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.   

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

 

In the Hospital!

 

Aaron was in the hospital last week.  Thankfully, this was a scheduled visit and not an emergency like we had two years ago when Aaron got suddenly sick with aspiration pneumonia.  This recent stay was so that Aaron could have a Video EEG.  This testing is an important tool in determining where in the brain his seizures occur, thereby hopefully having some new treatment options offered to him. 

We had determined to make the thought of a hospital visit sound as exciting as possible while also being truthful about the purpose of the testing.  We talked about how we would have time there to watch DVDs; play Skip-Bo; play his Nintendo DS; and ORDER FOOD!!  This all sounded like fun to Aaron, although he would have much preferred to have these same options while staying at home.  I told him that the business of ordering food was not going to happen at home, so off to the hospital we went. 

I gave Aaron his bag to carry as soon as we parked in the parking garage at St. Francis.  I grabbed the rest and we walked to the elevator.  Aaron happily punched the button, and soon the doors opened…….to reveal a rather large man sitting in a wheelchair.  This man was a double amputee, having no legs, and I must say that it was a bit startling to see this.  Aaron just stood there in front of me, and in front of this dear man, staring and not moving.  I gave Aaron a little nudge as the kind man gave a big smile, and told us to come on in. 

“Please, please, please, Aaron,” I thought to myself.  “Don’t say anything you shouldn’t say!!”  Thankfully, Aaron kept quiet as the man and I chatted.  He was so personable and nice.  I’m sure he was used to many stares, and in that respect I could relate to him.  Maybe he knew that.  The elevator door opened and he told us to go on ahead, which we did. 

We walked away a few steps, and Aaron just couldn’t hold it in any longer.  “Mom,” he said.  “That man didn’t have legs!!”  As if I didn’t notice.  I hushed Aaron, knowing that the man was behind us, and so Aaron repeated it again, but quieter next time.  Hopefully the man didn’t hear us.  Later I was able to use that as a teaching moment for Aaron about being kind and polite.  I have no idea if it stuck, because Aaron was immediately off on something else……namely, the bell that he saw and really, really wanted to ring.

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Aaron had to wear button down shirts because of the wires which would be on his head.  He looked so nice, I thought, not at all like he was getting ready to stay in the hospital and have seizures.

Hospital visits for Aaron, I have learned, are very interesting and also challenging.  There are many people who work with Aaron who quickly see that Aaron is unique.  My job, other than caring for Aaron, is to care for those who come under Aaron’s blunt responses……or his silence…..or his attempts at being funny……or his frustrations……and I could go on and on. 

The nurses, the technicians, the doctors……just everybody who saw Aaron…..were wonderful and kind and very understanding.  I’m sure many didn’t totally understand everything about Aaron, but still they were sweet to him and to me. 

The resident who came in every day certainly got an earful soon after we got in Aaron’s room.  Aaron was being hooked up to the EEG while the resident came in to do his assessment, and to ask me questions.  He had lots of questions about Aaron, of course, but Aaron finally interrupted loudly.

“My Mom’s a blabbermouth!!!” he said with a measure of anger. 

I knew exactly what Aaron was saying.  He didn’t like being talked ABOUT while he was sitting right there listening.  However, it just has to be that way sometimes, which I explained as the resident was stifling a laugh.  This resident stifled lots of laughs, and some he didn’t hide at all, during the four days that he saw Aaron. 

Aaron also doesn’t like to be made to feel dumb.  No one there in the hospital did that at all to Aaron, but it was easy to interpret it that way.  Like when he had his first seizure on the second night, and the nurse came in later to check on him.  She asked him to say, “One, two, three, four, five.”  He repeated it, but with frustration, and so she quietly asked me about it.  But it made Aaron feel dumb, he told me later, so I had to explain the situation to both Aaron and to the nurse. 

I was a liaison, I guess.  That could look good on a resume, actually.

So, Aaron was all hooked up shortly after getting to his room.  He also had heart monitors on his chest, so he had both the EEG pack and the heart monitor pack to put around his neck when he got up to sit in a chair or go to the bathroom.  He handled it so well, only getting irritated a few times and REALLY irritated on the morning of dismissal…….which never happens fast enough for anyone, but especially for Aaron.

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He loved watching the EEG lines on the monitor until it was turned off in our room, doctor’s orders for everyone.  It didn’t take him long, as our friend Terri was visiting, to see that when he rubbed his hands together the lines on the monitor became huge and black.  He was really hilarious as he rubbed his hands together quickly and watched the monitor screen darken.  He would laugh loudly before repeating it again.  It was a good thing that the monitor was finally turned off.

When Gary came that first evening, Aaron did get to show him the lines.  “Dad!!  When you were in the hospital, did you have lines?!”  And……

“Dad!!  Get in my bed and see what it’s like!  It HIGHERS!!” 

A bed that goes up and down is such great fun……for at least a day.

His first dinner ordered was:  Mashed potatoes, a roll with butter, and pizza.  He was truly in food heaven!

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He wanted to keep his schedule as much as possible.  We played Skip-Bo the first night, but he got so sleepy that he finally took a nap. 

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He got up at 9:00 to finish our game, but was still very tired.  I suggested bed.  And those of you who know Aaron will guess what he said.

“It’s not 10:00 yet.” 

Silly mom.  Going to be before 10:00!

So I suggested that he brush his teeth.

“Not till 10:00,” he informed me.

Silly, silly mom!

I forgot to bring his deodorant.  Knowing that Gary gets home at 5:30, Aaron said, “When it becomes 5:30, can you call Dad to bring my deodorant?”  He was happy to see it in the bag later that evening.

“Can you put the deodorant on right now?  My chest stinks!”

He loved having Joyce come, and really loved seeing the subs she brought us and the goody bag full of treasures.  His favorite was the sock monkey and the battery operated back massager. 

He talked to Wendy on the phone…….Wendy, whose son has terrible seizures and who totally understands all this video EEG business. 

Aaron told her, “I’m kinda all wired up.  The lines are detecting my brain.”

We laughed, Wendy and I.  But then Aaron said, “They’re trying to discover things about seizures in my brain.”

Bingo!

And that was the difficult part.  To discover things about seizures in the brain, you must have seizures.  So, as Aaron’s seizure drugs were decreased, his chances of seizures were increased……which was the whole reason for being there.  Still, it was hard on Aaron and hard on my mama heart. 

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He did have a seizure, finally, on our second night there and again that next afternoon.  The doctor got the results needed in order to talk about future treatments.  But Aaron’s seizures continue to be what we knew they were from years ago.  I listened to Dr. Lee as he told me the results.

Generalized seizures…….no focal point…..hard to treat……limited options.

But God isn’t limited at all, this I know.  He has a plan for Aaron and for us. 

But Aaron’s plan at that moment was to ask the doctor the all important question:  “CAN I GO HOME???!!!”  Even getting to order food was not so charming anymore.

Aaron was happy, happy, happy to hear that he could go home the next morning.  And on that next morning, he gave the resident a whack on his posterior, much to my great embarrassment……the resident’s great surprise……and Aaron’s great delight.  He squeezed the nurse’s fingers way too hard during her last assessment, and told her that he was tired of her listening to his breath.  He rolled his eyes at the hospitalist when she came in one last time.  He tried to remove his wires on his own, and some had to be reattached, much to his great dismay. 

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But at last, the wires were all removed!!

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The bags were all packed!!

Shoes and socks were on!!

Discharge papers were all delivered!!

The wheelchair arrived!!

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And it was home again, home again……with a stop to get Dad and deliver him to pick up his truck that had died out on the road earlier in the week and was in the shop.  Yes, it was that kind of week for him and for us.  And then a better stop at Taco Bell, and home with nachos and tacos and all our hospital stuff!

Another piece of the puzzle of Aaron’s life and health is now in place.  It’s not the best of news and it’s not the worst of news. 

But no matter the news, we have lots for which to be thankful. 

“Let your requests be made known unto God, with thanksgiving,” the Bible tells us. 

Some days that’s hard to do, but God has a gentle way of reminding us.  Like I’ve said to Aaron since we saw the man on the elevator:  “Yes, you have seizures.  But you can walk!”

And may I add:  Aaron can talk! 

To be continued, I’m sure.

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New Year, Old Ways

A new year is upon us!!  Welcome, 2017!

A fresh start can be so nice.  New everything.  Out with the old, right?  Well, not always, as I have seen on the past two days.  We all know that to be true.

I ended my old year on a most familiar note…..playing SkipBo with Aaron right before bed.  I guess that’s our version of a party, which suits Aaron perfectly as he really does NOT like parties.  Parties have too much noise and emotion for him, thank you very much.  But SkipBo with Mom is orderly, predictable, with nice piles of sequential numbers, and plenty of opportunity to cheat.  Yes, cheat, of which Aaron is a master if not watched closely.

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The next morning, our New Year morning, saw Aaron blandly staring at me as I very happily wished him a Happy New Year!!  His lack of expression at these moments is often hilarious, but I can’t always laugh because he finds that emotional expression irritating or he thinks I am laughing at him.  Which at times I am, but in a good way that he just wouldn’t understand.

Anyway, Aaron’s main concerns on our New Year morning were:

1)      Can I have FOUR cups of coffee?  (Don’t worry.  The cups are half full).

2)      Are there coupons in the newspaper for me to cut?

3)      What time are we going to Chili’s for lunch?

Aaron had opened a gift during our family Christmas Bingo game.  The gift was a Chili’s gift card that was burning a hole in…..well, in my wallet because I don’t dare give Aaron gift cards to keep.  They won’t keep with him.  They will be lost or given away.

I told Aaron that we would go to Chili’s after church.  He wanted to know the exact time, so I gave him my usual ball park figure and he was happy.  He was not so happy with the coupons in the paper for some reason.  Still slow from his cluster of seizures on Friday night, the coupons did not make him show his usual sense of purpose.  However, he settled in on the floor with his coupon trash cans as he sat on his coupon pillow with his coupon scissors…..and his FOUR cups of coffee on the bench nearby…..and he began to clip the coupons, very slowly.

I was in the bathroom later when Aaron came to the door.  “Mom,” he slowly began.  “I was cutting coupons but there were too much.”

Pause.

“OK,” I responded.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he repeated.

“Yes, there were a lot today,” I replied.

Pause.

“There were too much coupons,” he said again.

Pause.

“There were too much,” he once again asserted when he got no Mom reply.

Pause.  Sigh from me.

“Aaron, just take a break.  You can finish them later,” foolish Mom said.

Pause.

“I ripped them,” Aaron flatly replied.

Pause.  Another sigh from me.

I was following Aaron’s train of thought, one all too familiar.  He didn’t want me to cut those coupons.

“Because you don’t do them right,” he continued.  “You don’t cut them straight on the line like I do.”

He made his exit on that note.  No surprise from me.  It might be a New Year, but we are still living in our old ways…..always, always.

And sure enough, there on the family room floor lay his unfinished little stack of coupons……ripped, just like he said.  Aaron’s thinking has always been this…..that if he can’t cut the coupons, NO ONE will cut the coupons.  Especially Mom, who is a dismal failure at coupon cutting.

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Those ripped coupons were a stark reminder to me that just under the surface with Aaron there is always that issue of how he handles stress in his life.  He reacts, and often his reactions are very inappropriate.  His behaviors are a huge concern to us.  So I stood there being reminded that we were on our first day of a brand New Year, brand new beginnings, brand new opportunities……and here we were, being slapped into our old reality of life with Aaron.

Some things just never change.  We know that.

But there were other reminders of wonderful things that never change, either.  Gary and I finally got to church on time.  Yes, we were one of THOSE people who totally didn’t see the memo on the changed time for church……one of THOSE people who didn’t give New Year’s Day a second thought…..and so on this New Year’s morning we drove to church TWICE.  And we laughed at ourselves.  We’re HOW old?!

Anyway, we walked into church to the hugs and handshakes of sweet friends.  And there was Joyce, who handed me a bag containing a huge bag full of Tootsie Rolls…..for Aaron, because of my recent Tootsie Roll blog.  How unexpected and sweet, in more ways than one!  Later, Aaron was also surprised and full of smiles at this kind gift.

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The care of friends is unchanging in our lives.  Such a blessing!

The worship and the message on our New Year’s morning was encouraging and challenging.  And we sang one of my most favorite songs – Great is Thy Faithfulness.  What a wonderful reminder of God’s unchanging faithfulness in our lives!

And later, as we sat with Aaron at Chili’s, Gary and I watched him ever so slowly eat his enchilada lunch and his salad.  His joy at eating out was very evident.  Never changing, his love of restaurant food!  And seeing that joy is always fun for us, despite our constant reminders to him that he doesn’t need to take 17 toothpicks…..don’t stare at the other people and their food……don’t make noises…..don’t clap…..please don’t loudly stretch when you get out of the booth.

Never changing.

I was able to salvage a few coupons later from the ripped pages.  I didn’t let Aaron see me as I quickly cut them out behind his back.  And I know that we will continue to try to salvage good out of the bad days that Aaron will surely have this year.  It’s our reality with Aaron, New Year or not.

But through it all I know, like that favorite old hymn says, that God will remain the same, too.  Faithful to us, as always.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

            There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

            Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;

            As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

 

            Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!

            Morning by morning new mercies I see.

            All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

            Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

 

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My Priceless New Year’s Gift

I was sitting by our Christmas tree this morning, knowing this is the last time I’ll be enjoying its soft beauty this year.  And it hit me.  Everything I do today will be the last time I do “that” this year, because tomorrow is a whole new year!  My brain, fuzzy from another long seizure night with Aaron and waiting for my first cup of coffee to kick in, tried to wrap itself around that fact.  2017 is almost here!

I’m not really as excited as that exclamation point may indicate.  I mean, a new year is always pretty cool to think about.  But life has a way of pulling us back to reality, especially as we get older, and for me my vision is narrowed to what I have on my plate right now.  I know I need goals, but on days like today, today is about all I can handle.

Up four times with Aaron and once with the dog last night made my reality at that moment very narrow.  It was the tree and the lights…..my coffee…..and the baby monitor beside me as I listened to Aaron after he returned to bed, my ears jumping into alert mode at each change in his breathing.

And one more thing……a word.  The word “grace.”  Sometimes that word may be overused, if that’s possible, and for me may lose its full meaning.  But this morning that word kept going through my tired mind.

Two meanings of this word popped up on my handy phone dictionary app.  They are:

1)      The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

2)      The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Perhaps my favorite grace passage in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  I was drawn to that this morning, and though I know it pretty well by heart, I made myself actually walk upstairs to get my Bible.  Really, walking up the stairs took some effort this morning.  I felt like I should copy Aaron, who earlier went up the stairs monkey fashion on all fours, as he often does.

Anyway, Bible in hand, I sat down and opened to these familiar verses.  Paul had been given his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was…..and three times he implored God to take it away.  Implored…..past tense.  It seems that Paul was done with asking God to remove it, and was now able to say in the next verse that God “has said,” meaning that there was an ongoing result of God continuing to say these truths to Paul:

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

One thing I had written beside these verses in my Bible, my memorial stone, was simply:  “Feb. ’92, Aaron.”  That was the terrifying day in Germany, 25 years ago, when Aaron had his first big seizure.  I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon in our kitchen in military housing…..the terror of him falling backward into my arms…..blood coming from his mouth as he seized and I screamed for Gary……the frantic phone call……the ambulance……the German children’s hospital…..language barriers with doctors…..so much to absorb and to understand and to fear.

But God was there with us bringing His unmistakable peace and calm, due only to His grace.  It had nothing to do with Gary and me being strong, or having a certain personality, or any of that “me” stuff.  I was a momma wreck!  It was totally God pouring out His strength…..His grace…..onto and into me.

So here I was this morning, 25 years later……TWENTY FIVE!!!!…….and God pulled me back to these memorial verses.  Nothing has changed.  Aaron had four hard seizures last night.  God has not taken away this thorn, this reality, this sadness in Aaron’s life and in ours.  But he has, over and over and over again, shown us His grace….His love……His favor…..His strength…..in the middle of our pain and our struggles.

So am I, like Paul, “well content” with this weakness that God has given our Aaron and us?   That phrase means “to take pleasure in.”  Well, no.  I can’t honestly say that I take pleasure in Aaron’s seizures or in his autism.  But I must look beyond all that list of things Paul mentions “taking pleasure in,” and look at those words, “for Christ’s sake.”

For my whole life, really, is to point to Christ.  That’s what following Him is all about, after all.  And if I could handle it all myself, I wouldn’t need Him.  But I DO need Him!!  And therefore, what Paul said is so true.  “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Strong because God makes me that way, and He makes me that way only because of His grace.  Back to that word again…..grace……the outpouring of His favor and strength upon me.

So I just found my resolve for this new year.  It’s to come back to the realization that I can’t change a thing, but I don’t need to change a thing.  Recognizing my sorrow and my pain isn’t meant to point to me and to make me the focus.  It’s to point to Christ and to talk about His grace through it all.

“So that the power of Christ may dwell in me,” Paul said.  That word “dwell” means “to pitch a tent.”  Christ’s power is here for the long term, for me, as I rely on Him and trust Him in the hard times and thank Him through all of it.

His grace is here for all of us who follow Him.  What a priceless gift!  So I close with the words of this old song written by Don Moen, perfect for this new year ahead.

 

                     He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,

He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

 

His grace is such a gift!  And so is our Aaron.

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Dad’s Bible

Eight years ago today we got the news that my Dad had stepped into heaven.  And for eight years before that, Dad had fought a hard fight against the cancer that eventually took his life.  So many stories of that time in our family…..so many memories of the month I spent with him and Mom before he died.  I’ve written much about it in the past.

This past Thanksgiving our family gathered in West Virginia, in our hometown.  Some still live there in Princeton.  Others had far to travel.  It was an epic gathering, really, and the first time many of us had seen each other in years.  Mom and Dad would have loved it, we all found ourselves saying over and over.  Wouldn’t they have been so happy that we did this?!

And look how we have grown.  This picture was taken in the mid-90’s.

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The below picture was taken this Thanksgiving.  Yes, we have multiplied!  And we were missing a few who weren’t able to come!

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We had a wonderful time, all too short, of hugs and laughter and lots of talking as we tried to catch up with each other.  The day was over all too quickly.  As nice as it was, though, I felt like something was missing.  It just didn’t feel the same.  I realized, as I thought about it, that the something missing was actually someone who was missing……Mom and Dad.

In the past they were the center of everything.  Stories…..laughter……teasing……singing.  So much of that revolved around them, and now for the first time this very important part of all our lives was gone.  That was the huge difference that I felt.  It just wasn’t the same, and I guess it just couldn’t be without Mom and Dad there as our focus.

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I’ve been thinking today about Dad on this anniversary of his death.  And remembering the very poignant part of our recent Thanksgiving meal when my brother, John, read to us out of Dad’s Bible.  He told us this story before he read Psalm 145.  In John’s own words:

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Regarding Dad’s Bible, it started on Thanksgiving of ’15, when I reached up to a shelf at home to get a Bible to read Psa 145 for our family.  I knew it was Dad’s Bible, but didn’t remember that he had carefully marked his daily readings with the dates on which he read each section (including the introductory notes and the 500 pages or so of study notes at the end).  When I looked at Psa 145, I noticed he had read it on Nov 26, 2000, exactly 15 years to the day before I was set to read it to my family.  There was something about that divine intervention that touched me very deeply.  When I got ready to read the same chapter to our family this year, the thought hit me to check his detailed medical journals to see what he was experiencing at the same time he was reading those passages of praise in Psalms.  He was right in the middle of his radiation treatments from his first bout with cancer.  He had already had the surgery to remove two-thirds of his right lung, and had already finished the grueling chemo treatments.  Now as he took radiation, he was circling verses like Psa 116:6, 116:15, 121:7, 126:3, 127:3-5, 131:2a. 138:8, and 139:16.  What a window into his soul to see the verses that God was using to comfort him, giving him hope and trust in the greatest challenge of his life.  And so characteristic of Dad, he was not talking with everyone about this.  It was a very intimate journey with his Lord that bolstered his soul as his body suffered.  I found myself thanking God for the man he was, and wishing I could talk with him about that journey.  I probably missed him more then than at any time since he had died.  What a treasure, though, to have that record of his triumphant faith in the midst of adversity.

 

Isn’t that amazing?  I’m so glad John shared that with us.  Dad’s “triumphant faith in the midst of adversity” never wavered as his body wavered and finally succumbed to this disease that we all hate.  Dad remained true to the Lord, to Mom, and to his family.

And now today we five children carry with us his heritage of faith, as do many of our children and grandchildren.  I’m so very thankful for that!  Of all the many things to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving Day, that would be one of the biggest.

We miss you, Dad, but we know we’ll see you and Mom again.  Thanks for showing us the importance of following Christ, and for living out your own faith so beautifully and consistently.

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Wilted

I have some container plants on our front porch.  They need routine watering, of course, but definitely need plenty of water during our very hot Kansas summer.  A few weeks ago, I was guilty of neglecting those plants for longer than I should have.  You know how it is.  I just got busy with many other things.  I would remember the plants and tell myself I needed to check on them, but then once again I would forget to do so in the midst of running here and there.

I had noticed my pretty Impatiens in the corner drooping a little one day, so I gave myself a mental note to water the plants that evening.  But I yet again got distracted and didn’t water them like I promised myself I would do.

When I finally went to check on the plants some time later, I was sad to see that my Impatiens was completely wilted.  “Beyond wilted,” I thought.  “This poor plant is dead……gone.”

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I very nearly just tossed the pitiful thing in the trash can, but something made me stop.  I decided to go ahead and water it.  What could it possibly hurt?  So I filled my watering can, gave all my plants a much needed drink, and waited to see the result.

The first time I looked at the dead Impatiens after being watered, it didn’t look any different.  This just confirmed to me that it was beyond hope.  But still I waited.

And wouldn’t you know, by the next day I was amazed at what I saw!!

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My once dried up plant was now thriving once again!  It had sprung to new life because of simply being watered.  It soaked up what it needed once that life giving need was provided.

I have gone through times in my life where the bad news and the burdens are overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s been hard to handle the stress, and so I have bowed low under the pressure.

It’s during these heated times in my life that I must not let myself neglect the one important element of what sustains me…..God.  He knows my situation and has even planned my path for a purpose.  But it sure is easy to become distracted from Him as I feel the weight of my fears and burdens.  Someone else felt this way, too, and wrote about it beautifully in Psalm 42:

“Why are you in despair, O 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.”

When we know God, it doesn’t mean we won’t suffer.  It doesn’t mean we won’t feel despair.  But knowing God does mean that we have hope.  Hope in God is hope well placed.  It’s a hope that brings us to praise…….praise for His help and His presence.

“The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.”

God loves us throughout each day and even gives us a song during the awful dark hours of the long nights.  That song is our prayer as we lay in the stillness of night, when everything seems darker and bigger and more awful than in the light of day.  Our prayer to God…..our deep groanings……our praise…..turn into a song, even when we don’t really hear a beautiful tune at that moment.  But God hears and He is pleased, and He is the One Who turns our prayers into a song.

Just in the past few days I have a dear friend who found out that she has breast cancer.  She will soon begin chemo and then face surgery.  My brother-in-law went in for a heart cath and was told that he will need bypass surgery.  A friend said goodbye to her wayward son as he moves very far away, and she feels she may not ever see him again.  Another friend is watching her son’s seizures dangerously increase as she awaits a visit with their specialist in Memphis.   I could keep going.  It just seems like there is so much suffering and personal attack right now.

This past Monday I sat in a friend’s back yard, at her picnic table, and we along with another friend were sharing some of the ongoing situations that one friend especially is dealing with.  This wonderful mother and wife, my sweet friend, suggested that we pray.  She bowed her head and started speaking very comfortably with God.  We all prayed, just as if God was sitting right there with us and we were including Him in our conversation……which is really the case.  It was so sweet, and each of us was so encouraged in just the way that we needed.

Just like my wilted plant.  We all felt like this at first –

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But after praying, we were encouraged and refreshed…..just like my plant that finally received water.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

The more I wilt, the more I can count on God to give me just what I need as I hope in Him, praise Him, and rest in His arms.  He will refresh me and He will revive me, even in the heat of the trials that I may be encountering.

He’s a good God and an amazing caregiver for us.

And He never forgets us when we need watering!

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I Almost Missed It

A little after 6:00 yesterday morning, I heard a loud thump coming from Aaron’s room.  I opened his door to find him lying on the floor beside his bed.  He had obviously fallen out of bed, but why?  I didn’t hear a seizure, so I assumed that he had just been too close to the edge of his bed and ended up tumbling out onto the floor.  But he wasn’t waking up and I was wondering what had happened.  He’s too big for Gary and me to lift, so I had to leave him there after checking him for injuries and hope that he woke up soon.

He did awaken and climb back into bed.  Later, when he got out of bed and had taken his shower, he came into my bathroom where I was readying for the day.  “Mom,” he said in a low voice.  “I don’t feel well.  My head hurts.”

I looked at him and saw a red mark on his forehead where he had hit his head on the lower shelf of his nightstand when he fell out of bed.  Poor Aaron.  Sometimes it seems that if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen to Aaron.

After talking to him for a few minutes, I decided to let him stay home for the day.  I was mentally shifting gears then as I rearranged my schedule somewhat, knowing that Aaron would be home.  It’s really not a life changing big deal, usually, to keep Aaron at home on days that I don’t plan on him being home.  But I do have to shuffle some things around that are on my list for that day.  Like I said, not a big deal on most days……but it can be an inconvenience. 

There’s another element, too, in keeping Aaron at home.  I’ll be honest…..I enjoy my alone time and am refreshed during my breaks from Aaron.  I feel selfish to say that, but all parents understand what I mean.  As I make a decision to keep Aaron with me all day, I know that I might end up frustrated as the day progresses.  He likes to shadow me all day between his times on his computer, talking constantly about things that either don’t interest me or that I have heard over and over and over. 

It’s at those times that I know I have a decision to make…..basically, be content or be miserable.  Be understanding or be irritated.

I was thinking about these things this morning as I heard a man on the radio talking about his unplanned health issues that have severely impacted his life.  He said that he has learned not to let his joy be dictated by his circumstances.

On a much, much smaller scale, that is the decision I faced yesterday.  And it’s the decision that I face on many days, not just concerning Aaron, but concerning every aspect of my life. 

Do I allow my circumstances to dictate my joy……or do I let God dictate my joy even IN my less than ideal circumstances?

God tells me to be content in every situation, with thankfulness to boot.  I don’t even want to tell you how many times I mess that up!

I thought back on yesterday with Aaron and was struck by what I would have missed had I not kept Aaron at home…….other than tons of talk about the movie Battle Los Angeles; his new delight in playing Battleship on his computer as he expounds on EVERY. SINGLE. WEAPON.; and whether Charlie Daniels is from the north, the south, or the west, and is he a cowboy singer or a country singer; and so much more.  Really.  Much, much more.

So what would I have missed?

I would have missed his heartfelt hug, so rare on most days from Aaron.

I would have missed him at lunch, saying, “I’ll wait for you to eat with me, Mom, so we can pray.”  Then holding his hand and listening to HIM pray his simple, sweet prayer.

I would have missed him asking if he could do the watering of my porch plants.  Look at his tongue!  🙂

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I would have missed him going with me to Dillon’s, where he asked if he could buy two thank-you cards for Barb and Brandy at Paradigm.

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I would have missed watching him prepare those cards, and ask if he could include a Papa Murphy’s coupon in each one.

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I would have missed the opportunity for God to once again speak through these simple things to my sometimes stubborn, selfish heart.  I am living the life that God planned for me.  It’s not a bad life at all, but not necessarily the path of life that I would have chosen if I had been given the option to plan it all myself.  I mean, I’m the age where I should be an empty nester and have freedom…..right?

Nope.  Not at this point, and maybe never.  But there is so much joy, even in the frustrations, because I have learned that God is good and His plan is good.  HIS plan……not mine, always. 

So yeah, my circumstances should not dictate my joy.  My joy is dictated by God IN my circumstances. 

Being thankful is a huge part of my joy.  It’s really the key that opens the door to joy, but it’s the hardest thing to do sometimes.  It’s pretty cool that Aaron wanted to buy those thank-you cards yesterday.  I need one to continually hand to God, every day, many times.

I bet Aaron could help me with that.

Oh wait……he already has.