The Normal Road

As I drove Aaron to his day group one day this week, we passed a big traffic accident in the other lanes of the highway we routinely travel.  We took our normal exit, only to discover that the exit we usually take when getting back on the highway was closed due to the accident.  I told Aaron that I would need to go another way home after I dropped him off.  This concerned him but I assured him that it was no big deal.

All was clear on the highway and the exits when I picked Aaron up later that afternoon.

“Mom?” he immediately asked when he got in the van, “can we go up the road we’re normal with?”

It took me a second, but then I understood what he meant.  He was very happy as I turned into our exit that we could go up the road that we are normal with.

Aaron was completely unaware that he had just perfectly described his life with autism.  And he had especially given the perfect picture of why our recent trip to Texas was full of our usual Aaron ups and downs.

Aaron wants to stay on the road that he is normal with.  Any variation of that road will most certainly be full of potholes and unexpected detours. 

The road that Aaron is normal with is only at home.  It is only his room…his bed…his computer…his games…his food…his bathroom…his day group…his routine.

His desire for his normal is why he wants to take as much of his normal with him as possible when he travels with us.  He takes more books than he will read in three years.  More music than he will listen to in the week that we are gone.  Way more food than he will eat and way more games than he will play.

And he takes way more out of all of us than we feel that we can give.

Patience and understanding are our goal on every trip, but they are often stretched very thin.  If only my scales would show how thinly I am stretched!  😊

One evening we were setting the table for supper at our daughter’s house.  I gave Aaron one fork just like all of us were using.  But look at his place at the table after he ran back to the kitchen and corrected my silly mistake.

Always, always, Aaron will take two forks and two spoons and two knives.  He doesn’t use them but what we need to understand is that for some reason he does NEED them. 

Again, here is a perfect description of living with autism – this time in picture form.

You can see Andrea’s one fork beside Aaron’s multiple pieces of silverware. 

Aaron needs more.  He can’t even tell you why he does but he indeed must have more.

He must have more than the rest of us in so many areas of his life.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.  It’s hard to be patient with him and understanding of a need that we don’t have.  A need that seems so unreasonable. 

But the complexities of autism are not to be trifled with. 

There are many ways that we as parents can guide and train Aaron, and we have.

But we must be wise in choosing our battles.  Some battles we will always lose, and such a loss is not worth it.

The road that Aaron is normal with is also a road that Gary and I travel right alongside him.

I guess you could say that over the years we have a new normal…one we could never have dreamed of having.

Some days the trip is long, and we feel near empty.

Then we see a view like this, and our hearts are full again.

Under the Quilt

I heard Aaron’s first seizure at 12:38 this morning.  The second was at 2:37.  As I often say, Aaron would appreciate that I am using the precise time. 

Not long after 4:00 I heard him rustling.  It wasn’t a seizure.  I listened and knew that he was out of bed.  He went to the bathroom and then back to his room.  I heard his door close. 

I got up and went to his room, fairly sure of what I would find.  He had changed his pajamas and was getting ready to climb back into bed.

His sheets were wet.  Bed wetting seizures are common to Aaron. 

I had him sit in his desk chair as I changed his sheets.  He watched my every move, as he is not only bent on using precision with his time keeping but is also particular about his bedding being just right. 

I was thankful for waterproof mattress pads, and that we keep an extra one on hand.  Thankful for extra sheets and blankets, and for our washing machine and dryer.

There sat Aaron.  He was flicking his fingers together as he so often does now, more and more.  There was some dried blood on the corner of his mouth where he had bitten his tongue during his first seizure. 

He kept telling me that his head hurt.  He wondered if he would have to go to his day group. 

It always breaks my heart to see him like this.  Broke my heart, too, as I asked him if he would have slept on wet sheets if I hadn’t come in there.  He said yes because he didn’t want to wake us up. 

I told him he never ever had to sleep on wet sheets.

I was finally done with his bed.  It’s a stretch for Aaron to lay down under different covers than his usual ones.

“I want my Mario blanket,” he said as he looked at his bed all covered in a blanket not his own.

“But it’s wet,” I told him.  “Here, I’ll get you another blanket to use.”

I walked out into the hall and opened the linen cabinet.  I saw the quilt that we have had for many years and knew that the weight of it would be a comfort to Aaron.

As I carried it to his room and arranged it on his bed, I was thinking about the sweet memories of this quilt.  It was a wedding gift to me and Gary, made 44 years ago by the dear ladies at Needham’s Grove Baptist Church in Needham’s Grove, North Carolina.  My brother pastored there. The women in the church had gotten to know me while I was in Bible college not far away and would often visit on weekends.  

Finally, I was finished with Aaron’s bed.  He surveyed it as he stood up from his chair.  I smiled as he immediately pulled out some wrinkles in the quilt before he walked around to get back in bed.  He snuggled under the covers, and I pulled them up around his face, a soft smile of contentment visible on his lips. 

It wasn’t even 30 minutes later that I heard another seizure.  As I stood beside his bed, I looked at that special quilt again.  Each stitch was sewn by hand…hands of women who loved the Lord and loved to give. 

All those years ago, I had no idea what our life would hold.  We were dreamy-eyed newlyweds with our whole life before us. 

And now, under the quilt that we used to lay under, lay our special Aaron.  Never would I have imagined that we would still be caring for our 37-year-old son…that the quilt that covered us now covered Aaron.

I don’t know or understand the reason for any of it. 

But I do know my heavenly Father.

And I do know that He has stitched every little piece of my life and of Gary’s life and of Aaron’s life. 

God has stitched it in order to create a beautiful work.

Not an easy work.  And not the one I would have chosen if He had let me. 

But do I trust Him?

And if I do, at what point do I stop trusting?

I either fully trust God, or I don’t.

That means, that even through tears and disappointments and frustrations and exhaustion, I trust the God Who has promised to direct my steps.

Who has promised that “underneath are His everlasting arms.”

I am never lower than His arms that are always under me to hold me up.

And neither are you, my friend, if you know and trust this God Who loves you so much.

Who gave His own Son, Jesus, to die for you.

And Who is meticulously stitching the fabric of your life…of my life…of Aaron’s…into a work of art.

I want to rest under that quilt, handmade by God.

Aaron is Still…….

Time slips so quickly away from me.  I feel the frustration of having more to do than I have hours in the day.  Blogging regularly is one of the things that continually gets pushed onto the back burner of my life.

Speaking of back burners, our kitchen is nearly finished.  We’ve been fully using it for several weeks now.  I love it!   Our second new refrigerator was delivered a week ago.  Our first new fridge didn’t work for even one second and it was an ordeal getting the company to approve and deliver a new one.  Just another first world problem.  Our refrigerator in the garage filled the need.  All our furniture is in the family room and other rooms.  We slowly are settling in and are very thankful for Luke’s diligence during a difficult process due to supply issues and being short staffed.  We have no complaints.  I will show pictures when the kitchen is totally done.  Did I say we LOVE it?!

So many times, as we live life with Aaron, I find myself saying, “Oh, I want to share this!”  Yet this life with Aaron is one reason that I DON’T get to share all that I want.  He does keep me very busy.  So, let me just give a quick update and maybe more expounding will come later…but don’t hold your breath too long.

Aaron is still an adventure sitting across the table when we eat out.

Epic straw wrapper blowing, Aaron!

Or when we go shopping.

He is still trying to get Moe, our neighbor’s cat, out from under Gary’s truck.

He is still talking to our neighbors EVERY chance he gets…and we are still so thankful for very patient and understanding neighbors who are true friends.  Gina sent me this picture and said, “I took this the other night when he was telling us all about life!”  Derek has the same look on his face that we often do!  😊  😊

He is still popping over to Amanda and Colby’s house, where she put him to work one recent night making Kool-Aid.

He is still melting our hearts with his sweet relationship with Mollie.

He is still sharing things with everybody, like making sure we took this new pack of gum to Andrew a couple weeks ago when we spent time with him at a race. 

He shares this life of his with me and Gary every single day. 

What Aaron shares is funny and fascinating and sometimes very frustrating. 

Gary and I often laugh and always listen to his abundant talking.

But the frustrating parts of Aaron…well, we still know that we need to handle that with the same grace that God extends to us…every single day.

Easier said than done…and the subject of another blog…maybe…when life settles down.

Did I say don’t hold your breath?  😊 

Planted For Purpose

I visited a local nursery a few months ago to buy vegetable plants for our garden.  I took Aaron with me, hoping that he would enjoy seeing the various goodies that we were going to plant in our garden.  But Aaron had eyes for one thing only – sunflowers!

“MOM!!” he exclaimed as I stood at the counter to pay, “can I get some sunflowers?” 

I turned to see him with the packet of sunflower seeds already in hand, so I agreed.  He watched carefully as the cashier scanned the small package, all the while talking excitedly to her about how we were going to grow SUNFLOWERS!!

We decided to plant the little seeds between our house and our neighbor’s house, near her raised garden beds.  This way, their children could also enjoy the sunflowers.  Amanda loved the idea, so one afternoon Gary dug the holes…I handed three seeds to Aaron to plant in each hole…and Aaron bent over to place them in the ground.  We covered them up and went about our day.

Aaron wanted those sunflowers to be growing the next day but growing takes time.  Growing takes lots of patience.  One day, though, we saw the tiny shoots emerging from the ground!  Aaron was SO excited!  Over the next weeks we watched each little bitty plant become more and more established.  They grew!

But not into the huge sunflowers that we have had in the past.  These seem to be smaller sunflowers, or maybe they are responding to the harsh heat and the dry weather we have had.

Then one day, Amanda texted me with some exciting news.  We had a bloom!  Later, Aaron and I walked out to the row of sunflowers and sure enough, there was one bloom.

I noticed something that day.  The pretty sunflower that had been the first to bloom was the smallest of the others in that row.  Its flower wasn’t large and impressive like ones you typically see in Kansas fields. 

Yet the happiness that our little blooming sunflower gave all of us was huge!

Sometimes I feel like my life is that of the small sunflower.  Others are living more impressive lives similar to the taller sunflowers that stood on each side of our shorter plant…lives, quite honestly, that I thought I might have.

But God has taken that measly sunflower that bloomed first and has used it to reinforce a lesson I know well in my head but don’t often practice in my heart.

Yesterday God gave me a verse that says it perfectly, as only God can:

        “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose…” (Proverbs 16:4)

God has planted me where I am for a purpose.

And more importantly, God has planted Aaron in my life for a purpose as well. 

If I believe in God’s sovereignty…and I do…then I must also believe that every area of my life is sovereignly planned with purpose by Him.

My idea of great purpose is usually not God’s idea.

Yet God’s idea is always best and right.  Not always easy or even fulfilling on many days…but always best.

I can live a life that shines for God as I care for Aaron, or I can live a stunted life of anger and questions and comparisons to others.

I can see Aaron as a weight that keeps me down, or I can see Aaron as a means of experiencing God’s joy.

I can bloom or I can wither.

And here’s the catch.  Often no one…NO one…sees my bloom.  I feel like my life has no purpose.

But God clearly says that He has made everything for its own purpose.

I am to bloom brightly for Him, not so that my bloom will necessarily be seen and admired by others but so that I will grow in grace and be more like Christ.

So, little sunflower, I am thankful that you were planted where you were.  I’m thankful for yet another lesson that God planted in my heart using the least of these.

May I live a faithful life no matter how small I think it might be.

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)