Lessons From the New Roof

When we moved into this house, it had a shake roof. An old shake roof, weathered and beaten. At least it looked weathered and beaten, but it passed the house inspection. Gary kept a close eye on it for the following years, especially after every hail storm. He patched a place here and a spot there. The roof held, though, so we were thankful for that and went on with life under our shake roof.

One day, though, we saw an ugly spot on our bedroom ceiling. It was a water mark, without doubt, so we had no doubt that our shake roof finally had succumbed to the latest hail or wind storm and needed to be replaced. The insurance adjustor came out and looked everything over, including the water mark on our ceiling. However, he said that the roof generally looked fine so he would recommend that the insurance pay to repair some individual spots that needed new shake shingles. We were disappointed, but what could we do except leave the decision in the hands of our insurance company.

On a Saturday morning as Gary and I worked outside, the phone rang and so Gary stood in the garage talking. I could tell that it was our insurance company, and I could also tell that Gary was happy about whatever it was they were saying. He hung up and told me the good news. Our insurance company had decided to just replace our entire roof! And not only to replace it, but their policy was to give the owner the price it would cost to replace the roof with the same kind of roof. Now a shake roof is expensive. Gary and I had decided that we wanted, someday, a composite roof, for many reasons other than price. Gary told our insurance man that we weren’t getting a shake roof, but he said it didn’t matter. Policy was policy, so we were given more money than we needed for our new composite roof. Wow! The extra money went toward a much needed bathroom remodel. We were so thankful for this extra blessing! We got a new roof and a new bathroom to boot!

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I’ve been slowly reading through the book of Nehemiah. This morning as I started the last chapter of this wonderful book, a phrase just jumped out at me. The people of Israel were reading aloud to the assembly from the book of Moses. They were reminded of how the Ammonites and Moabites, many years ago when the Israelites were in the wilderness, had treated God’s people so badly. In fact, the king of Moab had paid their prophet Balaam to speak a curse against the Israelites. Perhaps the best known part of this story is about Balaam’s donkey, whom God spoke through to Balaam. It’s an interesting and funny story from Numbers 22. But what was so meaningful to me today was that little phrase in Nehemiah 13, at the end of verse 2, as the people were reminded of the story of Balaam.

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING.”

What a precious reminder these few words were to me today! So many times we have things happen to us that seem to be a curse, in a sense. Hard things……difficult to understand on many levels. Things out of our control, like the hail and the wind that beat on our old roof. And even when we might see some reason or make some sense of it, the answers still don’t fully come. We may get a small amount of partial relief here and there, but not really be able to escape the pain and the mess that we find ourselves confronting.

Paul reminded us that “all things work together for good,” though. He didn’t say that good things happen all the time. They don’t. But whatever does happen to us as believers is under the sovereign allowance of God, and we can be sure that it WILL all work together for good. We may not even see the good this side of heaven, or feel like any of it is working out for good at all. But God has His policies, so to speak……just like our insurance company. And His policies are clearly stated: He WILL turn a curse into a blessing!! He WILL work all the things in our lives out for GOOD!!

Someday, even if it’s not until heaven, we WILL be able to look at all the stuff that has happened in our lives and then voice that big “HOWEVER!”

HOWEVER, OUR GOD TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING!

Don’t lose hope! Don’t lose focus!

God comes through on our side, for our good, every single time!!

 

 

The Wonder of Me…..And Aaron…..And Lots of Things

I went to pick Aaron up at his day group on Thursday afternoon. I waited in the van for a couple minutes, then saw Barb coming toward me. I knew before I really knew that this probably wasn’t going to be good news. I was right. She told me that Aaron was inside after having a very rough afternoon and that he was refusing to come outside. I went in and we found Aaron laying on one of the couches, crying and very upset. After some time, and moving to a new couch where he laid down again, he told the story of how he had acted……which often starts with him thinking he’s teasing but turns ugly pretty quickly. One thing led to another and the situation became something it never needed to be.

How we wish that Aaron understood that his idea of teasing is often anything but. How we wish he could control himself when he is being redirected. All the talking and lectures and therapy in the world doesn’t seem to sink in. Maybe a little, but not as much as needed. He just doesn’t connect actions and repercussions like you and I do. Reading about the autistic brain……writing about the autistic brain…….saying that I understand the autistic brain as much as I can…….often doesn’t mean as much as it should when I’m staring at my belligerent son, hearing of his actions and trying to control my own embarrassment and anger.

Aaron is often immensely funny, but Aaron is also sometimes immensely frustrating. Thursday fell into the last category.

Aaron is seeing a family therapist every two weeks. This is a new thing for him. I had high hopes that as much as he loves to talk, he would really take to this and love talking to her. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. If she just let him talk about his things, like aliens and movies and games and eating out, then he would probably look forward to it. But he realizes that she wants to talk about his issues……how he’s doing at Paradigm and at home with relationships and anger and attitudes. To Aaron, this is uncomfortable and a waste of time, so he hasn’t been enjoying their sessions like I had hoped.

This past Tuesday she gave him a paper on which she had drawn a large stoplight. The green light means that he is doing good, so keep going. The yellow light means that he is starting to feel some frustration, so he needs to be cautious. The red light means that he is having a meltdown full of anger. At the end of the day, he is to mark what kind of day he has had…..green, yellow, or red.

Aaron didn’t want to take the paper home from her office. Then he told me several times that he thought the paper was stupid. I left it alone on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday night I told him before bed that it was time to mark his stop light with what kind of day he had. I felt like Wednesday had been a green day, so I thought he would be happy to mark the green light. But when I told him to get his paper and mark it, he crossed his arms and told me that he had hidden the paper.

Oh boy.

After some talking, he finally got down on his hands and knees, and pulled the paper out from under his bed. He rolled his eyes as he put a mark on the green light, the mark I thought would make him happy. Then he picked up the paper and as we stood there talking before saying good night, he crumpled that paper some in his hand. He was simmering, I knew it.

So after his meltdown Thursday at Paradigm, and a rather rough evening at home during Skip-Bo as I tried to talk to him, he went upstairs at my direction and brought down the stop light paper so that he could mark it. I knew that he needed to put a mark on the red light, and he knew that, too.

He came down to the kitchen table with his paper, and this was what he laid on the table.

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Well, so much for that idea. How many times I say that when we try something new with Aaron!

So often it’s back to square one with Aaron. We rarely feel like we pass go and collect our $200.00. I know there are times in his life when he needs to pull back and reboot, so on Friday I let him stay at home. He went grocery shopping with me, helping me at the store and helping me carry in the groceries at home. We went to see Jungle Book, run more errands, and get him a sub for supper. We watched a little TV in the evening. It was a pleasant, fun day for both of us.

Aaron found an Elvis CD that he wanted when we were shopping together at the first of the week. He’s been completely fascinated with the songs and with Elvis all week as we’ve listened to the CD while driving. He’s been hilarious with some of the things that he has said about Elvis, like how his voice is “jiggly” and his dancing is “rowdy.”

So on Thursday, meltdown day, Aaron turned on the Elvis CD in the van. The second song that played just left me pretty stunned and with a huge lump in my throat. “The Wonder of You.” Look at the lyrics for the first part of this song:

When no one else can understand me.

              When everything I do is wrong.

              You give me hope and consolation,

              You give me strength to carry on.

 

              And you’re always there to lend a hand

              In everything I do.

              That’s the wonder, the wonder of you.

 

Aaron has decided that he loves this song. It’s uncanny. This song that speaks volumes to me about what kind of mother I need to be with Aaron has become a very special song to him as well. It’s not for the reasons that it’s meaningful to me, either, because I’ve had him tell me why he likes it so much. But he’s played it over and over since Thursday. We even listened to it with Gary at supper last night.

I really do want to be this kind of mother in Aaron’s life. Sometimes he’s certainly hard to understand and he does a lot wrong, but I pray that I will give him hope and consolation, strength and a helping hand.

Honestly, many times, I don’t feel like I’m a wonder. I feel more like I’m left wondering…..wondering what to do, wondering what’s going on, wondering how I can stay calm…..

I could go on for a long time about some of the ways that I wonder.

But Aaron needs me to be there for him despite the wondering and the frustrations, the tiredness and the seeming dead ends that we end up taking. He’s taking a nap right now and just had a seizure. He needs me physically, too.

But he needs me the most when, like the first part of the song says, no one else understands him and everything he does is wrong. I know he’s frustrated by those times more than we are.

All moms can relate to what I am saying, and especially moms of special needs kids and adults understand it all too well.

Aaron will probably never look at me and say, “Wow, Mom! You’ve meant so much to me. You’re a wonder!”

Just reading that makes me laugh. I’d faint if he said that and probably get hurt, so it’s just as well that he doesn’t say it, right?

But I will keep striving to BE that in Aaron’s life…..pick him up, understand as best I can, hold his hand (figuratively speaking, because he doesn’t hold hands much ), and give him strength and consolation.

But trust me, I know me, and I know that at the end of some of our days I’ll still be saying, “Yes, I’m a wonder! I’m a-wondering how on earth we both made it to the end of this day alive and in one piece!!”

And tomorrow’s a new day!

             

Disappointments

Disappointments.  Not a very catchy, interesting title, is it?  Not even encouraging!  But disappointments are universal.  We all have them in one form or another, nearly every day.  At my age, I’ve had enough serious disappointments that I now count my blessings when my disappointments are more along the line of a bad hair day, getting a cold, missing a fun day with friends, or not getting in on a great sale. 

Disappointments related to Aaron usually come in two varieties.  We are either disappointed IN Aaron for some reason, or we are disappointed FOR Aaron.  We are usually disappointed IN Aaron because of his behaviors.  We are usually disappointed FOR Aaron because of something that hurts his heart, and therefore ours as well.

On November 6, two days before his birthday, I was going to take Aaron to one of Paradigm’s residential homes so that we could celebrate with some of his friends.  We were going to take pizzas and have fun.  Aaron was so looking forward to it!  But he came down with a stomach virus and was unable to go.  How disappointing!  We were disappointed for Aaron, very much.

So a week later, this past Friday, we made the same plans again.  But on Friday afternoon, the plans were canceled once again.  One of Aaron’s friends was having a very rough day and it wouldn’t have been a good situation for us to be in the home that night, no matter how much pizza we brought.  It was going to take time for this person to calm down.  In fact, this client had some words for Aaron during the situation, much like Aaron does when he has a meltdown, and it really hurt Aaron’s heart.  And it hurt and disappointed us, too, for Aaron.

All of this made Aaron act out.  He banged on the car that brings him home, making a small dent in the front of the car.  He yelled at me when he got home, escalating as I tried to talk to him.  He looked in his Friday goodie bag that sat on the kitchen table, and then knocked it on to the floor.  This is Aaron’s way of handling his own disappointments.  Instead of talking about his hurt, he becomes angry.  Talking only makes him angrier, especially my talking to him. 

I had two disappointments going on that evening.  I had my disappointment for Aaron as I was hurt for him in his hurt.  And I had my disappointment in Aaron…..in his behaviors that can’t be allowed, but sometimes can’t be stopped.  His defiance was understandable but unacceptable.  I hid his goodie bag from him as a tangible sign that his behavior was wrong…..and I wished with all my heart that he could just verbalize his disappointment instead of acting it out with harsh words and defiant behavior. 

He finally settled down enough to show an interest in going out to eat dinner instead of yelling, “NO!” as he had earlier.  So before long we met Gary at Outback, where we enjoyed dinner together and especially enjoyed seeing happy Aaron return.  In fact, before we left the house to meet Gary, Aaron said, “I’m just disappointed.”  Wow!!  Victory in three little words!  Aaron expressed his disappointment verbally and I praised him for that as I told him that I understood, and that I shared his disappointment.  I shared it so much that I even watched The Blob movie with him that night.  That movie brought me to a whole other level of disappointment, trust me.  It was painful!!  But Aaron was happy!

He had a rough morning yesterday, Monday, as he returned to Paradigm.  But the afternoon was much better.  Today he got up very early, and at 6:11 I was in the kitchen listening to him talk about The Blob movie that we had watched.  I’m sorry, but 6:11 is a little early to be handling talk about The Blob.  I’m still not over that movie.

Our morning went well, and I was happy for Aaron to be so happy as I dropped him off at Paradigm.  But shortly before 2:30 I got a call.  Aaron was having a seizure.  I had just gotten home from spending the day with my elderly friend, so I was thankful that I was free as I drove to pick Aaron up at his day group.  Poor Aaron!  Another disappointment, this time more for me.  Disappointment for Aaron as he faces these awful seizures……his badly bitten tongue…..his headache…..the interruption in what should have been a good day.  He handles it so well, thankfully unaware of how sad I am for him.

This morning, as I had my quiet time, I did what I sometimes feel compelled to do.  I asked the Lord, as I turned the pages in my Bible, to give me a special word…..something He knew I needed on this day.  Today I flipped from Romans, where I have been reading, back to the first place my turned pages led….to Malachi.  And there in Malachi 3:6 I read these words:  “For I, the Lord, do not change.” 

Simple words, but I knew they were somehow for me today.  As I drove home with Aaron beside me, his breathing having that certain post-seizure sound, I looked up at the sky as very dark clouds rolled in.  There was a mix of bright blue, but coming in were the dark stormy clouds that promised rain.  Our day was changing from bright sunshine to dark cloudiness, just like my day with Aaron had gone from bright happiness to dark seizure concerns. 
 
Disappointments.  Changes.  We face so many of those, don’t we?  And I didn’t wonder anymore why God gave me that random verse this morning in the little book of Malachi.  “For I, the Lord, do not change.”  So in the middle of disappointments, whatever they may be…..and in the middle of the changes that those disappointments often bring…..we can as God’s children stand firm in God’s promise that He does not change.  Ever.

Just stop and think about what that promise means.  God never changes.  He is always the same, loving us and instructing us and being there for us.  No amount of world changes, of family changes, of my own changes….and the disappointments they bring….will ever change God. 

I’m very, very thankful for that promise today.  I’m very thankful that God gave it to me…..humbled, really, as I always am when God speaks to me so kindly and specifically. 

One more thing.  I’m never disappointed in God.  Never.  And I know that He will see us through all of our disappointments, including the ones IN and FOR our Aaron.     

Shake and Toss

I remember when Aaron was just a little guy and we were stationed in Germany.  Boxes of gifts from family would arrive before Christmas, full of presents for all of us.  It was so exciting to place the bright packages under our little tree and see the happiness on the kid’s faces as they especially noticed each gift that had their name attached.  On Christmas morning, we would open our gifts and watch with the delight that all parents experience as our children could hardly contain their excitement.  It was a time of pure joy!

But Aaron quickly learned something about his gifts.  Some of his presents contained clothing.  Others contained toys.  Toys tend to rattle.  Clothes don’t rattle.  So smart little Aaron would pick up a gift and give it a shake.  If all was quiet inside the box, he would then toss it over his shoulder and move on to the next one.  It really was hilarious.  We caught him in the act on the video that we were making.  Shake and toss.  Shake and open.  Shake and toss.  And Aunt Sandra, after seeing the video that we mailed to her, declared that she would never send another gift of clothes to Aaron ever again! 

We laughed and laughed over that.  “But wait,” I said.  “Clothes are wonderful!  Maybe not to Aaron, but to us they’re great!!”  Gary and I knew the value of  clothing for our children when we lived under a tight budget.  Aaron could care less, but he just didn’t understand their importance. 

Life’s gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  Some we know right away are amazing and will be treasured forever.  Others are uncertain.  And then there are those gifts that we want to shake and toss away.  Gifts of hardship and pain……gifts that aren’t fun…..that definitely weren’t on our want list. 

I recently received a wonderful gift from some old friends of ours.  We came to know Bruce and Glenda at our first military duty station in Fort Carson, Colorado.  Then we were also stationed near each other in Germany.  Our kids played together when they were very young.  Bruce and Glenda live in Alabama now, and are flying me there to spend a few days.  I haven’t seen Glenda in years, though we’ve stayed in touch.  It’s a gift that I didn’t need to shake!  I knew right away what a precious gift it was.  I leave today, in fact, and am so looking forward to this getaway with a dear friend. 

Another gift of mine, in his own amazing way, is our Aaron.  Of course, he’s our son and I love him with all my heart.  His special ways of living life due to his seizures and autism, however, make him a very unique gift.  Trust me, there are plenty of days that I wonder about this large gift of Aaron.  There are many times that I want to shake and toss.  I want to shake and toss Aaron!!  But those moments are always balanced by the spurts of joy and laughter that he brings into our lives.  He’s the whole package, that’s for sure!

For instance, last Friday we were listening to a CD on our way to his day group.  He likes it when a song totally ends before he gets out of the van at Paradigm.  As we pulled up to the curb on Friday, the song seemed never ending.  I had errands to run and then an appointment at 1:00, so I finally told Aaron that I really had to go.  I told him that he could finish the song the next time we played this CD.  Aaron didn’t like that idea at all, but he finally agreed.  However, to register his disapproval, he gave me a resounding hit on my arm before he left the van.  It hurt!  And it made me very angry.  Yet off he strode as if nothing at all was wrong.

I drove away in frustration.  See what I mean?  Aaron can go from happy to hurtful in a flash.  It was a time I really would have shaken and tossed that gift.  Yet I know better.  I know that God gave us Aaron and that he is indeed a beautiful gift, not to be shaken and tossed, but to be opened and enjoyed.  It sure takes a lot of patience sometimes, though!  More than I often have on my own, for sure. 

Yet that evening, Aaron bounded in the house with a little wrapped butterscotch candy in his hand.  His driver, Paulette, had given Aaron a wrapped candy and then gave him one for me.  Aaron was so excited to give me this little candy, and wanted me to eat it right away.  It was close to supper and I told him I would wait.  Aaron made sure, for the rest of the evening, that I didn’t forget his gift to me.  He talked and talked about that candy. 

“It’s one of those sucking things,” he described.  And he ran up to my desk that night to retrieve the piece of candy and bring it to me, hovering nearby until I finally ate it. 

Aaron can go from hitting to hugging in no time.  From grouchy to giving.  His gifts are all over the place, but each one I must receive and enjoy.  Well, not always enjoy but at least try to understand and appreciate.

He stood in front of me one evening like this.

 

“Take a picture and send it to Andrea!” he said.  So I did just that as we both laughed at his silliness. 

He just came downstairs this morning.  One of the first things out of his mouth?  “Mom? What do you think of Megatron and Optimus Prime versing each other?”

And we’re off and running, as always.

I’m still unwrapping all the layers of this Aaron gift that we’ve been given.  And remembering the verse that I read this morning.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen!”  (Romans 11:36)

No shaking and tossing allowed.

 

The Answered Prayer

When Gary and I travel without Aaron, we must find a caregiver for him.  Plus we have Jackson, our 185 pound Great Dane.  We’ve had some wonderful caregivers over the years for both of them, but of course Aaron is our main concern.  Those that have cared for Aaron usually move on to their very busy college lives, their full time jobs after college, or to marriage with families of their own, so keeping caregivers is no easy task. 

A couple weeks ago, Gary mentioned that he sure wished it was easier for us to just pick up and go visit our other two children.  Andrea lives in Houston and Andrew lives near Indianapolis.  I realized that I hadn’t been making our caregiver issue a matter of prayer lately, so on that evening that Gary made his comment, I began praying about it again.  There are times that we can, and do, take Aaron on our trips.  But there are other occasions when it’s best for just Gary and me to go. 

The day after Gary made his comment, and I started praying, I shared my prayer concern with a friend in Texas.  I also shared it with Andrea on the phone that evening as she and I talked.  While Andrea and I were on the phone, I heard my text message notice buzzing in my ear.  I waited until Andrea and I were off the phone before checking my message.  I pretty well stared down at it in disbelief and praise.  You see, it was from our friend, Holly.  Holly watched Aaron some last spring.  She’s an excellent caregiver, but I thought that she was too busy with college and work to be able to watch Aaron anymore.  I hadn’t contacted her at all, or even said anything to her mother who is a good friend of mine.  So what did her text say?

She said that she just wanted me to know that if Gary and I ever wanted to get away, and if we needed someone to watch Aaron, that she would be glad to do that.  Wow!  I just stood there and thanked God for that very quick answer to my prayer.  It was such a direct, almost immediate answer to my prayer that it left me humbled and amazed.  Gary and I both recognized God’s hand.  So now what were we to do?

Andrew works for an NHRA race team.  They were having a race in less than two weeks in Dallas.  Last year we went to Houston to see Andrea, and then she went with us up to Dallas for the last day of racing.  Was God wanting us to do that again?  Would it even work out?  We checked with Andrea and she was excited at the prospect of us coming.  Andrew was as well, so we lined everything up with Holly and off we went to Texas.  God had answered and provided, and we felt confident that this trip was for a purpose.

That’s when things started happening.  Maybe I should make a list.

·         Holly lost her phone on the morning that we left and had to get a replacement.

·         Andrea hasn’t quite recovered from double pneumonia that she had in July.  She started feeling bad again just before we came, so she ended up not going to Dallas with us on Sunday.

·         On Friday night, Holly got a stomach virus.  She threw up seven times that night!  And she was trying to take care of Aaron.

·         On Saturday, Holly let her grandparents watch Aaron so that she could rest and recover.  Dennis and Freda are friends who know Aaron, and they did a great job. 

·         Holly did recover, but on Sunday Aaron had a seizure.  Holly knows seizures well because of her little brother who has seizures, but we felt terrible that she was having to go through this.

·         Gary and I went on to Dallas on Sunday, talking to Holly regularly and checking on Aaron.

·         Andrew’s driver, Cruz Pedregon, lost during the first run…..3.96 to 3.94.  That meant that the team would be cleaning and packing up to leave for Indy early Monday morning…..which meant that we wouldn’t really get to spend any time with Andrew.  So we decided to just head back to Wichita, feeling the need to check on Aaron anyway.

·         We ran into a huge traffic jam south of Ardmore, Oklahoma.  It put us an hour behind. 

·         My phone mysteriously died for a few hours.

·         And I even found a lone fire ant bite on my foot….a souvenir from Houston!  HA!

OK, now I know that none of these events are life changing, horrible things.  Why am I even writing about this?

I’m writing about it because the craziness of our weekend…..the stress that these happenings created for us….didn’t seem to match our amazing answer to prayer.  That answered prayer….the prayer for a caregiver….was the reason that we took this trip.  So if God provided answered prayer and the means for us to take this trip, why did so many things seem to fall apart?  Shouldn’t we have gone to Texas and just had the best time ever, with no worries?

I admit that I was scratching my head a few times, wondering why God seemed to push us out the door.  “Go, go!” he seemed to be saying.  And then to have so many things go wrong…..things that caused us some worry and kept our minds occupied on those worries to some degree. 

I have felt like God was trying to show me another element of trust.  I know I need to trust Him when He opens doors, but then allows some bad things to happen that make me question whether the open door was one through which I should have walked.  I needed to trust that God knew what He was doing when He led me to that open door.  God also knew what He was doing when He let so many things go haywire when we needed them to go smoothly.  Or we thought we needed them to go smoothly.

Answered prayer in the way that we want it doesn’t guarantee a trouble free life.  I may never know why God wanted Gary and me to take this trip.  I may never see all the connected dots that God sees….for me, for Gary, for Andrea, for Andrew, for Holly, for Aaron.

There were wonderful memories made.  Time with Andrea:
 

 

Time with our little granddogs:

 

 
 
Time with Andrew, though brief:
 

 

We had precious talks and laughter with Andrea.  We got to see the pit crew at the race form a circle and pray together right there in the pit area….and have Andrew tell us that he and Jay got that practice started.

And we had to laugh at Aaron as he tried to adjust to Holly being sick.  “Mom!” he exclaimed.  “I didn’t expect you to have someone here who is SICK!!” 

Let’s talk about the word “compassion,” dear Aaron.  He did go to Holly’s room three times on Saturday to say goodnight, and on the third time, instead of calling her crazy, he gave her a hug.  Very sweet!

Will I pray specifically again?  Absolutely!  God loves our specific prayers.  Next time though, when He answers, I might just say, “OK, God, are you 100% sure of this?!”  J 

 

It’s My Choice

“I am NOT going to Paradigm today!!” Aaron yelled at me. 

Here we go, I thought.  This will be one of those mornings.  And it was.  It all happened last Friday.  I’m not even sure what set Aaron on that anger path, but he was on it for sure with no apparent sign that he would exit anytime soon. 

“Go away from me!” he loudly said. 

Yet he kept coming into my room while I got ready, standing there telling me angrily that he wasn’t going to his day group.  But he knew the consequences of that decision without me uttering a word.  No Friday pizza.  He was in quite the dilemma as he stood there asserting himself, knowing that the further he dug his own hole, the further away he would be from his pizza supper.  Plus I wasn’t responding back to him the way he wanted.  He wanted anger from me, which would only feed his anger.  Aaron was ready for a verbal fight, and Mom wasn’t cooperating.  I stayed as calm as possible while still being firm, even though I wanted to yell every bit as loud as he was. 

Finally Aaron stomped away, walking up the hall to his room.  And then I heard it.  Aaron threw something up the hall, where it landed on the floor outside of my bedroom.  I knew what it was without looking.  It was his watch…..his broken wrist watch.  He had broken it at Paradigm almost two weeks earlier, although the details are still unclear. Nevertheless, it was broken and I didn’t replace it immediately.  So on this anger morning, Aaron decided to focus his anger on his broken watch….demanding a new one once again and complaining about how much he needed his watch. 

Aaron could tell that I was getting ready to leave the house, with or without him.  “OK!!  I’ll go, if you’re going to MAKE me!!” he said, dripping with frustration.  I silently went to the van, where he followed me and then stopped.

“Wait!” he said.  “I have to get my watch.”

He went back into the house and retrieved his broken watch, stuffing it in his pocket.  He couldn’t wear it on his arm, but every day he had put it in his pocket and taken it with him anyway.  Today was no different.  We were mostly silent on the way to Paradigm.  It was later than usual.  Aaron was sullen and still steaming.  I was deflated and tired. 

Earlier, as my friend Atha and I texted, I had said to her, “There are times I truly wish for a normal life.”  I always feel guilty after expressing myself that way, for I know that this life is what God has somehow allowed me to have.  I want to be like Esther, who came to realize that God in His sovereignty had put her in the place she was for that particular time.  Yet sometimes the place of us special needs moms seems to just be a place of frustration and dreary sameness.  We do get tired, especially on the angry days such as I was having with Aaron.

He got out of the van, still irate but somewhat calmer.  I just drove away, weary.  But I thought about Aaron with his broken watch in his pocket, carrying it with him all that day.  He also carries something else with him, something that often feels broken.  My heart and spirit.  A mother is a mother, forever changed by the children that carry part of her with them for the rest of their lives.  Aaron isn’t the broken one, but I often am.  I need God’s grace and strength so many times on this road, and He never fails me.  But I still feel the pain in my heart, my heart that Aaron unknowingly carries with him…..tucked away, just like his broken watch.

 
Later, I walked in the house and my eyes were drawn to a very little porcelain figure perched on top of our DVD player.  Aaron and I had set it there a couple weeks earlier.  I thought of the story told by that little figure, the love it represents.

Aaron had been to the zoo on Friday of that week.  He came home, excited to tell me about his favorite animals that he saw.  When I asked him if he had bought anything to eat, he told me that he had not bought any food but had instead bought something for me.  But with regret he told me that he had left it at Paradigm. 

“I can’t tell you what it is, Mom!” he exclaimed.  “It’s a surprise!!”

So when I took him to Paradigm after the weekend, on Monday, he was very excited for me to come inside with him so that he could hopefully locate his surprise for me.  He barreled into Barb’s office with me in tow, and Barb immediately pulled out of her desk a small brown bag from the zoo.  Aaron couldn’t wait for me to open it as he handed it to me.  And there inside the bag, wrapped in bubble wrap, was….well, what was it?  It was so tiny that I couldn’t exactly tell.  Aaron was rubbing his hands together as I gingerly pulled out a little porcelain zebra.  Why a zebra?  I have no idea.  But I loved it.  I loved the fact that Aaron had spent all of his money on Mom…..even though I worried that he went hungry.  What a special, loving gift from my son!

Now it sits on top of our DVD player, where it’s mostly safe from being broken.  You can hardly see it from across the room, it’s so little.  But the joy on Aaron’s face when I opened it was huge, and so was the joy in my heart. 

My heart, like all mom’s, holds at times great joy and then at times great hurt.  As with every situation in my life, then, I have a choice to make.  I can’t ignore the hurt forever and I can’t capture the joy forever.  We all experience both.  But I can choose which to dwell on the most. 

I can linger on the brokenness and carry it with me, like the watch in Aaron’s pocket as he carried it there day after day.  Or I can choose to see the beauty, hard as it may be, that does often surround me in my life with Aaron.  Brokenness or beauty…..it’s my choice.  In every area of life, that choice is mine to consciously make.  As I deal with Aaron, it’s also a decision I must choose. 

Will I see Aaron as a blessing?  Or will I see Aaron as a burden?  Will I allow my grumbles and sighing and my desire sometimes for a “normal” life rule my thoughts?  Or will I pull back, take a breath and pray to my heavenly Father, and then choose to see the blessings?  Even at the end of the day, if all I can say is, “Well, at least Aaron and I are both still alive.”  Hey, I’ll take it!  It’s a blessing!!

On that angry Friday, that tiny zebra reminded me that I do have many blessings and joys in this life with Aaron.  Sometimes they’re harder to see than at other times.  Sometimes my spirit is very frustrated and tired…..but so is everyone.  Really, we all experience plenty of both in our lives. 
 

What will it be? 

Brokenness…..or beauty?

Burden……or blessing?

A text from Atha this morning was perfect:  “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

 

 

Lessons From the Toad

I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I watered one of our back flower beds on a very hot afternoon. I wasn’t sure what it was that had drawn my attention and so I leaned down slightly to see what had created the slight movement that I had seen. And there he was, with his head and half of his body sticking out of his little underground home. A small toad! So now I knew what had been living in that mysterious hole that had been dug in the mulch among the pink Coneflowers. I was very relieved that it wasn’t a huge spider, for one thing, and I also thought that this wee fellow was pretty cute.

 As I gently sprayed the flowers in the summer heat, my small toad neighbor just stayed where he was. And as he sat there with a little mound of fresh dirt on his head, I observed some toad behavior that I had never seen before. He lifted his head slightly as the water softly fell on him and then shook his head a bit. He blinked his eyes but didn’t seem bothered by the water that fell over his face. In fact, I thought that he was enjoying the cool shower that was cascading over his hot, bumpy body. It certainly was a very stifling day and I could imagine that he was pleasantly relieved at this unexpected relief from the dryness and the heat.

 

 

As I watched my toad’s reaction to the cool water, I thought of the times in my life that I have felt completely worn out and depleted from the heat of life’s unrelenting ups and downs. At times I have felt dried up and burnt from the stresses that this life can bring. It seems that there is no relief as day after day of disappointments or worries beat down upon my unprotected head. Yet in my heart I know where relief can be found. I can say with David in Psalm 63:1 – “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, My flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Meeting God in His Word and in prayer is where my cool, refreshing relief is to be found. He is there to quench my thirst and His Word is there to revive my dry, parched soul. Then I can say along with the Psalmist, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me.” (Psalm 119:50) I want to let the refreshment that God offers me wash over my spirit. I want to lift my head, blink my eyes in wonder and praise, and let His Word revive me so that when the heat is on, my soul is calm and my spirit is renewed. Thank you, dear Lord, for the little bumpy toad You sent my way!