Category Archives: mental health

Senior Night and Lessons Learned…

Earlier this month we celebrated Senior Night. It was the last home game where each graduating band member, cheerleader and football player was presented on the field with family while the announcer spoke of their future goals.

This was a very big deal for my senior.

Big brother even flew in for the occasion to surprise him on the field and be at his side. Lan posted on Facebook it was one of his “happiest times!”

Celebrating that moment reminded me of all those years I was so preoccupied with the future I couldn’t enjoy my “present.”

I vividly remember stressing about making it through elementary school and his passing a bunch of standardized exams. The same cloud hung over middle school as well. A less than enthusiastic county psychologist and fear for the future kept me in a constant state of exhaustion.

For any parent, looking forward is natural. Yet, if we are always looking forward to be “done” with a phase, we blind ourselves to our blessings in the here and now.

It took me years to figure this out.

These days, I only need the occasional reminder to enjoy my “here and now.”

I could be stressed now about the upcoming ACT, not knowing for sure which schools are best for Lan, let alone figuring out how to pay for them!

We all go through our “somethings” in life that inevitably have the potential to turn us into better (or bitter) people. To say I’ve appreciated every “growing experience” would be a lie because many of them were quite painful.

Nevertheless, I give thanks that God allowed me to not only survive, but in some manner, thrive beyond those uncertain times.

My current “hot pot” causes me frustration for sure; still, I am determined not to allow my challenges to overcome me as before.

Watching Lan deal with autism and his determination not to be defined by it, has taught me how to better deal with my own frustrations. It has most certainly helped me put them in perspective.

golden-2-devotional-8-6-2016Through Lan, God has taught me how to take joy in small victories, not dismissing them while waiting for larger breakthroughs.

Lan has also taught me that hard work pays off and hard times eventually pass.

I learned goals keep us focused on the gains we strive to make.

I now see God’s grace in the little things.

Every day we “hang in there” is cause for celebration.

Labels only limit us when we allow them.

Angels come in all colors, shapes and sizes.

God is ever-present!

Senior night reminded me of family and friends who have been there for us every step of the way.

That evening also demonstrated the better side of humanity when students in the stands cheered loudly as Lan crossed the field.

I give thanks for teachers, counselors and administrators who worked with us to push Lan toward his very best.

I graduated school decades ago, yet I’ve learned more about God and myself these last years of “high school” than ever before.

I suspect I’m not the only one Lan has taught a thing or two…

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NIV

Bee Yourself!

Comparison is the root of discontent.

This is one truth I discovered this last decade or so.

We will never fully appreciate what we have if we always compare ourselves to other people.

My solution for this is to stay focused and run my race.

I watched a great example of this during the Olympics. One of the track and field athletes actually lost his heat because instead of looking forward and pressing toward the finish line, he looked to his left and to his right for the other runners. If he had only focused on the goal ahead, he would have qualified for the next race.

This is something my youngest and I are battling at present.

The topic of ACTs and SATs is popular among seniors. However, test taking has never been Lan’s strong point. His acceptance into a graphics arts/animation program will not be due to high test scores.

Still, listening to his friends has made him anxious. Comparing their plans with his own is causing frustration for both of us!

I have repeatedly told him he doesn’t have to pursue his goals the way others pursue theirs. I’m trying to make him understand this lesson, one that I’ve had to “learn” myself a time or two.

The temptation to compare ourselves with others is always present.  Often in parenting, the opportunities are endless. Yet, this is a dangerous habit because it is so easy to become disenchanted with what you have based on the briefest glimpse into someone else’s life.

bee-still-devotional-8-6-2016When we allow these comparisons to root themselves in us, they often leach away the peace and contentment that God provides.

The infamous “why my child?” easily pops into mind.

God’s answer of “you can handle it” isn’t usually a welcome answer.

We can sometimes allow the progress we make to be diminished by what we perceive around us. However, what we perceive isn’t always true.

I choose to appreciate my here and now, very much aware plenty of people would be more than satisfied with my particular set of “problems.”

I’m trying to teach Lan, by example, to be grateful for gains. Personal “success” is independent of what others think or do!

Lan may not be the most academically strong student; however, he does have an artistic flair all his very own. When we focus on our strengths and not what we think we lack, we can fully fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

I’ve learned the hard way that what works for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work for me. My “success” in life won’t come following someone else’s blueprint. God gives us what we need to create our own.

I found peace and joy when I nurtured my own talents. I found contentment when I learned to enjoy being me.

I pray Lan learns this lesson far sooner than I ever did.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:13-14 NKJV

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4 NKJV

Senior Year!

Believe it not, my inspiration for this blog returns to high school at the end of the month!  It will be his Senior Year. And boy is he looking forward to it.

Lan got a preview of what to expect last year as his older brother just graduated.

Unlike his brother, Lan is very interested in enjoying every single perk Senior Year brings. He has already given thought to his Senior Night for Marching Band. He has said in no uncertain terms that he is going to prom. He even gave our relatives the date for his graduation when they were here last month to celebrate with his brother!

Lan intends to be just as celebrated and rightly so.  Even I’m amazed at how much he has grown and how far he has come.

I began writing this blog shortly after Lan entered high school. I was worried and nervous about what the future would bring.

I wasted a lot of time worrying. God had it all worked out, even though both Lan and I endured a few growing pains.

We’ve worked through bullies, biology and IEPs.

Lan worked extremely hard to earn As and Bs.

He is looking into colleges. I’m exploring vocational programs.

I can’t for one moment see what awaits us at the end of his senior year but we still press forward yielding little room for doubt.

senior year God autism and me 2 6-2016We may not know what the future holds but Lan is determined to work as hard as necessary to meet all of his goals. I have faith he will accomplish whatever he puts his mind to.

He proved he could handle the rigor of marching band.

He’s made friends.

Lan is no longer the little grasshopper I was so fearful for years ago.

He is now an outgoing teenager, no longer shying away from the fun or the noise.

I know many people who read this blog have kids younger than mine and high school seems so far away. But it is coming, and if there is any bit of advice I can give, it is hold on to hope.

No matter what the teachers, counselors, psychologist, or psychiatrist may think, it is only God who has the final say.

Keep your mind open for miracles.

Trust God.

Go with your gut.

These things have served me well.

When I finally stopped trying to orchestrate every single detail, God brought us the perfect teachers, counselors and even classmates that would bless us along our way.

Lan’s senior year will be unlike his brother’s. Lan’s journey has more curves in it. We can’t see what lies around the bend.

But that’s just as well because we have learned that God is most present we don’t see Him. We will walk forward in faith and trust that He is there.

And God is there for you as well, if you allow Him.

God may not have “cured” the autism, but He has surely “cured” me.

I can rest now.

Abide.

And I look forward to Senior Year.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

May Daze!

The month of May is typically a whirlwind in our home. Our go, go, go schedule is usually augmented by celebrating Mother’s Day, a birthday, end of school activities in addition to Memorial Day.

Added to that list this year is a graduation.

In just a few days when my oldest graduates high school, the inspiration for this blog will become a senior.

And Lan is counting down the days!

Milestones like graduation make me pause and reflect.

This one is no exception.

I began this blog the start of Lan’s freshman year filled with fear and a host of other emotions.

The larger campus, louder kids and usual chaos of high school was challenging for him to say the least.

God autism and me May Daze 4 5-2016My little grasshopper who had to wait for halls to clear before leaving class now stands quite tall and maneuvers the masses with ease.

Freshman year was grueling but we made it.

Sophomore year proved he could be an honor student.

Junior year stretched him with marching band but Lan achieved his goal while maintaining good grades.

We had more than one hiccup or two, but they were readily resolved.

Bullies.

Incorrect class assignments.

Working out that IEP!

Still, there were far more blessings along the way.

Great principals.

Angels in the guise of school counselors.

Teachers that dared to pull out the best in him.

Classmates that cared.

Parents who had my back!

I can’t tell you the time or date but somewhere in these last three years Lan began easing out of his shell.

I am dazed amazed thinking about where he is now compared to where he once was!

This is a kid who struggled, really struggled, in elementary and middle school but is now an honor student.

I no longer cry fearful for his future. My trust in God has never been stronger.

I would never tell anyone to just dismiss the “experts” but I most definitely will say listen to God first and foremost!

Nothing is impossible with God.

God’s miracles correlate to the measure of our faith.

When things looked hopeless, God made a way.

May Daze 2 God autism and me 5-2016 devotionalNo longer in a fog and gripped with fear, these three things are crystal clear…

God’s faithfulness is unfailing.

The things that felt like they were squeezing the life out of me were actually molding me for the better.

I don’t need all the answers to enjoy this life. With God I am equipped for whatever comes my way even when I feel inadequate.

If you are feeling hopeless about the special needs person in your life, don’t.

We don’t always know what the future may hold but we most definitely know Who holds the future…

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Romans 15:13 NIV

Turning Leaves

The leaves where I live are now just turning vibrant and crisp.

Unlike the seasons, we can’t always predict what twists or turns we are going to have in life. Some of us with the best laid plans think we know what tomorrow will bring, but in reality we never know until that new day dawns.

I can anticipate that those trees will turn colors and loose leaves only to grown green and flourish in the spring. With my child, that pattern of familiarity was often lacking. We have spurts of great growth or gains, and then sometimes things cool off and go dormant. I pray and hope that once again there will be renewal and continued growth.

This uncertainty could keep me anxious, depressed and nervous. I admit it has done that before.

However, I choose to hope in things unseen and have faith in a God I can’t always see or hear, Who at times been silent when I’ve called out, but Who has never once left my side.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

I don’t always know just what season I am in.

I have once thought I was in a season of growth only to be cut down to the ground. I’ve also been at my lowest and right on time, an unexpected miracle reminded me that God is ever with me.

I choose to be grateful for gains made and milestones achieved in this season of Thanksgiving. I am grateful for Lan’s great attitude. His “why not?” has kept him moving right along to his own rhythm and time but he is still moving!

I am grateful that autism has not overcome us. It’s knocked us around a couple of times but we learned to fight back!

I may not be grateful for every experience I’ve had in life, but I am very grateful for everything I’ve learned from them.

God deals with each of us in ways as unique as we are.

I’m grateful for that too.

Knowing that God will get me through whatever season I am in allows me to face tomorrow not in fear but with a faith that wherever I am and whatever I need, He is more than enough!

Whatever your circumstance, give thanks for gains made and blessings yet to come.

Allow gratitude to determine your attitude.

Enjoy a Very Blessed Thanksgiving!

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,”
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Rite of Passage

Two weeks ago, I sent my youngest child off for his first day of high school. I’d done this very same thing, just last year, but this time was different. Unlike my brainiac first-born, my younger child has an Autism diagnosis. Asperger’s to be exact. Lan successfully navigated and “graduated” middle school managing to even pass those aggravating standardized tests necessary to progress. But this year was different. This would be the first transition to a new school where he would have to go it alone.

Unlike the transition to middle school, Lan was entering a school out of our district. Consequently, the comfort of familiar friends was lacking. For the first time, his big brother would not be in close proximity to watch out for him and rely on. Lan was apprehensive. My husband and I were guarded. I often wondered years before just what would we do when it came time for him to enter high school?

God has proven time and time again that He has my solutions before I ever anticipate my problems. I could in no way expect that Lan’s former elementary school principal would be appointed principal to his future high school. There was no reason to ever suspect Lan would ever attend this school as it was well out of our district. I also couldn’t predict that his former IEP teacher (that’s special education for those of you out of the loop) who taught him for years in elementary school would become a counselor at that same high school.

It took making a request to the school board and having it granted that placed Lan in a position where people he knew would have his best interests at heart.  Upon notification of the county’s approval, I didn’t have to ask that his former teacher be appointed as his counselor. The principal took it upon herself to do so on my child’s behalf. The familiar connections made years ago proved vital even before the school year began. With their assistance, schedules were modified and class requests accommodated. I am confident that what was painless with them would have been a headache elsewhere. I am so grateful for their helping hands that guided us each step of the way.

The first day of school was overwhelming for Lan. My husband and I probably didn’t fare much better. Lan’s first comments when I asked him about his day was that the school was “too big and loud and the students were huge.” I must admit several upperclassmen looked to be about the size of professional athletes. He looked so small in comparison. I assured him the next day would be better and prayed that it would be so. Thankfully, it was.

The addition of band class, a familiar face at lunch, and learning to navigate the vast hallways settled the nervous stomach. It did wonders for my husband and me as well! Even without the comfort of our neighborhood kids to watch over him, Lan ventured out into the vast hallways greatly annoyed that his overprotective parents continued to worry and hover.  Yet, by the end of the week, he was eager to head off to school, vocal about his assignments and looking forward to the first football game.

God answered a prayer I’d uttered years ago out of frustration. I distinctively recall sitting in my car contemplating school choices for him with tears in my eyes, frustrated and at a loss for answers. All of the schools I’d considered previously were at least an hour’s ride away from home and well beyond the capabilities of my budget! Thankfully, I wasn’t required to come up with an answer.

I didn’t have to figure, maneuver or plot out the points to the most desirable outcome. I didn’t have to go before the school board and plead my case.  With one letter, I was spared from enduring the inconvenience of juggling two boys at two different schools and the conflicting schedules sure to ensue. My oldest was already attending the magnet school located on the same campus. Our county has a provision that if one child is already attending a campus, any sibling can follow. Cam decided to apply for the magnet school at the very last minute. It wasn’t anything we had planned for. I’d been trying to convince him for two years the magnet school was where he belonged. Wouldn’t you know it would take a girl, not his mother, to convince him that is was a good idea! God used the opportunity given to one son to open a door for the other.

God put the right people in the right place at the perfect time. Twelve years after a “pervasive developmental disorder” diagnosis and five years after the Asperger’s label, Lan moves along aware but never thwarted by his condition. His attitude has never faltered and aside  from the regular teenage moaning and groaning, he continues to take everything, challenges included, in stride. If only we, as parents, had the same confidence.

I thank God for answering my prayer, even years before I would ever realize what He had done. God has delivered on more than one occasion. I shouldn’t still be in awe but His grace always overwhelms me. Not every day on this journey has been a good one. We’ve had our fair share of trials and meltdowns, but still we press on.

If I’ve learned anything in this back to school process, it is to once again trust God. And worry less. Even as the control fanatic that I am, I could never have orchestrated things so perfectly if given the chance.

I grudgingly accept that autism dictates some of my decisions. I am grateful, though, that it does not determine our outcomes.

God’s grace covers! Autism has yet to define my child, at least, through his eyes. The first week of high school was met head-on and we survived. God watches over His children. God continues to watch over me.