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.”