My Father’s Grip

I grew up in the little town of Princeton, West Virginia.  My Dad worked for the railroad there; first the Virginian, and then Norfolk and Western.  The railroads were a central part of life there in those West Virginia mountains.  It was coal country, and trains were vital for the coal industry.

The sounds of those trains, heard at all hours of the day and night from our home not too awfully far from where Dad worked, were an ever-present part of my childhood.  Even now, the sound of a train will take me back to those early days. 

1045047_10200712779934461_1441244796_n

Dad worked his way up the “ranks” and eventually became a train dispatcher.  I don’t know how long it was before he one day told us of his promotion to Chief Train Dispatcher.  I didn’t understand much about his job, but I was always proud that he was a CHIEF Train Dispatcher.  He had a very responsible job, working long hours and often on weekends, or getting calls at all hours of the night to go in if there was a dreaded derailment. 

Dad at railroad, 1975

Sometimes Dad would let one of us kids go to work with him on a Saturday, especially if he was only working a half day.  I just loved those Saturdays when it was my turn to go to work with him!  I remember entering the old wooden train depot building, where we would walk up a long set of wooden stairs to his second-floor office.  This old building smelled of wood; tobacco in various forms; pencil erasers; and trains, of course.

NW-Princeton-WV-Depot-APR-1968

There were crisp sounds of radio static as the men talked to the engineers on the trains; telephones ringing; the staccato ping of old typewriters; and the roar of huge trains when they would pass below us. 

Dad at railroad, early days

Dad would give me some paper and a pencil, and I would pretend to be working just as he was.  I loved watching the lights come and go on the huge control panel behind his desk, showing the progress of various trains that were running all over southern West Virginia. And always, sooner or later, Dad would take me down the hall to the Coke machine and the snack machine.  He would buy me a Coke and a pack of Nabs, and I was in heaven!

What made the biggest impression on me, though, was when Dad would go down those long stairs and outside to the train track, taking me with him.  Sometimes he would attach a paper message to a pole there beside the track, and then we would wait.  Soon I would hear it…the unmistakable sound of a train in the distance, coming ever closer to us. 

The clickity-clack of the wheels, and the train whistle blowing, blowing, blowing in the distance, told me that soon the train would be bellowing past us…right in front of where we were standing!  And suddenly, there it was!  Huge and black and so very loud and terrifying, too. 

17458243_1489930894350928_9070544528530486134_n

Yet I wasn’t afraid, even though I was so close to such power and danger.  You know why?  Because my dad held my little hand in his big hand.  He held gently yet firmly.  I trusted him totally.  I knew that where we were standing was safe, and though the train was very loud and scary, my dad knew just where we needed to be to stay safe and secure. 

Soon a splash of red passed by.  The caboose!  The conductor stood outside the caboose.  He grabbed the paper message off the pole, waved at us while we waved back, and the train disappeared up the tracks.  All was well.

In the Bible we read about the man named Joshua, whom God told to lead His people of Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land.  It was a daunting, scary proposition.  But as God gave His orders to Joshua, this is what He said: “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.  I will never fail you or forsake you.”  (Joshua 1:5) 

Guess what the words “fail” and “forsake” mean?  They mean “to relax the grip.”  And that’s not all.  In verse 7, God told Joshua to be strong, which means to “reach out and grab hold.”

Do you see the beautiful picture that God is giving us?  This God of Joshua is our God today, for those of us who know Him!  And He’s telling us to reach out and grab hold of Him as He extends His hand to us.  Then let Him do the holding, because He promises not to relax His grip on us!

There are some very scary times for all of us in this life.  Sometimes some big, dark, loud problems happen to us.  God wants us to be strong, like Joshua…reach out to Him and let Him hold our hand beside all the issues that scare us and hurt us and threaten us on so many levels. 

I didn’t understand much about trains at that young age, but I knew they were dangerous.  Yet even more than that, I knew from experience that my Dad was wise and loving and would take good care of me.  He knew just how close for us to stand, and with my hand in his, I knew I was totally safe.

Our Heavenly Father has never said we won’t have problems.  In fact, He has told us that we WILL face hard times…times that will hopefully draw us to Him and to His strong hands.  He won’t let go of us.  He won’t abandon us.  He will keep us safe in our very hard times, even when we don’t like those times or understand their purpose. 

And we can say, with total confidence, “The Lord is for me, I will not fear.”  (Psalm 118:6)  

   

 

 

From Bliss to Brokenness

On Monday, November 6, of last year…..yes, 2017 is – as of today – LAST year!!  Anyway, on that day last year our washing machine loudly died.  I mean, the noises coming from the bathroom/laundry room were downright scary.  I remember that date because two days later, November 8, was Aaron’s birthday.  Gary and I met at Lowe’s after he got off work on Tuesday night, where we found our dream machine, got it ordered, and were told that delivery would be on Thursday.

Thursday was the day we were having two of Aaron’s favorite friends over for a birthday supper, so I knew I would be home most of the day as I got things ready.  It was also the day that Aaron woke up in a very wet bed, so it became the day of a huge mound of wet bedding piled near our dead washing machine, waiting on our brand new dream machine.  And friends coming for dinner. 

So I prayed as I made apple pie….Aaron’s birthday “cake” of choice.  I asked God to please let the dream machine come sooner than the possible delivery time given to us, which was between 12:00 and 4:00, and usually means it might be there by 6:00 – with friends coming for supper and with Aaron very picky about his bedding and covers being JUST right.  It was shortly after 11:00 when I asked God for this kindness…not really near the expected delivery time.  But don’t you know, that within two minutes my phone rang and it was the delivery guys asking if it would be ok to come early!

I almost said, “Amen!!  You come right on over!”  I didn’t because I wanted my dream machine delivered and was afraid I would scare them away, but I did share with them God’s sweet provision and answer to prayer as they installed my dream machine.  One man smiled as he worked and the other said, “God is still on His throne!”  I did say “Amen!” to that!

I’ve loved that new washing machine.  The tub is so large that I have to stand on my tiptoes to reach the bottom of it, but does it ever hold big loads, like bedding!  And often I think back to that sweet answer to prayer on my very busy day….how God provided the dream machine in the first place, and then gave it to me early when I asked.  I love those “simple” and kind answers to prayer.

So fast forward to December 22, the Friday before Christmas, when Aaron woke up in an even wetter bed than the one of the month before.  Seizure?  I didn’t hear one.  More likely just too much drinking water before bed.  Regardless, everything needed washing on the VERY busy day of cleaning and cooking before the kids came in and our Christmas began.  Oh well, nothing to do but DO what needed doing…and I had my wonderful new dream machine, remember?

I was thankful for that extra large tub as I loaded Aaron’s wonderful waterproof mattress pad and sheets into it, and then went about my other work for the day.  But when I went back to check on that first load, I found it to be dripping wet.  “Oh dear,” I thought.  “What could be causing that?”  I had washed heavy loads before with no problem.  I set the load on a rinse and spin cycle, but still had the same dismal results when I checked it later.  Setting it again, I watched closely and found that water wasn’t entering the tub, and the tub wasn’t spinning.  Nothing in the manual helped and nothing I did worked, so I was stuck with all of Aaron’s bedding in another huge pile, and very wet bedding in my dream machine. 

Gary worked and worked on that machine when he came home, to no avail.  I did manage to get the very wet items dried in our dryer, but still had piles of laundry at the end of the day.  Gary called Lowe’s and a repairman was scheduled, but not until Wednesday…which this year was our Christmas Eve. 

Bless his heart, Gary insisted on taking all the laundry to the laundromat on Saturday morning.  Aaron helped him carry the bags out to his truck, and before too long Gary was back with lots of wet laundry to be dried. 

WP_20171223_09_27_38_Pro

And when the repairman came on Wednesday, he found the problem but told us he wouldn’t be able to come back with the needed part until January 2nd. 

So we have lots and lots of laundry sorted and piled on now empty beds since all the kids have come and gone after Christmas.  Of course, that means extra bedding and extra towels waiting to be washed in my dream machine that has turned into a little of a nightmare, honestly. 

WP_20180101_13_40_40_Pro

I went from happily sharing this evident answer to prayer to scratching my head at the failure of it.  Not the failure of God, mind you, but the failure surrounding this provision…my dream machine!

But through this really simple annoyance, God has spoken to my heart.  How many times He has clearly answered my prayers, only to also lead me to…at times…a hard place where I must trust Him.  It’s so easy to praise Him for clear answers, but sometimes difficult to trust His sovereignty when the answers aren’t a bed of roses. 

Today’s answers to prayers don’t guarantee a carefree tomorrow. 

But always…ALWAYS…God DOES answer.  His answer may contain trials, but He also ALWAYS has a reason for those trials.

Gary and I were married over five years before Aaron was born.  I wondered if I would ever have a baby.  That positive pregnancy test was one of the happiest days of my life!  We thanked God over and over!!

So fast forward to now, 33 years later.  When I held baby Aaron, I never dreamed of seizures and autism and behaviors and our son still with us at his age.  And like my broken dream machine, our dreams for Aaron have certainly taken a different turn.  Aaron isn’t broken.  He is just the way that God designed him to be.  But my dreams were broken.  Our amazing answer to prayer has also carried with it a huge element of grief and testing.

Yet I know…I KNOW…that God is in control.  With His blessing of Aaron in our lives has also come some brokenness.   Our life is on a far different path than we had ever envisioned.  But on that path has also come tremendous cause for trust in God…which teaches us patience…waiting…and then peace.  God’s sweet peace amid the piles of pain and mess that sometimes surround our days.    

I shouldn’t be focusing on the ANSWER to my prayers, but on the God behind that answer. 

And in that focus…in God alone…I can rest and I can trust. 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Be still, and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:1,10)

What better way to start the New Year than this!

 

 

 

The Raging Waves

I remember so clearly the first time I saw the ocean.  There I was, a little West Virginia mountain girl, on our family’s first beach vacation trip.  We had driven from southern West Virginia down to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach, where we stayed for one week.  I don’t recall how old I was.  I do know that I ran down to the sandy beach and was just awestruck by what I saw and heard.  The ocean went on forever!  And the noise of the waves was both intimidating and amazing.

b00add92482f4bb3efb0a1c171716c33--beach-waves-beach-bum

I felt small in front of such unending power!  And I definitely felt small when later, either on that trip or another family vacation to the beach, an undertow pulled me out into the water.  I was terrified and helpless!  And ever so thankful when my brother-in-law swam out to me and pulled me to shore!

I’ve never forgotten the power of that ocean.  That experience gave me a healthy respect for deep water and the danger that it can carry.

I recently wrote about Israel’s deliverance by God from Egypt, and how God brought them to the brink of the Dead Sea.  How terrified and angry they were as they stood there, helplessly, in front of this impossible situation!  And God had LED them to it!  Of course, we know that God also led them THROUGH it.

This morning I read in Joshua 3 about the children of Israel finally reaching the promised land of Israel.  And sure enough, there in front of them lay another watery obstacle…..the Jordan River.  And the Jordan wasn’t just any old small, crossable river at this time of year.  Instead, God brought them to the Jordan during it’s annual flood stage.  The river was a huge, raging torrent – very wide and full of masses of swirling vegetation underneath the impossible current.

Jordan River

We, once again, know the story.  God gave instructions to Joshua and to the people about crossing the scary waters of the Jordan River.  “By this you shall know that the living God is among you,” Joshua told the frightened people.  “God WILL deliver the enemies from before you!”

So God instructed the Ark of the Covenant to go first, and for the people to follow.  God going first.  As soon as the priest’s feet hit the Jordan’s torrent, the waters parted and all the people crossed over on dry ground.

James_Jacques_Joseph_Tissot_-_The_Ark_Passes_Over_the_Jordan_-_Google_Art_Project

We sometimes wonder why God leads us the way He does.  Why not just lead Israel around to the promised land on the “dry way?”  Why does God seem to want to do things the hard way?

Well, if we never experienced the terrifying power of the waves in our lives, we would also never experience the redeeming power of our God.  We all at times feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 93:

“The floods have risen up, O Lord.  The floods have roared like thunder; the floods have lifted their pounding waves.  BUT mightier than the violent raging of the seas, mightier than the breakers on the shore – the Lord above is mightier than these!”

As a child of God, you can know that God has a purpose for everything in your life…even the awful junk that seems so unfair and hurtful and wrong.  Sometimes He allows some things to happen that we don’t understand…things that even make us question where He is, or why He let it happen.

We must cling to the fact that God is sovereign, even when we’re hurting and angry and doubting.

Look at Psalm 92:1-2:

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High.  It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.”

So we wake up in the morning, thanking God for loving us.  And at the end of the day, no matter what rivers and oceans we encounter, we can say that God is faithful.  He is faithful to lead us, to keep us, and to eventually deliver us.  He is faithful when we don’t feel it, see it, or understand it.  We KNOW He is, and we at times have to cling to what we know even if it’s not what we feel.

Remember that God went first into the water and told Israel to follow.  And likewise, God goes first before us into the turmoil that we face, leading our way and wanting us to trust and follow Him.

God is mightier than any raging waves of life that threaten to pull us under.  Never doubt that for a minute!

Never doubt HIM for a minute!

Crossing-the-Jordan-River-56a1493d5f9b58b7d0bdd442

 

Fast Forward

Sometimes one thing leads to another, and that one leads to another, and then another leads to another, and it can just be amazing to go back and look at the picture created.  This is what I’m seeing today.  I hope I can connect all the “things and anothers” as I try to show you the beautiful picture created by God.

It started yesterday evening when Aaron went with me to Dillon’s.  When we left the store and were getting into the van, the handle of my crossbody purse somehow knocked off my earring as I moved it over my head.  I found the back of the earring as it poked my skin.  Yep, it had gone down my shirt somehow.  But nowhere in sight was my earring.  I hurriedly searched for it, and so did Aaron, but we couldn’t find it.  I told him not to worry, because things like this can worry him, and off we drove to pick up some pizza for supper.

Still no earring appeared as we got out of the van at home, and I searched around some more for it.  “Oh well,” I told Aaron.  “It’ll show up when we least expect it…..or when I clean the van, sometime in the far off future.” 

We sat down to eat and Aaron asked the blessing.  His before-meal prayers, 99% of the time, contain two statements.  What he says varies depending on the day and the current events of our life, but very rarely does he say more than two things.  This prayer was no exception. 

“Dear Lord,” Aaron began.  “Thank you for the pizza.  And please help us find Mom’s earring.” 

I told Aaron it was wonderful to pray about the lost earring, and assured him that God loves to hear those requests.  And don’t you know that a short time later Gary went out to the van to conduct his own search, and he found my earring!  You should have seen Aaron’s face when I showed him that I was now wearing TWO earrings!  And then when I told him that God had answered his prayer!  Aaron’s face lit up like the sun.  It was priceless!

So the lost earring led to Aaron praying, which led to God answering in a sweet way, which led to……I trust……Aaron seeing how wonderful it is to pray about everything.

It was a good thing for Gary and I to see, as well. 

Then came today, which in comparison to what some others are enduring was really nothing.  But in the moment it was, for Aaron and for me, pretty awful.

I want to preserve Aaron’s dignity in this.  I needed to take him down to the air base to have a urine test repeated this morning.  I told him to use the bathroom when he got out of bed, and then by the time he drank his coffee and we got to the lab, he would need to go again.  I rehearsed the procedure with him as we drove to the base.  All was well.

That was short lived.  As Aaron got out of the van at the clinic, I saw that he was doing what I call “The Potty Walk.”  I was concerned, but he assured me that he could wait until he was in the lab bathroom, cup in hand. 

We walked up to the lab window, where the lone lab worker was a little harried.  I heard a door close and looked around to see that Aaron had already entered the bathroom…..NO cup in hand.  I told the harried lab worker to hold on as I scurried to the bathroom and opened the door…..to find Aaron preparing to go. 

“NO, Aaron,” I tried to whisper as I closed the door.  “Please, can you just wait until I get the cup??!!”

I rushed outside, went up to the window again, where the lone lab woman was realizing my dilemma and was trying her best to get Aaron’s info sticker onto his cup…..the cup he still wasn’t holding!  She slapped it on, and I quickly zoomed into the bathroom……to the most awful sight.

Let’s just say it appeared that the plumbing had sprung a huge leak, but the toilet and sink plumbing were fine.  Aaron’s, however, was not fine.

We got the sample somehow, but it’s probably not the best.  I wasn’t the best, either.  Such a mess!  I didn’t know what to do but to try to clean it up, mostly in an effort not to embarrass Aaron by having to tell the poor harried lab woman, in front of others, what had happened.  I had Aaron standing in the corner of the bathroom and kept telling him not to talk, because he talks so loudly that I knew everyone outside would hear.  Like they didn’t already guess what was going on in that bathroom!  “How many paper towels do they need in there?” everybody must have been wondering as they heard the automatic dispenser churn out towel after towel.

And poor Aaron.  His shorts were very obviously wet, and we had to walk out past people in the lab waiting room and in other areas as we left the clinic.  I waited for a few minutes after leaving the bathroom to see if the lab worker needed anything else from us, while Aaron hid behind the bathroom door.  Finally, we just left.  I felt like it was a walk of shame for dear Aaron.  And I was a mess of emotions…..very sorry for Aaron, and embarrassed, and just weak from all of it. 

The plan had been to take Aaron to Paradigm for his day, but instead we just drove home.  I really wanted to cry.  I stole glances at Aaron.  He was very serious, and very sorry, and very quiet.  That made me want to cry even more.

He turned on his music, of course.  It was the Zac Brown Band.  As we drove along the highway, song #4 and song #5 came on, Aaron checking the back of the CD box to confirm the title of each song as he always does.  Then came song #6, which is more of a rock song, and one I don’t like.  I was in NO mood for that today, so I used the button on the steering wheel to quickly go to song #7.  Aaron didn’t seem to notice, which was good.

Oh, but never underestimate Aaron.  It wasn’t long before he realized that song #5 had played, and now song #7 was playing.  What happened to song #6?

“Mom, did you go past song #6?” he asked.  I confessed.  He asked why, and I told him, and he was fine with that. 

As we kept heading toward home, I thought of how nice it would be if we could fast forward through parts of our life.  I would certainly have fast forwarded through this bad morning!

When we got home, Aaron showered and changed clothes.  Then he went with me to Aldi and to Dillon’s, even though I kind of wanted some time alone.  But once there, Aaron and I enjoyed the shopping, especially looking for what we needed for the lasagna he wanted for supper.  He helped bag the groceries and carry them.  He carried the heavy bag of dog food I got when we stopped at the vet, and he talked to Misha about Spiderman and about Star Trek, which always cheers Aaron up.  None of that would have happened if I hadn’t taken Aaron with me. 

Then at Dillon’s, Aaron saw one of the workers that we know as we checked out.  She stopped to talk to us before we left.  Her life is hard, always full of trouble, it seems……and today was certainly no exception as she shared some things with me.  As she talked, Aaron just stood there listening quietly to every word.  As we left, I told her that I would pray for her.

“Does she have a heartache?” Aaron asked me as we walked out the door. 

I was so surprised at his question, but more at his insight and the empathy he showed as we talked together about her. 

And then later, the best part.  We sat down to a lunch of leftover pizza, and again Aaron prayed as we held hands.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the pizza.  And help B have a good heart.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Aaron usually prays for Aaron, and on a good day he might pray about my earring.  But to pray for this friend that we really don’t deeply know……now that was touching and dear and so impacting.

That would never have happened if Aaron had not been with me…..and he would not have been with me if not for the awful lab experience earlier. 

If I had been allowed to fast forward through our terrible morning in order to preserve us from that bad time, then we would not have had this amazing and very good time.  This sweet time of Aaron genuinely listening to another person share her pain, and then genuinely caring enough to genuinely ask God to help her have a good heart.

So you see, one thing does lead to another which leads to another which leads to yet another.  Did Aaron’s answered prayer last night encourage him to pray for our friend today?  I think it did.  Then his bathroom accident allowed him to be with me to offer help today, and especially to be with me to listen to a hurting friend who needs his prayers. 

We all have those times in life when we want to skip song #6 and go right on to song #7……when we want to fast forward through the pain we’re facing and be done with it, moving on to other better things. 

But with God, His one thing that leads to another thing that leads to the other thing is what’s best for us.  It’s a good thing that He doesn’t allow us to fast forward, as hard and as terrible as some of the things are that we face.  He works all of it out for good if we let Him. 

Help all of us have a good heart, Lord. 

And help us not push the fast forward button.

 

 

The Yo-Yo Life

Aaron had some seizures last night.  We think he only had two.  At least that’s all we heard.  But boy, is he ever out of it today!  It’s amazing how sometimes he bounces back quickly after seizures, and at other times he’s totally wiped out for a day or two.  I can only imagine what they do to his brain……physically, mentally, emotionally.

Throw in a dash of autism, stir the pot, and BOOM!!

Poor Aaron! 

It’s amazing, too, when you look at it in pictures.  Here is Aaron on Friday when I picked him up from his day group.   

WP_20170707_15_55_40_Pro                                                

He had seen Spiderman, but even more important to him at that moment were the Sycamore seed pods he had found and couldn’t wait to show me……and later to show Gary.  Leave it to Aaron to find what to him is most unusual, but to us is very usual, and then to make sure that we see that object through his eyes.  He’s pretty cool that way.  Just look at the delight on his face!

He makes us stop and see things his way.  Sometimes it’s great fun…..and other times, it’s greatly frustrating. 

Anyway, compare Friday to today.  He got up late this morning, dreary and slow from the seizures.  He seems to have pulled a muscle in his right arm, which was hurting him.  But he saw the Sunday morning coupons and so readied his usual coupon area for the job he always does, seizures or not.

Except this morning his body just wouldn’t cooperate.  This is how he ended up, coupons and coffee untouched.

WP_20170709_10_28_16_Pro

A couple hours later we heard him getting off the couch.  He decided to cut the coupons and drink his coffee.  I checked on him shortly and here is what I found.

WP_20170709_12_58_13_Pro

It wasn’t another seizure.  He’s just very tired today from the ones last night.

He woke up again awhile later, ready once more to try clipping coupons.  I heated his very cold coffee, which he drank while he read the Sunday comics.  Then he asked for his fuzzy blanket and his fuzzy pillow, and wondered if he could lay on the big couch.  He was only down for a few minutes before realizing that he just wasn’t sleepy anymore, so he got up and began the coupons that had been waiting all this time. 

WP_20170709_14_44_52_Pro

I tell you all of this so you can catch a glimpse into how seizures affect both Aaron and us.  Our day revolves around Aaron’s needs when things are normal, but when he is having a rough day physically then we must stop what we have planned and be here for him.  Gary and I can tag team on a weekend like this, but when it happens during the week then I must often change my plans in order to be with Aaron.  And sometimes Aaron has missed fun days, like movie days at Paradigm or other events, because of his seizures.

These days and these pictures are also an example of how Aaron’s life is full of ups and of downs, as all of us have, but which he cannot control, be it from seizures or from behaviors.  We saw it very clearly while on vacation last week, which I hope to write more about later. 

Happy moments…..angry moments……sad moments……fun moments, are all wrapped up in Aaron.  This is why I think of myself, and so many others with similar issues, as Yo-Yo Parents.  We get jerked around a lot, that’s for sure, but must always remember that God is the one in control even when we feel like things are out of control.  He orders our steps, including the ups and even the downs. 

And God comforts our hearts when we see the child we love having so many issues to overcome. 

I have so many reasons for which to be thankful, but none more than the fact that the God I know and love also knows and loves me, and Gary, and most definitely our Aaron. 

 

God’s Backing

Last Wednesday night, Aaron and I were watching a DVD.  I heard a sound coming from him as he sat in his favorite chair.  I looked over to see his head arched back in that all too familiar way, his arms raised above his head, and his face starting to contort into a seizure.  Surprise seizures like that are always a shock, no matter how many times we see them.

I jumped up and removed his glasses, grabbed some paper towels, and noted the time for our log book.  Gary was upstairs by then, so we just stood beside Aaron to be sure that he was all right.  A two minute seizure is typical for him, but sometimes it seems to take forever as we wait for it to be over.

Aaron’s seizures are most often at night, though more and more are occurring at other times.  Night seizures are actually more dangerous, other than the risk of falls during day seizures.  And nocturnal seizures prevent us from seeing the postictal stage, which is the time after a seizure when Aaron is recovering from the effects of it.  During the night Aaron just sleeps, but during a seizure when he is awake we are there to see him coming back, so to speak……becoming aware of his surroundings and of us again.

It was between 10 and 15 minutes after this seizure that Aaron’s eyes opened and he lifted his head from the back of the chair.  It takes some time then for Aaron to register anything.  He still can’t talk for awhile after his eyes open, and he doesn’t respond to things we might tell him to do.  He’s just really out of it for some time.

On Wednesday night I sat on the ottoman where Aaron’s legs and feet were resting.  I rubbed his legs and talked to him.  His eyes were huge as he just stared at me.  He kept those big eyes glued on my eyes, and I just looked back at him as I softly talked to him.  He didn’t respond……only stared with that blank gaze.

I decided to move my head from side to side.  I moved to the right, and Aaron’s eyes moved to the right.  I moved to the left, and again his eyes followed me.  I repeated the moves, and so did Aaron.  I smiled, but he just continued staring.

I sat there looking back at Aaron, assuring him that he was fine.  But I was thinking of how I would hold little baby Aaron in my arms as he fed, or as I rocked him and sang to him, or we just snuggled.  I remembered how he would follow my eyes and my face with his precious little baby eyes, fully trusting me as his mama.

My fully grown man of a child…..still my Aaron……was following my eyes in much the same way that he would follow my eyes as a little baby in my arms.  Just as he trusted me as an infant, he was still looking to me and trusting me in those moments following his seizure.

I tried to blink my tears away before Aaron became alert enough to notice them.  I didn’t want to scare him……plus Aaron has no appreciation for tears.  He would call me a cry baby when he could finally talk, of that I was certain.

But I couldn’t blink away the memories of Aaron as a baby as we continued to sit there in a kind of stare down.  I was like any excited mother after the birth of her firstborn.  I felt that no woman ever, past or present, had ever felt as blessed as I felt when I held and examined my perfect baby son.  I was so thankful and so full of joy at this precious gift Gary and I had been given!

Never ever even once did I dream that I would be sitting on an ottoman staring still into the eyes of my son, but this time my adult son who had just had one of many hundreds of seizures he has had over the years.  Why would I have ever looked down at my baby boy and thought, “I wonder if someday Aaron will have Epilepsy or autism?”

We all wonder if our children are going to be healthy, but a healthy baby like I had lends itself to a confidence that health will continue.  So when Aaron was older and we started noticing some differences in him……and definitely after his first seizure……our reality changed, big time!

But what didn’t change was our trust in the God we know.  Gary and I knew the character of God.  We had walked with Him long enough to know Him well.  And that knowing led to instant trust……trust that our Father knew what He was doing, even if we didn’t.  It doesn’t mean we didn’t cry, especially me.  It doesn’t mean that over the years we haven’t been very tired, very discouraged, very worried, very sad.

But God always, always, always reaches out to us with a personal touch from Scripture…..a still, soft voice in our hearts……a comfort that can only come from the Holy Spirit…..a peace that truly passes understanding……a promise that we have read a zillion times but suddenly is just for us at that moment.

Just the day before that latest seizure, listen to what I read in Psalm 138:2.  I love the New Living Translation of this verse:

“I praise Your name for Your unfailing love and faithfulness; for Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your name.”

God doesn’t make groundless promises.  His promises are backed by ALL the honor of His name.  And that’s all we need.  We don’t need explanations or answers or reasons or guarantees.  The honor of His name is enough, totally enough.  He is sovereign, in charge, and full of love for Aaron and for me and for Gary.

So I thought of all this while Aaron was staring at me and I stared back.  I had a little prayer meeting there, with some praise for His unfailing love and faithfulness…..and for His dependable promises.

God and His promises are there for all of His children, just when we need Him.  I’m so thankful for Him and for His certain plan in my life and in Aaron’s.  He has proven Himself more than enough for us more times than I can count.

I got up from the ottoman finally, and began to get things ready for us to head up to bed.  Aaron still stared at me.  Finally I could tell that he was coming around…..was more alert.

And of course, many of you would be able to guess the first word out of his mouth when he could talk again.

“Mom?” he said.

Why was I NOT surprised at that?!

The Plans I Have For You

I think most of the nation has had a milder than usual winter.  Here in Kansas, we really haven’t had a winter to speak of.  Trees were budding, bushes were bearing leaves, and perennials were poking out of the ground in February!

I shouldn’t have been surprised…..but I was surprised……to walk past my front flower bed one day in February and look down to see that my Salvia had made an appearance.  There were fresh little green leaves sticking up through the ground, unaware that the month was only February.  Salvia don’t look at calendars.  They only respond to the warmth of the sun and the mildness of the nights.

WP_20170218_12_31_30_Pro

Something occurs deep underground, in their roots, that awakens them and urges them to respond.  It’s God’s miracle of growth, not tied to the month of the year but to the environment around them.  And even though that environment can at times be harsh still at this time of year……at any time of year, really……their roots stir under the right conditions and so they grow.

I was tempted on that February day to lean over and clear off all the dead leaves that looked like a hindrance to the Salvia’s growth.  But I left the leaves for insulation against the cold nights, and the snow that I knew could still come.

I’ve watched the progress of my Salvia over the past few weeks.  The picture from this morning shows how much growth has occurred.  The dead leaves, old mulch, and other clutter hasn’t prohibited my Salvia’s growth at all.  The perennial nature of this flower is alive and well as those new leaves push through all the mess around them.  It just faithfully grows and grows, quietly but strongly flourishing.

WP_20170307_10_36_13_Pro (2)

This morning in my quiet time with the Lord I read some verses that are very familiar to many of us.  They are words spoken by God to the nation of Israel, recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”   Jeremiah 29:11-13

These are verses of such encouragement and hope for all believers, not just for the nation of Israel during the time of Jeremiah.  But do you know where Israel was when God spoke these words to them?  They were being held captive in Babylon.  They were not in their home country, living freely, but were held as captive slaves in a harsh land far from all they knew and loved.

In the ten verses preceding these verses above, God had given some instructions to His chosen people through a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon.  God told the people to settle in to their new life in Babylon.  He told them to build houses and live in them; to plant gardens and eat their produce; to take wives and bear children; to increase and not decrease; and even to seek the welfare of their new city, praying to the Lord on its behalf.

You know how long God told them to be faithful in their captivity?  Seventy years.  SEVENTY years.

So when God then said that He knew the plans that He had for them……plans to give them a future and a hope……He also knew that this promise wasn’t coming to pass tomorrow.  He laid it out there for them.   He told them to live as He commanded and to be obedient to Him, even in their dire situation, for seventy long years.

God’s promise was given to them in the middle of less than ideal circumstances.   It wasn’t to be fulfilled immediately.  But while they waited, God wanted them to live their lives fully and faithfully to Him.

In fact, many of those Israelites would never see the promise come to pass.  They would die in Babylon.  Yet God still commanded them to be obedient and live the way He wanted.

How about us?  How does God want us to live every day?

He wants us to follow the example that He continually sets out there in His Word for us to see.  He wants us to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, and to grow no matter what is going on in our lives.

We may be going through awful times so full of grief and stress that we wonder how we can get out of bed every day.  God knows.  He understands.  He loves us.  He provides what we need.  He promises us a future and a hope.

But relief may not come today.  It may not come tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the next.  But like He told His people in Babylon, He says to you and to me today.  “Call upon Me.  Pray to Me, and I will listen.  For you will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for me with all your heart.”

It’s simple, really, but so difficult to do sometimes when our surroundings are bitter and hard and scary.  Call upon Him.  Pray.  Seek Him with all your heart.

Read His Word with an open heart to hear what He has to say to you.  Ask Him to lead your steps.  Obey what you know He tells you to do in His Word.

God will speak to you.  He will lead you to Himself.

And in the middle of your pain and your stress, you will grow.  Just like my Salvia in the middle of deadness all around it and the coldness of some nights…..still pushing through and growing, as God intended.

God loves you.  He truly does have a future and a hope for you as you follow Him, but not always…..in fact, seldom……without the suffering and sadness of this life.

But what a beautiful work He is doing in you and in me as we faithfully respond to His love and to His word in our lives!

So grow!  Grow where God has put you!

IMG-20120428-00282