Remember When?

Last summer, Aaron had a dentist appointment…and in his usual fashion, he plotted and planned where we could hopefully eat afterwards.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Tomorrow after my dentist appointment, can we eat at Jimmy’s Eggs?”

Yes, he calls Jimmy’s Egg – Jimmy’s Eggs.  I mean, who just eats one egg, right?!

The next day found us sitting at Jimmy’s Eggs enjoying a delicious lunch/breakfast.  And yes, Aaron did happily eat every bite of all this food!

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There was, though, another big reason why Aaron loved Jimmy’s Eggs.  Well, it was actually a very little reason that was quite big to Aaron.

Can you see it?

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An ant!

Aaron wasn’t alarmed at all by having an ant join us for lunch.  In fact, Aaron put a little piece of carrot from his salad on the table so the ant wouldn’t feel left out about not being allowed to order lunch.  Next, he added a piece of bacon.

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The server was embarrassed by the ant, but I told her not to worry.  Aaron loved having the ant company, and it made me happy to watch him trying to care for the little guy.

We haven’t been back to Jimmy’s Egg(s) since then.  It just hasn’t been on our dining list, but not because of the ant.

One day not long ago, when the closure of restaurants during this virus was hitting home with Aaron, he thought about Jimmy’s Egg(s).

“Mom?” he asked, “remember Jimmy’s Eggs and how we used to eat there before the virus?”

He said it so wistfully that it made me sad.  Like now he measures time as Before Virus (BV) and After Virus (AV).

All of us, though, are having similar thoughts.

Remember when?

Remember when I had a job…was planning that trip I had to cancel…was going to march in graduation…could be with my mother in her nursing home or hospital…was having a huge Easter celebration…could go to church…didn’t fear for my family’s life?

I certainly don’t understand everything that’s going on around us and why certain decisions are being made, but here we are.

What I CAN do is pray, a lot, for God’s wisdom and protection for all involved in this mess.  That’s basically the whole world, and for our nation in particular.

When I zoom down to my own life, or the lives of so many that I love, I do find myself at times remembering when…and if I’m not careful, fear and sadness can rule my thoughts.

That’s why yesterday morning, when I read these verses, I was so tremendously encouraged.

“But as for me, I trust in You, Oh Lord.  I say, ‘You are my God.’   My times are in Your hand.”  (Psalm 31:14-15a)

The word “times” here doesn’t just mean that my lifespan is in God’s hands.  David also meant “…all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.  Calvin rightly draws attention to the plural form – ‘times’, and says that David uses it to ‘mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed.’  (Dale Ralph Davis, In the Presence of My Enemies)

Beside verses in my Bible, I often write a date and sometimes a note to remind me of when and how God especially spoke to me through that verse.  I call them my memorial stones.

Beside those two verses above, I had written “Nov., 1994.” I was going through a stressful time concerning a possible health issue and the death of my Grandma.  We lived in Leavenworth, Gary was deployed for training in the military, I had three little ones, Aaron’s special needs were getting more difficult, and I was far from home and family.  But God reached down in that chaos and stress, and He told me very sweetly and clearly that those times…MY times…were in His loving hand.

Now here I was yesterday, with COVID-19 and all its issues swirling around us and those we love, and I was remembering when…

Remembering when God spoke to me all those years ago in another stress.

Remembering when God filled me with peace.

Remembering when God proved His promise to be my God, then, and is doing the same now.

“How often the truth of this text has proven a bastion and bulwark for God’s servants.  Ulrich Zwingli, a reformer in Zurich, was visiting his people, trying to console sick and dying.  The plague had some to Zurich in August 1519.  By autumn Zwingli himself had succumbed to the disease.  Confined to bed and staring death in the face, Zwingli prayed:  ‘Do as you will, for I lack nothing.  I am your vessel to be restored or destroyed.’ Different words, to be sure, but actually just a paraphrase of ‘My times are in your hand.’  One can rest there even in the plague.”  (Dale Ralph Davis)

We can rest in God’s hands and in His times for us individually…for our families…for our friends…for our nation…for our world.

Now, beside these verses, I have added a new memorial note: “ COVID-19, April, 2020.”

May God’s promises and His faithfulness be what I remember when I’m “remembering when!”

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What Do I See?

Aaron and I were coming out of the grocery store recently.  Suddenly he veered sharply to his left, leaned over, and proudly held up his prize find.  A penny!  He was so happy to have snatched this treasure!  He proudly held it up for me to see before stashing it safely in his pant’s pocket.

This is so routine with Aaron.  Everywhere we go, he spies items on the ground that most people don’t even see.  Or if seen, most of us wouldn’t think they are worth our time or attention. But not Aaron!

We’ve had to teach him over the years that some things he sees are not treasures and are not even safe.  Things like cigarette butts…yuck!  Or random hair bands, bobby pins, or combs.

Last week, he and I walked out onto our driveway after a rain.  Before I knew it, there he was, leaning over to look at what had caught his eye this time.

“MOM!!  LOOK!!” he exclaimed.  “It’s a worm!!”

 

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A worm.  Aaron just had to look closer at this worm and touch it.  Again, to me it was just another worm, if I even did see it.  But not to Aaron.  To Aaron, this worm was a find worth investigating…worth stopping for…worth his notice.

This is such a strange and difficult time we are in right now.  There is so much to absorb…to hear…to try to understand about this virus and about its dangers.  We are besieged with so many changes and challenges.

What do we see when we look around us?

Fear?

Hardship?

Loss?

Stress?

Certainly, most of us can say yes, to one degree or another, to all the above.

But there’s something else we really must keep sight of.  David said it perfectly in Psalm 26:3:   “For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes…”

When my eyes dart here and there in such unusual times as we have right now, may I see…above all else…the lovingkindness of God.

Another version says:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…”

God’s love for us is right before our eyes, every day and every moment of this scary and trying time.

Sometimes I just don’t see it, though.  I don’t see God’s love because I’m too focused on looking way ahead at what is yet to come, usually with trepidation instead of trust.

This verse continues this way:  “Indeed, Your covenant love stands right before my eyes…and I have walked along in Your faithfulness.”

It’s not MY faithfulness that is being talked about here.  It’s GOD’S faithfulness to me that matters!

We say God is love.  We know God is love.  But sometimes when life is overwhelming, we don’t see His love through eyes of faith.

We don’t understand why we’re being besieged by COVID-19.  Why is God allowing this to happen?

We can’t say for sure, but what we do know for sure is that God loves all of us, and He wants each of us to know Him and to walk along in His faithfulness.

Sometimes I just need to stop, like Aaron so often does, and bend over before God as I look at His love.

When I observe His love and think of His deep love, I know peace that passes understanding.

Peace even in the middle of panic all around.

Then I can stand up again, sure of God’s love right before my eyes, and take off walking again.

Walking in God’s promised faithfulness through the uncertainty.

God’s love for each of us is worth our time and worth our notice.   God makes THE biggest and best difference to me when I’m stressed.

It’s great to stop at some point each day right now, and just ponder the treasure I see right before me.

Thank you, God, that Your covenant love stands right before my eyes!

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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Tired of This

Recently, Aaron had his Epilepsy doctor visit.  After his appointment we had to walk over to the building next door for Aaron to have some blood drawn.  His liver function needs to be checked routinely due to one of his newer seizure drugs.  Aaron wasn’t thrilled about that because he really wanted to hurry up at the doctor and then go to Pizza Hut like we had planned.  Eating lunch out, after all, is the real reason Aaron was with me that day.  At least that’s the real reason according to Aaron.  Going to the lab was just another annoying delay in reaching his true objective.  The Pizza Hut Buffet…oh, and Wal-Mart after that.  We mustn’t forget the all-important Wal-Mart visit!

The next morning found us going down to the air base for yet another lab visit for Aaron.  This time we were preparing for Aaron’s 2-year physical, so labs had to be done ahead of time for that.  No matter that we were getting some sleet and snow – we needed to get this done.  Aaron had resigned himself to no lunch out that day but instead I would take him to his day group on my way home.  However, our van engine light came on, so I had to go back over to our side of town…run to our shop to ask about the light…and by then, I just decided to keep Aaron at home.  Happy Aaron!  A tiny bit frustrated Mom.  And an even happier Aaron when he heard the words “Taco Bell” come out of my mouth.

On the following afternoon, the air base called to tell me that they had messed up on one of Aaron’s tests.  We would need to come back and have more blood drawn.  UGH!!!  Fasting blood work, which would mean getting there in the morning.  But the next morning I had to take Gary to his foot surgeon appointment.  Gary, who still wasn’t driving due to his surgery.

I’m just scratching the surface of my life right now.  And honestly, I’m not complaining.  I’m just reporting.  (Thank you, Alice Zwemke, for giving us that wonderful statement so many years ago!!).  😊

There we were on that cold Friday morning, back at the air base lab.  Aaron was dreary and slow, tired in several ways.  He pulled up his shirt sleeve without being told because he knows the routine so well, looked at his new watch perched halfway to his elbow the way he must always wear it, and slowly stretched as he waited for the tourniquet and needle.

 

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“I’m tired of this,” he muttered in his resigned monotone voice.

There went my heart.  I wanted to scoop him up in a motherly hug, but it wasn’t the time or place for that.  Besides, motherly hugs rarely have a time and place in Aaron’s autistic world.

But I had another reaction as well.  The depleted side of my spirit nearly kicked in.  My thought was this:

“YOU’RE tired??!  I’M the one who’s tired!!”

Yep.  Those truly are the words that swarmed around in my head.

Tiredness has been closely following on my heels lately.  Not just physical tiredness, although that is certainly present, but a soul weariness that has crept into my spirit.

All of us reach that point at some point.

“I’m so tired of ________.”

Then all of us can fill in that blank…or several blanks, right?

With Aaron, being his mother AND his caregiver, I am pulled this way and that.

Seizures.  Autism.  Medicines.  Side effects of medicines.  Weight loss.  Low sodium.  Needs to eat more.  Needs to drink less.  New medicines.  New side effects.  Blood work.  Behaviors.   Routines.  Disrupted routines.   Needing caregivers.

Sometimes I’m just so tied up in all of it.

And tied down to all of it.

Discouragement can sneak in unexpectedly.  A comment.  A picture.  A thought.  I can let it get to me in ways I know I shouldn’t.

Discouragement can roar in like a Kansas tornado.  A seizure.  A behavior.  A disappointment.

What I do at that point with my discouragement is key to my frame of mind from that point forward.

I can nurture a heavy spirit, or I can let the Holy Spirit do His sweet work in my heart.  I can’t change my situation, really, but I sure can work to change my attitude.

I do this through thinking more about my blessings than my burdens.  No matter what, I do have so many blessings and it does my tired heart good to think about those instead of wishing for what isn’t.

Another thing that helps me is to go to my Bible, especially the Psalms.  For instance, just read and hear the wonderful instruction and hope in these verses.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.             

(Psalm 94:18-19)

It’s not a shallow pep talk.  It’s listening to God Himself and trusting that He knows where I am and what I face…and He cares!

Then sometimes there are extra nuggets of love from Aaron himself – rare as nuggets of gold – that warm my soul and remind me of the value of this life that God has given me.

Not long ago, after some seizures and while we watched a show, Aaron looked over at me and surprisingly said:

“Mom, I’m glad you’re caring for me.”

He rubbed his hands together happily as he saw the smile on my face.

“I’m glad I’m caring for you, too, Aaron,” I replied.

And very, very glad that God is taking care of us both!

 

 

The Skies From My Window

Many of you know that I love taking pictures of our pretty Kansas sky.  My favorite place to take those pictures is from the window in one of our upstairs bedrooms.  This bedroom will always be, to us, Andrea’s room – even though she moved from home several years ago.  When I see a particularly pretty sky I will run upstairs, open the window and lift the screen, and fire away with my phone camera.   

As I look back on these pictures, I find that no two are the same.  Absolutely every shot of our sky, on every day that I took those shots, is entirely different……if there are clouds involved, that is.  I don’t usually take pictures of a totally blue sky, though blue skies are nice.  But after a while, completely blue skies would be a little boring. 

Sometimes the pictures are simply beautiful, like the one I snapped last night.  Isn’t this just breathtaking?

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Some inspire awe, like this one.

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Sometimes I see life.

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Other times the seasons show themselves.

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This one view, from the same windows…..the same vantage point……is anything from being the same, day by day. 

It’s a lot like my circumstances in life……like yours, too, I’m sure.  Our circumstances change, sometimes often and other times less frequently.  At times the changes are dramatic.  Other times the changes come subtly, but they come regardless.

Our circumstances may be pleasant, and some of the changes we go through can be happy and pleasant as well.

But other circumstances are painful or shocking, involving deep hurt……fear……dread. 

Last week I found out about two friends who were just diagnosed with cancer.  And I took another friend for some testing after an X-Ray showed something suspicious.  We are still awaiting her results.  Some have already received disturbing news…..others are still waiting, with dread, on what may be.

My circumstances……my surroundings……can on one day fill me with peace and on the next day fill me with worry.  It’s like my view of our sky from the upstairs windows.  Sometimes peaceful…..

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Sometimes stormy……

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I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus.  Moses certainly experienced a variety of circumstances in his life……plenty of high’s and low’s.  From a basket in the bulrushes to the palace.  From the palace to the desert.  From shepherding sheep to leading a nation.  From the parting of the Red Sea to the grumbling of that unhappy nation.  From speaking to God on the mountain to confronting idol worship at the foot of the mountain.  From obedience to anger. 

After the Israelites had given up on Moses and turned to worshipping the golden calf, Moses and God both were pretty angry.  Moses went back to God after things settled down a bit and he prayed.  He said, “God, let me know your ways that I may know you….” 

God’s answer? “And He said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

God’s presence is all that His people needed……and it’s all that you and I need.  He’s promised to be with us, and He’s promised to give His children rest. 

Two things I’ve learned in the years that I have lived.  First, don’t look to my surroundings for rest…..even in the good times.  When life is going well, with sunny skies and soothing views ahead, those things should not be the source of my rest and peace.  I’m thankful when life is pleasant, but pleasantness is not the source of rest.  Only God is to be my strength and my peace.  Knowing Him and depending on Him, following Him and trusting Him, is still the number one thing I need to do when the skies are sunny and beautiful.

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Second, I’ve learned to also not let my surroundings…..my circumstances……pull me down and rob me of rest.  This happens so easily when skies are stormy and life is stressful.  Bad news…..stressful relationships……more bills than we have money……wayward children……    We all know what it’s like.  Life is full of the hard times, unfortunately, and they often happen suddenly.  At other times we live under the stresses day after day as they gradually take their toll.  But still, the rough times are to be a time of rest……..and they can be if we know the same God that Moses knew. 

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For God’s promise to Moses is our promise as well:  “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

Remember I said that pictures of blue skies would get boring?  I love blue skies, but honestly the best pictures occur when clouds are present. 

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So it is with us.  I believe the best lessons are learned when we have some clouds in our lives.  Deeper trust and greater joy have been my experience during the stormier times of life. 

Those clouds also bring a more intimate walk with God, full of so much beauty.  Hopefully I can reflect Him more as I walk closer beside Him. 

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And I can rest.  I don’t know today how God will give me rest, but He has said He will and I believe Him. 

Rest, and enjoy the view, because with God life is stunning.

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Rising to the Occasion

Written three years ago, but not blogged…until today.  🙂

 

I had thumb surgery last week. It’s certainly not major surgery and I’m getting along very well. However, I’m wearing a bulky splint and I’m under strict instructions from the doctor about what I can and cannot do. I’m realizing how much I use my thumb in ways that I never even thought about. I can’t pick up small items very well with that hand; I can’t shuffle our Skip-Bo cards; can’t easily hold a Ziploc bag in order to open it with my good hand; can’t tie shoes; can’t keep from hitting the spacebar with that bulky thumb all wrapped up 🙂 – just to name a few.

 

Gary, as he has been so often in the past, is a wonderful help to me. For instance, just this morning he made sure to get ready for work a little early so that he had time to tape a plastic bag to my arm so that I could shower and still keep the splint dry. Gary rose to the occasion, as he always does for me.

 

Today I picked up some dog food for our big Jackson. The bag of food weighs over 27 pounds, far over the coffee cup weight limit I’m allowed to carry with that hand. Stacey, our vet’s wife and a dear friend, carried the bag of dog food to my van. Stacey rose to the occasion for me.

 

This morning I was reading Exodus 15, the deliverance song the Israelites sang after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. The song begins with these words:

 

“I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.”

 

The words “highly exalted” carry this meaning – that God rose to the occasion. I love that!!

 

I can point to so many times that God has risen to the occasion for me as I’ve faced some hard times, frustrating times (even today!), fearful times, and uncertain times. I know that many of you, my family and friends, are right now staring at very difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible situations. I’m praying for many of you!

 

So, I just wanted to share this little nugget of blessing with you today. God really will rise to the occasions in your life. He parted the sea for Israel. That mighty God of Israel is the same God we know today. His power hasn’t changed a bit. His desire for us is that we trust His timing to know just how to rise to the occasions that we face. Whether He dramatically hurls our problems into the sea, makes a way through them, or allows us to endure them as He gives us His peace and grace – we don’t know.

 

But we can know that He will rise to the occasion in the way that’s best for each of us. Then we can also sing with Israel: “This is my God, and I will praise Him!”

 

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Lens #1

Last week, I once again took Aaron to his yearly eye exam.  Doctor visits are always an adventure with Aaron.  Waiting for the doctor to come into the exam room is also a test of my patience.   Aaron stretches and wants to lay down.

 

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Or he eyes the tempting equipment and tools that the doctor uses, trying to pick them up and test them out before I tell him to stop.

 

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As I sat with Aaron last week and watched him during the exam, I was reminded of the following post from a couple years ago.  This was such a funny moment for me!   Here is what I wrote:

 

I took Aaron to his yearly eye exam today. God bless Aaron’s eye doctor. Next week I’ll be saying, “God bless Aaron’s dental hygienist,” but today all blessings go his eye doctor and to the staff. Oh, Aaron isn’t mean. He just has a very difficult time understanding what the doctor needs from him…..how to express what he is seeing or not seeing clearly…..opening his eyes wide…..not leaning back from every instrument that comes toward his eyes…..things like that. There was one very funny interchange, though, during the exam. You know how the doctor wants you to tell which lens helps you to see the letters on the wall the clearest.

 

Dr. Nelson: Aaron, is number one better? Or number two?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: OK. Now which is better? Number three, or number four?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try again. Number three, or number four?

 

Aaron: The first one.

 

Dr. Nelson: You mean number three….here…..or number four…..here.

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try these. Number five, or number six.

 

Aaron: The first one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try number seven…..

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: OK, let’s not do numbers anymore. Is this one better, or this one better?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

HaHaHaHa!!!!!! How I wanted to belly laugh!! I do believe that number one was the winner, don’t you??!! 😎😵🤣

 

However accurate Lens #1 was, Aaron was sure that this was the lens he liked the best.  He didn’t waver one bit from that determination.

I’ve been thinking about this as I look at my own life, and the lives of many that I know and love.

Through what lens am I looking at my life?

I just ran upstairs to be with Aaron as he had another seizure today.  I’m thankful he was lying down, so there was no falling and no injuries.  But his seizures, especially after all these years, are serious and scary.  As we get older, and as Aaron gets older, Gary and I do wonder about our future and his future.

In the past days, I have communicated with family and friends who are enduring all kinds of trials.  Two with aggressive and serious forms of cancer, out of the blue.  Tragic family issues.  Separation.  Divorce.  Friends who just bought a house and now he lost his job, literally overnight with no warning.  Lots of chronic health issues with no end in sight.

So much suffering! And the way that I view suffering depends upon which lens I choose to look through.

I know the lens I NEED to be using.  I need to focus on the God that I know and on His word that He has given me.  I may be rattled and shaken, but my focus will be sharp if I’m looking to God.  My faith is in and on Him when I look to Him…not disrupted by all the suffering around me that I or others are enduring.

It’s like Aaron’s eye exam.  I need to realize that lens #2 or lens #3 are not right for me.

Fear is not a lens God wants me to use when viewing my circumstances, or the circumstances of those I love.  Neither is anger…or worry…or a host of other responses that are all too common for me.

I know that when I have my eyes off God, life becomes blurry.  I lose focus.  I lose peace.  I lose hope.

I need to go back to lens #1, for sure!!!

The best way for me to keep my focus is to go to my Bible…to read God’s promises and let His words soak into my mind and my heart.

My parent’s favorite Bible passage is perfect for me to use in keeping my focus:

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore

we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains

slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the

mountains quake at its swelling pride.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

 

God told us we would have suffering and trouble on this earth. But He also has promised to be our very present help, our strength and our refuge, no matter what carnage is around us.  He is a loving Father who takes care of His children.

This is the focus I need.  God is the focus I need.

God is my lens #1.

I love the old hymn, The Solid Rock.  Look at verses 2 and 3:

 

When darkness veils His lovely face,

         I rest on His unchanging grace;

         In every high and stormy gale,

         My anchor holds within the veil.

 

         His oath, His covenant, His blood,

         Support me in the whelming flood;

         When all around my soul gives way,

         He then is all my hope and stay.

 

         On Christ the solid rock I stand;

         All other ground is sinking sand,

         All other ground is sinking sand.

 

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The Hard Parts

Tuesday was my birthday, and an early gift for me that morning was that Aaron got out of bed much earlier than the day before.  Why is that a gift?  It’s a gift because having to wake Aaron up to get his day going often brings anger from him, but if he gets out of bed on his own it usually comes with a far improved mood…from BOTH of us!

Aaron’s bedtime logbook that he faithfully fills out every day shows that he got out of bed at 7:16.  Not 7:15.  7:16.  I just wanted to be sure that I was clear on that point, since Aaron is forever and always very clear and precise about his times.

My memory logbook in this brain of mine has recorded that on Monday, Aaron did not get out of bed at 7:16.  He was sleeping soundly on that morning, so I had to wake him up, which can be very tricky.  Being awakened by Mom is not on Aaron’s list of Happy Ways to Start My Morning.  It’s not on my happy list, either.  That’s because there is almost no way for me to get Aaron to wake up that suits him.  Monday was a rather angry morning for Aaron, but he did go to his day group and I was thankful for the reprieve.

So, Tuesday was wonderful!  Aaron was happy, not at all because it was my birthday but because I did not have to talk to him in my weird voice…or shake his leg…or look at him with squinty eyes…or any of the other very irritating manners that he thinks I demonstrate when I’m working to get him out of bed.

I offered to fix Aaron some French toast since we had time and since he loves French toast.  He readily agreed, so while he showered…in whatever form that process took that morning because we’re never quite sure…I began the French toast.  Later, as Aaron sat down to eat, I saw him immediately place something from his plate onto the table beside him.  Can you see the little dark spot there on the table near his plate?

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I knew what it was.  The small glob was a piece of the toast that had cooked harder than he likes.  Aaron always places hard parts of food off his plate because he will not eat them, and he doesn’t want them near his food that he IS eating.

Later, when we were both done with our breakfast, I saw that on his plate was one more bite of French toast.  I told him he had one more bite to go as he got up from the table, but he told me that he didn’t want it.

“It has those hard parts, Mom,” he explained.  I didn’t push the issue or make a big deal about it.  After all, why ruin our good morning over one bite left on his plate?

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But as I looked at his plate, I thought of how much like life those hard parts are.  Hard parts are most definitely a real part of all our lives.  I wish I could just have all the plump, juicy pieces that are easy to swallow.  But no, it doesn’t work that way.  Life, all too often, seems to have way too many of those hard parts.

I remembered those set-aside pieces the next day as I took Aaron to his Epilepsy doctor appointment.  It was time for more blood work for Aaron, so after his doctor visit, we walked over to the building next door and went up to the lab. We’ve been very blessed that Aaron, from the beginning of his seizures at a young age, has always liked watching the needle go in his arm.  Even when it hurts, Aaron wants to watch each time.

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I looked at him sitting there, taking it all in, and I suddenly wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because he looked so vulnerable.  We get used to all these doctor visits and needles and medicines and tests, but today it was like I was seeing it all fresh and new.  He was my little boy again, with his life ahead of him…all of us unaware of all the hard parts that were ahead.

Soon we were waiting on the elevator, Aaron more than ready for lunch at Applebee’s.  The door of the elevator opened.  I hesitated to get on because there was a woman in a wheelchair inside, plus the nurse who was pushing her, plus another woman, plus a man.  That’s a lot of pluses!  The woman in the wheelchair saw our hesitation.

“Come on in!” she cheerily said.  “I won’t bite!”

I laughed, told Aaron to follow me, and we stepped inside.  I stood in front of the woman in the chair, facing her.  I saw then that she was on oxygen.  She was wearing a hat to cover her bald head, and her skin had the unmistakable chalky look of advanced cancer.  I thanked her for letting us crowd in, and then I asked her how she was doing.

“Oh,” she said now with weariness, “I’ve been better.”

“I’m so sorry,” I told her.  I wanted again to cry, and I hoped she knew that I cared.

As the elevator stopped and we all went out into the hall, I saw that the man from the elevator was walking with a badly deformed leg, or maybe a prosthesis under his pants.  His walk looked so painful.  And there outside the front door was a van from a hospice group, waiting to take the sweet cancer patient to her destination.

Hard parts.  All around me were hard parts.

Still fresh in my heart was the message from a friend about her impending divorce, received that very morning.  Other concerns for family and friends weighed on my mind…death, loneliness, health issues, fears, financial problems, job concerns.

Do I sound depressing and dreary?  I don’t want to leave it there, because for those who know God and follow Him, these hard parts are also precious parts of growing closer to our Savior.  Jesus suffered, and so shall we suffer.  But we have hope because we know that God is in control of every part of our lives…the easy and the hard.

This hope isn’t like saying, “Oh, I hope that works out.”

NO!  This hope is a certain expectation that all WILL work out according to God’s will, for our good and for His glory.  The outcome may not work out exactly as I want, but my wants are not nearly as important as God’s will.

Is Aaron cured of his Epilepsy?  No.

Is Aaron cured of his autism?  No.

So, how do I handle those “no” answers?  I handle them by fully embracing that a “no” answer is still God’s answer to me.  I trust Him to know best.

And I don’t try to push those hard parts out of my life and out of my heart.  I accept their reality with God’s grace.

Of all the Aaron issues that we deal with, his behaviors are by far the hardest to handle with love and wisdom.  Gary and I get tired…frustrated…overwhelmed…angry.  But Aaron is the whole package, the easy and the hard.  The sad and the hilarious.

We wrap our arms around Aaron and love the whole person, seizures and autism mixed in with all the rest.

Like Jeremiah said:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust IS the Lord!”

              “You are my refuge in the day of disaster.”

And so must each of us see every part of our lives as just the right mixture that God intended, and not try to remove the parts that are hard as being too hard to handle.  Go in God’s strength and trust Him.

 

 

 

 

Work, Work,Work!

I believe every family has sayings that have been passed down over the years – sayings made by family members and then repeated again and again.  Often these comments are funny, laughed at every time they are uttered as memories of the person and the situation surface once more.

One of our family favorites is a comment made by Aaron years ago when he was very frustrated by having to pitch in and do some work around the house.

“Work, work, work!!”  he exclaimed.  “All I do is WORK!!”

No one understands the humor of his statement like we do.  That’s because we all knew…and know…Aaron.  He worked the least but complained the most.  Now when one of us repeats that phrase with great emphasis, we all just laugh and shake our heads…just like we did when Aaron first said it.

I do believe we now have a new phrase, thanks once again to Aaron.  Another one of many he has left us over the years, trust me.

Two weeks ago, Gary and I were packing up our vehicle for our annual trip to Houston.  We travel there every April to see Andrea and Kyle, and with the added bonus of spending time with Andrew, who is there for an NHRA race.

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This year we were taking lots of Andrea’s “stuff.”  That’s because she and Kyle are married now, and have a house, so her “stuff” is hers once again.

We had many loads to carry out and put in our vehicle.  Aaron was in the middle of all of it, talking and hovering, hoping that none of this activity was going to eat into our normal evening routine of watching a DVD or show.  He seems to think that his presence will continually remind me that he is my priority.

So, we put him to work.  He was willing to do so, thankfully, and really was a huge help.  He helped lift the heavy electric piano into the van, as well as carrying box after box outside for us.  Eventually, though, as we were nearing the end, Aaron’s impatience started to surface.  He knew that I still had other things to do before we could watch a show.  Bedtime was looming.  His routine was already a mess, and his nerves were showing.  He was excited at our leaving, with thoughts of all the restaurant meals awaiting him and his caregiver during the week, but also anxious at our being gone and his normal life being a little unhinged.

Aaron never offers to sit and talk about his feelings.  Goodness, no!  He doesn’t even understand what’s going on in his head and heart.  But he does SHOW his feelings by usually hurting ours.  Or by being confrontational, rude, stubborn…you get the picture.

His happiness at helping had turned instead to blame.  He blamed his anger on us for making him work.  He and I worked through all that for the most part, watching our show as he calmed somewhat, but then as I tucked him into bed later, he erupted again.

“Mom!!” he said.  “You made me do servant work!!  I don’t like SERVANT work!!”

It was so hard not to laugh!  But believe me, all of us…minus Aaron…laughed a lot about what he said as we spent a few fun days together.

Servant work!  Indeed!

In the week since we’ve been home, I’ve seen the other side of Aaron…the side that enjoys helping us.  He wanted to help me cook supper one night, and then to send a picture to Andrea – who told me that it looked I was making Aaron do servant work again.  😊

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He also wanted to share his Sonic mint with Gary that evening, so he put it on Gary’s supper plate.

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This past Saturday, he asked if he could help me with some pruning.

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He often takes our recycling to the container; brings down his laundry; sets the table; and other chores around the house.

Aaron is usually happy to help when things are going the way he wants.  But when his version of normal is anything but, then helping becomes “servant work.”  Not fun…not to be expected…not to be done!

I look at myself and I see this attitude of Aaron’s in me more than I like to admit, especially when it comes to caring for him.  I’ll be honest.  Taking care of a special needs child, even your OWN special needs child, is not all halo moments where we feel or act like angels.

Oh, my compassion is through the roof many times.  Like when I sat in the ER with Aaron for five hours four days before our Houston trip, waiting for him to be admitted to the hospital for seizures the day before and very low sodium.  Thankfully, we were sent home when his sodium level increased.

Home, where Aaron had a very long and a very scary seizure that evening.

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His seizures, injuries, staples, stitches, missed fun days, so many meds, the look on his face as he held his Subway sandwich on our drive home…so many times my heart just breaks for him.

But then he has those behaviors, rigid routines, expectations of me, nonstop talking at times, anger…

Seizures that keep me home, having to change all my plans…and his.  Extra laundry, sadness, worries for now and for the future…

A life unlike most of our peers for me and for Gary.  Not able to up and go, to travel at will, to plan for a fun life of retirement trips.

Special needs parents weren’t given our children because WE’RE so special and God knew we could do this.  God wants us to see that HE is the special One that we need, and that in no way could we live this life without Him and His grace and His strength.  Goodness knows I have none of my own.

Many times, and many days, this life that God has given me can only seem like “servant work.”

But really, there are two kinds of servant work, and it’s my attitude that determines which I will experience each day…each moment.

When I think of how God wants me to serve in every situation, and when I do this servant work with that in mind, my attitude is one of inner joy and peace – even if outwardly things are crazy, and I am frustrated.  My goal then isn’t about ME.  It’s about Aaron, and to serve him in a way that pleases God.

But when I get in my own way and take my eyes off God…and like Aaron, things aren’t going the way I want…then I sometimes get angry and frustrated.  When I do this, all too often, then I’m doing “servant work” in the way Aaron meant.  Unpleasant, yucky, unhappy work that makes me bitter.

So, to all of us…and ESPECIALLY to my special needs parent friends…know that God understands.  Just talk to Him when you’re exhausted, when you blew it, when you yelled at the child you love so much, when you’re envious of other’s lives, when you’re out of money and patience and even hope – just talk to God, lean on Him, and then know that each day is a new day.

A new day to do servant work, the way God intended.  After all, we have the best example in Christ.

“Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a SERVANT, being born in the likeness of men.”  (Philippians 2:5-7)

Servant work is God’s work, really.  And He’ll give us what we need to do it the right way, every day.

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One Thing

I’m sitting here looking at my blank computer screen, wondering how on earth to write this post.  I write better when I can be totally up-front and honest about life.  But sometimes I can’t be that way because some matters are private, involving issues and people that prevent open sharing.

Was that catchy enough?  Do I have your attention now?  HaHa!

I really wasn’t trying to reel you in with my first few sentences.  I am, like I said, just being honest.

Recently, Gary and I had a “thing” happen.  It’s easy to say the typical phrases that we often here, such as what I just said.  “Things happen.”  Or here’s another one – “Life happens.”

Yet as a follower of Christ, I know better.  I don’t get upset when others, or when I, make those statements.

“You know, things just happen,” I have often said.

But again, I know better.  I know that God is the One Who is in charge of my life and who allows every single “thing” in my life to happen.  In reality, my “things” don’t just happen…they are permitted or ordained by God.  I am His child and He is in charge of all aspects of my life.

Most often, when we say that “things” happen, we’re not referring to happy “things.”  Usually, we are talking about stressful “things.”

Gary and I have had some recent stress.  Don’t we all?  We had to make the difficult decision to put our sweet Great Dane, Jackson, to sleep.  Not long after that, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs and ended up with eight staples in his head.  And then this “thing” intruded into our lives.  It’s not a happening that occurred, and then is over and done.  It’s more like a dark cloud of long-term wrong that will hover over us…well, forever, really.

All these “things”…all this stuff, plus many more daily stresses…can just be overwhelming and exhausting.  But two other “things” have taken place as well…in my heart, which is the best place for God to work HIS things.

One “thing” is that my mother’s favorite verse has been rolling around in my head for days now.  It’s Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I love, though, the meaning of “be still.”  This is how I have been saying this verse recently: “Quit striving, and know that I am God.”

I can’t make “things” not happen.  I can’t always change situations.  And even if I try, the doors often remain closed.  The damage is done.

I have a mental image of being tied up with ropes.  Those ropes are the “things” that have or are happening in my life.  I twist and turn and pull and flex against those awful ropes, trying to be free.  But God wants me to stop that!  He wants me to relax and to simply trust Him…to rest, and to know that He is God.  And as God, He will handle all my “things.”

All this sounds so good, doesn’t it?  So spiritual and so right.  But how on earth…really, how on this old sinful stressful earth…do I quit striving?

God gave me a huge part of that answer over the past few days.  It’s found in the first few verses of Psalm 27.

David talks about his “things.”  He says that evildoers want to devour his flesh.  He is surrounded by enemies, adversaries, and whole armies…literally…who want to destroy him.  He was living in caves as he tried to survive.  His treatment by King Saul was totally unjust and evil.

It’s awful to be hated.  It’s awful to be the recipient of unjust treatment.  It’s awful to be on the run, either mentally or physically…running from the pain and the wrong and the hurt.

So, in verse 4, David says, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek…”

Let me stop to say that I can tell you what my one thing usually is when hard times come, especially injustice.  My one thing is to think that if I could only talk to this person or to these people, I’d tell them a thing or two!  Or on a nicer slant, my one thing may be to try to have a pleasant, open talk with them. Surely, they will listen!  Just give me one chance, Lord, to handle my situation…whatever it is…by doing that one thing that will make ME feel better.

But what was David’s one thing?  He asked God to let him behold His beauty in the tabernacle, to meditate and to dwell in the temple.

In other words, David’s one thing was to worship God.

And there is the answer to my question about how to quit striving against my “things.”

Worship.

David’s one thing that he asked of God when he was going through all of his awful “things” was the opportunity to once again worship God in the tabernacle.

“There is only one place where your heart can be healed, restored, satisfied, and protected.  It won’t be healed by winning human wars.  It won’t be satisfied in human acceptance.  It won’t be restored when you have meted out vengeance.  It will only be filled, satisfied, and at rest when it is filled with the beauty of the Lord.”  (Paul Tripp)

When I focus on God, I am not focusing on my “things.”  I am instead aware of God’s greatness in the middle of my “things.”  His power is what upholds me.  His plan, however vague and unknown it may be to me, is one which I can accept because in God’s beauty I see His love for me.  I experience His peace and His grace when my eyes are on Him, and not on my “things.”

We all have those hard “things.”  Some of you are enduring much more difficult “things” than mine.  May we all learn to worship God even when we are surrounded by our pain and fears and sadness.

Then to rest…quit striving…and let God be God in our lives.

“Quit striving, and KNOW that I am God!”

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