The Jam in the Road!

I broke the devastating news to Aaron a few weeks ago.

“Aaron!” I began with great excitement.  “We’re going to Houston over the 4th to see Kyle and Andrea, and YOU’RE coming with us!!”

There was a pause.  I often know what Aaron’s pauses are about, but this one was a mystery.  Not for long, however.

“NO!!” he replied with emphasis.  “I DON’T want to go to see Andrea and Kyle!!”

“What?!” I asked.  “You’re always saying, ‘Can us as a family do this or do that?’, so we thought you would love going with us.”

“I DON’T want to GO!!” he blurted out again.  “I want to stay in this house, and I want Casady to watch over me!”

I was surprised at this turn of events.  Aaron has traveled with us in the past, even on an airplane, and has not demonstrated this level of anger at the thought of traveling.  Thus began our big summer sell…yes, sell…as Gary and I attempted to sell Aaron on this idea of taking a vacation trip with us.

Just as we would be thinking that Aaron was warming up to the idea, out he would come with another reason that he did NOT want to go.

“I just like MY house!”

“I want to sleep in MY bed!”

“I want Casady to watch over me!”

“I want to eat out when you’re gone!”

“Are we eating at a restaurant on the way to Andrea’s, or at a STORE?!!”

And even when he saw a commercial about our local fireworks, he had even more ammunition for not going with us.

“SEE??!!  The fireworks start July 4th!  How can I see the fireworks if it’s not July 4th at Andrea’s house?!”

I got lots of deep breathing exercises done during those 3 weeks before our trip.  Lots.

He ran out to the porch one day when he saw me talking on the phone.

“Is that Andrea??  Let me talk to Andrea!!”

So, I put the phone on speaker.

“Andrea!!  Do you have a place in the wall in your house where I can plug in my Nintendo??!”

Seriously??  Does he think that Andrea and Kyle live in a jungle tent?!

But as always, Andrea was the picture of patience as she carefully answered all of Aaron’s questions with as much seriousness toward him and his concerns as she would if she was talking to one of her genetics patients.

He told everybody he talked to…neighbors, day program staff, family…that he did not want to go to Texas.  Everybody told him how much fun it would be, and that he should go and that he would love it.  He didn’t care what everybody said.  His mind was made up.  The big sell was not working.

He and I packed his DVD player on the weekend before we were leaving.  He picked out some movies.  We packed his CD player.  He picked out some CD’s.  We packed his Nintendo DS.  He picked out the game he really wanted to play along with the game guidebook.  We packed his Handy Answer Geology Book because his topic of choice and endless conversations at that time was all about the core of the earth.  We packed his snacks.  He picked out Pringles and Twizzlers and peanuts at Wal-Mart.

There!  We were all set!

Or so we thought…and hoped.  Silly parents!

On Tuesday, the day before we were leaving, I had hoped to get out the door to take Aaron to his day group a little early so that I could get a pedicure.  But Aaron was grouchy about having to go to Paradigm and having to go to Texas the next day.  He was a simmering mess as we drove to his day group.  And when he got out of the car, he threw his water bottle at the fence.

“Get in the car,” I told him.  “I’m taking you home.”

But a few blocks up the road, Aaron begged me to turn around and take him back.  I did.  And a few miles up the road, my cell phone rang.  It was Aaron, who was crying as he told me that this time he threw his water bottle at one of the staff.  I turned around again, picked up my upset son…trying hard myself not to be the same…and took him home.  I zipped down to the nail salon, where there was by now a long wait, so I once again headed home to finish our packing and to deal with angry Aaron.

Aaron was spent and he was sad over his actions.  He walked in while I was loading some clothes into the washing machine.

“Mom?” he calmly asked.  “Can we start over and forgive each other?”

Of course, my heart melted as I assured him that we could most definitely do just that.  I had no idea how much forgiving was in my near future.

The remainder of that day was happy, but as bedtime drew near his mood changed yet again.  He was nervous as the actual day of our trip was now a few hours away.  Everything was irritating him, especially me.

More deep breathing for me as I stared down at my toes that did not have their needed pedicure.

The departure morning dawned with us having to awaken angry Aaron, who wanted none of this trip.  We were finally in the car, packed to the gills, with one quick errand for Gary to run before we left town.  I ran to the back of the car to adjust some things and had to smile at Aaron.  There he was, earphones already in use, with all his food and music and movies and coffee and pillow around him.

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We weren’t too far down the highway when Aaron decided to take a nap.  This was a good thing in more ways than one.

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And when he woke up, he was a new man.  He was happy and talkative…in a very nice way…ready for a rest area stop and full of new life.

Maybe we made the hard sell after all?!

We headed back down the highway again.

“Can we stop for lunch?” Aaron asked.  “At 12:00?”

Of course, Aaron wanted lunch at 12:00!  Those who know Aaron know that he will rarely eat lunch before 12:00.  There he was, sitting behind me, watching his core of the earth movie…wearing his sweater with his shoes off and his striped blanket over his lap…wearing his headphones…crunching on his peanuts…

Aaron very much wanted his normal to travel with him.  The reason he did not want to take this trip is because his normal is at home, not in the car and not on the road and not at Kyle and Andrea’s.  He feels no control when his normal is disrupted, and having no control is both scary and maddening to Aaron.  The behaviors we were seeing was, for Aaron, his normal way of expressing his loss of normal in his life.  But for us, it was very frustrating and exhausting to deal with his handling of these concerns.

It was classic Autism 101.  And we were just beginning our class.  We had no idea of the tests that were yet ahead.  Like these storm clouds south of Dallas, we were headed into an Aaron storm.

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The first one hit us about 40 miles from Houston, near the Sam Houston National Park.  Not rain and lightning, but red tail lights.   Those tail lights up ahead of us on I45 were not a welcome sight.  Traffic jam!  And not just a little traffic jam!  We were stuck there, creeping along very slowly, for over an hour and a half!

Aaron lost his happy.  We nearly lost our cool.  The day had totally gone downhill yet again.

“Can we just HURRY with this vacation?!” he asked.

Oh, if only!!

Finally, we pulled into Kyle and Andrea’s driveway.  We could hardly wait to get inside, to hug our kids and hug the doggies, to stretch our legs and our backs, and just be out of that car!  Except for Aaron, who angrily informed us that he was NOT getting out of the car and he was NOT going into Andrea’s house and that he WAS going to stay in the car all night.  Twelve hours in the car wasn’t enough for him?!

But I knew what was going on with Aaron.  He was a nervous wreck about going inside this new house that did not hold his normal.  Even the fact that Andrea was there didn’t help him at that point because her life in this strange house was just that…strange.  She was married now, she and Kyle living together, and all of it was just too much for Aaron.

Gary and I went inside to barking, ecstatic dogs…to hugs from Andrea and Kyle…to the smell of supper and the warmth of family.  But poor Aaron, still out in the car, was only anticipating a very unfamiliar and uncomfortable start to this vacation.

My heart went out to him even as I battled my desire to yell at him.  One day in, and this vacation was not the happy time that I had hoped it would be.

I went outside, where I found Aaron struggling to gather up and carry as many of his things as he could.  He would carry as much of his normal into this strange house as he could!  Finally, he headed toward the door, his arms as full of his blanket and movies and music as he could carry.

I got him in the house, then went back to the car for some things, and when I walked into the kitchen a minute later there stood Aaron, talking for all he was worth about the core of the earth.  It was so classic!  So totally Aaron!  And so lovingly Andrea as she sweetly conversed with him about a subject so out there…but again, so Aaron.

Andrea walked with us upstairs to the bedroom Aaron was using.  She had it fixed just perfectly, complete with a big soft stuffed dog bearing Aaron’s name, perched on the bed.  She knows her Aaron so well!  We showed him that Andrea and Kyle did indeed have outlets in their walls!  We got all his devices plugged in.  We showed him how his bed would be just fine…how there was a lamp on the table beside the bed…how he could see at night with the light from the window.  He was relaxing, at least a little, though still full of concerns.

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He didn’t want to come to supper, but finally he did come down.  He ate, all the while talking to Kyle about Star Wars matters.  Kyle engaged him perfectly on that topic.  Aaron was literally shaking all over, partly because of pent-up nerves and partly because he was SO excited to be talking about one of his favorite subjects with someone who knew all about it, too.

The next three days were quite a mixture for all of us.  Aaron was at one moment happy and funny, and the next might be angry and insulting.  He had some good times when Kyle’s mom, dad, and cousin came over for the 4th.  We ate burgers and watermelon and watched some fireworks.  He spent a little time here and there petting the dogs.  But he didn’t want to go anywhere, and we knew not to push him.  He was happiest when we went out to eat one night.  But we didn’t take him to the beach or a museum or shopping.  Heat and crowds and Aaron’s mood was a volatile mix.  It was not the vacation that I had hoped it would be.

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Aaron was more than ready to leave on the morning of our departure.  “I want to live in MY house, not HERE!” he declared.  Nice.

Aaron’s normal was spread around him on the back seat as we made good time leaving Houston and trucked up the highway toward Dallas.  But south of Dallas we saw them…the red lights of stopped cars!!

“Is that a JAM in the road?!” Aaron asked, almost in a panic.

“I’m afraid it is,” Gary answered.  And sure enough, we crept along again for over an hour due to an accident up ahead.

Later, in Oklahoma, we had another slow down for construction.  Aaron got so that every time he saw backed up traffic ahead, he would ask the same question.

“Is that a JAM in the road?!”

How perfectly that describes our life with Aaron…and not just on this vacation, but nearly every day.

We get jammed up trying to understand and manage Aaron’s behaviors…his way of thinking…his expectations…his demands.  We are forced to move at a much slower pace than we want because Aaron won’t respond to any other speed than his own.

“Oh, he’s just autistic!”

That’s so easy to say, but wow, the complexity of what this autism involves!

I cried twice at Kyle and Andrea’s.  Cried out of sheer frustration, disappointment, anger, and sadness.  Cried because I realized how tied down and unusual our life is with Aaron.  Then came guilt because I felt that way.

UGH!!!!!

I was anxious to get back in my Bible on Monday morning.  Nothing comforts me and encourages me like opening God’s treasure chest full of His words.  One thing I read in a devotional book I’m using was Psalm 12:6:

“And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”

Boyd Bailey said, “The Bible is our handbook for holiness and happiness.  We steward it well when we honor it above our own wishful thinking.”

My wishful thinking about life with Aaron isn’t what often honors God or helps with our big road jam.  But when I read the Bible and listen to God, I do find what Boyd Bailey also says:  “We listen for instructions in our obedience.  We listen for encouragement.  We listen for rebuke.  We listen to the Lord’s flawless words because we know we are loved by Him.”

The traffic jams on our road with Aaron will continue.  They will come and they will go.  Up and down.  I mess up.  I don’t have all the answers.

But I know where to go for all that I really need, and for God’s Word and for His love I am ever grateful.

God knows the road ahead for us with Aaron.  The map of His Word will guide our attitudes as we journey.  God will go before us, behind us, and most importantly He will be beside us.

There isn’t a jam in any road that’s too big for God!

 

 

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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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)

 

 

 

 

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.