Lessons From the Spider Web

Gary shared the happy news with me last night after he came in from his daily stroll around the yard with Jackson and his check on the garden. We have a tomato!! Yes – A tomato! But believe me, in this dismal tomato year even one tomato is cause for excitement. And so this morning as I watered the front flower beds I was anticipating my time with my veggies and getting to pick our lone tomato, which I would share with Gary tonight at supper.

Soon I was in the vegetable garden, looking and searching for our surprise tomato. Which plant had Gary said it hung upon? This one? No. Must be the next one. Funny how they can hide from view so easily. I was so engrossed in finding our tomato and so happy when I finally saw it that I very nearly walked right into a spider web. Spiders and their webs are the one thing that will run me out of a garden – even more than a snake, believe it or not! In fact, Gary has given me a piece of wooden plank that I call my “spider stick.” I can wave it in front of me as I work in the garden when the plants are becoming tall and bushy, knocking down webs and sometimes squishing the spider that lives there. I look pretty weird to my neighbors, I’m sure, but it works. However, no thought of spiders or webs entered my mind this morning because I was completely focused on this tomato delight that awaited me. What a close call that was, I thought, as I backed up and then looked for the unseen spider. Later as I sprayed water on our thirsty garden, the gentle spray from the water highlighted the web and the little hiding spider ran out to see what was happening. Now I know where that web is and can avoid it, or perhaps destroy it.

Sometimes in my life I become so engaged in heading a certain direction or accomplishing a certain task that I become unaware of the dangers around me. My life can become so busy in the doing of tasks that I become lazy in being the woman that God wants me to be. It’s easy to slack off on my quiet time with the Lord, for one thing, and if I’m not listening to Him speak through His Word and not praying my heart to Him then I am in serious trouble. I run a great risk of becoming entangled in the web of self-importance, pride, or discouragement. At times the tasks that we all undertake are good or pleasurable or even productive. But do they keep us from time with the Lord or from fellowshipping and worshipping with our church family? Are we so engrossed in our activities and busyness that we forget to be watching for the one who seeks to devour us? Paul told the Ephesian believers to “be on the alert” and to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” And just as the gentle water revealed the spider web and the spider, the water of God’s Word will reveal to us the schemes of Satan and the webs that he weaves in order to entrap us. But we have to be reading and listening, arming ourselves with God’s power, and walking with our heads up and our eyes alert for the webs that are all around us. I never imagined that I would be thankful for the spider and the web in our garden today, but I am thankful for the lesson that God taught me using one of His scary creatures!

Student of the Week??!!

As funny as Aaron can be, he can also be very frustrating and hard to tolerate.  He’s so much better now than he was when he was younger, though.  As I’ve said before, puberty was especially difficult as he struggled with the highs and lows of hormones, which aggravated seizures and autistic behaviors terribly.  Siblings of these special children suffer at times as much as, if not even more than, we parents.  Andrea and Andrew had times when they were very embarrassed in public by Aaron, or were extremely frustrated by the way Aaron disrupted our home life.  Now that they are all older, things have mellowed a lot and we’re very thankful for that!

I remember when Aaron was a student in the day school.  We had come out of two very rough years in another school and we were tense about how Aaron would fare in this new school.  The day school would choose a word for the week – a word that exhibited a good character trait – and encourage the students to demonstrate that quality all week.  On Friday, one student would be awarded the honor of being Student of the Week based on how well they lived out the positive character traits of the chosen word. 

One Thursday night our phone rang.  I picked it up to find that Mr. Z, Aaron’s teacher, was on the line.  He explained to me that on the next day, Friday, Aaron was going to receive the Student of the Week award!  I was sure that Tom must have the wrong number!  Certainly he meant to call the parent that was next on the list, not us!  Aaron??  Student of the Week??!!  And when he assured me that, yes, it was indeed Aaron who was the next Student of the Week – well, it was as if the Nobel Prize Committee had called to award Aaron a Nobel Prize!  That’s how shocked and proud we were.  And the character trait that Aaron had demonstrated?  It’s a good thing I was sitting down!  It was – BEING PATIENT!!!!  We were stunned!  We didn’t even realize that Aaron knew that this was a word, much less knew how to exhibit such a trait!  You think I’m exaggerating, but you had to know Aaron. 

Tom told us not to tell Aaron, but he wanted us to know early.  Oh my goodness, I was so excited!  Aaron was in his room, so I hurried downstairs to tell the others.  I zipped in to the room where they were and said, “GUESS.   WHAT?!    Tomorrow Aaron is going to be the Student of the Week!!!!”   Gary, Andrea, and Andrew stared at me as if I had grown a second head.  Then I said, “And guess what the word of the week is?!”  And without skipping a beat, Andrea matter-of-factly replied, “Hateful?”  I had to laugh!  Oh, how well she knew her brother!  Then we all laughed and laughed when I told them what the word of the week really was. 

We were happy for Aaron and very supportive of him when he came home the next day with his award.  We also wondered when the concept of Being Patient would kick in at home.  Still waiting on that some days, actually.

It’s a little worse for wear, but here’s the proof!

Long Hair and Mad Coaches

Last night my West Virginia Mountaineers were playing football.  It was televised here so I was looking forward to settling in for a night of football. Of course, starting mid-afternoon, Aaron began asking his daily question:  “Mom, can we do something tonight?  You know, maybe play Skip-Bo or do our backs?”  We take turns tickling each other’s backs with a back scratcher.  I told him that I was watching WV play football, and naturally he invited himself to join me.

And so WE settled in for a night of football – Aaron in the big easy chair that he loves, with his blanket over his lap like a nursing home patient; his digital clock that also shows the outdoor and indoor temperatures; tortilla chips; water; napkins; toothpicks; tootsie rolls; and possibly more food hidden under the blanket that I wasn’t aware of and chose to ignore.  So off we go:

     “Mom, did you know that the temperature outside is 74 degrees?  Is that cold?”
     “What does LSU stand for?”
     “Which color is WV wearing?”
     “There’s another referee in that jail costume”
     “Why do football players have long hair?”
     “Mom, now the temperature is 71 degrees?  Is that cold?”
     “I notice that sometimes coaches look mad.”
     “Do you think he can make a chance happen?”
     “A BOY cheerleader?  Now, that’s funny!”
     “How does that guy get that paint off his face?”
     “See, that coach looks mad!”
     “So are there five or six rounds in football?”
     “Why is that rope up in the air?”
     “Those refs in the jail costumes move their hands funny!”
     “Mom, now the temperature outside is 69 degrees. Is that because it’s fall?” 
     “Why does that referee in the jail costume have an L on his shirt?”
     “See, that coach looks mad again!”
    
At last the game was over.  Sadly, we lost.  And the WV coach did look mad.  The temperature outside was 67 degrees.  Then Aaron asked, “So Mom, is there football on tomorrow?”   I don’t know, Aaron.  I think they cancelled all the games.  And besides, my ears hurt! 

The Love of Family

Something that truly warms our hearts is to travel home to North Carolina or to West Virginia to see our families.  Their unconditional love for Aaron and their acceptance of him is such a blessing to Gary and I.  Aaron isn’t always extremely joyful to be around, but they love and understand him just the way he is.  And Aaron responds to that love by being relaxed and happy – and by talking – A LOT!! 

Aaron with my mother

Aaron with Leo, Gary, and me
Aaron with his Aunt Kathryn, my sister

We love our families and sure do wish that we lived closer!

Lessons From the Hummingbirds

On any given evening, as Gary and I eat supper, we are usually joined by several beautiful hummingbirds. Of course, we have to watch them from a distance as we look out our windows that are right there at our kitchen table. We have hung two hummingbird feeders from the eaves of our patio cover. It is there that these feisty little hummers dart and dash around as they vie for their territory. They alight on the feeders, suck in the sweet sugar water with their amazingly long beaks, and tilt their little heads back as they swallow the liquid. Then off they dart to land on a tree branch or a flower, but not for long. They are soon buzzing back in for another drink or to fight off an offending rival hummingbird. Busy, busy little hummingbirds they are!

There are times we notice that the sugar water is cloudy or the feeders are nearly empty, so I will prepare new food for our hungry friends. I measure the water and then add sugar. I let the water boil for a short time in order to completely dissolve the sugar, and then let the mixture cool. Later, after supper, Gary will go out and lift the feeders down off their hooks. He brings them to me and I wash them thoroughly, refill them with the fresh food, and give them back to Gary. He carefully hangs them again, and before long the hungry hummingbirds can be seen refilling their beaks with the tasty food. It’s a simple process which shows that we care about our little visitors and want them to be fed and content.

One evening I had a phone call and as I often do, I stepped out on the patio to sit in a chair and enjoy my conversation with a friend. It’s nice to sit in the cool of the evening and breathe the fresh air as I visit on the phone. Soon I heard a soft whirring sound and looked up to see a hummingbird hovering near one of the feeders. Off he darted only to return a few seconds later and hover again, but not landing on the feeder. He would dash away and return, dash away and return, each time hovering near the feeder like a miniature helicopter. I knew that he was afraid of me and was trying to decide if it was safe to land and safe to eat. Did he dare be off guard for even a few seconds when this threat was no near? I was so large to him, so intimidating, and he didn’t know at all if he could trust me.

Oh little worried hummingbird, if you only knew that I’m the one who feeds you! I’m the one who prepares your food with precision, who keeps your feeder clean, and who enjoys your daily activity with such delight. You bring Gary and I such simple, sweet joy at the end of every day. I would never hurt you! I have your best interest at heart and you can totally trust me. And these are the very words that I can hear Jesus saying to me. As I flit and flutter through my life there are times that I find it difficult to trust God. He can even appear to be so large and imposing in my life, and I wonder about the way that He is leading me. Oh God, can I trust You? I come so close and then I dart away, thinking that I know best and that this other way that I have chosen is better. When will I learn, totally learn, that it is You Who knows the best path for me? You prepare my food and my way with precision and great love. You enjoy me! You would never hurt me, even though the steps that you lead me down may wind through some painful and difficult times. You have my best interest at heart, and You know what I need to endure in order to bring me to the place of usefulness and maturity. And as I see You there, waiting patiently, I will learn to rest and to feed on Your Word and learn at Your feet. Help me not to waste my time and energy hovering but never landing. May I quit beating my wings about and learn to land and trust and partake of Your goodness!

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And you give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” Psalm 36:7-9

Four or Forty Tops?

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome often become fixated on certain areas of interest.  This is also called “perseverating.”  When Aaron demonstrates this behavior, we call it:  “Oh good grief!  What’s Aaron stuck on now?!” 

On our recent trip back east, he took his CD player with him along with some favorite CDs as well as some CDs he hadn’t listened to often or ever.  He loves oldies music and so when he started listening to The Four Tops CD he was captivated.  Over and over he played certain songs, and over and over he stared at their picture inside the front cover.  I had to look at it; Gary had to look at it – and we had to listen to Aaron talk and talk about The Four Tops.  At one point he said, “I love The Forty Tops!”  I told him that if they were The Forty Tops then they would be a choir.  He thought this was “quite funny,” as he says. 

He observed that The Four Tops wear “shiny church shoes” and because of the tapping on one of the songs he’s just sure that they are tap dancing.  Somehow I can’t see The Four Tops tap dancing, but I could be wrong.  Bing Crosby, maybe, but The Four Tops?  Anyway, he wanted to know their names and so I looked that up on my tablet as we drove.  Then he wanted me to write their names beside their picture that he stared at on the inside cover, which required me to log onto Wikipedia and compare faces with names, etc.  I felt like I was doing a research paper!  Aaron was becoming happier by the minute as he gathered more info – or as MOM gathered more info! 

In a moment of brilliance, I suggested that we check out YouTube to see some Four Tops videos.  I did that, and he was enthralled, but the video kept stopping and Aaron kept getting disappointed – which can lead to Aaron becoming frustrated – which we don’t want!  So I rescued my tablet and told him he could log onto his computer at home for the YouTube segment of our Four Tops education.  And true to form, as soon as we were home Aaron was on YouTube watching the singing and dancing Four Tops.  At supper that night, he educated Andrea on all he had learned about The Four Tops, whether she wanted to hear it or not.  She was shown the picture with the names printed, heard about their shiny shoes with which they certainly tap dance, and was told that The Four Tops twirl when they dance.

And Aaron wonders why The Four Tops sing about girls all the time, and things like love, and he cracks up when they sing about staring at the girl’s picture and kissing it a thousand times – or something like that.  In his literal mind, this is beyond comprehension.  And again, why do these guys keep singing about girls and love anyway?!  So this morning as we drove to his group, he did NOT forget to bring The Four Tops CD to the van.  When he heard them sing the phrase “I get all choked up,” he declared, “Well, that’s weird!  Why are they doing that?”  I asked him to tell me what he thinks “all choked up” means and he said, “You know – that coughing thing!!”  Whereupon I nearly became “all choked up” as I tried not to laugh!  And I will try very hard not to “choke HIM up” when he returns home today and we have to talk about all of this all over again!!

Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle Of……………..

Before I share this Aaron episode, I must make a disclaimer:

           1.  Gary and I do not drink alcohol.

           2.  Neither does Aaron

           3.  Aaron tends to show extraordinary interest in those things that we do NOT
                do.

That being said, this particular event with Aaron took place as we traveled to West Virginia last week to see family.  Gary stopped at a gas station/convenience store to fill up the van.  Aaron asked if he could go in the store to use the restroom.  I stayed outside to organize our mess inside the van and throw trash away.  And so off Aaron lumbered (yes, he lumbers) and disappeared inside the store.  Later, as we drove away down the interstate, Aaron shared his experience inside the store. 

In his words (more or less):  “Hey, when I came out of the bathroom I saw some drinks for sale.  I thought they were the flavored water that I like so I stopped to read the sign.  I couldn’t read all of it and so I had to stand like this.”   He then demonstrated that he completely bent sideways at the waist in order to read the sign.  He continued:  “Then I saw this guy staring at me.  Was he staring at me because I was bent over?”   You know, Aaron, that’s very possible.  And then, “After I finished reading it, it said Strawberry Rum.  It wasn’t flavored water, Mom! But it was pink and I always knew rum to be orangeish.”  And just how do you know that, Aaron?   And in conclusion:  “I didn’t know rum was still out.  I thought beer was the most famous drink now.” 

And so we had to discuss rum and beer and which is the most famous and the various colors.  This fascinated him for quite some time.  I’m sure that the guy inside the store was also fascinated for quite some time as to what he had just seen, and was left wondering if perhaps Aaron had already sampled some of the pink Strawberry Rum.  You’re not alone, sir.  Aaron often leaves us wondering about a lot of things, too!