The Surprise

I was walking through our vegetable garden one day in early summer, looking at the pretty little plants growing so nicely where Gary and I had placed them.  There was the summer squash on the front row, along with some zucchini.  The tomatoes were already inside their tomato cages that Gary had put up, and behind them were our okra plants.  Cucumbers were on the side of the garden near the tall oak tree.  We have a simple garden this year, not as full as it sometimes is, but enough for us and hopefully some to share with others.

Everything was where it should be, growing as we had hoped at this point, with no visible bugs or other problems that I could see. Weeds hadn’t started taking over yet, either, so I felt content as I turned to leave the garden.

But wait.  What was this?

I stopped between the tomatoes and okra as I noticed a plant growing in a place where we had not put a seedling.  It wasn’t a weed.  It looked for all the world like……a cucumber?  But what would a cucumber be doing here, when the rest of the cucumbers were all the way over on the other side of the garden?

I hadn’t planted it there.  Gary hadn’t planted it there.  Hmmmmm…….

I stood looking at it, wondering what to do.  There are any number of ways that a cucumber seed from last year ended up under the soil and then growing again this year.  I’ll never know for sure.

But what I did know was that I would not have planted that cucumber in the spot where I found it.  It was too near the edge of the garden, for one thing.  It might get all tangled up in the okra or try to climb the tomato cages.  It might want to grow out into the yard where Gary mows.  It might not flourish under the sunflowers that were soon to be planted right there where its leaves had sprouted.

Bottom line……that volunteer cucumber was just not at all where I would have put it.  I didn’t want it there.  I could think of all the reasons mentioned above that I didn’t want it growing where it had sprouted.

It hadn’t been in our garden plan at all.  Now here it was, intruding in a place and at a time that I hadn’t intended for it to be.  I hated to uproot a growing vegetable plant, however.

“Well, OK,” I thought.  “I guess I’ll leave you here while I decide what to do.  You’ll probably die anyway and then I won’t have a decision to make after all.”

And with that, I turned and walked out of the garden……my garden that now held a stray cucumber plant.  A plant that messed up my plan.  One that, honestly, I didn’t want.

I watched that vagabond cucumber plant over the next days…..days that became weeks.  I left it where it was, more curious as time went on to see how it would fare.  And guess what?  My stray cucumber plant grew beautifully!  In fact, it grew better than the other cucumbers that I had so carefully planned and planted on the other side of the garden.

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It wasn’t long before I saw the first tiny little spiny cucumbers growing under its leaves.  I tended it carefully, pulling its curly tendrils away from the tomato cages…..guiding the growing vine out of the yard and back to the garden…..watching another of its vines growing up a tall sunflower stalk.

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The fruit of that unwelcome cucumber has been beautiful and sweet.  We’ve benefited from it very much, and so have others with whom I’ve shared.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t follow my first response and pull the cucumber from the soil!  I’m thankful that I stepped back, gave it time, let it grow, and then enjoyed the sweet fruit…..and the lessons it has taught me.

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One thing we all know, if we live long enough, is that life is full of surprises.  We can be going along just fine, things working out the way we had planned, when BAM!!  We hit the proverbial wall.  Suddenly, things are NOT going as planned.  Now what?

As followers of Christ, we’re certainly not exempt from those detours in life.  In fact, God does put situations and events and people into our lives for a purpose that sometimes only He knows.  Maybe He’ll share it with us and maybe He won’t.  So again, what do we do?

Do we try to fix it?  Get rid of it?  Ignore it?  And if we can’t do any of those, do we argue with God?  Get angry?  Get bitter?

I mean, admit it, there are things that happen to us that that we just can’t see any reason for.  Really, God?  I would NOT have done that.  I would NOT have put that situation in that place in my life at all.  I mean, maybe another time…..another place…..or better yet, not at all!!

So, God, this wasn’t in my plan.  I had my life pretty well mapped out, you know.  Grow up….college….job….husband….kids…..family…..

I didn’t plan on Aaron falling back into my arms that Sunday afternoon 25 years ago, seizing and bleeding and unconscious.  That was most unwelcome.  I didn’t plan on being given his further diagnosis of autism 7 years after that.  I mean, isn’t Epilepsy enough?  I didn’t plan on still being his caregiver when he’s almost 33 years old.  Don’t You know about empty nest?  How welcome, on many days, THAT would be?

So…..this plant that You have placed in my life?  Why did You put it there?  I might agree to it in some form…..over there, in another area, to a different degree.  Here….just let me decide where it goes and how big it grows, OK?  Really, I would never have put it there in the first place…..in case You want to know.

But oh my goodness, what God has taught me over the years from that little unwanted seedling that popped up where I didn’t plan it!

What I’ve learned can be summed up with one verse in one of my very favorite Bible passages.  Psalm 18:30:

“But as for God, His way is perfect.”

There you have it.  Eight little words that speak incredible volumes about God and His sovereignty.

It doesn’t say that His way is easy…..fun…..pretty…..popular…..understandable.

Or fast.  Gary and I are in this life with Aaron for the long haul.

We each have our own situations that God has put, just so, in our lives.  As we stand and look at whatever that is, we must choose whether to accept God’s placement in our garden or to spend our life hating it.

But let me tell you, when you accept that God’s way is perfect and you let Him be that Master Gardener in your life, you’re going to one day see fruit.  You’re going to see growth in your life that you never thought possible.  You’re going to see beautiful fruit like peace, joy, thankfulness, wisdom.

And best of all, that fruit is what you’ll be able to share with others…..especially others who are suffering.  Comforting as you have been comforted…..blessing as you have been blessed.

God does know what He’s doing, after all.  His way IS perfect, and perfectly placed, in each of our lives.

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Quit Chasing the Carrot

I was ready to take Aaron to his day group this morning, waiting on him to also be ready, and so I decided to go ahead and take our recycle items out to the recycling trash can outside.  I hurriedly passed by our Rose of Sharon bush that sits right outside the garage door, at the corner of our house.  This bush is a prolific grower, so as I passed around it on my way to the recycle can I was thinking that its branches were starting to once again crowd the walkway. 

“I need to remember to trim it soon,” I thought as I walked around it.  “It seems like I just did that.” And my mind made a note on my mental “to-do” list of yet another job that needed doing. 

But as I was dodging long branches, and buzzing bees, I was struck with the beauty of the blooms……the blooms that I so often take for granted because I’m too busy with other things “to-do”………and too focused on the work that was being presented instead of the beautiful workmanship right there in front of me.

I took Aaron then to Great Clips for a haircut before dropping him off at Paradigm.  When I got home, I took a few minutes to look at our Rose of Sharon bushes……really look. 

There is so much beauty there in each bloom.

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So much stunning color.

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Such intricate handiwork done by God.

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Why don’t I take the time to notice and appreciate this gift?  Because I’ve grown so used to it that it doesn’t seem important to me on a daily basis.  I see them every day.  They’re common, routine, old hat. 

Much like the morning I just had with Aaron.  A morning full of his routine……coffee, shower, always talking, computer, get him out the door…..nothing fantastic or amazing.

What if I decided I was tired of this routine?  And oh, I have!  But what if I decided not to participate in it anymore?  Things would really fall apart if I reneged on my responsibility.

But what if I realized that this is not just a responsibility?  My life with Aaron is a privilege……an opportunity.

How is that? 

Yesterday, over lunch, my friend Joyce told me again how she had read a book out loud to her two special needs sons.  She told me this again……because she reads that same book, or sometimes on a good day another book……every single night to her sons.  Again, and again, and again, and again……

It really hit me how wearying that sameness is to her.  In fact, she and I laugh about the sameness of our lives with our special sons.  I’ve written about Aaron and Skip-Bo…..Aaron and his bedtime routine…..morning routine……insistence on sameness. 

And sometimes I wonder, is this all there is for me?  I am limited in what I can do because of being tied down with Aaron.  There, I said it.

I mean, I’m limited in what I can do with my life OTHER than Aaron.  I can’t even commit to jury duty or volunteering because he might be having a seizure day or a meltdown day, and I would be a no-show. 

But as Joyce talked, and we laughed about the book reading, I told her that there is another side to this life.  She is giving glory to God in taking care of her sons, day after day, again and again and again. 

You see, God has given her…..and me…..and you…..the life we have.  Sometimes we think that there must be more out there for us.  If only I could do this, or do that……go here or go there……accomplish this or that like others do…..then my life would have wonderful, beautiful purpose.

When really, right in front of me, IS my purpose.  I often see only drudgery if I’m not careful.  Or at least boring sameness.

But God put me where I am, of that I am certain.  So why do I keep chasing the carrot, thinking that grabbing that “always out of reach” something will be where my joy and accomplishment will lie?

God wants obedience more than anything in my life.  He wants me to live this life that He planned for me, faithfully, here and now, with my eyes on Him and on the responsibilities that come with this life with Aaron……not with my eyes on the “what could be but won’t be.”  And then as a result, living in defeat and frustration and anger because I can’t catch that carrot.

So every day with Aaron is a day to point to God by being obedient in the sameness.  I point to God and give Him the glory He deserves when I am faithful where He has put me, not when I am unhappy and miserable.  Misery disappears, too, when I am thankful for this life.

Thankfulness and misery can’t be in the same room together.  The choice is mine.

 It’s good to step back sometimes and look at the big picture……to see how all the blooms grow together into a thing of beauty……not a thing that needs be dealt with, but to be genuinely enjoyed.   

I may not even see the beauty this side of heaven, but God does.  And someday He’ll share it with me, and I’ll be amazed at how the routine and the sameness and the seeming insignificance were actually huge and wonderful and just what He designed for me and for Him.

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My Priceless New Year’s Gift

I was sitting by our Christmas tree this morning, knowing this is the last time I’ll be enjoying its soft beauty this year.  And it hit me.  Everything I do today will be the last time I do “that” this year, because tomorrow is a whole new year!  My brain, fuzzy from another long seizure night with Aaron and waiting for my first cup of coffee to kick in, tried to wrap itself around that fact.  2017 is almost here!

I’m not really as excited as that exclamation point may indicate.  I mean, a new year is always pretty cool to think about.  But life has a way of pulling us back to reality, especially as we get older, and for me my vision is narrowed to what I have on my plate right now.  I know I need goals, but on days like today, today is about all I can handle.

Up four times with Aaron and once with the dog last night made my reality at that moment very narrow.  It was the tree and the lights…..my coffee…..and the baby monitor beside me as I listened to Aaron after he returned to bed, my ears jumping into alert mode at each change in his breathing.

And one more thing……a word.  The word “grace.”  Sometimes that word may be overused, if that’s possible, and for me may lose its full meaning.  But this morning that word kept going through my tired mind.

Two meanings of this word popped up on my handy phone dictionary app.  They are:

1)      The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

2)      The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Perhaps my favorite grace passage in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  I was drawn to that this morning, and though I know it pretty well by heart, I made myself actually walk upstairs to get my Bible.  Really, walking up the stairs took some effort this morning.  I felt like I should copy Aaron, who earlier went up the stairs monkey fashion on all fours, as he often does.

Anyway, Bible in hand, I sat down and opened to these familiar verses.  Paul had been given his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was…..and three times he implored God to take it away.  Implored…..past tense.  It seems that Paul was done with asking God to remove it, and was now able to say in the next verse that God “has said,” meaning that there was an ongoing result of God continuing to say these truths to Paul:

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

One thing I had written beside these verses in my Bible, my memorial stone, was simply:  “Feb. ’92, Aaron.”  That was the terrifying day in Germany, 25 years ago, when Aaron had his first big seizure.  I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon in our kitchen in military housing…..the terror of him falling backward into my arms…..blood coming from his mouth as he seized and I screamed for Gary……the frantic phone call……the ambulance……the German children’s hospital…..language barriers with doctors…..so much to absorb and to understand and to fear.

But God was there with us bringing His unmistakable peace and calm, due only to His grace.  It had nothing to do with Gary and me being strong, or having a certain personality, or any of that “me” stuff.  I was a momma wreck!  It was totally God pouring out His strength…..His grace…..onto and into me.

So here I was this morning, 25 years later……TWENTY FIVE!!!!…….and God pulled me back to these memorial verses.  Nothing has changed.  Aaron had four hard seizures last night.  God has not taken away this thorn, this reality, this sadness in Aaron’s life and in ours.  But he has, over and over and over again, shown us His grace….His love……His favor…..His strength…..in the middle of our pain and our struggles.

So am I, like Paul, “well content” with this weakness that God has given our Aaron and us?   That phrase means “to take pleasure in.”  Well, no.  I can’t honestly say that I take pleasure in Aaron’s seizures or in his autism.  But I must look beyond all that list of things Paul mentions “taking pleasure in,” and look at those words, “for Christ’s sake.”

For my whole life, really, is to point to Christ.  That’s what following Him is all about, after all.  And if I could handle it all myself, I wouldn’t need Him.  But I DO need Him!!  And therefore, what Paul said is so true.  “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Strong because God makes me that way, and He makes me that way only because of His grace.  Back to that word again…..grace……the outpouring of His favor and strength upon me.

So I just found my resolve for this new year.  It’s to come back to the realization that I can’t change a thing, but I don’t need to change a thing.  Recognizing my sorrow and my pain isn’t meant to point to me and to make me the focus.  It’s to point to Christ and to talk about His grace through it all.

“So that the power of Christ may dwell in me,” Paul said.  That word “dwell” means “to pitch a tent.”  Christ’s power is here for the long term, for me, as I rely on Him and trust Him in the hard times and thank Him through all of it.

His grace is here for all of us who follow Him.  What a priceless gift!  So I close with the words of this old song written by Don Moen, perfect for this new year ahead.

 

                     He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

 

His grace is such a gift!  And so is our Aaron.

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I Almost Missed It

A little after 6:00 yesterday morning, I heard a loud thump coming from Aaron’s room.  I opened his door to find him lying on the floor beside his bed.  He had obviously fallen out of bed, but why?  I didn’t hear a seizure, so I assumed that he had just been too close to the edge of his bed and ended up tumbling out onto the floor.  But he wasn’t waking up and I was wondering what had happened.  He’s too big for Gary and me to lift, so I had to leave him there after checking him for injuries and hope that he woke up soon.

He did awaken and climb back into bed.  Later, when he got out of bed and had taken his shower, he came into my bathroom where I was readying for the day.  “Mom,” he said in a low voice.  “I don’t feel well.  My head hurts.”

I looked at him and saw a red mark on his forehead where he had hit his head on the lower shelf of his nightstand when he fell out of bed.  Poor Aaron.  Sometimes it seems that if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen to Aaron.

After talking to him for a few minutes, I decided to let him stay home for the day.  I was mentally shifting gears then as I rearranged my schedule somewhat, knowing that Aaron would be home.  It’s really not a life changing big deal, usually, to keep Aaron at home on days that I don’t plan on him being home.  But I do have to shuffle some things around that are on my list for that day.  Like I said, not a big deal on most days……but it can be an inconvenience. 

There’s another element, too, in keeping Aaron at home.  I’ll be honest…..I enjoy my alone time and am refreshed during my breaks from Aaron.  I feel selfish to say that, but all parents understand what I mean.  As I make a decision to keep Aaron with me all day, I know that I might end up frustrated as the day progresses.  He likes to shadow me all day between his times on his computer, talking constantly about things that either don’t interest me or that I have heard over and over and over. 

It’s at those times that I know I have a decision to make…..basically, be content or be miserable.  Be understanding or be irritated.

I was thinking about these things this morning as I heard a man on the radio talking about his unplanned health issues that have severely impacted his life.  He said that he has learned not to let his joy be dictated by his circumstances.

On a much, much smaller scale, that is the decision I faced yesterday.  And it’s the decision that I face on many days, not just concerning Aaron, but concerning every aspect of my life. 

Do I allow my circumstances to dictate my joy……or do I let God dictate my joy even IN my less than ideal circumstances?

God tells me to be content in every situation, with thankfulness to boot.  I don’t even want to tell you how many times I mess that up!

I thought back on yesterday with Aaron and was struck by what I would have missed had I not kept Aaron at home…….other than tons of talk about the movie Battle Los Angeles; his new delight in playing Battleship on his computer as he expounds on EVERY. SINGLE. WEAPON.; and whether Charlie Daniels is from the north, the south, or the west, and is he a cowboy singer or a country singer; and so much more.  Really.  Much, much more.

So what would I have missed?

I would have missed his heartfelt hug, so rare on most days from Aaron.

I would have missed him at lunch, saying, “I’ll wait for you to eat with me, Mom, so we can pray.”  Then holding his hand and listening to HIM pray his simple, sweet prayer.

I would have missed him asking if he could do the watering of my porch plants.  Look at his tongue!  🙂

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I would have missed him going with me to Dillon’s, where he asked if he could buy two thank-you cards for Barb and Brandy at Paradigm.

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I would have missed watching him prepare those cards, and ask if he could include a Papa Murphy’s coupon in each one.

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I would have missed the opportunity for God to once again speak through these simple things to my sometimes stubborn, selfish heart.  I am living the life that God planned for me.  It’s not a bad life at all, but not necessarily the path of life that I would have chosen if I had been given the option to plan it all myself.  I mean, I’m the age where I should be an empty nester and have freedom…..right?

Nope.  Not at this point, and maybe never.  But there is so much joy, even in the frustrations, because I have learned that God is good and His plan is good.  HIS plan……not mine, always. 

So yeah, my circumstances should not dictate my joy.  My joy is dictated by God IN my circumstances. 

Being thankful is a huge part of my joy.  It’s really the key that opens the door to joy, but it’s the hardest thing to do sometimes.  It’s pretty cool that Aaron wanted to buy those thank-you cards yesterday.  I need one to continually hand to God, every day, many times.

I bet Aaron could help me with that.

Oh wait……he already has.   

 

Simple is Good

I can hear our Kansas wind outside blowing like crazy. We’ve had several days in a row of very strong winds, typical for flat Kansas. I can also walk by a mirror and see that I’ve been out in the wind as I look at my fly-away hair!! The winds remind me of living with Aaron in many ways. He’s like shifting winds most days. We never know what we’ll wake up to find with Aaron as far as his mood or his physical state or his general attitude.

Lately, though, he’s been mostly very happy. I wrote about that a couple blogs ago. It’s been fun for us to experience, and definitely a relief for the staff at his day group, I’m sure.

But I should have known that on the very next day after posting my happy blog, Aaron woke up in a mostly grouchy mood. Why does that happen? Anyway, he kept coming into the bathroom where I was putting on my makeup, fixing my hair, and doing all my getting ready things that morning.

“Mom, can you hurry?” he impatiently asked.

“Mom, why are you taking so long?”

“Mom, did you clean my glasses?”

“Mom, why aren’t you ready?”

I know that when he’s like this it’s better to mostly ignore him instead of returning his impatience, so that’s what I did. But not before I made one observation.

“Aaron,” I said. “You were so happy yesterday. So why are you angry this morning? What happened during the night?”

He just stood there and stared at me. I continued with my face preparation as he stared. Then he simply turned and walked out of the bathroom.

Soon he was back, of course.

“Well, All Star is boring!” he informed me. “I found that out during the night.”

It was really hard not to laugh. So that’s what he found out during the night? That All Star Sports, their activity for that day, was boring? Since when?!

Aaron went on to his day group and he had a reasonable day, from what I was told. I went in to his day group with him to talk to Barb about whether Aaron and I could take supper over to one of their residential homes on Friday. Aaron’s best friends, all girls, live there and he had been wanting to go back there again as we have done in the past. It cheered him up to have that planned at last. This was on Wednesday.

The next night, Thursday, Aaron had two hard seizures during the night. He stayed home on Friday, feeling crummy, but wondering over and over if we could still go to “Shawna’s house,” as he calls it. He insisted on going to get a few groceries with me, walking like a zombie through the store. He slept off and on during the day, but had no more seizures. We did take chicken enchiladas and No Bake Cookies to his friend’s house. I was so thankful that it worked out for Aaron to do that. He slept all the way there and most of the way home, but he had a good time at their house as we sat around the table, eating and talking. The girls had missed him that day at Paradigm, and they were so sweet…..rubbing his back and asking him how he felt. Each of them has significant special needs, so it’s just very touching to see them worry about Aaron.

Aaron was in bed a little after 8:00 that night, totally exhausted. But he kept coming back downstairs to be sure that it was OK for him to go to bed so early. It was fine with us, but not so much for Aaron and his rigid schedule. Bedtime is 10:00 or later!! Not 8:00!! But he slept for 12 hours and woke up a new person.

A very new person!!

Look at what Aaron did with Gary and I on Saturday.

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Aaron, who resists most work…..and definitely yard or garden work….actually got outside with us and helped!!

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And he helped happily!!

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He gathered up the big Crepe Myrtle limbs that I pruned, and he pulled up old tomato stakes with Gary in our garden.

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And Jackson supervised all of us.

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It was a really a pleasant afternoon, and a surprising one for us as we watched Aaron willingly help.

Simple pleasures mean the most to us. The warm sunshine, the fresh air, trying to find the pecking woodpecker we heard, laughing at Jackson encounter our neighbor’s trying-to-be-brave cat, and ending the day with a simple supper…..Wheel of Fortune and Blue Bloods…..and a couple games of Skip-Bo.

The older we get, the more we know that simple is good. Simple is better for Aaron. And the things that make him happiest inevitably do the same for us as well.

Contented New Year!

I decided last night to sit by our Christmas tree and do a little reading by the soft glow of the lights and a table lamp nearby.  The tree will be down soon, although I’m resisting that notion.  The rush before Christmas and the craziness during Christmas doesn’t afford many opportunities to just sit quietly by the tree, relishing its beauty and enjoying its warmth.  Now the seasonal rush is over and I’m not wanting to part with my tree.  But I must.  It’s a new year…..a new season…..and normal life returns. 

The book I was reading is authored by Richard Swenson, MD.  The title is Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm.  This title makes me smile as I think of our life with Aaron, which is rarely calm.  God has much to teach me and I wonder if I will ever learn.  I recently read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which stresses the importance of gratefulness.  Swenson’s book is similar, but develops the issue of being content despite our surroundings.  Here is a quote I read last night:

“The best kind of contentment, the truest kind, is a state of feeling unencumbered.  It is a state of absence of fear or anxiety about what we own or don’t own.  It is about freedom from comparison, regardless of what our neighbor has.  It is about lack of pretense, so devastating to authenticity and so tedious to maintain.  And the best kind of contentment, the very best, is divorced from circumstances.”

My circumstances so often dictate my mood, and there in the bullseye of my life…..my circumstances…..stands Aaron.  We love Aaron.  We have chosen to keep Aaron at home at this season of his life.  Yet living with Aaron is like riding a roller coaster as we experience the highs and lows of his health and behavior issues.  This holiday of Christmas highlights all of Aaron’s needs and emotions like no other.  He’s excited, happy, overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated….just like the rest of us.  But he certainly doesn’t contain or handle those emotions, most of the time, in ways that are acceptable.

Aaron is like our gifts under the tree, all different shapes and sizes and wrapped in various colors and designs of paper.  We have the giving side of Aaron that makes us proud, but can also cause some trouble.  The Friday before Christmas, Aaron and I went back to see his six friends at their residential home.  We took pizza again, and also took them some Christmas gifts.  Aaron was so happy to do this, as he loves to give.  He helped me put the gifts in bags the night before, turning up his nose in disgust at the yucky lip gloss and body wash.  We laughed and had a great time, as we also did when we visited the girls and gave them their gifts. 

Aaron also gives money away at his day group, which is not allowed.  It’s a nice gesture from Aaron, but it isn’t what he is supposed to do.  It gets out of hand.  I sometimes let him take some gum that he can give away, or cookies, but giving others his money is something that Aaron has always wanted to do, even as a little boy.  We dealt with that issue cropping up again over Christmas as well. 

We have Aaron’s health issues to always monitor as we listen for seizures during the night or when he naps.  Thankfully, he didn’t have any seizures that we know of during Christmas.  But he broke out in some ugly bumps, so on the Monday before Christmas I took him to the doctor.  Gary was off that day, and we were going to take Andrea and her boyfriend Kyle to lunch and a movie.  We were looking forward to that so much, but instead I found myself seeing to Aaron’s needs once again.  And once again I had a choice to make concerning that persistent issue of contentment, despite my circumstances.  Sure enough, Aaron had a staph infection and so I was glad I had taken him in, but still disappointed about our change of plans. 

Aaron’s behaviors come in assorted shapes and sizes, and can change quickly.  Life is pretty stable with Aaron at home on a normal day, but when he goes to his day group he becomes loud and full of behaviors.  The same is true at home over Christmas, with all the change in his routine and the house full of people.  Aaron has to share his time with others and his structured world is turned upside down.  All the talking and laughing and extra noise is often overwhelming to him.

Andrea’s boyfriend, Kyle, was here for the whole week.  We were concerned about how Aaron would react to him.  But Kyle was a natural with Aaron, treating him as an equal and being totally comfortable around him.  What a relief!  Kyle certainly passed the Aaron test!  Even when Aaron became unkind, Kyle didn’t show any reaction and he understood.  Aaron insisted on playing Christmas Bingo with us, which he usually detests, and also even played the Hershey’s Kiss game…..trying to open the kisses while wearing bulky silicone gloves.

Aaron can’t stand the silliness of games and parties, so playing these games was a stretch for him.  Aaron targeted Kyle during the first Bingo game he played with us, being rude to Kyle as he blamed him for his own discomfort and frustration.  The next time Aaron played with us, the following night, he did much better.  And during Skip-Bo, while there was the noise of Star Wars being watched by Andrea and Kyle in the background, Aaron became very bothered by the lack of his usual quietness as we played. 

“I wish Kyle would leave this house!” Aaron said, over and over. 

“But Aaron,” I replied.  “You like Kyle and you’ve had fun with him.  Let’s talk about what’s really wrong.  You just don’t like all the extra noise and things being so different right now.  Right?”

“I wish Kyle would leave this house!” came Aaron’s response. 

Sigh.

Aaron also had similar comments toward friends of ours that spent the night with us this week.  He went from making them laugh the night before to being disrespectful the next morning.  I understand the reasons because I understand how Aaron thinks, but it’s still very embarrassing.  Thankfully, Dawn has a special needs daughter who also gets overwhelmed, but still…..

There go my circumstances again!  And the choices I must make, and often fail at doing so correctly.

Up and down!

And there were many good moments…..special times with Aaron as he enjoyed the week of Christmas.  He LOVES Andrea’s dogs, and they generally tolerate him pretty well.  Christmas morning was especially sweet with Aaron and Darcy.

And Aaron makes us laugh with many of his comments, of course, and his actions.

So here we are, with memories of Christmas still fresh and with a new year just beginning.  I need to find Aaron a new autism doctor…..need to think about all those day group behaviors and why he acts that way there……monitor his sodium levels…..deal with the seizures and the meds that help, but also cause some of his behaviors…..and much, much more.

And to work on my own contentment, like the Apostle Paul said, in whatever state I am….to be content.  In a state of sadness, or a state of frustration, or fear, or embarrassment, or turmoil, laughter and joy…..

Swenson says, “Contentment is our glad submission wrapped in God’s providence.  The doctrine of providence explains that God has a plan, and that it is a perfect plan.  Since He is all-powerful, it is impossible for us to thwart the plan.  We either accept it or we kick against it, but regardless, the plan goes forward.”

Yep.  Just like Aaron goes forward, and we experience the highs and lows, the ups and downs….often hanging on for dear life. 

Instead of Happy New Year, I wish for myself a Contented New Year, despite whether I am feeling happy or not.

And so I wish that for each of you as well.

Contented New Year, everyone! 

  

From God’s Heart to My Lips

Was it just last weekend that I flew home from a wonderful vacation week in Alabama?  It seems much longer than a week.  There are reasons for that.  But first, I did enjoy a great time of relaxing with my dear friend Glenda in her beautiful home.  Bruce and Glenda are friends of ours from way back.  Gary and I met them at Gary’s first assignment following his graduation from flight school in 1983.  We did lots of life together in Colorado Springs while stationed at Fort Carson, and then later as we both lived in Germany.  It had been 23 years since we last saw each other.  Bruce and Glenda very kindly flew me to Alabama for several days of rest and relaxation.  We took up right where we left off, too, not missing a beat.  Glenda and I talked a blue streak last week, and I think we pretty well caught up on everything.  It was really a refreshing time for me.

In the airports and on the planes, I finally finished reading Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  What a challenging book this has been for me!  Challenging me to be thankful….grateful…..in all situations.  Our friends, Kurt and Jill Grier, gave me this book while Aaron was in the hospital last June.  What a perfect setting for this insightful book to be given! 

So flying home last Saturday, I finally finished this book.  At the very end, Ann wrote this:  “Every breath’s a battle between grudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy.”  There is a reason that God let me read that line on that day…..the day I was flying home…..to life at our house.

I heard him before I saw him.  I was near the escalator in our beautiful new Eisenhower Airport here in Wichita.  Home at last.  I was focused on that down escalator when I heard, “MOM!!!” 

I looked over to my left, and there was Aaron.  He had just bounded off of the comfy chair where he was sitting near Gary as they waited for me to round the corner.  How appropriate that the very first word I heard when I reached home was that word that Aaron says the most.  Mom!

His smile was huge as he came toward me, rubbing his hands together in great delight.  Delight to see me?  Yes, in his own way.  But more delight, I believe, in the fact that he could finally tell me in person what he was anxiously waiting to say.  “MOM!!!  I finished watching…..”  And he was off, words tumbling over each other as he told me about the latest movie he had just completed.  Aliens and battles and robots and laser vision…..all of it, coming out in a loud rush. 

He had no interest in my trip home.  He only cared that I WAS home.  He did give me a hug as I reached out to him, but he didn’t stop talking.  Gary and I hugged and kissed to our typical background music of Aaron’s constant talking.  We’ve learned to jump in quickly between his words in order to say our own to each other. 

There is no slow re-entry into life with Aaron.  He blows in with no interruptions allowed, words and hands flying, expecting us to show great interest.  And we opened the door at our house to our large dog, to Aaron following and talking, to trick-or-treaters, to the time change, and to me coming down with a stomach bug that evening.  Interesting.  What was that quote I had just read?

It gets better.  And let me again quote dear Alice Zwemke:  “I’m not complaining.  I’m just reporting.”  This week….

On Monday I took Aaron to the dentist for a cleaning.  A small cavity was found.  On Tuesday, I took him back to the dentist for a filling.  He was a little sullen and quiet (thankful for the quiet part!) on Monday, but on Tuesday he was full of smiles and talk.  He even carried in his Happy Spider from Hawaii that Glenda had sent him, and kept Happy Spider on his lap while he got his tooth repaired. 

 
By that evening, Aaron still had a crooked smile from his tooth procedure.  The dentist said not to worry, and sure enough by that night he had returned to normal.  So on Wednesday he was able to finally return to Paradigm, his day group, even though he complained of not feeling well.  That afternoon he had a big seizure there, so I went to pick him up, carrying clean clothes since he was incontinent during this seizure.  He had another seizure shortly after going to bed that night. 

On Thursday, he woke up with my stomach virus that I was kind enough to share.  Between bathroom visits, he slept nearly all day.  No Paradigm.

Yesterday, Friday, he still wasn’t feeling great so he stayed home again.  No Paradigm.  By the evening he was more himself, so I foolishly let him enjoy his pizza night.  I felt sorry for him because we had planned to have a pizza party at one of Paradigm’s residential homes with several of his friends on Friday, and we had to cancel it.  It was an early birthday celebration for him.  So pizza it was, at home……which he later threw up as he sat in his chair in the family room.  Poor Aaron.

And I now have a chest cold.

So here we are.  Life at its best, right?  That quote again….we must keep thanks on the lips.  I’ve been practicing that attitude this week as best I can, failing at times but also so aware of the power of gratitude that is so dear to God’s heart.  From God’s heart to my lips.

I’m thankful for our washing machine and our dryer; for bleach; for hot water; for Aaron’s excellent waterproof mattress pad; for Gary’s hard work in providing for us so that I don’t have to work; for our gorgeous fall colors to enjoy as I look out the windows or drive around town; for our large kitchen trash can last night during the throwing up episode; for not being in the hospital like some I know and love; for all of this happening while I am home and not out of town; for God’s forgiveness when I fail; for the love of friends and family…..and for so much more.

For Aaron, who just rolls with the flow….which is a pretty yucky saying right now, actually.  Sorry.  Anyway, he handles things better than most.  He’s more concerned with his routine than with his disappointments.  I’m carrying the disappointments.  He carries the changes to his routine.

“Mom, I’m going to bed now,” he said on Wednesday night.  “I’m not going to bed at 10:00.”  It was 8:23 when he laid down and I turned off his light.  But soon I saw the light from under his bedroom door.  I asked if he was ok.  He told me that he was fine…..that he was just writing down what time he went to bed in his log book.  Well, of course.

Aaron showers at 8:00 or a little later every night. He showered in the late afternoon on Thursday.  “Mom?” he asked.  “Because I just showered, does that mean I have to shower by 8:00 tonight?” 

Wheel of Fortune is still being turned on at 6:28, not 6:27, though….so that’s a good thing.  And Mom must be reminded to wait on the coffee maker to perk more coffee in order to fill that third cup before carrying them up to Aaron’s room.  One doesn’t take TWO cups of coffee to Aaron’s room.  It must be THREE cups, for crying out loud. 

Sometimes Aaron weighs us down on many levels.  But I’m thankful for the blessings that are many, the smiles that are frequent, and the laughter that comes unexpectedly. 

“Mom!!” he said the other morning as he stared down into his empty coffee cup.  “Why is there coffee bean powder in my cup?”

See what I mean?