer to scratching my head at the failure of it.  Not the failure of God, mind you, but the failure surrounding this provision…my dream machine!

But through this really simple annoyance, God has spoken to my heart.  How many times He has clearly answered my prayers, only to also lead me to…at times…a hard place where I must trust Him.  It’s so easy to praise Him for clear answers, but sometimes difficult to trust His sovereignty when the answers aren’t a bed of roses. 

Today’s answers to prayers don’t guarantee a carefree tomorrow. 

But always…ALWAYS…God DOES answer.  His answer may contain trials, but He also ALWAYS has a reason for those trials.

Gary and I were married over five years before Aaron was born.  I wondered if I would ever have a baby.  That positive pregnancy test was one of the happiest days of my life!  We thanked God over and over!!

So fast forward to now, 33 years later.  When I held baby Aaron, I never dreamed of seizures and autism and behaviors and our son still with us at his age.  And like my broken dream machine, our dreams for Aaron have certainly taken a different turn.  Aaron isn’t broken.  He is just the way that God designed him to be.  But my dreams were broken.  Our amazing answer to prayer has also carried with it a huge element of grief and testing.

Yet I know…I KNOW…that God is in control.  With His blessing of Aaron in our lives has also come some brokenness.   Our life is on a far different path than we had ever envisioned.  But on that path has also come tremendous cause for trust in God…which teaches us patience…waiting…and then peace.  God’s sweet peace amid the piles of pain and mess that sometimes surround our days.    

I shouldn’t be focusing on the ANSWER to my prayers, but on the God behind that answer. 

And in that focus…in God alone…I can rest and I can trust. 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:1,10)

What better way to start the New Year than this!

 

 

 

The Plans I Have For You

I think most of the nation has had a milder than usual winter.  Here in Kansas, we really haven’t had a winter to speak of.  Trees were budding, bushes were bearing leaves, and perennials were poking out of the ground in February!

I shouldn’t have been surprised…..but I was surprised……to walk past my front flower bed one day in February and look down to see that my Salvia had made an appearance.  There were fresh little green leaves sticking up through the ground, unaware that the month was only February.  Salvia don’t look at calendars.  They only respond to the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the nights.

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Something occurs deep underground, in their roots, that awakens them and urges them to respond.  It’s God’s miracle of growth, not tied to the month of the year but to the environment around them.  And even though that environment can at times be harsh still at this time of year……at any time of year, really……their roots stir under the right conditions and so they grow.

I was tempted on that February day to lean over and clear off all the dead leaves that looked like a hindrance to the Salvia’s growth.  But I left the leaves for insulation against the cold nights, and the snow that I knew could still come.

I’ve watched the progress of my Salvia over the past few weeks.  The picture from this morning shows how much growth has occurred.  The dead leaves, old mulch, and other clutter hasn’t prohibited my Salvia’s growth at all.  The perennial nature of this flower is alive and well as those new leaves push through all the mess around them.  It just faithfully grows and grows, quietly but strongly flourishing.

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This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read some verses that are very familiar to many of us.  They are words spoken by God to the nation of Israel, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:11-13

These are verses of such encouragement and hope for all believers, not just for the nation of Israel during the time of Jeremiah.  But do you know where Israel was when God spoke these words to them?  They were being held captive in Babylon.  They were not in their home country, living freely, but were held as captive slaves in a harsh land far from all they knew and loved.

In the ten verses preceding these verses above, God had given some instructions to His chosen people through a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon.  God told the people to settle in to their new life in Babylon.  He told them to build houses and live in them; to plant gardens and eat their produce; to take wives and bear children; to increase and not decrease; and even to seek the welfare of their new city, praying to the Lord on its behalf.

You know how long God told them to be faithful in their captivity?  Seventy years.  SEVENTY years.

So when God then said that He knew the plans that He had for them……plans to give them a future and a hope……He also knew that this promise wasn’t coming to pass tomorrow.  He laid it out there for them.   He told them to live as He commanded and to be obedient to Him, even in their dire situation, for seventy long years.

God’s promise was given to them in the middle of less than ideal circumstances.   It wasn’t to be fulfilled immediately.  But while they waited, God wanted them to live their lives fully and faithfully to Him.

In fact, many of those Israelites would never see the promise come to pass.  They would die in Babylon.  Yet God still commanded them to be obedient and live the way He wanted.

How about us?  How does God want us to live every day?

He wants us to follow the example that He continually sets out there in His Word for us to see.  He wants us to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, and to grow no matter what is going on in our lives.

We may be going through awful times so full of grief and stress that we wonder how we can get out of bed every day.  God knows.  He understands.  He loves us.  He provides what we need.  He promises us a future and a hope.

But relief may not come today.  It may not come tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the next.  But like He told His people in Babylon, He says to you and to me today.  “Call upon Me.  Pray to Me, and I will listen.  For you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.”

It’s simple, really, but so difficult to do sometimes when our surroundings are bitter and hard and scary.  Call upon Him.  Pray.  Seek Him with all your heart.

Read His Word with an open heart to hear what He has to say to you.  Ask Him to lead your steps.  Obey what you know He tells you to do in His Word.

God will speak to you.  He will lead you to Himself.

And in the middle of your pain and your stress, you will grow.  Just like my Salvia in the middle of deadness all around it and the coldness of some nights…..still pushing through and growing, as God intended.

God loves you.  He truly does have a future and a hope for you as you follow Him, but not always…..in fact, seldom……without the suffering and sadness of this life.

But what a beautiful work He is doing in you and in me as we faithfully respond to His love and to His word in our lives!

So grow!  Grow where God has put you!

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