Lessons From the Weeds and Bugs

I knew I couldn’t ignore the vegetable garden any longer. I hadn’t really been ignoring it, but very muddy soil from several hard rains and my busy schedule had kept me from being able to tackle what I knew needed to be done. I had walked out to the garden daily; had stood outside the perimeter and looked at the mess inside; had thought and planned and observed from a distance – but now it was time for action. And so with hoe and rake and buckets and pruning shears, I put on my gloves, stepped over the low fence, and began the work.
I yanked and pulled and hoed with a vengeance, racing to beat the dark clouds that were on the horizon. My garden was so cluttered and ugly from all the storm damage and the inattention. The work was going fairly quickly, but then I stopped and stared down at the cucumbers and squash and tomatoes in their cages. That job was going to be slower because I had to be careful not to jerk up the roots of the vegetables in the process of pulling out the weeds. It meant getting on my knees and carefully culling out the weeds. One by one I had to pull them carefully from the soil and dump them in the bucket. It gave me a chance to tenderly inspect each plant for damage. That’s when I also saw the bugs. They, along with the determined weeds, were seeking opportunity to take over and destroy my vegetables. My battered veggies were easy prey for these pests. My garden plants not only needed a good weeding, but they also need a healthy dose of bug spray and an energizing shot of fertilizer.
Likewise, I am much the same as my distressed vegetables. The trials and storms of life have at times left me very vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. How easy it is when I’m beaten down, tired, and discouraged to listen to someone else’s voice other than the calm and loving voice of my Lord. Sin can enter so easily and grow so quickly, like weeds and bugs. Satan loves to plant negative thoughts in my mind and get me to focus on my situation rather than on God and His Word. Sins such as pride, bitterness (that’s a big one!), unforgiveness, gossip – I could go on and on – grow like weeds in my heart and crawl around my thoughts like unwelcome bugs. It takes a good dose of God’s Word daily and energizing prayer to Him to keep me where I need to be, especially when I’m battered and bruised from the storms of life. David said in Psalm 1:2 that we should “meditate day and night” on Your Word – which means to live life in accordance to God’s Word. So even when I don’t feel like it I need to climb in the garden of my soul, yank and hoe and rake, and sometimes just get on my knees and pull away the sins which so easily weigh me down and destroy my roots. Only then will I be able to “yield fruit in its season” and prosper like God desires.

The Bedroom

When Aaron was a student at the Day School, Tom (his teacher) would have tea times with Aaron.  They called it “Tea With Tom.”  Tom and Aaron would drink tea and just talk.  Isn’t that amazing?  That’s just one example of what an awesome teacher and person that Tom is.  Anyway, when Aaron was getting ready to graduate Tom said that he wanted to have one more time of  “Tea With Tom.”  The seniors had finished attending classes, so Tom came to our house for tea.  Gary had to work, so it was only me at home with Aaron.  They invited me to join them for tea and I eagerly agreed.

I have to explain that off of our kitchen, down a couple little stairs, is a short hallway with a bathroom on the right and a guest bedroom at the end of the hall.  Gary had a bad cold at this time and in order not to bother me at night with his coughing, he had been sleeping for several nights in that guest bedroom. 

Back to “Tea With Tom.”  We sat at the kitchen table, Tom and Aaron and I, sipping our tea and talking.  Mostly listening to Aaron talk.  Finally Tom looked at me and asked if he could use our bathroom.  I pointed down the little hallway to show him where it was.  He then saw the extra bedroom and said, “Oh, I see you all have a guest bedroom here.”   And my dear Aaron quickly replied, “Yeah, that’s where my dad sleeps.  He doesn’t sleep with my mom anymore.”  Again, where is a sinkhole when you need it?  So I started to explain, and Tom smiled and told me I didn’t need to say anything, and I said that yes I do need to say something, and it’s all kind of a blur.  Aaron could tell that his statement had created a reaction and he thought it was all great fun.  If we had a doghouse, that’s where HE would have been sleeping! 

The Nut

During the time that Aaron was in school, we were already exploring what several agencies might have to offer for his future.  We worked with Vocational Rehab for awhile to see if Aaron would meet their criteria for services.  They did a great job but their program really wasn’t what Aaron needed.  As part of the process with Voc Rehab, Aaron had to undergo a type of psychological testing.  He had been given quite a few psych evals over the years and so I wasn’t at all concerned about it.  Little did I know.

We entered the psychologist’s office and the receptionist handed us the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test.  I expected someone on the staff to usher Aaron to a room and begin administering the test.  Instead, I was told that Aaron would take the test by himself!  They obviously knew nothing about Aaron.  I told them that this was impossible, so they handed me a tape recorder and told me that the test questions were on the tape – so Aaron could listen to each question out loud, still by himself.  And still impossible, I told them.  So I told them that even though Aaron could read quite well he would still need the test administered to him orally by a person who could help keep him on track.  They were totally unprepared for that, so they informed me that I could give him the test.  I was shocked.  “His mother can give him this test?” I asked.  They said yes, so they led us to the test room – down 3 flights, ALONE, in the basement area with a door that led outside to a busy street.  They were going to have Aaron come down to that room by himself to take this test – a test that had over 600 questions!!  I was not happy.  I later learned from my good friend, Dr. Athalene McNay, that this test should never had been given to Aaron in the first place, by anyone.  Even the web site tells you that. 

And so we began the long, drawn-out test.  I would ask the question out loud and Aaron would blacken the correct answer.  I didn’t offer any help – until we started coming to questions that Aaron took literally and would have painted him in a very questionable light.  For example, one question said:  I like men.  Aaron was getting ready to circle yes when I stopped him.  How do I explain this to him, I thought?  I told him not to circle yes yet and he said, “Well, why not?  I like Dad!”  Oh brother!  So I said, “This means that you like men like you would like a girlfriend.”  He looked at me like I had three eyes, and then with great disgust said, “That’s STUPID!!”  There were others – one statement said:  I smell funny odors.  Again, Aaron would have circled yes, saying to me, “I smell skunks!”  On and on it went.  After sitting there for over 2 hours we were only a little over half-way through.  He was very tired and ready to go home when we were called up to his actual doctor visit.  I met with the doctor first, voiced my concerns and frustrations, and was met with a patronizing lecture by this doctor as he slouched in a chair and swung his jeans-clad leg over the arm of the chair.  Then Aaron met with him by himself.  I would love to have heard that conversation!  Afterwards, we had to go BACK downstairs and finish the test.  UGH!  It was a long and frustrating day – and I knew that this test wouldn’t show much at all of any validity about Aaron. 

At supper that night, Gary and I were talking about the day but didn’t want to further frustrate or question Aaron.  Finally I asked Aaron, “So, what did the doctor talk to you about?”  Aaron rolled his eyes and said, “He told me to repeat some words after him.”  “Really? What words?” I asked.  Aaron said, “He told me to say apple, onion, nut.”   “So what did you say?” I asked.  And with a very exasperated sigh, Aaron replied, “I said apple, onion, nut…………you’re a NUT!!”  We had to hide our delight but we were thinking – YES, YES, YES!!!!!!  Touche, Aaron!!

Aaron and the Mulch

Autistic individuals usually have an activity that calms them.  For Aaron, it’s sitting outside and breaking mulch or small leaves and twigs into a container.  He’ll do it for long periods of time on some days.  He’s usually making up stories in his head while he breaks the mulch or whatever into little pieces and drops them in the container.  He’s unwinding or perhaps calming down after a stressful day on some occasions. 

I remember when he was a student at the day school.  They had a padded room there, literally, for those who were having rages or were out of control.  They could be put in that room and given a safe place to erupt and then calm down.  Tom asked me if I wanted them to give Aaron time in that room on days when he was becoming very frustrated.  But I told them to give Aaron a container and access to some leaves, grass, or twigs.  Fortunately, there was a door that led from their classroom to a grassy area outside.  And also fortunately, Tom listened to us and gave Aaron a container and permission to go outside and “play in the mulch”, as Aaron says.  It worked beautifully for everyone.  Aaron calmed down without always erupting, and Tom and the staff were spared from having as  many breakdowns from Aaron. 

Aaron was outside with his container this morning, “playing in the mulch.”  So I snapped a picture of him.  No telling what stories are inside that head of his!

Matters of the Heart

Aaron is now 27 years old.  I know that he is a man, a grown man, and that fact is very hard to imagine.  28 years ago Gary and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child.  I had made all the yellow gingham nursery curtains, bumper pads, changing table covers, and decorated with yellow, fluffy duck decorations.  Everything was as I wanted it.  And even though I went into labor 3 weeks early and Gary had just changed out of his flight suit when he rushed me to the hospital, we were really ready – for the most part – or so we thought.  What new parents can ever be really ready for the responsibility that awaits them?  And what new parents can ever comprehend the depth of love that washes over you when you first hold that little part of both of you?  Aaron was so little and perfect and beautiful.  And my radar screen was still showing sunny weather with not a storm in sight.

When Aaron had his first seizure and was diagnosed with Epilepsy, and than years later was diagnosed with Autism, we were completely unprepared.  We never, ever expected such a thing to happen to us.  To someone else, yes.  Someone we would read about in a magazine, or hear about from a friend, or receive a prayer request for at church.  The reality of this event in our lives with our Aaron was just so unexpected and unwelcome.  And as I said earlier, when I got home from the hospital after his Epilepsy diagnosis, I cried my heart out with tears for Aaron, for us, and with pleas to God for His grace and strength.

I had a choice to make and I chose to focus on what I KNOW.  And what I know is that God is sovereign.  God is in control and none of these events surprised Him or confused Him.  God loves me and God loves Gary, and God certainly loves Aaron.  I cannot and will not ever try to explain the ways of God.  There is no unfairness with God, I do know that.  So instead of wasting time and energy trying to explain the why of our situation, my choice was to trust the Who in our lives.  And that would be God.  I know from my walk with Him for all these years and from reading His Word, Who He is.  I know that His sovereign plan is best even when He doesn’t choose to reveal it all to me.  I trust Him and I love Him and I have found Him always faithful.  Those things I know.

While in Leavenworth, God gave me Psalm 18:29:  “For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall.”  I just love this verse!  It’s my theme verse in so many ways.  Oh, the walls that I’ve run into in our life with Aaron!  I’ve shared many of them in the past few posts.  So many times I’ve run into walls, beat my head against walls, beat my fists on the walls, tried to climb walls with my own strength – but by my God, I can LEAP over the walls.  What a promise, fulfilled in so many different ways in so many different situations.  So I also know that with God, I’m a wall leaper!

But there are also some things I feel, and feel deeply.  These feelings come from within my mother heart.  I think of my heart as having various doors that open when needed.  Doors of love, of wisdom, of encouragement, of laughter, and on and on.  But there is a door that I rarely open because it is too painful.  That is the door of my regrets and wishes for Aaron.  I do not live in regret or in unfulfilled wishes for Aaron, but occasionally those thoughts slip in or that reality hits me in my heart.  Once after Aaron started going to the job skills school, he came home one day and said, “Mom, I’ve noticed something.  All the kids at that school have problems.  What are my problems?”  I struggled not to cry as I tried to talk to him about Epilepsy and Autism.  He was satisfied and seemingly unconcerned, but I knew he was pondering these issues very personally now.  And it broke my heart.  I remember when Andrew got his license and later came home with his used truck.  We had purposely not made this a big deal because Aaron was often jealous of Andrew’s life.  But Aaron looked outside and saw the truck, so he asked if that was Andrew’s.  I said yes and Aaron said, “I wish I could drive.”  Little glimpses like that into his heart made that door of my heart start coming open.  There are times for tears, but not time to wonder about what could have been or might have been.  Living in defeat is not God’s plan for me or for Aaron.

And there are so many reasons to be thankful.  Gary led Aaron to the Lord when he was 6 years old.  Aaron has that understanding.  He can walk, and run, and see, and talk (can he ever!).  Things could be so much worse.  He can read and understand, and even though he can be sooooooo irritating sometimes, he also makes us laugh – a lot!

In closing I want to post a piece that has always spoken deeply to me and I hope it will to you, as well.



By Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987. All rights reserved.


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability- to try to


help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it


would feel. It’s like this………..


When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.
You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.
The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in
Italian.  It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.
Several hours later, the plane lands.  The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!” you say.  “What do you mean, Holland??  I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in
Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy!”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of
pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books.  And you must learn a whole new language.  And you
will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.  It’s just a different place.  It’s
slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for awhile and you catch
your breath, you look around…………and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills and Holland
has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy………..and they’re all bragging about
what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where
I was supposed to go.  That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away………because the loss of that dream is a very,
very significant loss.
But………if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to
enjoy the very special, the very lovely things………….about Holland.