Little Huge Gifts For Mom

Last night Aaron and I were headed downstairs to watch a couple shows before bed.  This is our nighttime ritual.  He gathered his blanket, his drink, his new bag of cheese cubes, and his empty bowl in which his cheese cubes would soon be poured. 

Speaking of ritual, Aaron’s life is full of those.  Something as simple as putting his blanket over his outstretched legs requires the ottoman to be just right, his legs on the ottoman while still wearing his slippers AND slipper socks, and then the blanket shaken several times to get out as many wrinkles as possible and to be in just the perfect position to then be pulled up over his legs and onto his lap.  I always cringe when he realizes he has forgotten something because the blanket is thrown back, and the process must be repeated. All of this must occur before we start watching our program. 

Sigh.

After he was sufficiently settled last night, he opened his bag of sharp cheddar cheese cubes and poured them into his bowl.  Aaron will not eat out of the bag.  He must have a bowl for everything, including a bowl for chip crumbs…croissant flakes, as he calls them…the crackers he doesn’t like in his Chex Mix…his Red Hots…peanut shells…  The list is endless. 

Soon our show was on and Aaron was allowed, in his mind, to begin eating his cheese cubes…but only after the opening song was finished.  One does not actually start eating, my friends, until the program has actually begun. 

The store only had sharp cheddar cheese cubes when we went to buy them.  Aaron usually gets mild cheddar.

“So do you like those sharp cheddar cheese cubes, Aaron?” I asked.

“YEAH!!” he declared happily.  “They’re GOOD!”

Soon, without saying a word, he reached over and placed this lone cheese cube beside me.  It was his gift to me.

I’ll be honest.  Sometimes eating food that Aaron has handled can be a challenge for me.  I know where those hands of his may have been.  I see how he puts food into his mouth with those same fingers that are now on the food he wants to give me. 

But how could I say no to this little gift that came straight from his heart?

To Aaron, this little cheese cube comprised a huge gift for Mom.

“Awwww, Aaron, thank you!” I told him as I looked down at the little cheese cube. 

“Oh, Lord, please protect me,” I also added silently as I ate the cheese.   😊

Aaron rubbed his hands together and gave his guttural chuckle as I ate the cheese. 

He was even happier to give me that gift than I was to receive it.

What a small little thing a cube of cheese is!  But what a huge deal it was to Aaron to give it and to watch me receive it with thankfulness.

This long-term mothering of Aaron is full of those sorts of gifts, but often if I’m not careful I don’t see them as such.

I never planned to be actively mothering at this age.  I read that I am considered “elderly” now, though I don’t feel that way.  Yet numbers on paper say that I am.

How can I be this age and still going from morning to night mothering my grown child? 

But here I am, by God’s doing…and may I not ever forget that.  God has led me to this path, and I must trust Him as I walk each step. 

On this Mother’s Day I want to give to each of you who are still fully mothering in your older years a word of love and encouragement.  Whether you are mothering your own child or children, or your grandchildren, please know that your work is not unnoticed by God.  We honor Him by caring for the ones He has given us.

May we see each small milestone…each smile…every hug…and so many other small huge gifts as what they really are.

Gifts from God. 

Through our tears, our fears, our frustrations, our exhaustion, our envy of other’s lives…whatever we are going through – may we not miss those beautiful and small huge gifts around us from our children every day.

Go buy a bag of cheese cubes and have a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Feeding on Faithfulness

One of Aaron’s favorite things to do in all the world is to eat out at a restaurant.  The promise of eating out makes every doctor visit or dental procedure totally worth his time. 

Aaron might vary a little in what he will eat at the different restaurants that we visit, but always…if possible…he will order a side salad with “no croutons and two ranches.” 

And often he will order another of his favorites…French fries!

Not long ago, while he munched on his fries at lunch, he had an idea.

“Mom?” he asked, “can we make French fries?”

“I kind of made them last night in the air fryer,” I answered as I reminded him of the potato wedges that we had eaten.

“I didn’t see them that way,” he responded.

I smiled at Aaron’s response. 

He has, yet again, given me something to ponder.

A couple blogging friends mentioned Psalm 37 last week.  I decided to read slowly through that wonderful Psalm in the mornings after my regular Bible study.

Verse 3 jumped out at me.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”

Guess what the word ‘cultivate’ means?  It means to ‘feed on.’

Dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness.

‘Dwell’ can also mean ‘rest.’

The land is wherever God has put me. 

So, I am to rest where God has put me and feed on faithfulness.

That sounds pleasant at first glance.  But what if the place God has put me is less than ideal? 

What if it’s just downright hard?

Fact is, God didn’t say that I am to be faithful when my pasture is lush and green…when my place in life is fun and easy and fulfilling.

He just said to dwell there in the pasture where He has placed me…stay…rest.

And while there, feed on faithfulness.

Here I am, approaching the age that I used to think was REALLY old, and I am still in a large sense raising a child.  This time of my life was what I used to hear being referred to as having the time of my life. 

Empty nest and all that.

Hasn’t quite worked out that way for us.

But I can’t deny the fact that God didn’t qualify the type of land He would ordain for me.  He just told me to rest there.

And to feed on faithfulness.

You see, we can all be faithful where we are.  The form it takes is what sometimes trips us up.

Caring for Aaron, in all the shapes that caring takes, is me feeding on faithfulness.

But many times, I’m like Aaron as he compared the air fryer potato wedges to French fries.

I don’t see it that way.

I don’t see managing Aaron’s medicines, doctor visits, tons of paperwork, or driving him everywhere as having a lot to do with my faithfulness to God.

I most definitely get tangled up in tiredness and complaining as I work to keep him fed, active, happy, encouraged, and clean.

Sadness at seizures and frustration during behaviors jerk my emotions in all directions.

And as the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years, it sure is easy to lose the sense of living in faithfulness to God.

Seems like I often compare my grass to others, and usually theirs is so much greener than mine.

Their feeding on faithfulness seems exciting and fun.

Mine?  Pretty dull and daily.

And often dirty. 

But something I’m learning…ever so slowly…is to look up to God when I feel like looking over to someone else’s land.  Keep my focus on my Shepherd and on the land He has given to me.

To see every tiring moment as an opportunity to trust Him, to do good, to rest in this place, and to feed on faithfulness.

To remind myself, at the end of another tiring day, that God smiles on my faithfulness. 

“I didn’t see it that way, God,” I often think.

“Oh, but I did, my dear,” God whispers. 

And I rest.

Glamorless Glory

“Mom,” Aaron quietly said as he was getting ready for bed, “my toilet is stopped up.”

Aaron dreaded telling me this.  It was the third time in a few days that he had managed to stop up one of our toilets.

And this third time was NOT a charm, but instead was a huge mess.  I could have gotten Gary to do the dirty clean-up. 

“No,” I thought, “I can do this…yet again.”

I did think a few times that I really should have called Gary.  UGH!!

This was an opportunity for me to practice the patience that God is trying to teach me.  And to…once again…school Aaron on the proper treatment of our toilets. 

Why do these things happen so often at night when I am most tired?!

You know, being a caregiver of any sort can be exhausting.  Being a mom…a homemaker…the one responsible for the needs of whomever is under our care…has its many moments of humbling work.

Special needs or other health issues certainly add to the mix a new level of care.

And a new level of seemingly lowly service. 

Because face it, cleaning stopped-up toilets or throw up or wet bedding is not exactly something to write home about.

Even as Christ followers, we envision that the far-away mission field is more glorious and honoring than the dirty work we often do within the walls of our own home.

Not long after this third toilet episode, as I lay in bed reading, I felt compelled to check the FB page of my favorite author, Dale Davis.

His son had posted this piece.  I hope you will read it slowly and fully.

“When Mary was not nursing her son, she placed Him in an unused feeding trough (of wood or stone) right next to her…But a feeding trough! Let us never be surprised at the humility of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks (Question 27) Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist? Its answer begins: ‘Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition…’ Its scriptural proof text for that ‘low condition’ is Luke 2:7. In a feeding trough, needing a mother’s breast and a change of diaper. How very incarnate the incarnation is! And yet what encouragement is here. For if Christ stoops so low, to such a ‘common’ level, does this not sanctify all that seems common and ordinary and unimpressive in the lives of His people? To be quaint and go back a few years–the weaver laboring at his loom, the farmer putting up hay, the mother cleaning her oven, or the teacher tutoring her ‘slower’ student in reading, the accountant preparing tax returns, the pastor reading in his study, the doctor diagnosing a perplexed patient. Jesus’ feeding trough suffuses all the glamorlessness of our callings with a touch of His humble glory.” (Dale Ralph Davis, “Luke 1-13: The Year of the Lord’s Favor”, pp. 46-47)

Tears slid down my cheeks.  For Christ, who stooped so low to be born in a dirty animal cave, and laid in a feeding trough, does sanctify and will honor the grimy and the mundane work that I do…even if I do not see the results of it.

God has always chosen to use the less than exciting places and people and moments in order to draw attention to His glory.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a very young teenager in a town that was looked down upon by everyone.  She and Joseph were poor and unknown.  They were no doubt the subject of malicious gossip because of Mary’s pregnancy.  Then Jesus was born in the humblest of places with no great fanfare.  Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt in order to survive Herod’s wrath. 

And all through Jesus’ ministry we see Him using the most common people in the simplest of places in order to proclaim His message.

How can I wonder if He is doing the same with and through me? 

I have no doubt that many of you are feeling like me so many times – like I am in a rut of caregiving and for WHAT?

But may we not allow the allure of the world’s values concerning glamor to be ours.

May the touch of God’s humble glory turn our glamorless callings into moments of praise and joy.

And may we be grateful for every stopped-up toilet as we see it through God’s eyes…an opportunity to share in His humility and to give Him glory. 

Choosing to See

I was sitting on our couch near our Christmas tree a few days before our kids were going to arrive when I suddenly saw that one strand of the lights had gone out. 

“Oh bother!” I thought as I got up to look closer.  “How does that even happen?”

I decided to just let it go.  It was so close to Christmas and the last thing I wanted to do was remove that string of lights and try to place a new one amid all the other decorations. 

Yet every time I walked into the living room, where the tree prominently stood, this is what I saw.

I saw the missing lights.  I saw the dark space. 

This is what I wanted to see. 

But no, my eyes were inevitably drawn to the area where the lights were missing.  Every.  Time.

Things with Aaron have been a little tough lately.  Actually, a lot tough.

Aaron has shown more than his average share of anger.  He can put a whole new spin on the concept of being angry. 

Many of his seizure meds list anger and other behaviors as possible side effects.  One of those med dosages was recently increased.  So, there’s that.

Then there is his autism, with or without the interference of his medicines.  His structured life was becoming more unstructured as the holidays loomed on his horizon. 

And years of seizures have done untold damage to his brain and to his ability to function in our world.

Gary and I know all this but living with his outbursts of anger is at times more than difficult.  His shattered supper plate full of lasagna, or the hole in his wall, are just two examples that can attest to the stress we have been under.

This morning, as I am slowly finishing my study of the book of Deuteronomy, I was reading Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph in chapter 33.  God promised, through Moses, to give the people of Joseph “choice things…best things.”  The Hebrew word here means things of highest quality.

Then in verse 16, God said, “…and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.”

Remember Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3?  God spoke to Moses in the bush that was burning…the bush that had attracted the attention of Moses as he shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep in the desert wilderness. 

There was God, burning bright in that bush, and telling Moses that this was holy ground.  Telling Moses that He had seen the affliction of Israel, and of His plan to use Moses to rescue the people out of Egypt.

But what impressed me about all of this was the fact that Moses was in a wilderness place, a place of severe hardship, when God spoke to him out of the bright burning bush. 

Moses had been banished from all he knew in Egypt.  He was running for his life when he ended up in the desolate wilderness.  Now he was a lowly shepherd of sheep that weren’t even his.

How easy it would have been for Moses to look at all the darkness in his life…to have his eyes drawn away from God’s glory in the burning bush to focus once again on his dismal circumstances. 

But God, despite the early reluctance of Moses, promised to go with and before and all around Moses.  He urged Moses to look at His glory, the glory that shone in the burning bush, and not at his dark and scary surroundings. 

It’s tough to live with and care for a child with special needs of any kind.  To live with Aaron, a very verbal adult, when he is angry is exhausting at times.  It’s not something I like to display or talk a lot about, but this part of Aaron is a very real part of our lives. 

I think many of us have those areas of our lives that we want to keep more or less hidden.  I’m very thankful for family and friends that I can confide in…those that I know pray for us.  There are ways that I know I need to be more open.  Maybe that will give others the courage to do the same.

Life is just hard right now on so many levels for all of us.  Satan really wants to discourage and defeat us in whatever way he can. 

But I want to look at this life we live and see God’s glory, His hand, His light over every bit of it.  I don’t want to focus on that dark part. 

I want to live under the knowledge that as God’s child, I am living in “the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush.”

THAT God of Moses is also MY God.

I can focus on His promises to me, and even in the darker times I can make the choice to see His light…the light that shines brighter than my dark.

The Other Side

 Aaron recently had a tooth pulled and an implant inserted.  He’s really done well with the whole procedure and with healing, as far as we can tell.  But as is the case in every single tiny part of Aaron’s life, autism rules. 

I mean, come on, this is the guy who won’t get up from a program until he watches the credits.  Who, if he has multiple music CD’s from the same artist, will only play them in the order of their production date.  Who will not start eating his popcorn at the theater until the movie we came to watch has actually started.   Who lays his special greeting cards on the bed at night while he reads, just like this.

Who keeps a log book of the time he goes to bed every night and the time he gets up in the morning. 

And who…get this…will only chew on one side of his mouth.  And you can probably guess which side that is.  The side which had the extraction and implant, OF COURSE!!!

This was a huge reason that my stress level was so high as I thought about his recovery.  Gary and I have coached Aaron and encouraged Aaron and demonstrated to Aaron and pled with Aaron to please…just PLEASE…chew on the OTHER side of his mouth.

“I don’t LIKE chewing on that other side,” he asserted over and over.

“So start early and get used to it!” we declared.

“But I can’t TASTE on that other side,” he told us over and over.

Silly parents.

Thinking we could even remotely win this battle was as crazy as…well, as expecting Aaron to chew on the other side of his mouth.

For Aaron…for anyone with autism…there is basically no other side to any matter.  There is one side…one way…to do and to see everything. 

Things came to a head last Wednesday night.  I had fixed Chicken Fajita Soup.  Aaron had eaten and enjoyed this soup in the past, but that was before he was being tormented with all this tooth business.  He was unhappy with the soup.  He was unhappy with me for fixing the soup and for insisting that he eat some soup.  Aaron’s unhappy led to my unhappy. 

That was one side of the matter.  The other side is that Aaron was looking forward to going on our Meals on Wheels route the next day and finally getting to eat out.  We were going to his favorite Mexican restaurant to see his favorite server and eat some soft enchiladas and of course to scarf down a side salad with no croutons and with TWO ranch dressings!

But instead, he had two seizures in the early morning hours.  He stayed home with Gary while I went on our route.  I felt sad for Aaron, but honestly, I needed that alone time.  The previous night had been rough.  I had not gone through Aaron’s normal bedtime routine because I was just so tired on every level.  Instead, we simply said a quick goodnight and I sat at my desk reading some Psalms and praying. 

Those are the times that I do not feel the joy of being Aaron’s mother but instead feel overwhelmed with the burden of caregiving.

I could feel my burden being lightened as I delivered the meals to my elderly clients that morning.  I pulled up to a new client’s house.  It was only my second time to take R. a meal.  She slowly came to the door with her walker.  We talked for a minute and then she began to tell me about her husband who had died a few years earlier.  She had been his caregiver for years before his death.  I was able to share with her some things about Aaron, whom she remembered from the week before.  I felt a bond with her, this new little friend who smiled when I told her that she didn’t look like she was 91 years old.   But then she talked about how lonely she was, and how she felt like she had no purpose…that she just existed.  And I told her that she did have a purpose in God’s eyes and how she had just encouraged me.

I had to run on and deliver more meals.  When I went to C’s house, he immediately asked about Aaron.  He had some things to give to Aaron.  He handed me a plastic pumpkin that was loaded with stickers and rocks that he had painted with Aaron’s name, along with several other items.  I thanked him over and over, and he told me that this was his ministry now since he couldn’t get out like he used to do. 

I told him that his words reminded me of my visit with R…of how she felt useless and with no purpose, but how we all have a purpose in God’s eyes. 

“What’s her name?” he asked.  “I’ll paint her a rock!”

I told him her name and he spelled it to be sure he had it right.  Then he said that his aunt had that first name, and how she lived a few blocks over…that she was alone and was 91 years old.

“That sounds like my new client,” I told him.

He gave me his aunt’s last name. 

And wouldn’t you know it?  His aunt is the new client that I had just talked to, who is so lonely and sad.  He said he would call her and visit with her.

This was a sweet gift to me from God, this reaching down and orchestrating the encouragement that our three hearts needed. 

For R and C were not the only ones who needed that touch from God on that morning.  I needed it, too. 

Yes, I could walk and drive and later go out to eat with Aaron.  I got to go home to a loving husband and live in the purpose that God has given me at this point in my life.

But sometimes God’s purpose for me is not easy, yet it IS all too easy to chafe under the yoke instead of remembering that God has said His yoke is easy when I wear it for Him. 

That’s the other side of God.  He teaches us so much under the stresses and burdens of the lives we live. 

He equips us for the life He has planned for us.

And He surprises us with sweet blessings when, and how, we least expect it. 

Humbled and Hungry

Recently, Aaron and Gary had both been feeling puny.  In fact, they had each been tested for COVID.  Thankfully, both were negative. 

When a family member is sick, I slip into full-on caregiver mode – which means I usually hit the kitchen and start cooking.  I did this last Monday, making a huge pot of potato soup.  It was way more than the three of us needed but that’s the way I roll.

We sat down to eat that evening, where Aaron declared that he didn’t like potato soup and that he would not eat. 

“That’s fine,” I said.  “Suit yourself.”

Gary and I proceeded to eat.  Finally, realizing that I was not offering another option to him, Aaron begrudgingly agreed to try a small amount.  Three bowls later, he left our table full and happy.

“I liked the potato soup, Mom,” he told me later.  I just smiled and thanked him, not telling him that I knew he would because he had eaten it before and loved it.

Sometimes Aaron needs to see that I am not going to give in to what he wants.  I will allow him to get hungry in order for him to learn that the food I have made is good and that he needs to eat what is offered. 

How amazing it was that the passage I read in Deuteronomy 8 happened right after this object lesson!

Moses was reminding the Israelites about the reasons God had told them to obey Him and to remember all the ways He had led them. 

And then in verse three:

            “He humbled you, and let you be hungry…”

God let them be hungry.

Why?

So that He could feed them with the manna that He provided.  There was nothing they could do in the desert to feed themselves.  He gave them what they needed, and in their hunger…a hunger he allowed…He showed them a great truth.

“…that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” 

I didn’t enjoy seeing Aaron hungry.  It would have been easy for me to rush in and offer him something I knew he liked just so he would eat.  But if I did, then he would have missed an important lesson:  You eat what Mom has provided.

I can look at my life and see that there are many times when I don’t understand the way that God has led or the events that He has allowed. 

I ask why.  At the time, a decision seemed to be wise and right, but it led to situations that were hard.  Sometimes those ongoing situations are the very ones that roll around in my brain in the dark night hours.

But I have learned to push those circumstances aside and to look at God Who loves me without fail.  And I know…I KNOW…that the hard times – the times I am humbled and hungry…are by His design and His allowance.

God isn’t being mean when He allows me to experience hunger.  He knows that in my hunger I will be more aware of His provision, and I will learn that I do indeed live and eat and prosper only through His food that He provides.

His words to me are manna and life and strength.

And I will come to Him one day, hopefully, full of His Words that I have eaten, and I will thank Him for the hunger that brought me to the place of being satisfied with His goodness.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

Our Utopia

One recent night, after Aaron and I had watched an episode of The Waltons, I had a brilliant idea.  Now you must understand that after the program we are watching is over, Aaron wants the television off.  No watching ANYTHING else when our show is over.

Don’t ask me why.  Don’t ask me to explain many of Aaron’s quirks.  He has his own rules in his own way, and he expects us to abide by those rules.  If we don’t…well, it’s not utopia around here.

Back to my brilliant idea.  During our last visit to see our daughter and son-in-law, Andrea had shared a fun song with us.  She played it on YouTube, on their big screen TV, and I LOVED it.  The song is Sea Shanty Medley by Home Free. 

Fast forward to our house on this particular night as Aaron and I finished watching The Waltons.  I wisely decided that while Aaron cleaned up the multiple snacks he carries to the family room to tide him over during our show, and while I finished my before-bed chores, that I would turn to YouTube on our new big television and listen to Sea Shanty Medley.

So, I did just that. 

And Aaron became unglued. 

Watching something…ANYTHING…after our show is not allowed. 

“MOM!!!  Turn that OFF!!” he exclaimed.

And I…being the kind mother that I am…turned the volume up a tad.

Aaron also turned his volume up more than a tad.

So I…remember my kindness…played the song a second time.

Let’s just say that it was quite a relief when Aaron finally fell asleep later.

The next night, after watching the next Waltons episode, Aaron’s head jerked around to me as soon as the last Walton’s goodnight and musical note was over.  He was checking to see if I clicked on YouTube again.

“MOM!!” he loudly said, “don’t listen to that UTOPIA music like you did last night!!”

Oh my goodness, how he can make me want to laugh in the middle of my frustration!

I wanted to correct him.

“It’s YouTube, Aaron, NOT utopia!!  Believe me, this is not utopia around here!”

But I didn’t. 

However, his comment has made me think a lot about our version of utopia.

Utopia – defined as a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions.

Aaron’s version of utopia centers around his desire to have his life ordered in those rather eccentric ways that matter to him.  We do it this way every time, people!  If we cooperate, then his life is a place of ideal perfection.  Never mind that ours is not.

But life doesn’t work that way and therefore Aaron’s utopia gets all jumbled up…as does ours.

Yet even more important is our attitude concerning this utopia idea.  Gary and I do get tired of Aaron’s ups and downs…of how verbal he can be when he is angry…of how tiring it can be to try to meet his utopia demands while keeping our own in mind. 

One evening, Gary and I were particularly spent.  We snuck out to our front porch and sat in our rocking chairs, breathing at last without Aaron’s interruptions.

But then this happened.

It was another moment when our attitude was tested.  And we have learned that it’s best to adapt to each of these moments with as much kindness and laughter as we possibly can.  Easier said than done some days.

Back to our utopia.  We have changed our own personal definition of utopia as we have parented Aaron over the years.  Our satisfaction and joy must be centered in trusting God.  In knowing that where He has placed us is where He will give us what we need. 

Let me share with you some beautiful pictures of our utopia.

The pure delight of bubbles:

The sweetness of sharing a beetle with Mollie next door:

The delight he finds in animals:

The fun he creates out of the mundane:

The happiness found in a simple game:

The rapture of all that cheese on his pizza:

Our attitude is of utmost importance.  Our attitude determines our joy.  We can always be looking at that other definition of utopia…an imaginary and remote place of perfection.

Or we can resolve to look at our utopia in the face of our special son.

Whose Sickness or Health?

Today is our anniversary!  Gary and I have been married 42 years.  I don’t even know how that’s possible, but somehow it is. 

There we stood in my beautiful home church in West Virginia, young and in love, pledging our vows to each other. 

Now we’re old, although I really don’t feel like it most days…and we’re still in love.  Our love is deeper and more settled than those early years, rooted in all the ups and downs of life that we have weathered together.

On my mind today are those familiar vows that are so often spoken at weddings.  We promised to stay true to each other “in sickness and in health.”

Never ever even once did I think of the sickness and health part as being anyone other than Gary or me.  Having a child with lifelong health issues was not anywhere on our radar when we spoke those words to each other and before God.

Today our plans were simple.  We would eat lunch out together while Aaron was at his day group.  Time alone while Aaron was happily occupied was a perfect plan.

Just before 8:00 this morning I heard Aaron having a seizure.  This is not unexpected.  I knew at that moment that our anniversary day plans would be changed. 

Later, when Aaron was awake and hungry, here was our view for a late breakfast on our patio.

And it’s OK, truly.  Gary and I are very used to these sorts of changed plans in our life.  And I am not trying in any way to garner sympathy. 

What has been on my mind this morning is that when Gary and I spoke those vows about sickness, we in reality were referring to our life with Aaron as much as anything – though we had no idea of our future.

Aaron’s life of special needs has been very trying at times.  Yet through it all, Gary has stood right by my side.  He has never wavered due to the stress of it all.  The demands of our many years in the military, his own career decisions, our moves, so many doctors, hospital stays…well, I could go on for a long time about how Aaron’s life has impacted Gary’s in particular.

But Gary never bailed on me or Aaron.  He has led and sacrificed and given of himself to both me and Aaron over and over and over.

So our vows, as I ponder them this morning, have taken on an even sweeter meaning to me. 

Staying true in our son’s sickness and health is indeed the greatest gift of love that I have been given by my husband…my husband of 42 years!! 

Happy Anniversary, Gary!   I love you so much. 

We’ll do a rain check on our lunch. 

Aaron’s Prayer

Last week Aaron was extra grouchy every morning when it came time to get out of bed.  Nothing I said or did made a difference.  Nothing Gary said or did made a difference, either.  So, it seemed we were stuck in perpetual morning grouchiness.

Believe me, Aaron can re-define what it means to display said grouchiness.  Can he ever! 

I have many AAAAAHHHHHH moments when he is on that level of refusal to get out of bed.  Aaron can be very verbal, and not in a nice way, when he is tired and sleepy at the beginning of his day.

Therefore, I sometimes tell him that I am done and then I disengage.  I don’t respond to his words or his demands, and I tell him that the decision about his day is his to make.  He eventually settles down and all is well.

Last Thursday, our Meals on Wheels delivery day, saw Aaron once again very angry about getting out of bed.  I quickly decided to get off that path, telling him that I would go without him and proceeding to get ready to leave.

Aaron could not bear that thought.  As we drove to the senior center a while later, Aaron’s mood improved.  His music made him happy as did the thought of eating lunch at a restaurant after our deliveries.

Aaron was very helpful and he enjoyed seeing our clients, as well as the various dogs and other animals that we have come to know. 

“Mom, did I do good today?” he asked as we finished at our last house.

I assured him that he did just fine, and he smiled happily as he rubbed his hands together.

Soon we were at Jose Pepper’s being pampered by Emily, our server that we have come to know.  She loves Aaron and is excellent with him.

We were munching on chips and salsa, along with a free espinaca, when Aaron’s salad arrived. 

“OK,” Aaron said, “let’s pray.”

I love it when the praying part is his suggestion.  I also love it when he agrees to ask the blessing, which he did on this day.

Now Aaron’s prayers are always two sentences, and they are always thanking God for things.  He might say, “Thank You for the food and thank You that we got to go to Meals on Wheels.”

But on this day, as we bowed our heads, Aaron got completely off script in a very wonderful way.

“Dear Lord,” he said, “next time on Thursday will You help me do better about going to Meals on Wheels?”

I seriously cannot remember Aaron praying like that in a very very long time.  Maybe ever. My heart was so touched and warmed by his simple yet heartfelt prayer.

Aaron does feel things much more deeply than we usually know.  It’s hard for him to process his feelings and thoughts in a controlled way when he’s frustrated.  Hard for him to let us know what it is he is feeling without hurting OUR feelings.

We enjoyed our lunch so much, even if Aaron wasn’t totally sure what he was eating.

“Mom?  What’s this green stuff?!” 

Being color blind makes Aaron’s life even MORE interesting…and ours as well. 

Green food and a great prayer. 

Thank you, Lord, for those blessings. 

Unto The Least

Aaron and I went bowling this past week with my dear friend, Joyce, and her sons.  Aaron and Johannes have bowled quite often together since Joyce and I started taking them last year. 

Johannes is non-verbal but look at how he speaks with joy all over his face when he watches his ball knock down some pins.

Last week Johannes’ brother, Christoph, was able to join us.  Christoph hadn’t bowled in quite some time. 

As I sat there watching Joyce work with Christoph before and during each of his turns, I was so touched by her kindness and her patience.

And in that bowling alley, I saw the hands of God.

Remember when Jesus told His followers that they had visited Him, clothed Him, fed Him…and they told Him that they had not done any of those things for Him?

But then Jesus told them that when they had fed and clothed and visited others, they had done it unto Him. 

“…as you did it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.”

Every parent caring for children is in many ways living out these verses. 

For those parents with special needs children who become special needs adults, the continual care doesn’t typically stop at a certain age.  The needs of our special sons and daughters are ever present…and often increase…with age.

We parents might often wish for more freedom to help in various ministries in our towns or around the world, but here we are at home still caring for the needs of our children after all these years.  Caregivers are nearly impossible to find or to afford.  It’s easy to feel stuck and rather useless as far as “serving the Lord.”

But in that bowling alley, God have me a powerful image of just the opposite.

In our own homes, every single day, we can live out God’s mission for our lives.

Every touch…

Every demonstration of love…

Every load of laundry…every cooked meal…every vacuumed floor…every cleaned-up mess…every repeated conversation, over and over and over!!….every doctor visit…every crisis…every decision…every tear shed…

We have done unto the least of these…the overlooked and sometimes forgotten ones…the marginal in many eyes…

And so we have done these actions unto God Himself. 

God has given us such a precious opportunity within the walls of our own homes!  An opportunity to serve Him every day without even walking out our doors.  It just doesn’t often FEEL that way to us.

I hope that all of you caregivers out there, in whatever capacity that may be…but especially in your own homes…will know that as you tend to your loved ones, you are also serving God in one of the most daily and difficult ways.

One day we will hear God’s words saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

For Joyce, today, I say, “Well done, my friend!  Very well done.”