Set Sail!

 

It’s a good thing that I looked in the cabinet this morning, checking on a key ingredient that I needed for my chicken dish that we’ll eat for tonight’s supper.  I thought I had plenty but I didn’t, so I quickly added it to my short grocery list and was able to stop at the store later to pick it up.  Being prepared is important!

 

This small episode fit perfectly with what I read this morning during my quiet time.  I actually learned a new word…..a Greek word.  Well, most Greek words are new to me, but this particular word made a huge impression on me.  I hope it will do the same for you.  The word?

 

Pleroma.

 

Impressed yet?  Hang on.

 

Pleroma was part of the ancient world’s shipping vocabulary.  It has to do with being complete or being full.  Here is what Raymond Brown says about pleroma in his book The Message of Nehemiah:

 

            Pleroma….described the ship’s complement.  Before leaving port the vessel was carefully checked to ensure that there was an adequate crew and that the cargo included sufficient food, drink, medical supplies, spare cloth to replace torn sails, ropes, in fact everything necessary for its journey.  That was the ship’s complement or completeness. 

 

A departing ship today, and especially in ancient times, definitely had to be careful to have all necessary supplies before sailing.  No ship would leave for a journey until it was filled with supplies….filled with all it needed for the time on the open sea.
OK, so why was this word such a blessing to me today?  And why do I pray that it’s a huge blessing to each of you reading this as well?

 

Because pleroma is the word that John uses in John 1:16.  “For of His fullness (pleroma) we have all received, and grace upon grace.”  Again, Raymond Brown says:

 

            John’s Gospel began by assuring its Christian readers that, however great the pressures of life, all their needs would be met out of the abundant completeness and inexhaustible sufficiency of Christ.

 

You see, God doesn’t push His children out on life’s voyage without preparation.  Just like a ship being loaded up in the dock before setting sail, so God loads us up with all that we need for the ride that is ahead of us.  We don’t even know that He’s doing all that work on us most of the time.  All the equipping and the completing comes as we live day by day, getting to know Him better through His Word and through the growth that comes with each new trusting time in our lives.

 

Then the waves come crashing in and the journey is long.  The ocean is big and scary.  Don’t think that when you’re slammed in the face with an unexpected trial, God didn’t know beforehand that it would come.  He knew.  He in His sovereignty ordained and allowed it.  But not before He prepared you for it.  God completed you, and is still completing you, with all that you need for the rough waters all around you.

 

Pleroma!!

 

Grace upon grace.  Unmerited favor from God, over and over again.

 

Blessing upon blessing as we sail through the waters and as we experience God’s complete provision for all we need, before we even knew we needed it.

 

God prepared you, and me, for every single event in our lives before we needed it.  And He then stacks grace upon grace as we live through the tough times…..blessing upon blessing…..growth upon growth.

 

God loves His children.  He’s a good God.  He would never leave us incomplete, lacking what we need.

 

He alone is really all we need.

 

So even when we don’t understand our situations….or don’t like them….or are hurting….afraid….turned upside down….

 

Pleroma!

 

You are complete.  You are filled.  You are ready to sail!

 

Trust your Captain.  He’s got your course all charted, and He’s got you more equipped than you realize.

 

Of His fullness we have all received.

 

The Scar

 

It’s been an interesting week.  I guess that’s one word to describe it.  Other words would apply as well.  Stressful…..demanding…..concerning…..worrying.  In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you can read about it in the blog I wrote.  Here’s the link:

 

 

It hasn’t just involved Aaron, though.  Yet he certainly does take center stage in our lives.  All the above descriptive words certainly can, and do, apply to him.  I’m reminded of our bad beginning to our week now every time I walk into his room and see this.

 

 

“This” being the place on his wall where a picture similar to the one hanging USED to hang.  Used to hang before he yanked it off the wall in a fit of anger on Tuesday….after fits of anger on Monday.  Anyway, read my last blog, like I said.  It explains more about what happened.

 

Now we’re left with the ugly reminder there on his wall.  A reminder of a bad day….of hurt….of anger….of events that led up to this ugly scene and this ugly spot on his wall.

 

A scar.

 

It would be easy to see this scar and to focus on the bad things that happened that day.  It would be easy to see this scar and to remember the awful feelings….the frustration….the anger…..the failures.  Both mine and Aaron’s, for sure.

 

However, there are other parts to this whole story, too.  There are other pictures that I can choose to focus upon if I just will.

 

And there it is.  It’s a matter of my will, of my choosing, as always.  I can choose to only conjure up the depressing thoughts of those two days, and of this past week generally, or I can instead choose to ponder also on the bright spots.

 

On Monday evening, after Aaron’s really bad day, he suddenly asked if he could write our friend Atha a note.  He knows Atha, and he has heard us talking about her stroke.  Aaron rarely offers on his own to write anything to anyone, unless it’s what he wanted to write on a sticky note about me on Monday.  It wasn’t nice, either.

 

So this idea of his to send Atha a get-well note in his own words was just a very special, unexpected warm moment in the midst of a terrible time for him and for us.  That made it a double blessing.  A very needed blessing, double at that!!

 

 

I can look at the scar on Aaron’s wall and I can remember this precious note.

 

Also to be remembered are the prayers of friends and family….the kindness shown when aware of our need….the time spent with friends and the encouragement of warm hugs.  There was Julie, an employee at our Dillon’s, who asked me out of the blue if I needed any more one dollar bills for Aaron.  It’s not easy to get the ones when I need them, and I had forgotten in my stress that I was running low, but Julie saw me and asked me….said she thought I might be running low….said she was looking out for me.  She has no idea, though I told her a little, of how much that meant to me this week.

 

The scar on Aaron’s wall can remind me of all those blessings.

 

And there is the recliner at Dillon’s – two recliners, actually – that Aaron sat in the first time he saw them.  They were something new.  Something fun!  But probably not something that Dillon’s wants everyone to sit in and enjoy like Aaron does.  J  So the next time we saw them, in front of the registers, each chair held a huge stuffed animal.  I laughed and told Aaron that now he couldn’t sit in them since they were already occupied.  I figured that Dillon’s had a motive for putting those animals there.

 

On Friday, Aaron and I were there after I picked him up from Paradigm.  We were ordering him his favorite Cheddar Pasta Salad when suddenly he took off walking briskly toward something.  I thought he was headed to the Chinese side of the deli.  He LOVES looking at the Chinese food, and having the workers ask him what he wants while he laughs and says he’s just looking.  Every time.  But on Friday, when I looked up to see him walking away, I soon saw where he was headed.

 

 

Yep.  He spied the recliner, moved to a new spot in the store.  The empty recliner….but not for long.  Look at his smile.  How could I not smile?

 

I see the scar on Aaron’s wall and I see the choice I have to make.  Aaron knows he did wrong and he knows he must wait for the wall to be repaired.  I don’t need to keep hammering that home to him.  But there are some issues that sometimes need hammering into my brain as I look at his scar.

 

What will I allow that scar to teach me?  What will I allow that scar to do to my heart and to my spirit?  Will I use that scar to remind me of the bad, or will I use that scar to let me remember the blessings in the midst of pain and the lessons learned in the hard times?

 

We all have them, those ugly scars of life.  We can wallow in anger and unforgiveness….regret and guilt…..pain and sadness.

 

Or we can choose to do what God said and forget those things that are behind, and press forward.  I know we can’t really forget, but we can forget in the sense of clinging on to them and letting the defeating thoughts control us.  What’s done is done.  Let God handle it as you pray and trust.

 

And as you forgive those that have hurt you, whether they know it or not.  Like Gary said on Monday night, our relationship with Aaron is much like God’s relationship with us.  It’s one of constant sin on my part and constant forgiveness on God’s part.  How can I do less?
I want my scars to be touch points for memories of God’s grace in my life, and then for me to extend that grace to others…..including….especially!….Aaron.

 

 

 

From God’s Heart to My Lips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I now have a chest cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See what I mean?

 

 

Small Victories That Are Huge!

Anyone who knows Aaron or who has read my blog knows that Aaron is very set in his ways.  He is regimented about his life in every area.  When his routine or his order is disrupted, he will often react strongly.  Or if not strongly, he will react persistently until we just sometimes give up and realize that some issues are not worth the fight. 

Here are a couple examples of his way of doing things.  The first concerns time, and how he will only do things at certain times.  For instance, he will only turn on the television for Wheel of Fortune at 6:28.  Not 6:27.  It must be 6:28.  The other night, Aaron and I were playing Skip-Bo.  We finished our game….which he won, by the way.  He recorded his win in his notebook that keeps our scores, which shows him far ahead of me…..and which gives him great delight. 

“Let’s go to bed,” I said.  Aaron looked at his watch, pushed nearly halfway up his arm…..another way he does things. 

“No,” he said after he saw the time.  “Not ‘til 10:00.”

“What time is it?” I asked.

“9:59,” he answered in all seriousness.

This time I did laugh, though not the belly laugh I desired.  He just looked at me like I was being ridiculous, which made it even funnier.  He is so funny, really, when he does this time thing.  I love it!

“OK!” he declared as he looked down at his watch again.  “Now it’s 10:00!”

So he got up and proceeded to get ready for bed.  He sees absolutely nothing remarkable about this, but I do totally enjoy these glimpses into his unique mind.

Well, usually.  Not always.

He likes to sleep in his sweater, but with his huge pile of covers it’s just too hot for that.  His reason for sleeping in his sweater is that he feels cold at those times he may get up at night to use the bathroom.  He mentioned that fact the other night, so I suggested that he take his sweater off before climbing in bed and just leave it beside the bed, putting it on if he has to get up during the night.  We went over this change at least twice as we got his bed ready that night.

I was washing my face when there was a knock on my door.  It was Aaron, of course.  “Mom, so I won’t sleep with my sweater on?  I’ll put it beside my bed.  If I get up to go to the bathroom, I’ll put it on.  Then after I use the bathroom, I’ll take it off before I get back in bed.  Right?”

That’s right, Aaron.  Three times now that he had gone over this change.

Maybe two minutes later, another knock on the door. 

“Mom, so I won’t sleep with my sweater on?  I”ll put it beside my bed, and if I get up to go to the bathroom, I’ll put it on.  Then after I use the bathroom, I’ll take it off before I get back in bed.  Right?”

Yes, Aaron.  Nothing about that changed in the last two minutes.  Make that four times he had now gone over this change.

But this was a big difference to Aaron, and he wanted to be sure he had it down pat.  And now he does take his sweater off at night.  Good for him!

We have two other victories lately that I want to share.  One is about his bedroom.  We not only just had it painted, but Gary suggested that we change the arrangement of his furniture.  I was skeptical, but Aaron has done very well with this change…..for the most part. 

He has a new bedspread.  I told him I really didn’t want his animal print blanket to cover his pretty new bedspread, so this was a little challenging for   him to accept.  “I want it normal like it used to be,” he told me.  Still I showed him how I made his bed.  “I don’t like the way you do it.  The cover is bent,” he continued.  One day he watched carefully again as I demonstrated it to him.  He still wasn’t sold on it, but he did watch me as I made the bed look like this.

 

I walked up the hall the next morning, and found this.

 

I was delighted!  Aaron had tried to make his bed, even putting his pillow in the right place under the covers and then trying to tuck the covers under it.  Was it perfect?  No.  But to me it was beautiful because it showed a willingness to make his bed in a new way.  Progress!  YAY!!

He likes to put his Handy Answer Book on the floor, along with his bedtime log notebook and his pen.  I got a nice bin to put those things in, but he wants nothing to do with that.  He’ll keep his other books in there, but not these items that he has always kept on the floor.  So I’m not stressing over that small matter. 

 
His other area of routine, and victory, concerns leaving earlier than usual for his day group.  I signed up to take a Bible study on Thursday mornings, but it means I need to leave close to 8:45 instead of our normal 9:15……..just on that one day.  I talked to Aaron days before it was to happen.  He listened, but I knew he was mulling over this dilemma.  Then he said he would do it, and I was pleased, but skeptical.

On Wednesday night before the day of the big change, Aaron came downstairs where a friend and I sat. 

“Mom, I want to leave by 9:15!” he blurted out as he stomped across the room.  I knew exactly what he was talking about, and my heart sank.

He walked out of the room, but turned and barged in again.  “I want more time on my computer!” he angrily said.  And he sat on the couch beside me, and gave the ottoman a resounding, very loud whack with his big hand. 

He finally calmed down as I told him we would talk later, but at bedtime he seemed fine.  I was full of trepidation as I walked in his room the next morning, carrying his coffee and wishing that of all mornings he would have gotten up early like he sometimes does. 

He did get out of bed and one of the first things I heard was, “I want to leave by 9:15!”  I heard this from him several times that morning, but he wasn’t really angry.  And when it came time to go, don’t you know he got in the van and went at this early time without a fight?  I was so pleased and surprised and very relieved!

I pointed the beautiful clouds out to him as we drove to Paradigm.  I gave him an extra dollar before he got out of the van, and he was very pleased with that.  And as I drove away, in Old Town Wichita, I looked up at the gorgeous sky and I remembered that I needed to thank God for this real blessing on this morning.  It was a tangible touch of God’s grace in my life and I was so thankful for that. 
 

My friend at Bible study asked me how Aaron did, and she told me that she had been praying since Sunday for Aaron to do well.  That was another blessing!  I had no idea that she was praying. 

So between sweaters by the bed and new bedspreads being accepted and leaving early yesterday, I have reason to give Aaron a high five and a congratulatory thump on the back.

No, not the thump on the back.  He’ll return the hit and it won’t be soft, trust me!  Extra dollars don’t hurt nearly as bad.

 

 

 

 

Throw ON the Towel!

Here we go again.  I heard it from upstairs…….the sound of the plastic containers full of coffee hitting the floor and then the thump.  My heart sank as I hurried downstairs to check on Aaron.  He was fine, although sprawled on the floor with spilled coffee all around him.   He jerked and dropped his coffee yet again………lukewarm coffee, thankfully.  And thankfully he didn’t throw his coffee containers as he has been known to do when he’s in a rage. This was a true accident, but messy and discouraging none the less.

I was frustrated with Aaron this morning over a couple things already and this didn’t help, believe me.  My compassion for him still hasn’t quite kicked in yet.  He has cleaned up and showered, and seems to be fine.  I hope he’s not bruised.

I just stood and looked at this mess………coffee all over the floor, the cabinets, on and under the frig.  UGH!  And I thought of how many times I’ve just felt like throwing in the towel.  We all do, don’t we, whether we are parents or not.  But we can’t quit.  God doesn’t and we can’t.  Especially as parents……….these children are given to us by God and He wants us to hang in there despite how tough it sometimes is.

So instead of throwing IN the towel, we throw ON a towel.  We clean the messes up step by step, bit by bit. We’ll see progress one day, even if it’s slow to come…………even when we just stand there and don’t know where to start.  God gives patience; and God gives us the same grace toward our children or others that He has extended to us.  We clean up the messes, whatever they may be, and we push forward.

The rest of the day is before us.  It’s up to me now not to mess up my reactions and my attitudes.  I’ll need to grab another towel if I’m not careful!