Photo Worthy

We just finished the Thanksgiving season with all the family gatherings, delicious food, and lots of photo opportunities.  Now the oranges and golds are being replaced by the reds and greens of Christmas.  More pictures to come, for sure!

Already our social media is brimming with the pictures that others are sharing of their Christmas decorations.  So much beauty and creativity!  I love doing that every year, sharing the warmth and glow of the season.

But the brightness all around us, even if we only see it in a photo, sure can make the other side of life seem even darker than usual.

Other’s picture-perfect moments, if compared to some of ours, seem off-the-chart wonderful…and ours.  Well, the line on our chart is going in the opposite direction.  Way down.

Several years ago, I saw this picture of Mary and Joseph after the birth of baby Jesus.  It’s probably the most accurate portrayal of the nativity that I have ever seen.

The call of God on their lives to be the earthly parents of Jesus came at a huge cost to them.  They knew that their reputations would forever be tarnished.  Gossip and judgmental stares would be their lot. 

But can you imagine the long trip to Bethlehem for the census?  The discomfort, hunger, dirt, and fear? 

Then the baby being born in an animal stable.  We don’t know for sure, but did they have help delivering baby Jesus?  How Mary must have wished for her mother to be beside her! 

Can you imagine how alone they must have felt?  No family that we know of to surround them with love and care.  No beautiful nursery ready for baby Jesus.  No comfort of a soft bed for Mary or Jesus.  No kitchen full of food, or a meal train at the ready.

Joseph and Mary submitted without reservation to God’s call on their lives.  That special call might seem sweet and incredible to us but to them I can pretty safely assume that on most days it was anything but that.

Over this past week, mixed in with all the beautiful pictures of family gatherings, I was receiving other pictures from our dear friends.

 Dan and Wendy have loved and cared for their Elijah (Speedy) for many years.  Speedy has an extremely severe form of Epilepsy.  He was hospitalized yet again during Thanksgiving, for six days.

Lots of tests.

Still, lots of unanswered questions.

Always, always there is so much love from these amazing parents for their Speedy.

But the pain…the grief…is so real. 

Raw…and deep.

Wendy and I talk a lot.  We speak the same language that comes from special needs parenting.  We can be real with each other.

We understand what Dale Davis was saying in his commentary on the book of Luke when he talked about the benediction in Hebrews 13:20-21…about the part that says may God “do in us what pleases Him.”

That part is scary because we don’t know what it is that will please God.

Can we be like Mary, though, and submit to God’s will for our lives?

“May it be done to me according to Your word,” Mary replied as she was called to be the mother of God’s Son.

“Submission is preferable to consolation, for consolation pleases us, but submission pleases God.”  (Thomas Hog, 1692)

Let that sink in.

There are so many times that I would far rather have the photo worthy moments of family and fun and excitement and adventure and beauty to be the posts of my life.

Not the incomplete family photos. 

Not the tiredness…anger…frustrations…comparisons…resentments that often accompany this special-needs life.

How about you?  What is it in your life that you feel isn’t photo worthy? 

What would you gladly trade in for a more beautiful shot?

Somehow, though, I know that God looks down on our broken and He sees the very people and things that bring Him the most glory and the most joy.

He sees way beyond this temporal into a plan for each life that goes far beyond what we will ever know on this old earth.

And that’s what is eternally photo worthy.

When I Don’t Understand

Years ago, in 2008, God put Gary and I on a very difficult life path.  I say that God put us on that path because Gary and I fully know and trust that God does direct our steps when we are living in obedience to Him.

The situation was very hard for us.  We were still in the phase of hurt and grief some weeks later when we went out of town for a few days.  There in our hotel room, as Gary was studying for his upcoming Sunday School class, I opened my Bible and found myself looking at Isaiah 40. 

I began reading.  Soon I was pulled into what Isaiah was sharing about almighty God, the God that I know and love.  I continued into chapter 41, feeling God’s Word wash over my wounded and tired heart. 

Did God give answers to our situation in these verses?

No.

But what God did do was to draw my eyes to Him…to Who He is…and off what was clamoring for my focus all around me.

It was very easy during those days…and still is, honestly…to look at the clutter of hurtful events and let that be where my eyes stayed. 

But Isaiah’s words pulled my eyes away from that clutter and shifted me instead to God Himself.

I am so burdened right now about the horrible things happening right now in Ukraine.  We all are. 

Why, God, are you allowing this to happen?

Where are You?!

I have been reading and pondering again through these Isaiah chapters.  I have no answers for the situation that God is somehow allowing in Ukraine. 

But I do know that God is the One Who measured out earth’s waters in the hollow of His hand.  He spread out and adjusted the heavens with His fingers, weighed out the mountains, sits above the circle of the earth, and sees earth’s inhabitants as grasshoppers. 

God created the stars, leads them forth by number, calls them all by name, and because of His might and power not one of them is missing.

“So why, Jacob,” God asks, “do you say your way is hidden from God and the justice you are due escapes My notice?”

This God of Jacob is our God today!  He is one and the same, never changing in His love for each of us.  

But I believe that many of us want to ask Him the same about Ukraine. 

God, do You care?  Is the horror in Ukraine hidden from You?  Where is the justice?

Alec Motyer says:  “…our inability to discern does not mean that no discernment is at work; our inability to see point or purpose does not mean there is no point or purpose.  The more we exalt the greatness of our God, the more we learn to appreciate our smallness, weakness, incapacity.  We need to learn not to fret and fume; we need to accept our limitations of knowledge, wisdom, and foresight.  Or, as Isaiah tells us, we need to practice waiting for the Lord.  Waiting is looking.”

And as we wait on the Lord…as we look to almighty God…we pray for all those who are suffering so much right now. 

            “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

            The Lord is the everlasting God,

            The creator of the ends of the earth.

            He does not faint or grow weary;

            His understanding is unsearchable.

            He gives power to the faint,

            And to him who has no might he increases strength.

            Even youths shall faint and be weary,

            And young men shall fall exhausted;

            But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

            They shall mount up with wings like eagles;

            They shall run and not be weary;

            They shall walk and not faint.”   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

All I know to do is to push away the clutter of my own thoughts…keep my eyes focused on almighty God…and pray for the precious people of Ukraine to be able to do the same.

See My Hurt?

Aaron recently had a tooth that was hurting him so much that he asked me to hurry and call our dentist so he could look at it.  For Aaron to want to go to the dentist showed me that he was truly in pain.  Our dentist referred Aaron to our endodontist, who confirmed what the dentist thought…that Aaron’s tooth was probably cracked way down in the root, infected, and would need to be pulled. 

Aaron was fascinated to look at the x-ray that the endodontist showed him.  You could see all the dark areas of infection very clearly.  Dr. Turner explained to Aaron that this was why his tooth hurt so much. 

Our next appointment was with an oral surgeon, the same one who had removed Aaron’s back molar near this infected tooth.  That molar had fractured during a drop seizure when Aaron’s face had hit a cement floor.

At first Aaron was pensive and tired:

Then he became silly as we waited for the doctor (look at his watch! 😊):

Dr. Cole finally arrived and examined Aaron’s hurting tooth.  He put up the x-rays that were taken in his office a few minutes earlier.

Aaron’s eyes darted to the x-rays.  He studied them for a few seconds.

“Can you see my hurt?” he asked.

Dr. Cole was a little confused.  He said that he couldn’t exactly see the crack but that they knew it was there.

“But can you see my hurt?” Aaron asked again.

I knew what Aaron meant.  He wondered if Dr. Cole could see the dark area of infection that was visible on his other x-rays.  These looked different and Aaron was concerned that Dr. Cole couldn’t see his hurt. 

I explained to the doctor what Aaron meant and then he understood. 

But Aaron’s way of asking about his tooth…his hurt…was SO Aaron and so touching, somehow.

I’ve thought a lot about seeing hurt, not only as it relates to Aaron but to others all around us as well. 

One day last week when I picked him up at his day group, he had just had a seizure before I got there.  He was laying on a booth seat when he had the seizure and so he fell off the seat, onto the floor.  I went in and there he lay on the cement floor.  One of the very kind supervisors actually got on the floor with Aaron as we tried to wake him up.  It took awhile before Aaron was awake enough to get off the floor, but it took some doing to get out of that tight area.  Later that night, Aaron showed us a couple scuffed places on his back.  Thankfully that was the only evidence we saw of his seizure…that, and his bitten tongue.

That was a hurt I could see.  Him lying on the floor, having a difficult time communicating when he woke up, and then the areas on his back that hurt, were all visible to us.

But how many times does Aaron, or any of us, have hurts which others can’t see?

For me, I hurt when Aaron has seizures.  I hurt when he talks about wanting a girlfriend or wanting to get married. 

Or when his meds make him very sleepy, and I wish he wasn’t so drugged:

Yet those hurts are ones I don’t want Aaron to see and so I hide them as best I can from him, and even from others.

How about you?  Do you have hurts you hide from the world, or even from those closest to you?

I think we all do.  I know I do. 

Why do we hide our hurts?  Maybe we don’t want others to feel sorry for us.  Maybe we feel we must be strong in front of everyone.  Maybe we’re embarrassed.  Maybe we can’t bear to share the pain and hurt we feel so we try to bury it.

But there is One Who sees every hurt we carry…Who understands every pain we feel…Who is wanting us to turn to Him and let Him take and carry our burdens. 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

Here is another way to say it:

“Come to Me, all who are beaten down and burdened down, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

 I think of the old hymn, Tell It To Jesus:

Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you grieving over joys departed?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,

He is a Friend that’s well known.

You’ve no other such a friend or brother,

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Have you sins that to men’s eyes are hidden?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Do you fear the gathering clouds of sorrow?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

Are you troubled at the thought of dying?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

For Christ’s coming kingdom are you sighing?

Tell it to Jesus alone.

If we can’t share our hurt and burden with anyone else, we can still share it with Jesus.  But sharing our hurts with those we trust, those who will pray for and with us, is also a huge help in relieving our pain. 

There is way too much hurt today in this crazy world…way too many beaten and burdened down people.  I pray that I will look at everyone around me and wonder if they are saying, “Do you see my hurt?”

And even if I can’t see it, that I will be kind and loving to everyone, knowing that they may be carrying a huge hurt that I know nothing about.

May I see and love through the eyes of Jesus. 

And may I let that same Jesus carry my unseen hurts. 

But Afghanistan…

My husband and I had a little getaway last week.  The hotel where we stayed is the same hotel we have used before.  It’s part of a major chain and one that we trust due to our past good experiences there. 

This stay, however, wasn’t so pleasant in a few ways – the main one being their new cleaning policy.  We were less than pleased for several reasons, even after filling out a form that we were never told about when checking in a few days earlier. 

I took a couple pictures before we checked out and fully intended to post an honest review on their web site, and maybe even share it on FB.  That’s how unhappy I was.

But Afghanistan…

I walked into our nearby grocery store today.  The aisles have been shuffled, yet again.  I felt irritated.  I almost complained to a fellow customer who was standing there at the end of an aisle looking as befuddled as I’m sure I did.

But Afghanistan…

My favorite low-carb ice cream bars are still not in stock, at any store, for some strange reason.  I’ve griped to my husband about it and felt that same grumbling desire hit me as I looked at the still empty freezer shelf today.

But Afghanistan…

My Sparkling Ice flavor of choice was gone today.

It’s so hot here.

And so dry.

So many reasons to be dissatisfied.

But Afghanistan…

I am a free woman.  I am safe.  My family is safe.

Going to church to worship Jesus is not a death sentence for me.

I don’t fear that dreaded knock on our door that might bring torture or death.

I could go on, but all of you know what I’m talking about.  You see the horrible images and hear the terrifying reports.

Oh God, may I not let petty and trivial issues spoil my joy.

And every time I am tempted to do just that, may I instead stop and pray for the people of Afghanistan, and the Americans left there, who are suffering more than I can even begin to fathom.

Fill me with thankfulness for every single good blessing that I have all around me.

Fill me with compassion for the Afghan people.

Fill me with the compulsion to pray for my fellow believers there.

It’s easy to say that I don’t want to think about all this sadness.  I want to be happy.

How shallow! 

The least I can do is to keep these suffering people in my mind and in my prayers…to be aware of and in sorrow for their tragic needs. 

But Afghanistan…God help them. 

Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Damaged

During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different.  One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:

But instead, this is what we saw.

I stood there staring as I snapped this picture.  The trees looked both silly and sad.

“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say.  I am from the south, you know.

Andrea explained what had happened.  The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees.  Many were irreparably damaged…dead.

I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree.  If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.

These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive.  We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.

This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city.  Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey.  Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him.  Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.

Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise.  That is because Britt was full of hope and praise.  He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God.  There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial.  In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.

I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities.  One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives.  It reminds me of those palm trees.

But you know what?  Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured. 

And they’re growing!  If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.  

Life is there!

Roots run deep!

James talked to believers about trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 2-4)

That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life.  Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires?  That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties. 

Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be?  Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind. 

To abide means to endure without yielding. 

So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.

It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering. 

I don’t yield to unbelief.  I don’t give in to giving up on God. 

Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me.  But I can’t produce that growth myself.  Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.

Suffering hurts, no doubt about it.  Long-term suffering takes a toll. 

But what will others see in me beyond the damage? 

Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit? 

Is there green under my bark? 

Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!

The Cold Snap

We have a little bush in our front flower bed, a perennial that we planted probably 17 years ago.  In fact, I can’t even remember the name of this little bush, so I just call it that – Little Bush.  This hardy bush keeps its leaves on all year long, which is part of its charm.  In the summer the leaves are green with some maroon mixed in, and in the fall and winter the leaves are mostly maroon.  Small berries also grow among the leaves in the fall, so by Christmas it seems to be all decorated for the season.  I really like my Little Bush!

Last year, though, probably starting in March, I noticed that Little Bush didn’t look so healthy.  Its leaves that always stay were falling off, until finally only stark, naked branches were there.

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This was quite unusual, and I was worried.  Was I finally going to lose my long lasting little bush?  Was there something that I could do to save it?

I kept looking at Little Bush, wondering what had happened.  Then one day an article in the newspaper caught my attention.  The headline said something about how certain trees and bushes in Wichita were losing their leaves.  I read the information with interest because of my little bush.  The writer explained that earlier in the winter we had experienced several nights when temperatures had dipped to -10 degrees or lower.  These frigid temperatures had damaged some trees and bushes that normally held their leaves all winter.

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There was my explanation, I thought.  This cold snap had damaged Little Bush.  Then the article went on to assure gardeners not to worry but to be patient…that most trees and bushes would begin to grow again in the warmth of spring because their roots were not damaged by the extreme cold.

So I waited and I observed.  I checked my little bush routinely and sure enough one day I saw tiny new leaves emerging on the empty twigs.

 

As time went on and the days passed, the warm spring sun and the rains did their restorative work.  Little Bush grew…

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And grew…

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Until finally Little Bush was back, as pretty as ever!

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I’ve had some cold snaps in my life, too…times and events that came unexpectedly and with little or no warning.  Everyone has.

Cold snaps hurt.  And they take many various forms.

An illness.  A diagnosis.  Sudden death.  Lingering death.  Rejection.  Accusation.  Betrayal.  Job loss.  Divorce.  A prodigal.  Regret.  Guilt.

I remember my dad’s victory over lung cancer…how relieved and thankful we were when treatments were complete and he was in remission.  But before the five-year mark came the blood work and the testing and the phone call…liver cancer…inoperable…four more years of chemo…hospice…

Cold snap.  Recovery.  Then another cold snap.

But through it all, our family verse brought us each the warmth and the hope that we needed: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.”  (Psalm 46:1)

Sometimes our hard times…our cold snaps…make us feel like David when he said, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long – “Where is your God?”  (Psalm 42:3)

Where is God in our pain?  Oh, He hasn’t gone anywhere!  He’s a very PRESENT help in our trouble, remember?  He’s right here with us.

Right after David said his tears were his food, he said, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His PRESENCE.”  (Psalm 42:5)

My little bush had hope because its roots were secure, and so do we who know and follow Christ.  We have hope in our despair because we know that God is sovereign…He is in control…He has a plan…He is present…and He has a purpose for the cold snaps that rock our world.

“I called on Your name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit.  You have heard my voice.  Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.  You drew near when I called on You.  You said – “Do not fear!”  (Lamentations 3:55-57)

God is near in our pain…near in our pondering…near in our praise that arises even out of hurt and unanswered questions.

I love these lyrics of Jeremy Camp’s song, He Knows:

 

All the bitter weary ways

Endless striving day by day

You barely have the strength to pray

In the valley low.

And how hard your fight has been

How deep the pain within

Wounds that no one else has seen

Hurts too much to show.

All the doubt you’re standing in between

And all the weight that brings you to your knees.

 

He knows

He knows

Every hurt and every sting

He has walked the suffering.

He knows

He knows

Let your burdens come undone

Lift your eyes up to the one

Who knows

He knows.

 

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Of No Use?

Our neighbors across the street from us had a yard sale a couple weeks ago.  Aaron loves yard sales!  He REALLY loved the fact that there was a yard sale right across the street!  He asked if we could go over and check it out to see if there was something he could buy.  I agreed, knowing that he would end up over there anyway talking to Derek and Gina until I came to the rescue and escorted him home.

Before we left, I remembered that in my wallet was an envelope that held Aaron’s remaining Christmas gift money.  I was always forgetting it was there!  I looked inside and pulled out the cash.  Aaron had $5.00 to spend, and he was happy.

It didn’t take Aaron long to spy exactly what he wanted.  A lava lamp!!  Aaron LOVES lava lamps and has been through several over the years.  He has a glitter lava lamp in his room now, but this was a good old normal lava lamp.   Aaron knew he had found his yard sale prize!

We looked at the sticker and guess what?  It was priced at $5.00!  Could it be any more perfect?  We crossed the street with the “new to Aaron” lava lamp, carried it up to his room, placed it on his already crowded nightstand, plugged it in, and went about our day.

Aaron was waiting, though, for the level gunk in the lamp to begin bubbling.  As he went about the remainder of the day and evening, he kept glancing at his lit lava lamp.  There was no motion, however.  The gunk was still.

“Mom!” Aaron finally said.  “Do you think I bought something that is of no use?!”

I turned my head away so I could smile at his phrasing.  He’s just so funny sometimes…so precise.

“No, not at all,” I responded.  “The lamp just takes some time to heat up the goo inside.”

Gary got home and Aaron happily showed him his new lava lamp…his still not-moving lava lamp.  Supper came and went, as did evening chores and Wheel of Fortune and watching our DVD show just before bed.

As Aaron got into his bed, he sighed with exasperation as he looked at his boring lit but not bubbling lava lamp.

“I think I bought something that is of no use!” he sadly repeated as he pulled his covers up.  I was beginning to wonder myself if the lamp would work even as I told Aaron that it just needed more time.

No one was happier than me to walk in Aaron’s room the next morning, his coffee in hand, and see the lava lamp bubbling in all its globby glory!!  YAY!!!  Yay for Aaron…yay for me…and a special yay for Derek and Gina, whom I was afraid would have certainly heard all about the lava lamp that was of no use!!

Aaron was happy, happy!  And every day since then, when he returns from his day group, he plugs in the lava lamp, totally enjoying the goopy bubbles in all their various shapes and sizes!

Last night, Aaron went to bed talking about how he was going out to eat lunch the next day with a group from Paradigm – his day group.  There is nothing Aaron loves any more than eating out.  So, this morning I wasn’t too surprised to hear him stirring early.  How early?  Aaron keeps a logbook like this:

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This morning’s time was:

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He had so much to look forward to today!  He was ready to get this show on the road!  He supervised me as I poured his coffee and carried it to his room, then told me he would shower and dress.  I went back to my quiet time desk, but it wasn’t quiet for long.

Aaron was soon standing behind my chair, his shower completed and his impatience growing.

“Mom,” he ordered.  “Take your shower and put your make-up on so it will become 9:00!”

I soon realized that Aaron’s hurried mood wasn’t going to improve until he saw me making some headway concerning my shower and make-up.  But I also realized that Aaron’s eyes were very droopy, and his mood was changing even further from excitement to not feeling so well.  He told me his head hurt, his stomach hurt, and that he felt like he was having a dream.  We’ve learned that this often means a seizure is coming.  Aaron was ready to go back to bed, and sure enough I soon heard on the baby monitor the unmistakable sound of a seizure.

I never like Aaron’s seizures, of course, but I especially detest them when they keep him from doing something that he’s looking forward to so much.  No eating lunch out today for Aaron, I thought.  Bless his heart!

And my heart?  My mama heart takes a beating every time I watch Aaron going through this hard part of his life.  He handles all this much better than I do, thankfully.  But as I looked down at Aaron when I checked on him later, look what was in the background.

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The lava lamp.  Aaron’s lava lamp, that he worried was of no use, was performing perfectly there beside Aaron in his bed.

And it hit me.  How easy it would be for me to wonder about all the why’s of Aaron’s seizures and autism…to even feel like it was all sadness and of no use.  But never, never have I felt such hopeless thoughts.  Even in the changed path of Aaron’s life…changed from what we thought our firstborn son’s life would be…there is the sure hope that only God can give.

You see, knowing and following Christ gives to me and to Gary and to Aaron the same hope that God gave to Jeremiah to share with the Jewish nation centuries ago.

“I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

I can claim that promise for us and for Aaron today because we know that God!  We know that He has told us in Romans 8:28 that “ALL things work together for good to those that love God, who are the called according to His purpose.”

God doesn’t plan to hurt us!  He plans to work for our good in order to conform us to Christ!  We have a hope in Him and a future beyond anything we can imagine!

So you see, all the tough times and the sadness and the unanswered questions we may have do NOT mean that this life is of no use.  Absolutely not!!  This life is working perfectly, just how God intended, and in that knowledge – in God Himself – I can trust, and I can rest.

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Lens #1

Last week, I once again took Aaron to his yearly eye exam.  Doctor visits are always an adventure with Aaron.  Waiting for the doctor to come into the exam room is also a test of my patience.   Aaron stretches and wants to lay down.

 

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Or he eyes the tempting equipment and tools that the doctor uses, trying to pick them up and test them out before I tell him to stop.

 

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As I sat with Aaron last week and watched him during the exam, I was reminded of the following post from a couple years ago.  This was such a funny moment for me!   Here is what I wrote:

 

I took Aaron to his yearly eye exam today. God bless Aaron’s eye doctor. Next week I’ll be saying, “God bless Aaron’s dental hygienist,” but today all blessings go his eye doctor and to the staff. Oh, Aaron isn’t mean. He just has a very difficult time understanding what the doctor needs from him…..how to express what he is seeing or not seeing clearly…..opening his eyes wide…..not leaning back from every instrument that comes toward his eyes…..things like that. There was one very funny interchange, though, during the exam. You know how the doctor wants you to tell which lens helps you to see the letters on the wall the clearest.

 

Dr. Nelson: Aaron, is number one better? Or number two?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: OK. Now which is better? Number three, or number four?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try again. Number three, or number four?

 

Aaron: The first one.

 

Dr. Nelson: You mean number three….here…..or number four…..here.

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try these. Number five, or number six.

 

Aaron: The first one.

 

Dr. Nelson: Let’s try number seven…..

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

Dr. Nelson: OK, let’s not do numbers anymore. Is this one better, or this one better?

 

Aaron: Number one.

 

HaHaHaHa!!!!!! How I wanted to belly laugh!! I do believe that number one was the winner, don’t you??!! 😎😵🤣

 

However accurate Lens #1 was, Aaron was sure that this was the lens he liked the best.  He didn’t waver one bit from that determination.

I’ve been thinking about this as I look at my own life, and the lives of many that I know and love.

Through what lens am I looking at my life?

I just ran upstairs to be with Aaron as he had another seizure today.  I’m thankful he was lying down, so there was no falling and no injuries.  But his seizures, especially after all these years, are serious and scary.  As we get older, and as Aaron gets older, Gary and I do wonder about our future and his future.

In the past days, I have communicated with family and friends who are enduring all kinds of trials.  Two with aggressive and serious forms of cancer, out of the blue.  Tragic family issues.  Separation.  Divorce.  Friends who just bought a house and now he lost his job, literally overnight with no warning.  Lots of chronic health issues with no end in sight.

So much suffering! And the way that I view suffering depends upon which lens I choose to look through.

I know the lens I NEED to be using.  I need to focus on the God that I know and on His word that He has given me.  I may be rattled and shaken, but my focus will be sharp if I’m looking to God.  My faith is in and on Him when I look to Him…not disrupted by all the suffering around me that I or others are enduring.

It’s like Aaron’s eye exam.  I need to realize that lens #2 or lens #3 are not right for me.

Fear is not a lens God wants me to use when viewing my circumstances, or the circumstances of those I love.  Neither is anger…or worry…or a host of other responses that are all too common for me.

I know that when I have my eyes off God, life becomes blurry.  I lose focus.  I lose peace.  I lose hope.

I need to go back to lens #1, for sure!!!

The best way for me to keep my focus is to go to my Bible…to read God’s promises and let His words soak into my mind and my heart.

My parent’s favorite Bible passage is perfect for me to use in keeping my focus:

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore

we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains

slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the

mountains quake at its swelling pride.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

 

God told us we would have suffering and trouble on this earth. But He also has promised to be our very present help, our strength and our refuge, no matter what carnage is around us.  He is a loving Father who takes care of His children.

This is the focus I need.  God is the focus I need.

God is my lens #1.

I love the old hymn, The Solid Rock.  Look at verses 2 and 3:

 

When darkness veils His lovely face,

         I rest on His unchanging grace;

         In every high and stormy gale,

         My anchor holds within the veil.

 

         His oath, His covenant, His blood,

         Support me in the whelming flood;

         When all around my soul gives way,

         He then is all my hope and stay.

 

         On Christ the solid rock I stand;

         All other ground is sinking sand,

         All other ground is sinking sand.

 

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The Hard Parts

Tuesday was my birthday, and an early gift for me that morning was that Aaron got out of bed much earlier than the day before.  Why is that a gift?  It’s a gift because having to wake Aaron up to get his day going often brings anger from him, but if he gets out of bed on his own it usually comes with a far improved mood…from BOTH of us!

Aaron’s bedtime logbook that he faithfully fills out every day shows that he got out of bed at 7:16.  Not 7:15.  7:16.  I just wanted to be sure that I was clear on that point, since Aaron is forever and always very clear and precise about his times.

My memory logbook in this brain of mine has recorded that on Monday, Aaron did not get out of bed at 7:16.  He was sleeping soundly on that morning, so I had to wake him up, which can be very tricky.  Being awakened by Mom is not on Aaron’s list of Happy Ways to Start My Morning.  It’s not on my happy list, either.  That’s because there is almost no way for me to get Aaron to wake up that suits him.  Monday was a rather angry morning for Aaron, but he did go to his day group and I was thankful for the reprieve.

So, Tuesday was wonderful!  Aaron was happy, not at all because it was my birthday but because I did not have to talk to him in my weird voice…or shake his leg…or look at him with squinty eyes…or any of the other very irritating manners that he thinks I demonstrate when I’m working to get him out of bed.

I offered to fix Aaron some French toast since we had time and since he loves French toast.  He readily agreed, so while he showered…in whatever form that process took that morning because we’re never quite sure…I began the French toast.  Later, as Aaron sat down to eat, I saw him immediately place something from his plate onto the table beside him.  Can you see the little dark spot there on the table near his plate?

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I knew what it was.  The small glob was a piece of the toast that had cooked harder than he likes.  Aaron always places hard parts of food off his plate because he will not eat them, and he doesn’t want them near his food that he IS eating.

Later, when we were both done with our breakfast, I saw that on his plate was one more bite of French toast.  I told him he had one more bite to go as he got up from the table, but he told me that he didn’t want it.

“It has those hard parts, Mom,” he explained.  I didn’t push the issue or make a big deal about it.  After all, why ruin our good morning over one bite left on his plate?

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But as I looked at his plate, I thought of how much like life those hard parts are.  Hard parts are most definitely a real part of all our lives.  I wish I could just have all the plump, juicy pieces that are easy to swallow.  But no, it doesn’t work that way.  Life, all too often, seems to have way too many of those hard parts.

I remembered those set-aside pieces the next day as I took Aaron to his Epilepsy doctor appointment.  It was time for more blood work for Aaron, so after his doctor visit, we walked over to the building next door and went up to the lab. We’ve been very blessed that Aaron, from the beginning of his seizures at a young age, has always liked watching the needle go in his arm.  Even when it hurts, Aaron wants to watch each time.

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I looked at him sitting there, taking it all in, and I suddenly wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because he looked so vulnerable.  We get used to all these doctor visits and needles and medicines and tests, but today it was like I was seeing it all fresh and new.  He was my little boy again, with his life ahead of him…all of us unaware of all the hard parts that were ahead.

Soon we were waiting on the elevator, Aaron more than ready for lunch at Applebee’s.  The door of the elevator opened.  I hesitated to get on because there was a woman in a wheelchair inside, plus the nurse who was pushing her, plus another woman, plus a man.  That’s a lot of pluses!  The woman in the wheelchair saw our hesitation.

“Come on in!” she cheerily said.  “I won’t bite!”

I laughed, told Aaron to follow me, and we stepped inside.  I stood in front of the woman in the chair, facing her.  I saw then that she was on oxygen.  She was wearing a hat to cover her bald head, and her skin had the unmistakable chalky look of advanced cancer.  I thanked her for letting us crowd in, and then I asked her how she was doing.

“Oh,” she said now with weariness, “I’ve been better.”

“I’m so sorry,” I told her.  I wanted again to cry, and I hoped she knew that I cared.

As the elevator stopped and we all went out into the hall, I saw that the man from the elevator was walking with a badly deformed leg, or maybe a prosthesis under his pants.  His walk looked so painful.  And there outside the front door was a van from a hospice group, waiting to take the sweet cancer patient to her destination.

Hard parts.  All around me were hard parts.

Still fresh in my heart was the message from a friend about her impending divorce, received that very morning.  Other concerns for family and friends weighed on my mind…death, loneliness, health issues, fears, financial problems, job concerns.

Do I sound depressing and dreary?  I don’t want to leave it there, because for those who know God and follow Him, these hard parts are also precious parts of growing closer to our Savior.  Jesus suffered, and so shall we suffer.  But we have hope because we know that God is in control of every part of our lives…the easy and the hard.

This hope isn’t like saying, “Oh, I hope that works out.”

NO!  This hope is a certain expectation that all WILL work out according to God’s will, for our good and for His glory.  The outcome may not work out exactly as I want, but my wants are not nearly as important as God’s will.

Is Aaron cured of his Epilepsy?  No.

Is Aaron cured of his autism?  No.

So, how do I handle those “no” answers?  I handle them by fully embracing that a “no” answer is still God’s answer to me.  I trust Him to know best.

And I don’t try to push those hard parts out of my life and out of my heart.  I accept their reality with God’s grace.

Of all the Aaron issues that we deal with, his behaviors are by far the hardest to handle with love and wisdom.  Gary and I get tired…frustrated…overwhelmed…angry.  But Aaron is the whole package, the easy and the hard.  The sad and the hilarious.

We wrap our arms around Aaron and love the whole person, seizures and autism mixed in with all the rest.

Like Jeremiah said:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust IS the Lord!”

              “You are my refuge in the day of disaster.”

And so must each of us see every part of our lives as just the right mixture that God intended, and not try to remove the parts that are hard as being too hard to handle.  Go in God’s strength and trust Him.