Weary

I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post, so I’m just going to start this post by telling you that I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post. 

I’m still sitting here, wondering.

So I’ll just launch into it.  Gary and I had a disagreement on Saturday about Aaron. 

There.  I said it. 

It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  😊

Aaron may be nearing 34 years of age, but Gary and I are still in the thick of parenting, believe me.  Like all parents, we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.  And just when Gary and I think we have some situation all figured out, Aaron not only changes the rules, he changes the entire game!!

Not to sound like a whiner but parenting a special needs adult – or child – is challenging even on a good day.  Gary and I both get tired, on many levels.  What may not be a big deal can easily turn into a huge deal when we’re tired.  And trust me, Aaron can wear us totally out.

For instance, Aaron has just finished watching all four of the Jaws movies.  It’s taken him some time to watch all four of those movies.  Aaron’s current movie becomes his obsession, so lately we have heard more about sharks than we ever, ever, EVER wanted to hear.  Shark teeth, shark gills, shark size, shark color, shark location, shark diet, shark movies, and will there be a FIFTH Jaws??!!

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Please tell me no on that last one!

It’s like I told Gary on Saturday during our discussion about our disagreement…there are some days, many days, that by the end of the day, I am SO done.  Just really, completely done. 

Not done with having Aaron live here.  Not done with loving Aaron, by any means.  But just done, as in deep down bone tired. 

And so is Gary.

We talked and came to an agreement, and we still love each other.  We even still LIKE each other! 

But being tired…not just physically tired, but soul tired…isn’t resolved as quickly.  I don’t know about you, but when I get like this I tend to magnify everything.  Small issues become much larger than they really are.  I mentally bounce all over the place, making mountains out of mole hills, even when I know better. 

I sat down on the patio with my cup of coffee, enjoying the birds and the breeze, and I talked to the Lord.  I told Him I was tired, as if He didn’t know that.  And I told Him, as I am prone to do, that I sure would love to hear from Him.

As clear as day, this day that was just starting, this verse went through my mind:  “Be not weary in well doing…”

And I felt a real peace.

I got on my phone to look up the verse because I’m terrible at remembering references.  It’s Galatians 6:9 (one of the verses), and so I continued to scroll down on my phone to look at other translations and notes. 

One of the references was Malachi 1:13.  I hope you’re going to love this as much as I did.  Without going into tons of detail, God was talking to Israel about how they were neglecting to truly worship Him.  They were bringing defiled food and sickly animals for their sacrifices. 

God told Israel, “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’  And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts.” 

Israel was tired of doing the right thing.  They were tired of obeying God.  In fact, they sniffed at God’s instruction to them.  That means that they blew through their nose.  Much like I did on Saturday morning.  You know…that sniff through the nose when you’re frustrated with something. 

Don’t tell me you’ve never done it!

Sniff!!

OK, so I live with Aaron and I do get tired.  But when God says to not weary in well doing, He’s not saying I should never get tired and if I do then I’m sinning.  The “weary” in that verse means “to fail in heart.” 

It’s my heart…my heart issues…I need to guard. 

How do I do that?  By being careful not to offer God a sacrifice unworthy of Who He is.  God wants me to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and trust.  And I can only do this when I stop and realize that He is sovereign over my life…my whole life…even all the Aaron moments.  And anything else that weighs me down and causes me to sniff disdainfully.

To lay at God’s feet my worries, my anger, my sadness, my regrets…whatever else there may be…and then to replace all those things with praise and thankfulness and trust in Him.

Then I am better equipped to consciously continue in well doing…to do right even when I don’t feel like doing right…to not be weary in well doing. 

It’s a tall order for sure.  But I have a tall God who really will…and does…give me what I need, when I need it. 

There’s a promise at the end of Galatians 6:9:  “…for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” 

Our reaping will take various forms, but a big one is a harvest of peace.  My situation may not change, but God will give peace as I obey Him. 

What’s got you tired today?  Our lists get long, don’t they?  Health…finances…children…jobs…moving…rejection…hurts…church…

But through and in it all, don’t let your heart fail.  Don’t fail to thank God for so many things, and for WHO He is! 

Don’t sniff at your life but sacrifice your life to the One Who loves you so much!

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Just Wait!

One night a couple weeks ago, I was with Aaron as we went through his normal bedtime routine.  I was particularly tired that night, having spent another long day getting me and Gary and the house and Aaron and our caregiver and our dog all ready for the trip back east that Gary and I were taking.  Seeming to feed off of my particular tiredness, Aaron was a particular slow that night.  I had hit the proverbial wall and just wanted nothing more than to lay my head on my pillow and go to sleep.

Speaking of, when Aaron is this kind of slow at night, even laying his head on his pillow is a drawn-out process.  It’s like he’s moving in slow motion as he makes sure his covers are pulled up just right, then pulled down just right, and then situated even further down so that he can ever so slowly sit on the edge of the bed and ease under the covers.  His head was still not quite on the pillow as he scooted his body over, but instead was leaning back on his headboard.  He even rolled his eyes back in his head like he sometimes does as he EVER SO SLOWLY…did I already say that?!…maneuvered his body a little lower under his blankets.  He looked like he was going to pass out right there.  Finally, he was situated with his head actually on the pillow where it belonged and his body totally under the covers.

But now Aaron had to get his arms out from under the covers for our goodnight hug and kiss on the cheek.  This part of the routine is necessary…arms under the covers, then arms out from under the covers…reaching up for me and our hug and a quick peck on his cheek. 

Yet nothing on this tired night was quick.  He was as slow as molasses in the winter, for crying out loud!! 

So I pulled the covers down for him and in doing so, I revealed my impatience to ever-observant Aaron.  He was more awake than I thought as he looked at me.

“Don’t be rushable!!” he reprimanded me sternly. 

I had to smile at his wording as I gave him a hug and a kiss.  Only Aaron could defuse the situation with his unique way of speaking. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue of being “rushable.”  Seeing all the back-to-school pictures going around on FB…all the comments tinged with unbelief at how old a child is or what grade they’re in…and especially hearing the certain sound of mixed emotions regarding a child leaving for his first year of college or a job or marriage…has made me look at the reality of Aaron in a new way.  And yet it’s not really new at all.

Aaron had his first seizure a little over 26 years ago.  He is approaching his 34th birthday.  He is our oldest child and should have been the first to leave the nest for college or job or marriage.  But here he is, still in our home and still dependent on us.  This is through no fault of his own.  Gary and I know that we are on this path not only because of Aaron’s special needs, but even more importantly, because of God’s sovereign will in our lives. 

We know that God could heal Aaron, but for now He has chosen not to do so.  Over the years, I have quit focusing on healing.  I’ve learned it’s far more important to focus on what God has for me on this path, step by step, as I stay in His Word and as I seek to obey Him.  I want to hear from God, to learn, to grow, to be more like Him, and to share Him with others.  And God has used Aaron in SO many ways to point me to those very aspects in this life.

Yet I am not by any means a perfect example of peace in our situation.  I do not walk around with a cherubic smile on my face as I adjust my halo on my head.  Absolutely NOT!!  I get sad, and tired.  I think about our future, and definitely Aaron’s.  I get frustrated.  Sometimes I wish for things that are not in our picture now, and perhaps never will be.  And once in a while, I crack open one of those little doors of my heart and I peek inside, thinking of what Aaron is and what he might have been.  Those doors are hurtful and I know not to dwell there, but I am a mother and at times my eyes take a quick look as they fill with tears.

It’s at those moments that I know I must look at God and trust Him fully.  And I must let Him remind me that there is a very great reason for our paths of suffering…for all of us, for you and for me as we follow Christ.

Remember the story of Lazarus in John 11?   Lazarus was very sick, so his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus to tell him the news.  Jesus loved this family.  They were dear friends.  When Jesus was told that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Wait…what?! 

When we get news that someone we love is critically ill, we go to them right away.  But Jesus, instead of taking off right away to Bethany to see Lazarus, purposely stayed where He was for two more days.  Then when He did get to the town of Bethany, Martha and Mary both said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died.”   

Lazarus had died.  Jesus could have come sooner, but He didn’t and now Lazarus was dead and already buried in a tomb. 

And Jesus didn’t come sooner ON PURPOSE!

We know why Jesus didn’t go sooner and why He allowed Lazarus to die, because Jesus told his followers the reason right after He was told about the illness of His friend.  Jesus said that it was all being done so that the Son of God would be glorified. 

Aaron would say that Jesus wasn’t “rushable.”

Jesus let the situation continue because He knew the end.  Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead in order to point to God…to give God glory…to show all those people another picture of the love and greatness of God.

Yes, it was hurtful to those that loved Lazarus.  It was especially hard on Lazarus to die, right?  But their hurt and pain was used by Jesus to point out the glory and the power of God.

How many times are we told in the Bible to wait on the Lord?  Wait for Him to show Himself.  Wait for Him to teach us.  Wait for Him to open a door, or to shut another. 

For me, it’s as if Jesus is repeating Aaron’s words:  “Don’t be rushable, Patty.  Quit striving.  Be still, and know that I am God.” 

I don’t know why Aaron has his special needs.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds, or next week, and certainly not next year.  But I do know that God is God…that He is good…and that He wants Aaron, through us, to bring Him glory.

We do that by trusting Him, by pointing out the wonderful ways He speaks to us through His Word, and by resting each day in His plan for us and for Aaron.

When I try to rush God…to come up with answers why…to explain and understand everything…to have plausible reasons…then I am not letting Him be sovereign in my life and I am not bringing Him glory. 

Don’t be rushable, Mom!!

Got it, Aaron. 

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The Reality

Three years ago, we planted sunflowers around the perimeter of our vegetable garden.  Aaron was SO happy that Gary and I had finally agreed to grow these giant flowers.  Aaron had wanted sunflowers for a long time.  They did not disappoint as they grew and grew and grew that first summer.

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Last year, Gary and Aaron planted some of the seeds that Gary had harvested from our first sunflower crop.  Again, the mammoth flowers grew steadily and gave us much beauty to enjoy.

This year we decided not to plant a vegetable garden.  Time constraints during the planting season, very late winter weather, some traveling, and severe drought caused us to make this decision.

One day, though, we noticed some plants emerging from the soil.  Sure enough, we soon realized that our sunflowers had returned.  We hadn’t planted a single seed this year.  These were volunteer sunflowers that had sprouted from old seed left in the ground from the year before.

Just a few days ago, there in our garden, was a welcome splash of color.  Sure enough, one of those volunteer sunflowers was blooming.  And it wasn’t long before Aaron also saw it.

“MOM!!!” he loudly exclaimed.  “Look at the sunflower!!  Let’s go see it!”

We walked over to the garden and looked at the pretty bloom, all bright and perky and sunny.  And of course, I took a picture.  Isn’t it pretty?

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But if you take a closer look, you’ll see more than one pretty sunflower.  And most definitely, if you take in the whole scene, you will have a new appreciation for how much we appreciate this flower.

Look at the sunflower stalk.  You notice that it’s missing something.  It’s missing leaves…lots of leaves.  The deer that call this area home have helped themselves to our sunflower leaves.  We didn’t really expect any of our sunflowers to bloom this year because of the damage done.

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And look at the background behind and around our struggling sunflowers.  The ground is parched and weedy and really quite ugly.

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So here is the reality of our garden this year.  It looks forsaken and ignored and certainly not a place of beauty.  It’s drab and dreary and dull.

Except for…this.  This beautiful, unexpected flower.

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What’s your reality today?  Oh, I’m not referring to your yard or garden.  What’s the reality in your life today?

Here’s a picture of mine.

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Many of you will know exactly what we are dealing with today.  After a welcome break of two and a half weeks seizure free, the low front that came in last night also ushered in seizures for Aaron.  I wasn’t really surprised, yet seizures are always concerning and sad.  And the loud thump very early this morning as Aaron fell out of bed during a seizure was most unwelcome, especially for poor Aaron.  Thankfully, he was uninjured, all wrapped up in his multiple covers like a cocoon.

Wet carpet, wet bedding, wet clothes…really, the least of my worries.  Another seizure a short while ago, and watching closely while Aaron is up and about, are my main concerns.  I can also change my schedule today, but I cannot change this reality that is a continual part of our lives.

That’s why reading the short devotional for today in the old Streams in The Desert was powerful and moving to me.  Listen to what George Matheson says about waiting for hope:

“Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou hast made patience divine.  Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it IS His will.  Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.”

The eye of God sees further than my eye sees.  I see my surroundings in life, often ugly and stressful, but beyond what I see is what GOD sees…what God allows.

I have hope.  You, if you know and follow Christ, have hope.  Aaron may not be healed on earth.  But I have the hope of heaven, where he will be healed and where all will be perfect.

And I have here-and-now hope in God, which brings me peace…joy…strength.  We who follow Christ all have this wonderful hope, despite our heartaches and our deep valleys.

Look at what else Aaron and I found in our little sunflower patch.

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Future blooms, waiting to pop open and brighten up our dull garden even more.

Know that God is a God of hope.  Know that He will work out your problems for some good, unseen as it is now in your life.  Know that He has reasons beyond what you may ever know on this earth for the dark days you are facing.  Know that He will never leave you or forsake you.

“Strive to be one of those – so few – who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness – all mornings, middays, star-times – that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”  (Streams in The Desert)

“For I hope in You, O Lord.  You will answer, O Lord my God.”  (Ps. 38:15)

 

 

 

 

The Sprinkler Rainbow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sacrifice. 

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

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

A sacrifice of thanksgiving costs me…me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unknown Ground

I wrote last Thursday about my mostly happy, musical day with Aaron.                    Singing We Go

But there was also the issue of his wet bed, which I thought was due to him drinking too much water before bed.  Pretty sure I was wrong.

Aaron’s new seizure pattern and the hard end to our mostly happy day certainly pointed to that reality.

I was cleaning the kitchen after we ate a late supper.  Aaron walked through the kitchen and then I heard a noise.  I looked over and saw him face-planted on the kitchen table.  What on earth?  I thought he had stumbled and fallen on the table.

“Aaron,” I asked as I headed toward him.  “Are you OK?”

That’s when I saw him falling over and I knew that he was seizing.  I yelled for Gary as I ran to Aaron, catching him somewhat as he hit the chair and then went down on the floor.  Gary helped break the fall, too, and then got a pillow for Aaron’s head as the seizure continued for awhile and then eased.

I knew, as I watched him, that Aaron must have had a seizure during the night…a seizure I didn’t hear.  This is his new pattern.  A low front with storms came through during the night.  Every seizure in the past 2+ months have come during low fronts, with one seizure at night and then one or more seizures the next day while he’s up and about, out of nowhere.

All this academic stuff, though, did nothing for my racing heart and the feeling that I had been punched in the gut.  Just looking at Aaron as he lay on the floor was heart-breaking, to say the least, and was a very unwelcome confirmation to us of this new chapter in his seizure journey.

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“What are we going to do?” I asked rhetorically to Gary as we stood in the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” he answered, wearily.  “This is unknown ground to us.”

And as quickly as Gary said those words, God spoke to me.  I don’t say that lightly.  But I know that it was God speaking His words of hope to me…to us…as surely as I know Gary’s voice.

“It may be unknown ground,” God said.  “But I have told you that I know the path that you take.”

Such comfort washed over me at that moment!  I mean, I still felt the physical effects in my stomach from the fear of seeing Aaron fall.  I felt weak and teary-eyed and worried.  But really, the “peace that passes understanding” kept rolling over me as I thought of those words: “I know the path that you take.”

This is hope.  This is true, biblical, God-focused hope that the world does not offer or understand.  Haven’t we seen that recently in the spate of suicides of very successful people?

There are two kinds of hope.  When I relate them to our situation with Aaron, I see that we have the first kind of hope quite often.  Gary and I hope that Aaron will improve.  We hope that he’ll be safe.  We hope that something we try will help his seizures to decrease.  We hope that we can find caregivers for Aaron, especially during our daughter’s wedding in Texas.

This kind of hope is a feeling, not based on any certainty, but just…well…a hope.  We hope for the best, but aren’t sure if it will happen.

But there’s another hope, one that comes from knowing God personally through our relationship with Jesus.  This is the hope that Paul, for instance, talks about in Romans 5.

This hope is one directed toward God’s promise, and CERTAIN of it’s realization.

This hope is IN God…in His character…in His Word…in His promises to me…in WHO He is!!

And this hope is why I was instantly filled with God’s peace as Gary and I talked about our new and unknown ground upon which we are walking.

This certain trust born from my relationship with my known Savior is what this world needs, and doesn’t have.  Nothing in this world can manufacture this kind of purpose and peace and comfort.

Nothing!

No amount of fame or money or success or promotion or self esteem or anything else that we strive for can bring us this certain hope.

Only a personal relationship with God will result in such hope.

Our problems may not go away, but that desire is not on what I am to place my hope.  Hoping in a desired outcome is normal, but does not bring me any lasting assurance at all.  I’ve learned that much in my life.

My only assurance is in knowing that God is sovereign.  He is in charge of my life.  He loves me.  He knows what’s best for me…for Gary…and for Aaron.

Sometimes His best is hard, but it’s always best.

So God’s best…God Himself…is my only hope.  And it’s enough, because God is enough.

Edward Mote says it perfectly in the old hymn, The Solid Rock:

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame 

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

          

On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

To end our evening, as I stood in Aaron’s room and looked out his window, God seemed to smile at me as He gave me this little touch of beauty from heaven.

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God knows the path we take.  All is well.

 

 

 

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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Things Done Well

I’m sitting here in the few moments I have before I wake Aaron up for the day, listening to my Dino Piano Pandora radio station.  The song?  “For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”  Old language, yes, but beautiful in its reality for all of us who know Jesus.  He DOES do all things well, whether it’s in His beautiful creation all around us…or our new day that stretches before us. 

None of us knows what a day will hold.  But we do know that God holds us and holds this day close to His heart.  He ordains and directs every minute.  It’s up to me to claim this reality, no matter how large or how small are my moments in this day. 

Aaron provides both of those kinds of moments for me…large and small.  I never know when I open his door to wake him up just what our day will entail.  Happy Aaron?  Angry Aaron?  Sad Aaron?  Giving Aaron? 

It’s always a balancing act, based largely on Aaron’s attitude but really, even more so on mine.  It’s sometimes tough, really tough, to be patient and kind when Aaron is anything BUT that!  I often blow it.  But God is faithful and patient with me, and to Aaron, and for that I am very thankful.

Aaron asked on Sunday if he could take flowers to his favorite Paradigm staff and second mom, Barb.  So on Monday he fought off the early morning grouchies as I reminded him of his flower plan.  And later, after I checked the wait time, I threw in a haircut to boot.  Now I had a very happy Aaron!

A haircut and beard trim improved his looks, and then picking out some flowers at Dillon’s improved his Monday attitude.  A cup of coffee from Quik Trip finished it off perfectly!

Of course, he wanted me to go in with him to Paradigm and watch him give Barb the flowers.  When we walked into her office, we found her on the phone so Aaron had to wait – which is something he rarely does well.  But there stood Ashley, his friend…or I should say, his “sometimes” friend.  They sure can go around at times, getting very angry with each other, but look at what they did that morning.

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A HUG!!  So sweet!  And so unexpected that even Barb, though on the phone, reacted as I did.  “Awwww!” we both expressed. 

And then when Barb was off the phone, the happy flower giving took place, with more “Awwwws,” and smiles, and hugs.  I drove away with a peaceful heart.

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I picked him up that afternoon, still happy and with tales of all the French fries he ate for lunch.  At least that’s the story he told me.  I never quite know if his food exploits are all true, because sometimes he loves to give away money as much as he loves to give away flowers.  He knows that giving away money is not allowed, so he’s become adept at telling me what he knows I want to hear instead of telling me what he really did with his money.  In other words, he has become a gifted liar at times, sad to say.

So I balanced my skepticism of his story with relief at seeing him so happy, not wanting to discourage him or accuse him, yet still driving home the point that I do hope he really DID eat French fries.  But he was already off on his next topic, reminded by his food story that the next day was doctor appointment day…and doctor appointment day means eating out day.  Doctor visits take a major back seat to the real purpose…for Aaron…of doctor days.  They are restaurant decision days!!

Aaron had a difficult time getting out of bed the next morning for his doctor appointment.  It didn’t matter that I had well prepared him the night before concerning the time we would need to leave.  He finally was able to push back the covers, take a shower (possibly! I never know for sure!), drink his coffee, and climb in the van.

I could tell that Aaron was very, very tired.  On many days, he seems to be over-drugged.  Sluggish…slurred speech…very heavy eyelids…wobbly in walking.  This doctor day was such a day for Aaron, but I was actually glad.  Now the doctor could hopefully see what I have told him…that I think Aaron’s weight loss is impacting his medicine dosage.   

Again, more of what we must balance with Aaron.  Seizure control balanced with his ability to function as normally as possible.  Medicine’s benefits balanced with sometimes detrimental side effects.

Aaron is on a new seizure drug since his hospital stay in May for his video EEG.  His seizures are much better on this new drug.  We increased the dosage after one month, but then a few weeks ago we had to decrease the dose back again after he became too slow and sleepy.  Yet still, Aaron continues to have many days and moments of still acting like he is too drugged.

Aaron was still droopy and tired when we arrived at the doctor’s office.  Even seeing some of the staff dressed for Halloween didn’t inspire much of a response. 

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This look at Aaron shows how he really felt that morning.

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The weight loss combined with the tiredness did concern the doctor.  He is used to listening to Aaron talk about Independence Day movies or Captain James T. Kirk or Darth Nihilus, but there was none of that on this visit.  We will be slowly decreasing one of Aaron’s main seizure drugs to see if that will help.  Another decision to make…another issue to balance.

And Aaron had most definitely made his restaurant decision!  No amount of sluggishness could dampen his usual eating-out enthusiasm.  His choice?  Denny’s!! 

He was at first cold from the weather and slow in his reactions…

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But that soon changed as he drank some coffee, ate his favorite side salad with no croutons, finished off his French fries after methodically dunking each one into his honey mustard sauce, and then successfully tackled his stack of chicken strips.  If we ate out like that every day he just might gain back some of that lost weight!

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Watching Aaron for just those two days reminded me again that we have many sides to our complicated son.  In less than 48 hours we saw highs and we saw lows.  We saw progress and we saw some steps backward.  We smiled and we frowned.  We felt relief and we felt our hearts grow a little heavier with nagging worries. 

I remember once when Aaron wasn’t feeling well.  He asked me if he had a seizure during the night, so I told him that he had a small one. 

“That’s probably what’s with me today,” he replied.

Aaron’s epilepsy and autism are certainly with him every day.  And in extension, these issues are with Gary and I every day.  But remember the song I was listening to earlier?  “For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.” 

Sometimes the things He “doeth” aren’t what I would do, but I’m not in charge.  God is!  I know He loves Aaron, and loves Gary, and loves me.  All that God does, He does well.  I may not see it as well now, or feel it, or like it, but in my heart and my head I do know that all…ALL…He does and allows, is well and good. 

And THAT truth is really what I want to stay with me today, and every day!