One Thing

I’m sitting here looking at my blank computer screen, wondering how on earth to write this post.  I write better when I can be totally up-front and honest about life.  But sometimes I can’t be that way because some matters are private, involving issues and people that prevent open sharing.

Was that catchy enough?  Do I have your attention now?  HaHa!

I really wasn’t trying to reel you in with my first few sentences.  I am, like I said, just being honest.

Recently, Gary and I had a “thing” happen.  It’s easy to say the typical phrases that we often here, such as what I just said.  “Things happen.”  Or here’s another one – “Life happens.”

Yet as a follower of Christ, I know better.  I don’t get upset when others, or when I, make those statements.

“You know, things just happen,” I have often said.

But again, I know better.  I know that God is the One Who is in charge of my life and who allows every single “thing” in my life to happen.  In reality, my “things” don’t just happen…they are permitted or ordained by God.  I am His child and He is in charge of all aspects of my life.

Most often, when we say that “things” happen, we’re not referring to happy “things.”  Usually, we are talking about stressful “things.”

Gary and I have had some recent stress.  Don’t we all?  We had to make the difficult decision to put our sweet Great Dane, Jackson, to sleep.  Not long after that, Aaron had a drop seizure on our stairs and ended up with eight staples in his head.  And then this “thing” intruded into our lives.  It’s not a happening that occurred, and then is over and done.  It’s more like a dark cloud of long-term wrong that will hover over us…well, forever, really.

All these “things”…all this stuff, plus many more daily stresses…can just be overwhelming and exhausting.  But two other “things” have taken place as well…in my heart, which is the best place for God to work HIS things.

One “thing” is that my mother’s favorite verse has been rolling around in my head for days now.  It’s Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I love, though, the meaning of “be still.”  This is how I have been saying this verse recently: “Quit striving, and know that I am God.”

I can’t make “things” not happen.  I can’t always change situations.  And even if I try, the doors often remain closed.  The damage is done.

I have a mental image of being tied up with ropes.  Those ropes are the “things” that have or are happening in my life.  I twist and turn and pull and flex against those awful ropes, trying to be free.  But God wants me to stop that!  He wants me to relax and to simply trust Him…to rest, and to know that He is God.  And as God, He will handle all my “things.”

All this sounds so good, doesn’t it?  So spiritual and so right.  But how on earth…really, how on this old sinful stressful earth…do I quit striving?

God gave me a huge part of that answer over the past few days.  It’s found in the first few verses of Psalm 27.

David talks about his “things.”  He says that evildoers want to devour his flesh.  He is surrounded by enemies, adversaries, and whole armies…literally…who want to destroy him.  He was living in caves as he tried to survive.  His treatment by King Saul was totally unjust and evil.

It’s awful to be hated.  It’s awful to be the recipient of unjust treatment.  It’s awful to be on the run, either mentally or physically…running from the pain and the wrong and the hurt.

So, in verse 4, David says, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek…”

Let me stop to say that I can tell you what my one thing usually is when hard times come, especially injustice.  My one thing is to think that if I could only talk to this person or to these people, I’d tell them a thing or two!  Or on a nicer slant, my one thing may be to try to have a pleasant, open talk with them. Surely, they will listen!  Just give me one chance, Lord, to handle my situation…whatever it is…by doing that one thing that will make ME feel better.

But what was David’s one thing?  He asked God to let him behold His beauty in the tabernacle, to meditate and to dwell in the temple.

In other words, David’s one thing was to worship God.

And there is the answer to my question about how to quit striving against my “things.”

Worship.

David’s one thing that he asked of God when he was going through all of his awful “things” was the opportunity to once again worship God in the tabernacle.

“There is only one place where your heart can be healed, restored, satisfied, and protected.  It won’t be healed by winning human wars.  It won’t be satisfied in human acceptance.  It won’t be restored when you have meted out vengeance.  It will only be filled, satisfied, and at rest when it is filled with the beauty of the Lord.”  (Paul Tripp)

When I focus on God, I am not focusing on my “things.”  I am instead aware of God’s greatness in the middle of my “things.”  His power is what upholds me.  His plan, however vague and unknown it may be to me, is one which I can accept because in God’s beauty I see His love for me.  I experience His peace and His grace when my eyes are on Him, and not on my “things.”

We all have those hard “things.”  Some of you are enduring much more difficult “things” than mine.  May we all learn to worship God even when we are surrounded by our pain and fears and sadness.

Then to rest…quit striving…and let God be God in our lives.

“Quit striving, and KNOW that I am God!”

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You Are With Me

One of our worst fears was realized on Saturday, March 2.  I mean, far worse things could have happened, I know that.  Yet it was a very scary day for us.

Aaron started up our stairs from Gary’s study, but had only taken a couple stairs – best we could tell – when he was hit by a drop seizure and fell backward.  The crash was startling!  Gary was nearby and I was in the kitchen at the top of the stairs.  We both immediately knew what had happened as we heard Aaron seizing.

It was a blur of blood, and panic (from me!), and fear and realization that Aaron was hurt.  He had hit a file cabinet, actually bending the bottom metal handle…with his head!  We got him to our nearby ER as soon as he could walk, which happened fairly quickly.  Aaron was coherent and I had finally calmed down, and Gary was his always strong presence – thank God!!

I’ll write more about that day later, but after our pastor’s Sunday morning message yesterday, my mind was drawn back to one of the scenes from that day in the ER with Aaron.  Poor Aaron had a huge gash in the back of his head.  We knew he would need staples.  Thankfully, the CAT scan showed no other head or neck damage.  Finally, it was time for the staples to go in.

Aaron had never had staples up to this point.  Aaron is one tough young man.  He’s endured so much over the years with his seizures.  But these staples scared him, for reasons I’m sure all of us can totally understand.

He rolled over on his side, face away from me.  So, I went around his bed and I knelt beside him, my face close to his.  I held his hand, and I rubbed his arm and face.  The first staple penetrated his scalp.  Aaron flinched and closed his eyes.

He kept his eyes closed for the rest of the procedure, grimacing with each staple.  I so much wished that I could trade places with him!

“What more must he go through?” I thought.

“Ow,” he softly said a few times.  But Aaron was calm, strong, and so brave…despite the pain that I’m sure radiated through his head, not only from the staples but from the hard hit.

Later, as Aaron talked to various people and at various times about his experience, I noticed that he talked about me being beside him.  Even though his eyes were closed, and he couldn’t see me, he knew that I was there as I talked to him and patted him and assured him that everything would be fine.  It meant more to Aaron than I realized.

Pastor Bob’s message yesterday at church was on Psalm 23.  We all know this Psalm, including verse 4:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me…”

As we walk with God, through whatever valley He leads us, He is with us.

As I walk with God, through whatever valley He leads ME, He is with ME.

God is with me.

He is kneeling beside me…He is holding my hand…He is leading me…He is walking beside me.

Whatever my valley.  My sadness.  My fear.  My uncertainty.  My questions.  My anger.

You.  Are. With. Me.

Four simple yet profound words.

I can imagine God stroking my face as my eyes are clinched tight, trying to block out the pain of my situation.

I can see Him holding my hand as He leads me on an unwelcome path.

I can feel His arm around my shoulder as He leans into my world, urging me to lean into Him and His strength.

Even though I can’t physically see Him…even though I can’t actually feel the touch of His hand on mine…and even though I don’t understand at all what He is allowing in my life…this I do know.

You are with me.

And I am not alone.

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Special Aaron

 

No mother can ever forget the birth of their babies, each one so unique and completely amazing.  That first baby, though, holds a very tender place in a mother’s heart.  Our first baby was Aaron.  He wasn’t loved more than our other two children, but that first birthing experience was one of a mixture of fear and uncertainty that culminated in total wonder at the little squalling miracle lying in my arms.

A son!!  I remember a feeling washing over me that I had never experienced before.  Total love.  I knew that certainly no other woman could have ever felt as blessed and…well…as special as I did in those new moments of motherhood.  I know now that this wasn’t true, but you could never have convinced me otherwise during those first fresh days of holding my little son.

I examined him from the top of his fuzzy head to the very bottom of his wrinkled toes.  Every detail was so perfect.  He was so tiny and complete…wispy eyelashes, button nose, tee tiny little fingernails and toenails…just every single part was truly a work of art from God.

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Lots of years have passed since my first introduction to motherhood in that old wooden WWII hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado.  So many details of Aaron’s future, unknown to us back in 1984, have woven themselves into our own future now.  Never, ever did we dream that our Aaron would continue to be defined as “special,” but now in the sense that we often call “Special Needs.”

Sometimes I still shake my head in disbelief at that title.

Yet there is no denying the reality of this path upon which God set our steps.  Aaron’s first seizure in Germany at the age of seven led us to a diagnosis of Epilepsy.  Seizures have never been out of the picture since that time other than for brief periods of reprieve.

Then later, at the age of 14, came the surprising diagnosis of autism…Asperger’s Syndrome.  This wasn’t a common condition at that time.  I didn’t even know what Asperger’s was.  But we’ve all learned along with Aaron just what it means to live with what we call “Special Needs.”

It’s very interesting to look up this word “special.”  It’s a word that we so routinely use that we don’t give it much thought.  So, I did just that…I looked up this special word in the dictionary…and I was touched by just what it means to be special.  Especially what it means to Aaron, and so to us as well.

 

SPECIAL:  Distinguished by some unusual quality.

Our family would laugh at this one, not because we’re cruel but because Aaron has LOTS of unusual qualities.  Many days I wish it was only one.  Some are funny; some are annoying; some he repeats over and over; some are loud; some are very embarrassing….

 

SPECIAL:  Readily distinguishable from others of the same category.

Well, that’s one way to put it.  He’s very readily distinguishable when he stops in the crosswalk at Wal-Mart and holds his arms up just to be sure that traffic knows to stop!  He’s totally distinguishable when I remind him to look UP as we leave the store and enter said crosswalk again so that he looks for traffic and not at his feet…and he stops in the middle of the crosswalk and looks up at the SKY!!

He’s also very likely to hover at the door of the nail salon like a stalker, watching the women getting their manis and pedis…fascinated by the smells and the sounds…but a little alarming as he curiously stares.

He whistles…he claps…he sings.  Or he stands in the little restaurant in the Wal-Mart entrance and delights in the fact that the attendant thinks he wants to order.

 

SPECIAL:  Being other than the usual.

Usual is so boring to Aaron.  Some days I wish for boring.  But Aaron does add a spark to life on most days.  Sometimes a raging fire, honestly.  Like Gary and I envisioned Friday evening in Cracker Barrel when Aaron decided to take the globe off the oil lamp…that was lit…with real fire.  All was well.  Nothing to see here, people at the table beside us.  Move on.

 

But there is also one more meaning to this word…this special word.  And this meaning is by far my very favorite.

 

SPECIAL:  Designed for a particular purpose.

You see, Aaron was indeed designed by God, just as much as all the other babies ever conceived.  He was designed for a particular purpose.  I don’t always live in that reality, especially on the hard days.  But I know deep in my heart that God made no mistakes with Aaron.  God’s sovereign hand made Aaron just the way he is.  It’s up to me to live in that knowledge, especially when I’m tired or upset or discouraged or embarrassed.

Honestly, one of the huge purposes that I’ve seen Aaron have in my life is to remind me of how much I need God.  How much I need His love and forgiveness and patience and strength.  How when I am weak, then God is strong FOR me and IN me.

 

Aaron reminds me to give:

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Aaron reminds me to love:

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Aaron reminds me to laugh:

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Aaron reminds me to enjoy life:

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Aaron reminds me to keep going when things are tough:

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And God reminds me of these truths:

 

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret;

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.    (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

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What Mountain?

I heard it through the baby monitor a week ago yesterday…the awful sound of Aaron going into a seizure.  It was early, early in the morning – the time that we still call night.  I never do get used to that sound.  My heart still jumps as I am awakened and then hurry into his room.  As seizures go, it was not a long one.  Hard, but not long.  The scene was repeated a few hours later, which is nothing unusual.  Only two seizures, though, which is a blessing, and which is rather unusual.  Most often his clusters of seizures involve three or more.  Yet we have learned over the years that having only one or two seizures means he might have one or two more during the day. 

Gary and I both stayed home from church that Sunday due not only to Aaron’s seizures but also because of a strong snowstorm with howling winds that was blowing outside.  This storm also explained the seizures, as I have definitely linked many of Aaron’s seizures to low fronts moving through our Kansas atmosphere.

Aaron was fine all day.  He stayed busy, and he also napped some, but there was no more seizure activity.  That night, he and I watched a television program.  Afterwards, we were in the kitchen putting snacks away and getting ready to go upstairs where Aaron’s nighttime routine would continue.  I had my back to Aaron as I readied the coffeepot for the morning.

“I feel like I might have a seizure,” I heard Aaron say.  But he says this fairly often, and rarely does he have a seizure at that time.  I was getting ready to reply when I heard a noise.  I whirled around to see Aaron’s arms in the air and his face distorting in the familiar way it does when a seizure begins.  It was sudden and so unexpected!  Before I could take a couple steps and reach him, he fell backwards onto the tile floor…just like a stiff, falling tree. 

The sound of his head hitting the floor was sickening.  I screamed for Gary, who came running from downstairs.  I was terrified…more terrified than I remember being since his very first awful seizure when he was seven years old.  Our 34 year-old son was my baby at that moment, and I was distraught.  Aaron doesn’t like crying at all, especially my crying, so he would have been very unhappy if he had seen me at that point.

Aaron will often rally rather quickly from these seizures, so we waited to see if that would happen.  Sure enough, before long, his eyes opened.  Soon he was responding to our comments as he became more focused, and not long after that he was talking some and able to sit up.  We watched and waited, thankful to see him return to normal with no apparent damage done other than a knot on the back of his head. 

I had a hard time going to sleep that night.  I kept seeing him fall and then hearing the sound of his head hitting the floor.  Finally, I slept…but fitfully…playing the awful scene over and over all night long.  Aaron slept well and for that I was thankful. 

Not only was this seizure itself of great concern, but what it might signal was also very disturbing to us.  Aaron had a series of falling seizures back in the spring and early summer, sustaining some injuries.  Are those falling seizures returning now?  And if they are, then why?  Oh, the brain is so complex!  If only we could map its intricacies and understand its workings!  But no doctor or researcher has ever been able to uncover all the secrets of what God has created in these most complicated brains of ours. 

Gary and I had relaxed a lot since Aaron’s last falling seizure a few months ago.  But now that familiar fear was filling my heart again.  If left unchecked, I knew fear’s icy fingers would replace the warmth of God’s promises and plans on which He wanted me to focus.

The next morning, I sat as usual at my quiet time desk, asking God as I always do to speak to me the words He wanted me to hear on this day.  I looked down at my current book in the Bible that I was reading, and still am reading.  Zechariah.  Yeah, I know.  What does God have for me in an obscure minor prophet’s writings?  I mean, Philippians or James I could understand, and would look forward to multiple encouragements.  But Zechariah?

Yet one thing I have learned over the years is that God is alive all through His word.  He meets me in my need in every single part of scripture…not just in the more recognizable, pertaining verses but even in the less known.  In this case, the MUCH less known.  But this aspect of discovery in the Bible is so uplifting to me!  It’s like finding a hidden Christmas present under the tree and opening it to discover the most amazing gift ever!

So, on that morning I began reading where I had left off the day before.  The people of Israel were very discouraged as they faced the monumental task of rebuilding the temple in their ravaged homeland.  Obstacles were all around them and they could see no human means to finishing the job.  Dangers threatened their lives.  Nothing was as they hoped it would be.

But…

God spoke.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit…” 

The people didn’t have the might.  The people didn’t have the power.  All that God wanted to accomplish would come by Him…by His Spirit. 

And then this verse, this phrase, is what jumped out at me on that morning.

“What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain…”  (Zechariah 4:7)

Have you ever felt like your worries and your fears and your problems are a mountain…a mountain that you can’t cross?  The concern over Aaron’s dangerous seizures was my large mountain that morning.  Scary.  Foreboding.  Impassable.

But God leaned down to me there at my desk and had me read exactly what He wanted me to read.  It was no accident that these were the verses I was on in my Bible study book.  God’s amazing grace washed over me.  Not by my might…not by my power…but by His Spirit. 

And that’s why I can stand squarely in the shadow of my mountain and say, “What mountain?!” 

God told Jeremiah, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

Does it mean that Aaron won’t have another falling seizure?  No.  In fact, the next night he did have another one.  I was close enough to break his fall this time, but it was still very scary.  But all that evening I kept thinking, “What mountain?” 

God wants me to see, even in the hard times, that He will give me all the might and strength I need.  He will also take care of Aaron in the way He knows is best.  I have to trust Him for that. 

I want this mountain to be what I allow God to use to strengthen my faith…deepen my walk with Him…and confirm my trust in His sovereign plan for me, for Gary, and for our Aaron. 

Instead of seeing a mountain, I want to see God over and above it all.  To know that He’s in control.  To be still and know that He is God. 

Oh, I’ll still be upset with the seizures if they keep coming.  But instead of being out of control, I want to remember the One Who is IN control. 

What mountain?

Indeed! 

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Remember When?

Aaron loves looking at a particular picture of me and Gary, taken back in the day.  WAYYYY back in the day, to be clear.  This picture was taken at Gary’s Army Flight School Banquet upon his graduation.

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Aaron has always said that he thought this photo was of our wedding, so I am often correcting him about that as I repeat over and over that this was taken four years after we were married.  Aaron doesn’t sweat the details, though, and he continues to tell us…and others…that here are Mom and Dad at their wedding.

But there is another detail that Aaron loves to share the MOST as he either talks about this picture or gets to show it to people who come to see us in our home.

“In her wedding picture,” Aaron begins (and I know exactly what is coming!), “Mom used to be skinny!!”

Emphasis on “USED to be skinny.”

As in I was…in the past…not the present…in the FAR distant past…skinny.

Aaron will randomly tell this bit of news to anyone who has ears, including people who barely know me.  He will share it within the context of any conversation, out of the blue, ignoring people’s curious looks and my rolling eyes in my red face.

Yes, Aaron, I USED to be skinny.  Those WERE the good old days.

I’m able to laugh as I tell this story, even as I constantly try to keep Aaron FROM telling it in order to hopefully teach him some manners or some tact.  Yet Aaron’s focus on the past…on MY past…has also taught me an important truth.

The prophet, Haggai, helped with this as well.  I’ll explain.

Haggai was the first prophet that was heard in Israel after the Babylonian exile.  The Israelites had returned to Jerusalem and Haggai encouraged them to finish building the temple.  Fifteen years had passed since any work had been done on the temple.  God promised to be with them as the people agreed to once again build God’s house.

Yet later, as they stood at the site of the temple, God knew that the people were very discouraged.  He also knew why they were so down in their spirits.  So, God spoke to the leaders and to the people through Haggai.

Haggai 2:3 – “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?  How does it look to you now?  Does it not seem to you like nothing?”

God, through His prophet, just cut to the chase.  He hit the nail on the head as He revealed openly what He knew they were thinking.  And what they were thinking was that compared to years ago, this beginning of a new temple looked dismal and ugly.  In fact, the Israelites…especially the older ones who remembered the former glory of the old temple…knew that the new temple they would build would in no way compare to the beauty of the past temple.

Who could help but be discouraged as they stood there remembering the glory that used to be, but would not fully be again?

But God didn’t just leave it there.  He continued to speak, telling the leaders to be strong, and ended by saying:

Haggai 2:4-5 – “Be strong, all you people of the land – declares the Lord – and work, for I am with you, declares the Lord almighty.  This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit remains among you.  Do not fear!”

I’ll tell you that there are times and there are ways in which I am much like these Israelite Jews as they looked at their current circumstances and compared them to what used to be.  And for me it goes WAY beyond remembering my skinny days!

Ten years ago, God set Gary and I on a path of great hurt and loss.  The details are not what matter.  What matters is that God was surely with us each step of the way.  He did indeed tell us to keep working for Him in very difficult circumstances, just as He did to Israel.  He told us to be strong even when we were tired on every level.

What kept us going?  The two promises that God gave to Israel were ours as well.  God said, “I am with you…and my Spirit remains among you.”  I can promise you that God kept His promises to us.  His strength, His peace, His Spirit, was always present and enabling in our lives.  His Word was powerful!

I love what John Mackay says about God being with us: “This is what distinguishes the advice of the world, ‘Be strong.  I know you’ve got it in you,’ from the counsel of Scripture which recognizes that we have NOT got it in us, but that God’s presence with us will make all the difference.”

Circumstances can get very ugly sometimes, but I am not to focus on what’s around me.  I am to focus on God and on the fact that He is with me.  He will not fail me.  He will not desert me to my enemies or to my runaway thoughts.

God also gave Israel a simple three-word command.

“Do not fear,” God said.

Again, John Mackay: “The Lord’s faithfulness in the past and the present is the basis for future encouragement.  It is not the appearance of the building, but the presence of his enabling Spirit that will make the crucial difference.”

Not the appearance of the building.  Not my surroundings, but rather the God Who surrounds me with His protection in every way I need.

So, what’s your “Remember When?”

Remember when:  You were loved.  You weren’t alone.  You were important to that group.  You were included.

Remember when:  You had a job you loved.  You had the money you needed.  You made a difference.

Remember when:  You had your health.  You had your spouse.  You had your children close.

Remember when:  You sang.  You taught.  You were a part.  You mattered.

Remember when:  You had your parents.  You had a family.  You laughed.  You talked.

The list is endless, isn’t it?  Life changes.  Sometimes suddenly…other times, slowly.  But change is inevitable for all of us.

What doesn’t ever change is God.  His presence is with His children, steady and stable, always constant.  He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When the past tries to capture my attention, I know I must look to today…to what God has for me today…to Who He is today…and to His promises that are true…TODAY!

And I can declare from experience that out of our deepest pain of yesterday will come our most beautiful usefulness TODAY!

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Weary

I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post, so I’m just going to start this post by telling you that I’m sitting here wondering how to start this post. 

I’m still sitting here, wondering.

So I’ll just launch into it.  Gary and I had a disagreement on Saturday about Aaron. 

There.  I said it. 

It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  😊

Aaron may be nearing 34 years of age, but Gary and I are still in the thick of parenting, believe me.  Like all parents, we don’t always see eye to eye on every issue.  And just when Gary and I think we have some situation all figured out, Aaron not only changes the rules, he changes the entire game!!

Not to sound like a whiner but parenting a special needs adult – or child – is challenging even on a good day.  Gary and I both get tired, on many levels.  What may not be a big deal can easily turn into a huge deal when we’re tired.  And trust me, Aaron can wear us totally out.

For instance, Aaron has just finished watching all four of the Jaws movies.  It’s taken him some time to watch all four of those movies.  Aaron’s current movie becomes his obsession, so lately we have heard more about sharks than we ever, ever, EVER wanted to hear.  Shark teeth, shark gills, shark size, shark color, shark location, shark diet, shark movies, and will there be a FIFTH Jaws??!!

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Please tell me no on that last one!

It’s like I told Gary on Saturday during our discussion about our disagreement…there are some days, many days, that by the end of the day, I am SO done.  Just really, completely done. 

Not done with having Aaron live here.  Not done with loving Aaron, by any means.  But just done, as in deep down bone tired. 

And so is Gary.

We talked and came to an agreement, and we still love each other.  We even still LIKE each other! 

But being tired…not just physically tired, but soul tired…isn’t resolved as quickly.  I don’t know about you, but when I get like this I tend to magnify everything.  Small issues become much larger than they really are.  I mentally bounce all over the place, making mountains out of mole hills, even when I know better. 

I sat down on the patio with my cup of coffee, enjoying the birds and the breeze, and I talked to the Lord.  I told Him I was tired, as if He didn’t know that.  And I told Him, as I am prone to do, that I sure would love to hear from Him.

As clear as day, this day that was just starting, this verse went through my mind:  “Be not weary in well doing…”

And I felt a real peace.

I got on my phone to look up the verse because I’m terrible at remembering references.  It’s Galatians 6:9 (one of the verses), and so I continued to scroll down on my phone to look at other translations and notes. 

One of the references was Malachi 1:13.  I hope you’re going to love this as much as I did.  Without going into tons of detail, God was talking to Israel about how they were neglecting to truly worship Him.  They were bringing defiled food and sickly animals for their sacrifices. 

God told Israel, “You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’  And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the Lord of hosts.” 

Israel was tired of doing the right thing.  They were tired of obeying God.  In fact, they sniffed at God’s instruction to them.  That means that they blew through their nose.  Much like I did on Saturday morning.  You know…that sniff through the nose when you’re frustrated with something. 

Don’t tell me you’ve never done it!

Sniff!!

OK, so I live with Aaron and I do get tired.  But when God says to not weary in well doing, He’s not saying I should never get tired and if I do then I’m sinning.  The “weary” in that verse means “to fail in heart.” 

It’s my heart…my heart issues…I need to guard. 

How do I do that?  By being careful not to offer God a sacrifice unworthy of Who He is.  God wants me to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and trust.  And I can only do this when I stop and realize that He is sovereign over my life…my whole life…even all the Aaron moments.  And anything else that weighs me down and causes me to sniff disdainfully.

To lay at God’s feet my worries, my anger, my sadness, my regrets…whatever else there may be…and then to replace all those things with praise and thankfulness and trust in Him.

Then I am better equipped to consciously continue in well doing…to do right even when I don’t feel like doing right…to not be weary in well doing. 

It’s a tall order for sure.  But I have a tall God who really will…and does…give me what I need, when I need it. 

There’s a promise at the end of Galatians 6:9:  “…for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” 

Our reaping will take various forms, but a big one is a harvest of peace.  My situation may not change, but God will give peace as I obey Him. 

What’s got you tired today?  Our lists get long, don’t they?  Health…finances…children…jobs…moving…rejection…hurts…church…

But through and in it all, don’t let your heart fail.  Don’t fail to thank God for so many things, and for WHO He is! 

Don’t sniff at your life but sacrifice your life to the One Who loves you so much!

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The Reality

Three years ago, we planted sunflowers around the perimeter of our vegetable garden.  Aaron was SO happy that Gary and I had finally agreed to grow these giant flowers.  Aaron had wanted sunflowers for a long time.  They did not disappoint as they grew and grew and grew that first summer.

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Last year, Gary and Aaron planted some of the seeds that Gary had harvested from our first sunflower crop.  Again, the mammoth flowers grew steadily and gave us much beauty to enjoy.

This year we decided not to plant a vegetable garden.  Time constraints during the planting season, very late winter weather, some traveling, and severe drought caused us to make this decision.

One day, though, we noticed some plants emerging from the soil.  Sure enough, we soon realized that our sunflowers had returned.  We hadn’t planted a single seed this year.  These were volunteer sunflowers that had sprouted from old seed left in the ground from the year before.

Just a few days ago, there in our garden, was a welcome splash of color.  Sure enough, one of those volunteer sunflowers was blooming.  And it wasn’t long before Aaron also saw it.

“MOM!!!” he loudly exclaimed.  “Look at the sunflower!!  Let’s go see it!”

We walked over to the garden and looked at the pretty bloom, all bright and perky and sunny.  And of course, I took a picture.  Isn’t it pretty?

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But if you take a closer look, you’ll see more than one pretty sunflower.  And most definitely, if you take in the whole scene, you will have a new appreciation for how much we appreciate this flower.

Look at the sunflower stalk.  You notice that it’s missing something.  It’s missing leaves…lots of leaves.  The deer that call this area home have helped themselves to our sunflower leaves.  We didn’t really expect any of our sunflowers to bloom this year because of the damage done.

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And look at the background behind and around our struggling sunflowers.  The ground is parched and weedy and really quite ugly.

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So here is the reality of our garden this year.  It looks forsaken and ignored and certainly not a place of beauty.  It’s drab and dreary and dull.

Except for…this.  This beautiful, unexpected flower.

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What’s your reality today?  Oh, I’m not referring to your yard or garden.  What’s the reality in your life today?

Here’s a picture of mine.

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Many of you will know exactly what we are dealing with today.  After a welcome break of two and a half weeks seizure free, the low front that came in last night also ushered in seizures for Aaron.  I wasn’t really surprised, yet seizures are always concerning and sad.  And the loud thump very early this morning as Aaron fell out of bed during a seizure was most unwelcome, especially for poor Aaron.  Thankfully, he was uninjured, all wrapped up in his multiple covers like a cocoon.

Wet carpet, wet bedding, wet clothes…really, the least of my worries.  Another seizure a short while ago, and watching closely while Aaron is up and about, are my main concerns.  I can also change my schedule today, but I cannot change this reality that is a continual part of our lives.

That’s why reading the short devotional for today in the old Streams in The Desert was powerful and moving to me.  Listen to what George Matheson says about waiting for hope:

“Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou hast made patience divine.  Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it IS His will.  Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.”

The eye of God sees further than my eye sees.  I see my surroundings in life, often ugly and stressful, but beyond what I see is what GOD sees…what God allows.

I have hope.  You, if you know and follow Christ, have hope.  Aaron may not be healed on earth.  But I have the hope of heaven, where he will be healed and where all will be perfect.

And I have here-and-now hope in God, which brings me peace…joy…strength.  We who follow Christ all have this wonderful hope, despite our heartaches and our deep valleys.

Look at what else Aaron and I found in our little sunflower patch.

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Future blooms, waiting to pop open and brighten up our dull garden even more.

Know that God is a God of hope.  Know that He will work out your problems for some good, unseen as it is now in your life.  Know that He has reasons beyond what you may ever know on this earth for the dark days you are facing.  Know that He will never leave you or forsake you.

“Strive to be one of those – so few – who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness – all mornings, middays, star-times – that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”  (Streams in The Desert)

“For I hope in You, O Lord.  You will answer, O Lord my God.”  (Ps. 38:15)

 

 

 

 

Seeing BIG!

Last Friday evening, a good old Kansas thunderstorm was trying to blow in from the west.

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By the time we were getting ready for bed, the winds were kicking up and the lightning was really flashing.  Aaron, who loves storms…especially nighttime storms…was very excited at the prospect of a lightning show, seen clearly from his upstairs westward facing windows. 

“Mom, I want to keep my blinds open,” he informed me as we went through his bedtime routine.  I knew he would want to do this.  Every time we have a storm when it’s time for bed…or the prospect of a storm during the night…Aaron wants to keep his blinds open so that he can see the lightning in all its bright glory.

I’m glad that he’s not scared.  In fact, I join Aaron in his love of watching lightning.  That’s why, after I told him goodnight, I went straight to the bedroom on the other end of the hall.  We still call this room “Andrea’s room,” even though she hasn’t lived here for years. 

I stood at the windows there, in the dark, enjoying the gorgeous light show at this perfect vantage point.  I was actually having a little worship service right there.  Seeing God’s power displayed like this in nature makes me feel so small as I’m reminded of how big God is.

I was also reminded of a time several years ago when Gary and I were going through some deep waters.  God drew me to Isaiah 40 one morning.  Reading of God’s might in creation really soothed my heart.  Isaiah said that the nations are like a drop in a bucket…we are like grasshoppers…that God stretches the heavens like a curtain…and that He created the stars and calls them by name.

A God with that much power and that much care over creation and over our affairs is surely a God big enough to handle my little problems that seemed huge to me!

These truths were going through my mind as I watched the lightning at Andrea’s windows and as I thanked God for His love and His power.  But soon my private viewing of this storm was interrupted.  I heard Aaron’s bedroom door open. 

“Mom?” he asked as I heard his bare feet padding up the hall.

“I’m in here, Aaron,” I answered.  “I’m watching the lightning.”

“Mom!!” he exclaimed as he joined me at the windows.  “I saw it BIG!!”

So there we stood, side by side, watching each streak and each flash of lightning.  Some were muted, but still beautiful.  Then would come a huge burst of light, sometimes with jagged bolts, so bright it actually made us squint our eyes. 

“There’s a BIG one!!”  Aaron would say loudly as he rubbed his hands together and laughed.

Soon he was back in his bed for the rest of the storm, his blinds pushed up so that he could fully see and enjoy each bright burst of lightning.

I’ve thought a lot since that night about what Aaron saw and what he said.  The lightning, so bright and stunning, was indeed impressive.  No wonder Aaron couldn’t just lie in his bed, looking through his windows.  No wonder he wanted to keep his blinds open so that he could fully see each flash.  No wonder he just HAD to find me and to share his excitement.

“I saw it BIG!!”

I want to see God like that in my life.  I want to see Him BIG, but not to just expect His bigness to be demonstrated in BIG events.

It’s like the lightning.  God didn’t only create the huge flashes of light.  He also created the softer, smaller bursts of light…even though they weren’t as impressive as the big and bold displays.  All of God was in all the varying degrees of lightning that night. 

I admit that I love the times when God is big and evident in my life.  And don’t the huge answers to prayer…the “just perfect” verse for the hard times…the miraculous displays of His power…knock our socks off and give amazing testimony to His provision in our lives?

But so do the smaller events…the still, quiet voice…like the little storm cloud that Elijah saw on the horizon, the one that turned into a huge storm.  Or later, how God spoke to Elijah – but not in the strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire.  God chose that day to speak to Elijah in a gentle blowing, a soft whisper.  But  God’s power was just the same in the softness and smallness as it was at other louder and bigger times.  The same God Who sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice was the God Who also spoke to his servant in a whisper.

On my birthday last month, I found myself sad instead of happy.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Nothing bad had happened.  I just missed Andrea and Kyle, and Andrew, and extended family.  I don’t particularly enjoy holidays and special days for that reason.  But instead of feeling God’s presence, I was allowing my birthday party to be a pity party instead. 

I walked into Bath and Body Works to pick up some soaps.  I always shop with a coupon.  My mantra is “It was on sale and I had a coupon!”  Just ask my kids.  Anyway, I had no coupon because I had used mine a couple weeks earlier.  I sighed, bit the bullet, and went inside to shop.  My “no coupon” situation further amplified my sad day.  Silly, I know, but that was where I was on that morning.

All of a sudden, a stranger walked up to me.  She held out a coupon and asked me if I could use it.  She said she had no need for it.  I was so amazed!  Such a simple act, but one that clearly touched my sad heart.  I thanked her profusely, and then I told her that this day was my birthday.  She was so delighted to hear that!  She wished me a very happy birthday as she handed me the coupon and walked away.  And my heart was lighter.  I thanked the Lord as I drove home for that very sweet show of love for me in that moment…both the love shown by a stranger…and the love shown to me by my Heavenly Father.  For I knew, in that very common and small gesture, that God was reminding me of His love and care for me.

I saw Him BIG in that little act!

Sometimes God shows Himself big here at home, in common events that I often see.  Yet what I don’t always see is the bright touch of God.  The commonplace can all too often hide God’s touch…not because God isn’t showing Himself to be there…but because I too often keep the blinds of my heart closed.  I just don’t pay attention to what He is wanting me to see.

Aaron had a seizure at the supper table one recent night.  Gary and I had worked all day on projects around the house.  We were both dirty and tired, especially Gary.  When Aaron suddenly started seizing, Gary immediately went to his side and held him so that he wouldn’t fall out of the chair.  Thankfully, Aaron was safe.  As he came out of the seizure and was more aware of his surroundings, Gary knelt down by Aaron’s chair and just talked to him.  The look in Aaron’s eyes as he looked into Gary’s eyes was just precious.  I snapped this picture.

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As I have looked at it, I realize that right there was God’s big love shining out of Gary to his son.  I am so thankful for this husband who walks beside me in life, and who also kneels down to care for our Aaron. 

And also grateful that I looked through the open windows of my heart, blinds up, and saw what I know God wanted me to see.  His power and love was shining through Gary to Aaron, and also to me.  What a gift, all too often taken for granted!  Just like the Kansas storms that we get accustomed to seeing and hearing, so I can get accustomed to the care of this good man that God has given me. 

Oh God, may I “see it BIG,” every day.  May I see YOU…BIG…in the joys and the sorrows; in the small and the large; in the friend and the stranger; in the familiar and the new; in the mundane and the unique; and in our home, all around me, every day.   

 

Unknown Ground

I wrote last Thursday about my mostly happy, musical day with Aaron.                    Singing We Go

But there was also the issue of his wet bed, which I thought was due to him drinking too much water before bed.  Pretty sure I was wrong.

Aaron’s new seizure pattern and the hard end to our mostly happy day certainly pointed to that reality.

I was cleaning the kitchen after we ate a late supper.  Aaron walked through the kitchen and then I heard a noise.  I looked over and saw him face-planted on the kitchen table.  What on earth?  I thought he had stumbled and fallen on the table.

“Aaron,” I asked as I headed toward him.  “Are you OK?”

That’s when I saw him falling over and I knew that he was seizing.  I yelled for Gary as I ran to Aaron, catching him somewhat as he hit the chair and then went down on the floor.  Gary helped break the fall, too, and then got a pillow for Aaron’s head as the seizure continued for awhile and then eased.

I knew, as I watched him, that Aaron must have had a seizure during the night…a seizure I didn’t hear.  This is his new pattern.  A low front with storms came through during the night.  Every seizure in the past 2+ months have come during low fronts, with one seizure at night and then one or more seizures the next day while he’s up and about, out of nowhere.

All this academic stuff, though, did nothing for my racing heart and the feeling that I had been punched in the gut.  Just looking at Aaron as he lay on the floor was heart-breaking, to say the least, and was a very unwelcome confirmation to us of this new chapter in his seizure journey.

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“What are we going to do?” I asked rhetorically to Gary as we stood in the kitchen.

“I don’t know,” he answered, wearily.  “This is unknown ground to us.”

And as quickly as Gary said those words, God spoke to me.  I don’t say that lightly.  But I know that it was God speaking His words of hope to me…to us…as surely as I know Gary’s voice.

“It may be unknown ground,” God said.  “But I have told you that I know the path that you take.”

Such comfort washed over me at that moment!  I mean, I still felt the physical effects in my stomach from the fear of seeing Aaron fall.  I felt weak and teary-eyed and worried.  But really, the “peace that passes understanding” kept rolling over me as I thought of those words: “I know the path that you take.”

This is hope.  This is true, biblical, God-focused hope that the world does not offer or understand.  Haven’t we seen that recently in the spate of suicides of very successful people?

There are two kinds of hope.  When I relate them to our situation with Aaron, I see that we have the first kind of hope quite often.  Gary and I hope that Aaron will improve.  We hope that he’ll be safe.  We hope that something we try will help his seizures to decrease.  We hope that we can find caregivers for Aaron, especially during our daughter’s wedding in Texas.

This kind of hope is a feeling, not based on any certainty, but just…well…a hope.  We hope for the best, but aren’t sure if it will happen.

But there’s another hope, one that comes from knowing God personally through our relationship with Jesus.  This is the hope that Paul, for instance, talks about in Romans 5.

This hope is one directed toward God’s promise, and CERTAIN of it’s realization.

This hope is IN God…in His character…in His Word…in His promises to me…in WHO He is!!

And this hope is why I was instantly filled with God’s peace as Gary and I talked about our new and unknown ground upon which we are walking.

This certain trust born from my relationship with my known Savior is what this world needs, and doesn’t have.  Nothing in this world can manufacture this kind of purpose and peace and comfort.

Nothing!

No amount of fame or money or success or promotion or self esteem or anything else that we strive for can bring us this certain hope.

Only a personal relationship with God will result in such hope.

Our problems may not go away, but that desire is not on what I am to place my hope.  Hoping in a desired outcome is normal, but does not bring me any lasting assurance at all.  I’ve learned that much in my life.

My only assurance is in knowing that God is sovereign.  He is in charge of my life.  He loves me.  He knows what’s best for me…for Gary…and for Aaron.

Sometimes His best is hard, but it’s always best.

So God’s best…God Himself…is my only hope.  And it’s enough, because God is enough.

Edward Mote says it perfectly in the old hymn, The Solid Rock:

 

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame 

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

          

On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

To end our evening, as I stood in Aaron’s room and looked out his window, God seemed to smile at me as He gave me this little touch of beauty from heaven.

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God knows the path we take.  All is well.

 

 

 

Topsy-Turvy Times

I got a phone call last Thursday afternoon, soon after I had gotten home from running errands.  I saw that it was from Barb’s cell phone.  Barb, who works at Aaron’s day group, often lets Aaron use her cell phone to call me.  Or Aaron often uses her cell phone even without permission so that he can call me and tell me something about his day, and then insist that Barb and I need to talk…and we laugh every time about that as we talk for a minute and make Aaron very happy.  So I was sure that this call was just another call from Aaron as I answered the phone.

But it wasn’t Aaron.  On the other end of the line was a staff from Paradigm who was using Barb’s phone to call and tell me that Aaron had fallen during a seizure.  Aaron was standing when he suddenly fell, seizing, and had hit the cement floor.  She said they were sure he would need stitches in his chin.  She was right.

I left for Paradigm as quickly as I could, thankful that our old Great Dane was beyond caring about the groceries left around the kitchen within his easy reach.  I walked in and found Aaron surrounded by Barb and the nurse, sitting in a chair with paper towels being held on his chin.  He was alert, ready to tell me all about his injury and ask if we were going to the doctor.

Which we did.  We went to the hospital nearest our house, out in the country, where the ER wait is next to nothing and the care is good.  The girl at check-in put an ID bracelet on Aaron’s arm…his arm on which he wears his watch, way up high.  There is plenty of room on that arm for both bracelet and watch, but Aaron doesn’t think so.  Immediately when we sat down in the waiting room, Aaron had me take off his watch.  I knew that here, as is true everywhere, Aaron’s way of doing things would be the way that things would be done, if he had any say in it at all.

He would sure enough need stitches, we were told.  No surprise there.  Aaron was taking it all in stride.  He doesn’t panic, thankfully, but he has questions during times like this, wanting to know about the process and the procedure…would he feel it…how many stitches would he need…and could he go home after this was all done.

When things were quieter, as we waited for the doctor and Aaron leaned his head back on the pillow, I looked at him and felt so sorry for all he goes through.  I couldn’t linger long there, though, in those thoughts because I knew I would cry and I knew that my crying would greatly bother Aaron.  He doesn’t have the emotional feelings about life that you and I have.  This is to his benefit, really.  But I do have those emotions, especially as his mother.  Looking at his split chin and his scuffed, swollen cheek just brought home to me the fact that life is hard for Aaron.

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Aaron doesn’t enjoy the pain he experienced.  He doesn’t like his seizures.  But Aaron also doesn’t complain about it or seem to feel at all sorry for himself.  That’s what I mean about the fact that he doesn’t display the emotional feelings about his life that others might do. He’s mostly concerned about the facts.  Will stitches hurt?  How many stitches will I have?  Can I go home afterwards?  What’s for supper?  When can I wear my watch again?

Not – why do I have to be the one with seizures?  Why can’t I drive like others do?  Why do I need so much help all the time?  Why is life unfair to me?

I’m SO thankful that Aaron doesn’t express those feelings…that they don’t even seem to be on his radar.  Once in a long while he’ll say something telling, though, like the time he asked me what went wrong with him.  Or is God mad at him and gave him seizures.  But those thoughts are verbalized very seldom.  Aaron is mostly about the here and now, and about living life in the routines that matter so much to him.  Predictability and sameness in his days are far more important to him than weightier matters such as the fairness of his life.

Gary and I are left with those weightier matters that are heavy on our hearts.  And I was feeling it as I watched Aaron flinch several times as he endured the stitches.  He told his Aunt Sandra about it that night as they talked on the phone.

“That doctor put on the numbing medicine and then he put on the stitches!” Aaron told her.   Somehow he can always make me smile.

But by the end of the evening, as I told my friend Sarah, I just wanted to crawl off in a corner and have a good cry.  That wasn’t to be, though.  As soon as Aaron got in bed later that night, within five seconds after I left his room, he had another seizure.  They happen so quickly!  Thankfully he was laying down in bed for this one, safe from falls.  I was in bed myself as soon as I could after that, very tired…too tired to take time to cry.

The next morning I sat at my quiet time desk, early, wondering what God would show me from His word.  He didn’t disappoint me.  He never does.  I’m reading through II Samuel – again – using a devotional commentary written by Dale Ralph Davis.  In chapter 7, God was explaining to David why he would not be the one to build Him a temple.  And this phrase, read so many times before, jumped out at me as I read it…and then read what Davis had to say.

God was speaking: “In all the places where I have travelled around with all the sons of Israel…”

God lived in a tent among His people as they wandered in the wilderness.  As Davis says, “Do you see what God is saying about Himself?  He is the God Who travels with His people in all their topsy-turvy, here-and-there journeys and wanderings.”

The God of the universe travelled with His people while they spent years in the wilderness…years spent there because of their sin and disobedience.  Davis continued: “That is only a pale glimpse of the condescension of the covenant God, the God Who will not enjoy rest until He gives His people rest , the God Who stoops down to share the hardships of His people, the God Who is not ashamed to say He has been ‘travelling around in a tent’ with them.  See how close He is to you!”

On my tired, sad morning as I hurt for Aaron once again, I was overwhelmed with joy for what God had shown me.  God never lets me down, especially when I need Him the most!  I don’t deserve His kindness to me but I sure did thank Him for His hand on my shoulder that moment…His arm around me and His promise to be with me so fresh in my life as I sat at my desk.

His presence doesn’t necessarily take away all pain or grief.  But He sure does pour comfort over me.  And the certainty that He has a purpose for all that goes on with Aaron fills me with peace.

It’s not a peace based on my feelings.  It’s a peace based on my God.

I felt that same peace as we realized over the weekend that Aaron had probably damaged a back molar during his fall.  I took him to our dentist yesterday, who confirmed that the tooth was broken beyond repair.  Off we went to an oral surgeon, who thankfully was able to extract the tooth right away.  And there I sat once again, watching Aaron sit in another exam room for yet another procedure.  I listened to his questions that he asked the dental staff and that he asked me.  I watched his eyes focus an all the items in the room, processing each one in the way that he always does.  I hurt for his fear that he expressed.

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But I also thought of my travelling God, and how He was right there with us in that room.  I was thankful for that, SO much!  Thankful, too, for the sweet nurse who told me about her young son with seizures, and how we talked about prayer and our faithful God.

When all was done, Aaron was done…ready to lead the way out the door.  Ready for his large chocolate milkshake from Sonic – with NO straw!  Ready for his mashed potatoes and a few deviled eggs for supper.  Very ready to show Dad his tooth and the roots, placed in the little pink tooth box that he can carry around and proudly show to everyone.

Ready to take a walk, in his pajamas, with Gary and Jackson.

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Ready to bring me his treasure that he had found, and that Gary had explained to him.

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Ready to touch my heart with his lopsided, numb grin as he showed me the dandelion seeds.

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Ready to be used by God once again to show me so much, in ways he doesn’t even know.