I Love This Place!

For the past few weeks I’ve felt like I live in a snow globe.  I’m a figure that’s not fastened down, so when the globe is shaken I just fly all around with the snow.  Crazy, to say the least!

Gary and I knew that this was going to happen:

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Thankfully his foot surgery was planned and on our calendars many weeks ago.  We had time to prepare, even throwing in some minor things like having two bedrooms remodeled.  You know how that is.  Emptying the rooms of everything; deciding on what supplies to purchase; purchasing supplies; going through drawers and shelves and making multiple donation trips to Goodwill; the remodel itself (great job, Distinctive Designs!!); cleaning; putting everything back in the rooms; and heavy furniture up the stairs or down the stairs (thank you to our son, Andrew, home for Thanksgiving!).

Then there was decorating and preparing for Christmas with all the shopping and wrapping and mailing and cards and cooking yet to do.

Oh, and let’s throw in cleaning our big storage room two days before surgery!  Why not??!!

In the midst of it all, there is Aaron.  Aaron…trying so hard to maintain his normal.

Aaron’s normal is very vital to him.  His normal is as vital to him as breathing or eating.  Normal gives him stability and predictability, which he needs to maintain his balance.

Gary and I can roll with the flow, stressful as that flow may sometimes be.  Aaron…not so much.  When his normal flow of life is redirected…shaken like the snow globe…Aaron most often will react instead of handling the change.  Then whatever is causing his life change, as he sees it, becomes the enemy.

The enemy may be an event.  That’s why holidays, parties, trips, or other out-of-the-norm happenings can rock his world.  Aaron’s world is what he makes it.  His world is set and settled in his brain, everything in its place.  His days flow with an established pattern.  Can we all spell “ROUTINE?!”

The enemy may also be a person.  Any person who disrupts his pattern of life or his way of doing life becomes a huge problem to him.  Just ask his siblings about our Christmas family time every year.  We all know to expect at least one “Christmas Meltdown” every year.  The meltdown often involves some aspect of our family Christmas Eve Bingo game, which combines a party atmosphere with a lot of crazy thrown in from the annoying people who are on his turf and messing up his routine.

Autism at it’s finest, let me tell you!

When Gary and I arrived home the day of his surgery, Aaron was so very happy to see us.  I saw him scan over Gary’s huge wrapping with his ever-observant eyes, but Aaron never asked how the surgery went or how Gary was feeling.

Instead, Aaron talked up a storm as we got Gary settled in bed.  He ran up to his bedroom, returning with a soft blanket of his that he wanted Gary to use.  He ran outside in the dark and brought in our trashcans that were at the end of the driveway.  He kept looking for ways to help and was just SO happy to have us home.  I’m not sure how much of that happiness rested on the fact that his dad was all right or on the fact that we were home, at last, and now life could be back to normal.

Normal!  Right?!

Wrong.

Dad was in the guest bedroom.  Mom had to make trips down to Dillon’s for meds and food that sounded good to Dad and drinks to settle his stomach.  Dad wasn’t talking much and Mom was distracted.  People were calling.  Or coming to the house.

The morning after surgery, Aaron was getting edgy.  We knew it.  And Gary, bless his heart…in the shape he was in…managed to ask Aaron about his game he was playing.  Aaron was off and running then!  Talk, talk, talk!!  Talk about what he loved and what he understood and what mattered to him.

Honestly, Dad’s foot and leg all propped up on the living room couch didn’t matter to Aaron at that point.  How Dad slept didn’t matter.  Dad’s possible pain didn’t matter.

It seems heartless to us, but we know Aaron.  We know how autism is often defined by a narcissistic way of viewing the world.

We had some storms that first week.  It got rough.  My reactions weren’t always kind and loving toward Aaron.

Then after the snow would settle in our upside-down snow globe world, Aaron would look at us and immediately launch into talk of aliens and outer space and his latest movie and anything…ANYTHING…but real life and feelings and concern for us.  Then his anger would erupt if he sensed our lack of interest in what he was saying.

Just so exhausting.

One night after going around and around, Aaron regrouped quickly and stood by Gary in the living room talking about what show he was watching or game he was playing.  This was Aaron’s happy place with his captive audience.

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This past week, our second week post-surgery, Aaron came down with the crud bug.  Fever, cough, sore throat, aching all over.  A doctor visit, some meds, and he is better.  But again, a sick Aaron was a touchy Aaron.

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Until he thought of Christmas lights.

“Mom?” he asked on evening.  “Can we go look at the lights on the big white house?”

It wasn’t necessarily what I had time or interest in at that moment, but I saw the hope on his face and so off we went.  We saw the lights and then drove on to look at some other lights close by in several neighborhoods.

A couple nights later, after our neighbor mentioned a near neighborhood that was all decked out in lights, Aaron and I went out again.  House after house was glowing and flashing and bright and fun.  Aaron was mesmerized, leaning forward in his seat and very still, with a smile on his face.

“I LOVE this place!!” he finally exclaimed.

It warmed my heart so much for him to express such joy.

It warmed my heart to be the one who showed him this place he loved.

I’ll admit that sometimes I don’t love this place where God has us.  Life with Aaron can be very tiring.  He requires or demands things from us that we at times have no energy or interest in giving.

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This place isn’t always bright and pretty and rewarding and fun.  Sometimes we wonder why we’re here and what we’re doing.

But this place is where God has put us.

Aaron is God’s gift to us.

Sometimes we don’t feel that sentiment.  Gary and I get weary…lonely…at the end of ourselves.

I’m sure the man Jesus…God’s Son…felt all that and more, thousands of times over, as He walked this sad earth.

And because Jesus walked with us, He also understands our weaknesses and our human thoughts.  He is here with us to give us His grace and enable us to do the same with Aaron.

Aaron may not always love this place, either.  When his life is askew and he is miserable, loving this place is the last thing on his mind.

But may he know, when the snow is settled and the storm is over, that HE is loved.

Loved by God, as are we…and loved by his parents.

May this place, where we are at the moment, be a place of love when all is said and done.

And may your place, dear one…hard as it may be…be a place filled with God’s love for you and through you.

Bright like the lights of this beautiful season!

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My Airport Glory Story

In March of last year, 2018, I flew to Houston for a very happy trip.  Our daughter, Andrea, was getting married in the fall and so this weekend in March was to be full of trying on wedding dresses and making wedding plans.

Of course, I had a layover in Dallas.  There I sat in the terminal, catching up on social media and emails, when a fast movement caught my eye.  I looked up to see a little bird flying among the ceiling beams.  He would sit up there staring down at all the waiting passengers, though our area was people sparse at that time.  He would observe for a minute, then fly down and land on the carpet, where a few passengers would toss him bites of bread or crackers.  He was a cute little thing and broke the dull monotony of the usual airport terminal happenings.

I noticed a woman sitting not too far from me, within talking range, who was also enjoying the little bird.  Our eyes met and we both smiled.  We began talking about the bird.  One thing led to another and we realized that we had much in common.  The military…where we had lived…daughters in Texas…shared names.  She introduced herself as Johnnie Latham and had soon moved closer to where I sat so we could talk even more.

The best and brightest thing we quickly knew about each other is that we were sisters in Christ.  Believers understand this connection that is very evident, even when you meet a stranger.  It’s the Holy Spirit, and the communion that two people have due to that indwelling is very real and very obvious.

Johnnie and I talked up a storm as we sat there.  Gone were our phones as we talked and talked, enjoying every minute.  Gone was the terminal drudgery of the airport as we crammed as much conversation as we could into the now short time we had before boarding the plane.

All too soon, it was time to board.  We said our goodbyes and it was so nice to meet you as we got in line, with Johnnie several people behind me.  Before long, I had taken my seat near the back of the plane.  No one was in the seat beside me and it appeared, as passengers boarded, that my next-door seat would remain empty.

As I settled in and looked up, I saw Johnnie headed my way.  We hadn’t compared seat numbers.  Why would we?  But closer and closer she came, looking at her boarding pass for her row and seat number.  Then there she stood, confirming her assigned seat…and you guessed it!  Her seat was the one beside me!!

We squealed and laughed and exclaimed our disbelief!  Other passengers, I’m sure, were curious at this loud display of happiness over an airline seat!

“God wanted us to sit together!” Johnnie exclaimed as I fully agreed.

We just THOUGHT we had talked in the terminal.  Now we were on full-speed motor-mouthed conversation!  We spent the entire flight from Dallas to Houston sharing with each other as fast as we could.  And I’m sure we shared with everyone around us because we had a hard time talking softly!  We had stories to tell!  We had examples of God’s goodness to talk about.  We laughed.  We praised God.  We cried.  The whole time was really sweet and amazing and so very special.

“Let’s take a selfie!” Johnnie said through her laughter.

So, she snapped this quick picture of the two of us.

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And just like that, before we were ready, we landed in Houston.  Our fellowship was over all too soon.  I had never regretted finishing a flight like I did that one.

We hugged, said our goodbyes, friended each other on Facebook, and waved goodbye once more across the Houston terminal as we parted ways.

We kept in touch over Facebook through the next year.  And one day earlier this year, her life changed.  Johnnie was diagnosed with cancer.  Now she became a fighter as she endured all the tests, the chemo, the hospital stays…struggles that I can’t fathom.  Struggles for her and for her dear husband, daughters, and grandchildren.

But never turning her back on God.  Never giving up hope, even knowing that her final healing might come in heaven instead of earth.

And so it seems that this will be the case.  Her cancer has spread in her brain and there is nothing more to be done on earth.  She is home now, on Hospice care.

Her husband, Jack, said this in a post I read:  “She will win because she will be with our savior and she is looking forward to that day.”

Victory!!  Johnnie and I shared victory stories on that plane…me about my dad and Johnnie about her sister.  Now Johnnie will have the most powerful victory story of all!

What an impact this woman made on me in such a short time!  I can only imagine the huge impact she’s had on her family and friends who have relished life with her for years.

And I was thinking about how we both thought we didn’t have enough time on that day to share and talk and laugh and cry.  It wasn’t enough time.

But oh, we WILL have enough time one day!

We’ll have all of eternity to talk and share and laugh and worship God together.  In person!!

But we won’t cry.  No tears in heaven!

So, Johnnie, you hold my seat this time and I’ll join you in heaven one day.

I can hardly wait to hear you laugh on that day!

 

In the Crosswalk

What is it with Aaron and crosswalks??!!

I was asking myself this question yet again yesterday as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart.

I could also ask the question, “What is it with Aaron and Wal-Mart??!!”

Oh, the stories!

As we got out of the van yesterday, while we were still rather obscurely hidden in the parking lot, I reminded Aaron to pull up his jeans.  He did that while tucking in his shirt, but for some reason yesterday his shirt tucking had a rather dramatic and unsettling beginning.  It involved Aaron fully sticking his arm down the FRONT of his pants, getting his shirt settled down there, and then working his way around the remaining waistband.

I told you it was unsettling.

“Aaron, good grief, you don’t need to make such a production of tucking your shirt in,” I instructed him as we walked through the store and he decided that his jeans and shirt needed repositioning several times.

Several times in the same manner mentioned above.

When will I ever learn to quit walking ahead of Aaron in Wal-Mart?

You would think after the nightie story and the falling cereal display story and the singing story…that I would know better.

I was in full “ hurry-to-the-van-while-mentally-checking-off-my-to-do-list-and-plan-my-next-stop-for-that-one-missing-item” mode as Aaron and I exited Wal-Mart.  Which means I wasn’t paying attention to lagging Aaron.

Instinct kicked in, I guess, because I turned around IN the crosswalk, with cars and staring drivers on either side of us, just in time to see Aaron pulling up his jeans and tucking in his shirt.

And doing it in that same disturbing manner!!!

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CROSSWALK!!!!!

“AARON!!!” I calmly insisted, “STOP IT!!”

I said this while continuing to walk as if nothing was amiss at all.

Aaron knew then that he had erred, so he scurried up beside me as we left the embarrassing crosswalk.

“Well, I had to pull my pants up!” Aaron explained.

“In the middle of the crosswalk?!” I asked.

“What’s wrong with that?” Aaron questioned.

I just took a deep breath, reminded myself not to shame Aaron, and proceeded to once again remind him of how some things are best done in a less public setting.

Trust me, many of Aaron’s actions are best done in a MUCH less public setting!!

But Aaron truly doesn’t have a concept of social norms like you and I do.  No amount of proper parenting, wise advice, careful instruction, and repeated modeling of acceptable behaviors has…or ever will…change him.

I mean, he does show some improvements in some areas.  He hasn’t made his loud farting noise with his mouth in the middle of Wal-Mart in some time, come to think of it.

He can be so funny, but he can also be so exhausting.  The exhaustion is mostly mental for me and Gary with some emotional thrown in as well.

A big part of it is Aaron’s talking.  He loves to follow us around the house, sometimes a LOT, and talk…always a LOT!!

Our son, Andrew, drove home from Indianapolis for Thanksgiving.  Aaron had fresh ears to listen to all his talking, but he also had competition.  The competition comes into play for Aaron because now he must share our attention.  He is not the only person in the house, and he must share his podium with his brother.

This is difficult for Aaron, try as he might to be patient.  Another issue is the topic of our conversations.  Aaron’s topics are typically about aliens, Star Wars or Transformers or Terminators or whatever else he is watching, relational issues at his day group, and more about aliens and outer space and droids and what-do-we-think about aliens and outer space and droids, etc., etc., etc.

All of us are like the drivers in the crosswalk, where Aaron has the right-of-way and we must wait for him to cross.  No amount of confirmation from us toward Aaron can change the fact that his mind-numbing conversations dull our responses to him…and he senses this.

He also truly wants to be the ONLY one talking, and this is where we must step in and remind him to take his turn.  This creates anger on his part and resentment toward the person who has pushed him off his podium, albeit unwittingly, but done none-the-less.  We all understand this about Aaron, and even expect it, but still it’s tiring.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Gary got home early from work so we along with Andrew picked Aaron up from his day group and went out to eat in Old Town.  Aaron had a seizure early that morning, and another one about an hour before we picked him up, but it didn’t dull his tongue.  Not one bit.  😊

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But my favorite picture of our Thanksgiving was when Aaron waddled into the kitchen wearing his shark blanket – a gift from Andrea and Kyle for his birthday – and proceeded to continue talking.  It was just hilarious to see him standing there, oblivious to how he looked, and still talking up a storm.

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Again, we were trapped in the crosswalk…all of us with hidden smiles on our faces…and Aaron unaware of how comical he looked.

Living with Aaron isn’t always easy, especially when we’re already stressed about other life events and concerns.  Having to stop on a busy day for people in the crosswalk isn’t always fun, either.  So, when we’re rushing to get ready for the holidays in the midst of having some remodeling done, with lots of furniture to move around and mess to clean up – thanks for your awesome help, Andrew!! – and Gary is having foot surgery on Monday and will be incapacitated for a long time in a house full of stairs!! – and there’s decorating and shopping and surgery prep and just LIFE!!…

Those crosswalks can be very, very irritating and draining.

It helps to be able to smile and sometimes laugh and to think of Aaron in his shark outfit, not to be derailed from talking!

The pulling up his pants thing, though.  Some things are best forgotten.

My apologies to all the drivers at that crosswalk.

It was memorable, I’m sure.  😊  😊

Aaron usually is.

 

Joy and Crescent Rolls

My phone rang yesterday while I was working in the kitchen.  Of course, it was Aaron making one of his several calls from his day group…calls in which he updates me on his doings, reports good times or bad times with friends there, asks me when I’m coming to pick him up, and stresses that he wants me to come EARLY!!

Since this day was Friday, and since Friday is the day we usually have a special meal of Aaron’s choosing, this phone call greatly concerned food.  He also wanted to know if we were going on our Friday Wal-Mart trip to buy him his “end-of-week and beginning-of-weekend” snacks.

“MOM!!” he began.  “Are we going to Wal-Mart after you pick me up?!”

I assured him that we were.

“MOM!!” he continued.  “Can I get some Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to have for our supper?”

I assured him that we could.

“MOM!!” he added.  “Not the kind in the box but the kind that you bake in the oven.  Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!”

I assured him I understood.

And then he chuckled…his deep-throated chuckle of pure delight.

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls filled him with the greatest joy at that moment, a contagious joy that was passed on to me as I joined him with a laugh of my own.

One thing about Aaron that continues to teach me so much about handling life is his joy in the simplest of things…things that I often take for granted.

I typically don’t play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but for the past few years I have caved somewhat on that standard.  Two days ago, while cooking supper, I turned Pandora to a Christmas station.  Music has always, from my childhood, been a huge part of my life.  I listened as I prepared our meal, waiting for that illusive “Christmas spirit” to wash over me.

Instead, though, I was soon brushing away tears.  Silent Night was playing, and that song above all Christmas songs, reminds me of times past and of my parents and of how I miss them and of so many other memories.  Sweet memories, but memories now…people and events of the past, not the present.

And the present…the now…is where I wish they still were.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season, above all other seasons…with its music and traditions and memories…is so very full of emotion and expectations.

Expectations that often don’t materialize and so leave us with sadness.

In November of 2004, my parents called with the unexpected news that dad’s cancer was no longer in remission.  Doctors had found inoperable cancer in his liver.  All our close family was devastated at this news.  Gary and I decided to quickly change our Christmas plans that year.  We loaded up our van the next month just before Christmas and traveled the long distance home to West Virginia.  All of us wondered if this would be Dad’s last Christmas.

This long, sad trip was very hard for Aaron in all the ways that change and travel have always been hard for Aaron.  The most stressful aspect for Aaron, though…for all of us…was the raw emotion that we couldn’t hide.  Aaron doesn’t like crying and on this visit we couldn’t successfully hide all our tears from him.  The early morning that we left Mom and Dad’s to return to Kansas, we all stood in a circle as we held hands and prayed.  And we all cried.

Except for Aaron, who sat off to the side rocking in a recliner and saying over and over, “Crybabies!!  Crybabies!!  Crybabies!!”

To borrow an Aaron phrase, it was half sad and half funny!

Yet a very sweet moment with Aaron happened during that trip.  As Mom and Dad opened their Christmas presents, they unwrapped a framed poem of sorts that someone had given them.  Aaron saw it and he held it carefully as he began to read.  We all sat still and listened to him read every word in his monotone voice.  It was good that he was looking down and didn’t see my parent’s tears, and ours as well.

 

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I have this precious piece now and was looking at it the other day as I did some sorting.   I thought of it as I listened to Silent Night and my heart filled with emotions about what used to be and what isn’t now.

I know that I have a choice to make.  I also know what God has told me to do.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (I Thessalonians 5:18)

As the poem said, happiness is all around us.  I like to substitute the more meaningful word “joy” for happiness, for joy is a fruit of the Spirit in my life and is possible no matter my circumstances.  But whichever word you use, know truly that there is joy and happiness all around us, every day, in sometimes the smallest of ways.  Yet small things are huge when we look at them through the lens of thankfulness.

Over the years, life changes…a lot…but joy with a thankful heart should be a constant for us.

 

Aaron has seizures, but we are thankful for good doctors:

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Thankful for yummy and very cheesy chicken enchiladas:

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Thankful for God’s amazing creatures in our own yard:

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And thankful for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls!

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Hey, It’s My Birthday!!

We just finished celebrating Aaron’s 35th birthday.  We had three days of birthday events, full of fun and loaded with Aaron’s exuberance.  There aren’t many 35 year old’s who would embrace their birthday with as much joy and pure excitement as Aaron did.  His birthday is one of those times that we fully see how unencumbered Aaron is with adult responsibilities and burdens.  35 doesn’t seem old or worrisome to him at all.  He’s all about HIS day and all the fun it holds!  He’s very much like a kid, and everyone around him smiles at his delight.

Aaron begins planning his birthday months before the actual date.  I’m not exaggerating.  He talks and talks about his plans.  Can we go here?  Can we do that?  And often, he doesn’t ask us before he starts inviting people to come to our house or to eat out.  It’s easy to be exhausted long before the birthday celebration even occurs as we try to keep up with him and his grand plans.

His birthday was this past Friday.  On Thursday, he stayed home from his day group.  He helped me make lots of cupcakes for his day group to share the next day.

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We also made lasagna for some of his friends to have on Thursday night.  We loaded up the van with lasagna, garlic bread, cupcakes and drinks before driving across town to the residential home of some of his day group friends.  All girls, by the way!  😊

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On Friday, Aaron carried his cupcakes into his day group…chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing and sprinkles, per Aaron’s wishes.  At the end of his day, Barb…dear friend, second mom, and Paradigm manager…brought Aaron to meet Gary and me at Texas Roadhouse for his birthday “eating out” supper – Aaron’s choice once again, of course!

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Oh my goodness, his excitement was almost palpable!  He could hardly stop laughing and talking, and rubbing his hands together, in complete happiness.

“It’s my birthday today!!” he immediately told our server.  “Can you sing to me?!”

Our sweet server laughed as well and said of course.  She mentioned the saddle, which we had to explain to Aaron, and which he agreed to our surprise to do…but later he backed out on that saddle business.  He wanted the largest sirloin, but we insisted on the next size down.  He barely quit talking and eating.  He was large and loud and very, very happy!

His gift bags from Barb, and from Casady – Barb’s daughter and another very good friend – were perfect for Aaron because they know him so well.  And they love him, which he fully knows.

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At home later, he opened more gifts and he talked to family…and he loved the shark cuddle blanket from Andrea and Kyle!

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Then on Sunday evening, we met his special friend Rosa for their traditional birthday dinner at Chili’s.  Again, Aaron announced his birthday to our server and asked if they would sing to him and bring him ice cream with chocolate syrup.  Look at Aaron’s happy face when after dinner several of the staff sang and clapped and made Aaron’s final birthday celebration complete.

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Rosa ran to their car as we left, bringing out her doll head that she loves so much, while Louise and I laughed and laughed.  We love Aaron and Rosa’s friendship!

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My heart was warmed later when Louise told me about how she and Rosa were looking at calendars to buy for Aaron.  Aaron loves animal calendars, so Rosa eyed each of the three that Louise showed her.  Rosa instantly chose the buddy calendar that shows dog and cat buddies for each month.  Isn’t that so sweet?

I’m very thankful for each of Aaron’s friends and family that love him.  Every text, Facebook message, phone call, and gift to Aaron was also a very deep gift to me, as well.  I loved seeing Aaron so happy, and I love seeing Aaron BE loved by so many precious people in his life.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone when you raise a child with special needs, especially when they are fully adults yet, as in Aaron’s case, still so fully dependent on the help he needs from the family and staff that surround him.

Easy to look at others who are Aaron’s age, or much younger, who are finishing school and getting jobs and raising a family.

Those thoughts for me are fleeting, though, because I know the danger they carry.  Aaron is Aaron, created by God, and my responsibility is to love and care for him – not to regret that he isn’t someone else.

Barb’s daughter, Casady, a kind soul who loves Aaron to pieces, wrote this in Aaron’s card:

“Happy birthday, buddy!  Thanks for making me see all the sides of life.   Love you so much.”

 Those words seem to just go over Aaron’s head, but not mine.  Her words go straight to my heart and come out from my eyes in tears that I don’t let Aaron see…or he would call me a crybaby.

But oh, life really is so much more than our routine and our version of “normal.”  Trust me, Aaron shows us sides of life that we never even thought of!  And other sides that we would like to forget!

Yet Aaron also shows us how much fun it is to relish routine and special days and music and warm blankets and coffee and cows and horses and bugs and steak and movies and shopping and dogs and cats and milkshakes and sharing and pennies he finds on the ground.

I sometimes stop and look at Aaron when he’s doing an Aaron thing, and my heart swells ‘til it almost hurts.  He is so unique, complicated, hilarious, maddening, and upsetting.  All the sides of Aaron are also the sides that all of us have, but Aaron doesn’t often have the ability to hide them like we can.  They’re out there for all to see…and to hear!

And this morning, I heard a seizure a little after 5:00, and another just before 8:00.  Then one that he’s only had once before, back in April – long and strange and scary.  This is the side of Aaron’s life I dislike the most, but it’s a side we must handle and manage as best we can.  I handle it by being thankful in the many ways that God brings to my mind, and by knowing as well that God is there for us and for Aaron with His sovereign protection and grace.

The sides of Aaron’s life…the good, the bad, and the sad…are all wrapped up like a birthday gift that God gave to us the day that Aaron was born.  It’s up to us to relish all of who Aaron is, even the hard sides of Aaron; to thank God for our special gift; and to care for him in all the ways he needs.

Every side of Aaron…every day.

Hey, it was Aaron’s birthday!!

And I’m happy about that!!

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Matters of the Heart

Aaron is now 35 years old.  I know that he is a man, a grown man, and that fact is very hard to imagine.  35 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 then 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.

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The Skies From My Window

Many of you know that I love taking pictures of our pretty Kansas sky.  My favorite place to take those pictures is from the window in one of our upstairs bedrooms.  This bedroom will always be, to us, Andrea’s room – even though she moved from home several years ago.  When I see a particularly pretty sky I will run upstairs, open the window and lift the screen, and fire away with my phone camera.   

As I look back on these pictures, I find that no two are the same.  Absolutely every shot of our sky, on every day that I took those shots, is entirely different……if there are clouds involved, that is.  I don’t usually take pictures of a totally blue sky, though blue skies are nice.  But after a while, completely blue skies would be a little boring. 

Sometimes the pictures are simply beautiful, like the one I snapped last night.  Isn’t this just breathtaking?

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Some inspire awe, like this one.

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Sometimes I see life.

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Other times the seasons show themselves.

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This one view, from the same windows…..the same vantage point……is anything from being the same, day by day. 

It’s a lot like my circumstances in life……like yours, too, I’m sure.  Our circumstances change, sometimes often and other times less frequently.  At times the changes are dramatic.  Other times the changes come subtly, but they come regardless.

Our circumstances may be pleasant, and some of the changes we go through can be happy and pleasant as well.

But other circumstances are painful or shocking, involving deep hurt……fear……dread. 

Last week I found out about two friends who were just diagnosed with cancer.  And I took another friend for some testing after an X-Ray showed something suspicious.  We are still awaiting her results.  Some have already received disturbing news…..others are still waiting, with dread, on what may be.

My circumstances……my surroundings……can on one day fill me with peace and on the next day fill me with worry.  It’s like my view of our sky from the upstairs windows.  Sometimes peaceful…..

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Sometimes stormy……

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I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus.  Moses certainly experienced a variety of circumstances in his life……plenty of high’s and low’s.  From a basket in the bulrushes to the palace.  From the palace to the desert.  From shepherding sheep to leading a nation.  From the parting of the Red Sea to the grumbling of that unhappy nation.  From speaking to God on the mountain to confronting idol worship at the foot of the mountain.  From obedience to anger. 

After the Israelites had given up on Moses and turned to worshipping the golden calf, Moses and God both were pretty angry.  Moses went back to God after things settled down a bit and he prayed.  He said, “God, let me know your ways that I may know you….” 

God’s answer? “And He said, My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

God’s presence is all that His people needed……and it’s all that you and I need.  He’s promised to be with us, and He’s promised to give His children rest. 

Two things I’ve learned in the years that I have lived.  First, don’t look to my surroundings for rest…..even in the good times.  When life is going well, with sunny skies and soothing views ahead, those things should not be the source of my rest and peace.  I’m thankful when life is pleasant, but pleasantness is not the source of rest.  Only God is to be my strength and my peace.  Knowing Him and depending on Him, following Him and trusting Him, is still the number one thing I need to do when the skies are sunny and beautiful.

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Second, I’ve learned to also not let my surroundings…..my circumstances……pull me down and rob me of rest.  This happens so easily when skies are stormy and life is stressful.  Bad news…..stressful relationships……more bills than we have money……wayward children……    We all know what it’s like.  Life is full of the hard times, unfortunately, and they often happen suddenly.  At other times we live under the stresses day after day as they gradually take their toll.  But still, the rough times are to be a time of rest……..and they can be if we know the same God that Moses knew. 

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For God’s promise to Moses is our promise as well:  “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

Remember I said that pictures of blue skies would get boring?  I love blue skies, but honestly the best pictures occur when clouds are present. 

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So it is with us.  I believe the best lessons are learned when we have some clouds in our lives.  Deeper trust and greater joy have been my experience during the stormier times of life. 

Those clouds also bring a more intimate walk with God, full of so much beauty.  Hopefully I can reflect Him more as I walk closer beside Him. 

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And I can rest.  I don’t know today how God will give me rest, but He has said He will and I believe Him. 

Rest, and enjoy the view, because with God life is stunning.

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